TPF Noob!
Jul 28, 2015
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Hey guys after a little help and advice if that's ok!?

Today my daughter had a dance presentation. I went along to watch her an took along my camera. I asked the teachers if they didn't mind me taking photos throughout the performances, they were happy to let me. This is the first time I have ever tried to shoot a moving person. I wanted to get some good photos of my girl in action, dancing, cartwheels everything. However after getting home and loading them to Lightroom the only good pictures are the ones of those stood still. Any other moving part of any body is blurred. This is something I want to improve on more than anything as I will be taking more pictures of my daughter at dancing in the future, plus it will open a new door for me. Any help on this matter will be appreciated so much. I have a Nikon D3200 with a 18-55mm lense. Thanks for your help.

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Without examples and with no knowledge of your photographic abilities, I'd guess you are a victim of low light. Even should the venue have a complete complement of stage lighting equipment (which most smaller venues do not), the amount of light available to your lens is dramatically reduced once you step inside. This forces the camera to rely on the ol' exposure triangle for its best results.

You don't mention the shooting mode you were using for the photos but moving to shutter priority is almost always your best bet when shooting people on a stage. Once those people begin to move, it's almost always your only real bet unless you thoroughly understand and can operate manual mode in rapid succession. There's a work around to the manual mode selection but your lens isn't well suited to setting up further back in the house for a shot of the full stage and setting overall levels. And there's really no need to work in manual when your camera can do the job well in shutter priority. If you took that approach though, you would crop your photos accordingly in post production.

First thing to do if you are shooting from close in at the stage apron is to set your auto ISO to a rather high maximum value, say, 3200 and then allow the camera to adjust ISO as required. Work in shutter priority mode and center weighted metering. Shoot in RAW which will provide your greatest latitude in post production to make adjustments.

Allow the camera to adjust aperture while keeping an eye on F-stop values. If they drop into the very low end of the range, depth of field will be limited. Familiarize yourself with the available DOF when shooting from "X" distance and at "Y" aperture; A Flexible Depth of Field Calculator

For a dance recital you can typically stop movement with a shutter speed of about 1/250. Using a monopod would aid in camera stability and probably improve your keeper rate.

Were you checking your shots in your LCD while shooting? This should have shown the blurred movement.
You describe motion blur.
What shooting mode and metering mode were you using?

The shutter speed was to long and recorded the movement that took place while the shutter was open.
A short shutter speed is needed to 'stop' motion.
To get a short shutter speed we have to get light to the image sensor/film quickly.

We can't just change the shutter speed because then we get an under exposed photo.
We can use a shorter shutter speed if we use a larger lens aperture (opening) to let in more light, and/or if we use a higher ISO setting that amplifies more what light that does get in the camera.
But when you increase the ISO you will get more image noise artifacts in your shots.
And by using a larger lens aperture we might loose depth-of-field (DoF).
However image noise is preferable to motion blurred people and by being mindful of the point-of-focus distance we can control the DoF even though we are using a larger lens aperture.

The lens aperture has a lot to do with how quick light gets to the recording media.
Your 18-55 mm lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.5 @ 18 mm and as the lens is zoomed out the max aperture gets smaller until it is f/5.6 just before the lens gets to 55 mm.
For an indoor dance recital you will need a 'faster' lens which means a lens that has a larger maximum aperture - like f/2.8, f/1.8, or f/1.4.
Camera Exposure: Aperture, ISO & Shutter Speed

Here is a fast 50 mm prime (no zoom) lens:
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G Auto Focus-S NIKKOR FX Lens

A Stop
A stop of exposure is a fundamental photography concept.

A 'stop' is a doubling (2x) or a halving (0.5x) of the amount of light that reaches the recording media, be it film or an electronic sensor.
A stop change in exposure can apply to shutter speed, lens aperture, and/or ISO.

Since exposure is a triad of adjustments (shutter speed, ISO, lens aperture) you can change 1, 2 or all 3 of the triad settings.

If you want 1 more stop of exposure (brighter) you can adjust just one of the 3 by 1 more stop.
Or, you can change 2 of the 3 by 1/2 more stop each for a net gain of 1 stop of exposure.
Or, you can adjust all 3 by 1/3 more stop for a net gain of 1 stop of exposure.

