Work is always work, but sometimes its fun – which is not to say I don’t take it seriously. Recently an educational client promoting an Arts Award sent me to Leicestershire where students were learning a dance routine, these students were also being filmed by media students. The brief was to capture portraits,dance rehearsal and the filming activity. And it was only on for three hours.

(if you are after technical info on low light go to the bottom of the page)

Early rehearsal, they all grasped the moves very quickly
Early rehearsal, they all grasped the moves very quickly

I was thrilled to find them friendly and motivated, wait – excited, about the day ahead of them and full of energy. I was also happy to find out they were rehearsing the dance from Rocky Horror’s “Timewarp” – and to finish with a performance in full costume, which the media students would film.

Video Production Student posing for the camera
Video Production Student posing for the camera

Remembering what it was like to be a student, I realised I would have to catch them in this window for sure. They drift off outside of prescribed hours so quickly it can make your head spin. So it was a tough brief, but I like the challenge. The challenge was also the lighting – I have done a few shoots in these type of environments and I’m often working out on the fly how to balance the three desirables of low light shooting: Freezing action, low noise (grain) and using the correct aperture to get what you need sharp.

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I know I don’t really ever talk technical on my blog, but the toughest part is working out which way you’re going to shoot in low-light, especially during a fast moving dance or sport performance. The three main ways are:
1) to drag the shutter and use a second curtain flash to freeze the action – you will get some blur but it can be very effectiveif done well.
2) to use a high ISO and get loads of grain (noisy photo),
3) to try and balance ISO, shutter speed and use a little fill flash – which is tricky when the stage lights are so much warmer (orange) than the flash (blue), it can make the results unpredictable.

This third option was my main approach for stage shots. You can see a slight difference in the header image where the centre dancer – the blonde woman, has a good colour temperature, but behind the others are a shade more orange, but the level is acceptable to me.

(*Thanks to http://exposureleeds.org/ for the link).

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I took this straight portrait in the break, as well as one of this dance student smiling. I’m really pleased with it (click on it to see the detail) . It’s also worth noting taking pictures in a daylight / white room is A LOT easier than in a theatre.