Photographing a dance recital

LaurenElizabeth

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Last weekend I photographed a dance recital and I'm photographing another this Friday (6/14/13). Most of the pictures came out really nice (the first two images), while all the motion pictures came out blurry and show too much motion... When I increased the shutter speed the pictures came out really dark because the lighting on stage was so bad. What can I do to stop motion better? Thanks! If you have any other questions just ask.

My camera is a Nikon D5100 and my lens is a 18-55mm.
$arebesque.jpg Manual mode, 1/20, F/10, ISO 1600
$flip.jpg Manual mode, 1/20, f10, ISO 1600
$blurry.jpg Manual mode, 1/20, f10, ISO 1600
 

frommrstomommy

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1/20 is a sloooooooooooooow shutter speed. f10 i think was maybe unnecessary and you could bring that down to 5-6 range so you can up your shutter.
 

The_Traveler

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Do not shoot at f10, open up your lens as much as possible.

You need to read about the exposure triangle.
 
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LaurenElizabeth

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If I set the camera in the "S" mode (Shutter priority autoexposure mode) do you think I will get better results? In this mode the user selects the shutter speed and the camera selects the f-stop that will produce a good exposure. Or am I just better off changing the f-stop and shutter myself...
 

Big Mike

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If I set the camera in the "S" mode (Shutter priority autoexposure mode) do you think I will get better results? In this mode the user selects the shutter speed and the camera selects the f-stop that will produce a good exposure. Or am I just better off changing the f-stop and shutter myself...

Not really.
You could use that mode and choose a faster shutter speed...but the camera will just flash at you...telling you that it can't open the aperture wide enough.
Until you really understand the factors involved, I'd suggest using aperture priority (A mode) and setting your largest aperture (lowest F number)...which is F5.6 (when zoomed out to 55mm). This is cause the camera to give you the fastest shutter speed, taking into account the ISO and level of light.

So in that scenario, you will likely have to use a rather high ISO (1600-6400) in order to get a shutter speed that might be fast enough to freeze the movement.

As you will find out...the major drawback of the kit lens, is that it's maximum aperture is only F3.5 to F5.6 (depending on the zoom). This makes it challenging to shoot in lower light situations.
You could purchase a lens with a much larger maximum aperture, which would thus allow you to shoot at much faster shutter speeds.
The usual recommendation (mostly because it's cheap) is a 50mm F1.8 lens.
 
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LaurenElizabeth

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Well I have another lens. I think its a Quantary lens 100-300mm? Anyone ever use one before? Would this be better? I have never used it before, but my dad bought it a few years back for his old nikon camera.

I have no idea how to use this lens though, does it take some time to get used to?
 
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Big Mike

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Well I have another lens. I think its a Quantary lens 100-300mm? Anyone ever use one before? Would this be better? I have never used it before, but my dad bought it a few years back for his old nikon camera.

I have no idea how to use this lens though, does it take some time to get used to?
The full name of a lens, will tell you the maximum aperture as well as the focal length. So that Quantaray is 100-300mm (focal length zoom) but it's maximum aperture is probably F4 to F5.6 (Maybe even F6.3)....so if that's the case, it won't be any better for your situation. That you need, is a lens with a larger maximum aperture (lower F number). For example, the Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 VR....but don't get mad a me when you see the price of it. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens 2185 B&H Photo

That's why I recommended this one instead. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens 2199 B&H Photo Video

Really, don't beat yourself up if you can't get perfect images in this situation...it's one of the most depanding areas of photography (sports or action in low light). A typical sports photographer (dance is similar to sports), will be using $10,000-$20,000 worth of gear, in order to get the great shots that they do. The average (affordable) camera gear isn't going to be able to get the same shots in those very tough situations.

But, you get still do the best that you (and your gear can do). Just remember to use the largest aperture (lowest F number) and keep raising your ISO until your shutter speed is fast enough.
How fast is fast enough? That depends...but I'd recommend that you shoot for 1/125 at least...and 1/250 would be even better.
 
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LaurenElizabeth

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I wish I would have posted here sooner so I could have gotten the lens in time... Thanks for all the help! Ill do my best with what I have like you said!
---
Actually I'm going to call the local camera stores to see if any of them have it in stock.
 

kathyt

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I shoot dance recitals. You can look at my Flickr page and find some of them. I shoot with 2 lenses. The 70-200mm 2.8 and the 135mm 2.0. I shoot wide open most of the time with my ISO pretty high. Your shutter speed is going to be really important. Recitals are really challenging because the lighting changes so fast so you have to keep up with that and your focus. Your SS needs to be pretty fast though.
 
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LaurenElizabeth

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Wow! I love your dance pictures!! Where were you sitting when you took them?
 

kathyt

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Thank you. I sit in the front row, but I will go toward the left of the row one night and toward the right of the row the other night. I never sit smack dab in the middle, because it is really hard to get the center action with longer lenses.
 

cgipson1

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If I set the camera in the "S" mode (Shutter priority autoexposure mode) do you think I will get better results? In this mode the user selects the shutter speed and the camera selects the f-stop that will produce a good exposure. Or am I just better off changing the f-stop and shutter myself...

It is best to set it to what the meter tells you is a good exposure (no matter what mode you are using), while keeping the shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera motion blur / subject blur, with an aperture that provides adequate DOF for your subject. You can do that several different ways... here, I would have used a higher ISO, and a larger aperture.

Your kit lens is probably far superior to that Quantaray (which is a rebranded Sigma sold by wolf / ritz camera as a store brand).
 

Mach0

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Dance recitals are tough. I shot one once with a d700 + 70-200 2.8 and the fastest shutter speed I was able to pull off was 1/125 second at f2.8. Even ISO 6400 wasn't good enough.
 

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