You can also change the triad of settings and have no change in the exposure.
If you change 1 of the 3 settings by 1 stop more exposure and change a 2nd setting by 1 stop less exposure the net change is zero.

Suppose you subtracted a stop of shutter speed to help stop subject motion, you could add a stop of lens aperture to keep the exposure the same. However, adding a stop of aperture will also affect the total DoF by a small amount. So, if you don't want the DoF to change you would add a stop of ISO instead, however, adding a stop of ISO will increase by some amount the image noise in the photo.

Note: DSLR cameras are set by default to adjust the exposure settings in 1/3 stop increments.
Most DSLR cameras let you change that to 1/2 stop or 1 stop increments.
However, the advantage of 1/3 stop step increments is more precise control of exposure.
You have a good camera, basic lens and basic know how.

My advise
learn how to use your camera outside the Auto mode, learn the 3 basics of Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed
2.Learn basic composition like the Rule Of Thirds
3.Get a fast prime lens like the 50mm 1.8G or 35mm 1.8G

I took pictures of my daughter few years ago when she did her dancing as a child, I used then my D7100 with a 50mm 1.4D, AF-C and Shutter Priority, I believe shutter speed was 1/250 or 1/320

Good luck
While I would agree the 50 mm f 1.8 lens will allow in more light and therefore reduce the ISO and/or the shutter speed, use your DOF calculator to determine just how much of your shot will be "in focus" at the widest aperture setting (which will be the one allowing in the most light).

If your daughter is dancing alone, this might be sufficient DOF. There's probably nothing in front of or behind your daughter to concern yourself with.

If your daughter is sharing the stage with other dancers, however, you might want a little more DOF than the widest aperture allows. And, it is true the 50 mm lens begins moving its f-stop values upward from a lower beginning point than does you zoom. So I can't disagree with the 50 mm suggestions if you have the opportunity to pick one up before the next recital. It's a great lens to have in anyone's bag.

You might also consider the use of a flash if you are close enough to your subject for the flash to be effective. Ask before hand if the dancers would be bothered by a flash.

stopping action with a flash unit - Google Search

Also, set your camera to tracking/continuous focus which should cut down the amount of time the camera requires to set focus on a moving subject.
As far as picking up a 35mm or 50mm f/1.8 lens, take a look in LR to see what focal length the shots were done at when using the 18-55mm kit lens. Probably 55mm as when I use my 35mm f/1.8 I have most the stage in the shot from not too many rows from the front and have to be right at the stage to fill about half the frame with one of my grandkids.

Also, try and make the shot when your daughter is completing a movement - such as a fully extended arm as opposed to while she is extending her arm.

I have the older D200 and I think that has the same Multi-Cam 1000 focusing system as your D3200. In lower light I aways use the center cross-type focus point with AF-C on release priority. This cross-type point is much better at grabbing focus in poor conditions.
First of all I am grateful for all the replies, its nice to see people are willing to help :)

Here are a few details I should of included in my first post..

The hall where the Presentation took place was very well lit, it was just before mid day nice and sunny, with windows on either side of the walls, it was not a theatre with stage lighting.
She was dancing in a group with other dancers her age so not on her own..
Since having my camera I threw my self in the deep end with Manual mode, with only a little research. I find myself working it out for my self spending a few minutes setting the camera up in various situations, eventually I take a sample and if I'm happy ill work with it adjusting slightly as light changes. I'm going to order a 50mm lens but as well, I think I should go back to basics and understand my camera.

Since reading these replies, earlier on I got my daughter to perform a cartwheel while I photographed it, I changed my shooting mode to Shutter Priority and set the shutter speed at 1/1000. I set my ISO at 3200, Focus was on AF-C, Auto area-AF and centre weighted metering. I took a few shot while she was moving around and already I see a HUGE difference! No motion blur at all.

Before, at the show was using Manual, focal length 55mm, exposure 1/30 at f/8.0, ISO 400. What was i thinking!! :(

Now I really feel ashamed typing that into here and telling everyone because its a terrible set up. I don't know what I thought I'd achieve without researching properly. I suppose everyday is a school day and without help from you guys and admitting defeat myself I wouldn't be able to improve.

Luckily the photos of the dancers stood still have come out ok, the others are wasted.

Thanks for all the help so far anyway people, much appreciated!!!

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