DANCE ! – shooting some dance movements in the studio

personal tips & tricks, photo gear, Tips and Tricks

Hi there,

last weekend I had a meetup with Lisa and her friend, both dancers, she’s more into the classic dance, he’s more of a break-dancer.

I will show you some images, but I would also love to talk about the technique that I used to get to these.

first some images:

nice hey 🙂

thanks to both athletes, they had a good exercise session.

How is it done?

We wanted both the movement, and a good image of the static phase. I rarely work with flash but here it is absolutely needed.

this is the setup: I have one studio flash with large softbox on the left of the scene, providing the main illumination of the stationary phase. (flash) I have a second studioflash at the right side of the scene, providing a rim light at the moment of flash. I have a third flash on the camera, Canon does not allow to fire remote flashes at the end of the shutter time without a dedicated Canon flash. This is a Canon 580EX II and is used in manual settings at 1/64th of full power. It is merely used as a ‘master’ or ‘trigger’ for the studio flashes, synchronising on the second curtain, this means just before the shutter closes. I have available light from the right side, just behind me. (outside light, strong enough to make the motion trails during shutter time, but not to strong to overly brighten the environment. This is actually better done with a strong continuous light like a 500W halogen spot, but I don’t have one.)

The camera is set to bulb, on a tripod, and with a cable release. This is all part of a relatively simple preparation phase. 😉

Now comes the tricky part, how to get just the good shot? Simple: You activate the shutter time by pressing and holding the shutter button, let the movement roll and close the shutter when the movement has finished. Simple? Yeah, think again. Some movements only take a blink of an eye before they are gone, finished, over and out. For some movements you need to have the flash triggered exactly at the end of the movement, and you have to be aware that there’s a little ‘delay’ between pressing the button and the actual start of the shutter time. My best images came with shutter times between 1/5th and 2/5th of a second!

to illustrate the process of the Bulb-shutter time:

Easy, isn’t it. Well, both dancers have at least 20 times repeated every move, before I could define the right starting moment, and the right moment to stop. Then 10 more times to get the one lucky shot we needed. Maybe I’m getting old, or slow in reactions. 🙂

Make sure to have your models wear dark clothing, otherwise you’ll get a lot of messy blotches from the movement phase. You want them to wear light coloured clothing at hand or feet, unfortunately they did not have white gloves. The brighter, the more visible the movement trail will be.


some mistakes:

no movement visible – too little continuous light, only the flash fixes the image

cable release gets stuck, way too long exposure

start too early, left foot clearly visible in starting point, stop also a little too late, left foot is coming down already.

start and stop too late, left foot is almost up at start, and way over the best position at stop.

thanks for reading, it was fun to do, and I learned a lot about dancing

cheers, come back again soon.




Analog or digital?

Analog, people, Personal Pictures, photo gear, portrait

I have invited two people to my studio and did a small analog vs. digital test.

I have, for the first time ever, linked my studio flashes with my old Rolleiflex 6×6 camera, and shot a roll of images with it, next to my Canon 5Ds with 100mm Macro lens.

What about the outcome, is high res digital better than medium format analog?

I think quality wise that is a no-brainer, our new camera’s and lenses are waay, no waaaaaaaay better than the old stuff, they are sharper, AF is spot on every time,  they have less grain (or noise) (films shots done on Ilford FP4 Plus 125) and for sure less dust to retouch. Digital is more convenient, more flexible, more secure (with immediate feedback) … it seems to be more of everything.

Then why still use analog? To me it is more fun, more concentration, at the same time more relaxing, it lets you look forward to the results, it’s more challenging, … people react differently when shooting with a 60 year old camera, they are curious, they are amused, wondering what might be the result, … I also find the images to have some sort of ‘alive’ feeling, the out of focus area’s are more interesting, the framing is square by nature, which I love … although the last arguments might all be nostalgia.

Here are the images, the square ones are analog: