Table of Contents
1: Initial Disappointment
2: Basic Photo Editing
3: Basic Equipment
4: Types of Blur
5: Subject Motion Blur
6: Camera Shake
7: Plane of Focus and Depth of Field
8: Noise
9: Exposure
10: Location, Location, Location
11: Composition
12: Subject Motion Revisited: Blurs
13: Silhouettes and Black and White
14: Advanced Photo editing
15: Sample Equipment

Dance Photography

(... and indoor action photography in general)

Parents at my daughter's dance study asked for advice on photographing dancers. This page reviews my path from knowing nothing about photography to getting some decent results. I hope it can help you as well.

1: Initial Disappointment

The typical scenario: Your kid gets a role in a dance performance, you proudly snap some photos with your fancy new compact point-and-shoot camera, and you are disappointed to get results like what I got:

 
Compact snapshotCrop from same picture

What's wrong with this picture? On the plus side, it captures a lot of smiles and has a sense of motion. On the minus side are some serious technical and artistic problems:

In the following sections we'll see how to manage all these issues. (Note: you might think I had to work really hard to find a photo that displayed all those faults in one, but actually most of my photos from the early days have most of these flaws. And that's after I deleted all the really bad ones!)

2: Basic Photo Editing

Some of the problems can be addressed with photo editing software. If you hit the "auto-correct" button, or if you fiddle around with the brightness, color balance, and noise reduction sliders, you'll get something like this:

(Note: you can click on any image on this page to see a larger version. (You might want to open in a new tab.) You then have the option of the "info" or "sizes" buttons in the lower right.)
Edited for brightness (exposure), color, noiseCrop from same picture

Better, but unfortunately, most of the flaws remain.

3: Basic Equipment

If you're like me, your reaction to the initial disappointment is "I got to get me one of those big black cameras." A single-lens reflex camera (abbreviated SLR or DSLR with D for "Digital") does indeed have several advantages over compact cameras:

If you've bought a DSLR in the past few years, congratulations--no matter what model you have it is certainly capable of taking great pictures. If you are currently agonizing over what model to buy, don't worry, you can't go wrong. When in doubt buy the same model that your friends have, so you can share experiences.

4: Types of Blur

After I said "Oh crap--my pictures are all fuzzy/blurry," my next step was to diagnosis the cause of the blur--you can't correct a problem if you don't know what the problem is. Here are the five most common types, and how to tell them apart:

On the next page we will take a detailed look at the first four types of blur, and at the basics of exposure. (Coverage of the fifth type is deferred to the third page.)

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