On June 8th my wife and I attended my daughter’s dance recital. The recital itself was okay, a few moments of great performances but mostly, a typical recital by students ranging from UPK level to teenagers, performing free style, ballet and choreographed dance sets. However, the images are being presented to show some issues in photographing a recital in a large auditorium in less than ideal seating arrangements. Needless to say, my seating arrangements prevented me from truly capturing the moment the way I would have preferred. The first recital I attended at this auditorium, I was fortunate enough to be seated in the second tier level which was greatly elevated above all the visitors sitting in front of me, allowing me to capture stunning shots. Unfortunately, this time around I was in the first tier, about ten of fifteen rows back from the stage, towards the far left, and in front of me were parents who where tall, constantly moving and waving their hands to their children, along with some annoying moments of flash photography. Erecting myself higher in my seat and pinpointing potential areas for a shot was the only way I managed to capture the moments, however, not entirely successful, since you can see the silhouette of the audience.
The above image is the original shot, no major editing committed other than adding a soft filter to smooth out the grains. The stage lights were off except for the background, and anyone who has been to one of these recitals are fully aware that no flash photography is allowed, not that flash would make a difference depending where you are seated. The camera settings for both shots were entered manually, F/5, 1/80, ISO 3200, 210mm. The image presents a good balance of light and dark, allowing for a clear silhouette of my daughter. Out of curiosity I decided to take a shot under full auto, the camera compensated for the darkness, slowing the shutter speed to 1/30, setting the ISO 3200, the image was grainy, with detail distorted beyond reason. I decided to stick with manual for the rest of the show.
These images are scenes from a very talented group of dancers, in my opinion one of the best groups during the entire recital. They were on cue and did not miss a beat. Now, the images were not retouched in anyway except for the last image, used a filter to smooth out the grains. During the dance set I was testing various settings trying to determine which would be the best, allowing for clarity, details and appreciation for the actual lighting and set. Personally, I prefer the first image settings, since it represents truly what was seen during the performance. My least favorite is the last photo settings, although providing a bright photo and details of the dancers and stage, it removes the mood of the dance. The following setting will represent each image from left to right.
F/4, 160, ISO 800, 90mm; F/4.5, 1/125, ISO 800, 120mm
F/4.5, 1/80, ISO 800, 120mm; F/4.5, 1/80, ISO 1600, 135mm
F/4.5, 1/100, ISO 3200, 135mm
Please take note, the F/4 setting was the lowest my camera would allow me to go, attempting to slow the shutter speed below 1/80 produce blur images and anything below 1/40 produce motion blur that completely distorted the image. I would love to hear from all the photographers out there on what settings they would have used.