When many people think of dance, they think of the beauty of its motion, its grace and its uniformity. Those qualities, though beautiful, are ephemeral. If you’re a photographer, or simply a parent who’s taken an interest in dance photography, you want to capture the fleeting magic of dance in your photos. Consider these four suggestions on how to do it.
“Photographers need to understand this movement and how to capture it.”
1. Understand Movement
During all performances, whether dancers are beginners or advanced, they’re going to be on the move. For dance photography, you need to understand this movement and how to capture it without ending up with a bunch of blurry photos.
The main way to capture this movement correctly is by focusing the camera. During dance performances, some photographers will use auto focus instead of manual focus, which can take too long and cause you to lose desirable shots. If your camera has the capability, use continuous auto focus so it will stay focused while you move around to capture different angles.
Having a fast lens with a high frame rate is also beneficial. This way, you can continually shoot without having to refocus every single time, and you’ll get more frames out of it. This technique gives you a better chance of capturing that one breathtaking photo. Lastly, consider getting a monopod or tripod, as this equipment can help steady your shot as you move.
2. Get to Know Lighting
Lighting is a critical part of dance photography. However, during dance performances, capturing the right lighting is hard. Many performances will take place in low lighting in dark rooms. Sometimes the lighting will be colored to help set the scene for a performance. As a photographer, this can throw off your images if you don’t know how to handle this dark and colored lighting.
Many theaters and venues also will not allow any flash to go off during the performance, meaning you need to get creative if you’re looking to create the right photo. Moreover, if you are taking pictures at a live event, you must respect the event’s photo policies, as well as the viewing experience of other attendees.
First, photographers need to determine the color temperature of the stage. Every type of artificial lighting has a color. For instance, most household lighting is orange, and fluorescent lights are green. Once you’re familiar with reading color temperature, you can easily figure out how to get your best photo.
Go into your white balance settings in your camera and adjust your color temperature which is usually set off by numbers. The lower numbers are for orange and red light, the high numbers are for white and blue lights. If you’re attempting to take photos during a performance with colored light, turn your saturation down as far as it will go. Otherwise, your photos will be oversaturated, which can affect the shape of your figures.
3. Look at Your Setting
Before you start shooting, look at the setting your pictures will be taken in. Are you capturing photos of a single dancer with a backdrop, or are you capturing one dancer with others in the background? Looking at your background and foreground before you start shooting, and planning your shots, will allow you to take the best photos possible.
If you’re taking photos of a solo performance, try to get decorations and other items within the frame to make the photo more captivating and interesting. You can shoot past dancers in the front of the photo or capture the dancers in the front and avoid those in the back.
4. Move With Your Shot
In order to capture the most captivating shots, you may need to move with your subject. Move around to capture different angles and lighting with your dancers. Moving around can be helpful in dance photography whether you are taking photos of one dancer or of a whole group. Even if you decide to stay to the left or right of the stage, changing angles and distance can give you a more dynamic set of photos.
Nothing sells your dance studio to prospective students quite like a perfectly captured photograph. Maybe it’s all your dancers smiling during their final recital number or a great shot of a tumbler in action. Whatever your favorite pictures may be, they’re likely an essential part of your marketing strategy. But sometimes pictures need a little help before they can wow your audiences. Capturing action shots is tricky to begin with and even more difficult when you’re in a dark auditorium. That’s why it’s important for studio owners to learn how to artfully manipulate digital photographs with editing software. Not sure where to start? Here’s a guide with dance photography tips that will help you capture the best pictures and transform them into invaluable works of art.
How to Get the Best Pictures
Just like with choreography or any other work of art, the better your materials are, the more impressive the final product will be. You’re not going to create a breath-taking performance with lackluster tricks, and you probably won’t end up with an amazing photograph if you start out with a sub-par snapshot.
With that in mind, use this tips to get the best pictures possible:
Use a digital single-lens reflex camera, also called a DSLR, if possible. These cameras are easy to use and capture much clearer pictures than point-and-shoot cameras.
You’ll want to put your camera on the highest ISO setting, which will make the camera more sensitive to light and therefore better able to capture quick snapshots of moving subjects.
Try to take photos in quick bursts so you have a number of action shots to choose from. A fast shutter speed will improve the clarity of these pictures.
Don’t get stuck in one spot. Move around to capture different angles so you have pictures from every side.
Try to take pictures both close up and far away. To accomplish this, you can either use the zoom function or simply move closer to the stage.
Choosing an Editing Program
Before you can start digitally altering your photographs, you’ll need to find editing software. There are many great programs available, and there are options to fit just about every budget. Software like Apple’s Photos is free for Mac users, as are online programs like Pixlr and Photobucket. If you’re willing to spend some money for a more high-tech option, look into Adobe Photoshop Elements or Pixelmator, both of which have low one-time fees.
Whatever program you choose, you’ll need a few key feature editing capabilities. Look for software that offers the following tools:
Shadow and highlight adjustment
White balance adjustment
Sharpen and blurring
“Photo editing is often learned through trial and error.”
How to Edit a Photograph Step-by-Step
Now that you have a host of pictures and editing software, it’s time to start learning the ropes. For many amateurs, editing pictures is a trial-and-error style process. You have to figure out the flow that works for you! Here are a few guidelines to get you started.
1. Upload and Store Your Images
You’ll need to transfer your pictures from the camera onto the computer, whether it’s through a USB cord or the Cloud. Once they’re uploaded to the computer, create a file for the original images and label the folder clearly so you can quickly find them later on.
2. Pick Out Superior Snapshots
If you have dozens of images to chose from, you can make your job a little easier by doing an initial run-through of all the pictures. Find five or six photos that are clear and focused, and separate them into a new folder. These will be the images that you edit.
3. Crop and Straighten
Start by using the cropping tool to cut off any empty space in the picture. It’s often better to have a close-up view of your subjects than to have them get lost in a big background. You’ll also want to use a straightening tool to level the horizons of your photo. If the picture is on a slant, tilt it so the dancers are standing tall.
4. Adjust the Levels
Now comes the tricky part. There are many different levels that you can adjust in a photograph, including exposure, brightness, white balance, sharpness, shadows, highlights and more. Some pictures may not need adjustment in these departments, but you can fool around with the aspects to see how you can improve the photo.
In general, you may want to tinker with the white balance so that any white objects appear clearly and aren’t tinted by the stage or studio lights. You can also sharpen the image a bit if it’s unclear or blurry. This is also a good time to remove red eye from any of your subjects and smooth out blemishes on any close-up shots.
5. Save or Scrap Your Edits
The great thing about digital photo editing is that it’s easy to revert back to the original picture if your edits don’t come out right. Keep working at your editing skills, and soon you’ll discover that with a few quick tweaks, your photos look as if they were shot by a professional.