Shooting Indoor Dance Competitions

edited May 2013 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I've been pouring over the forum questions trying to figure out the best way to shoot my daughter's indoor dance competitions (usually in some type of auditorium, sometimes dark, only stage lit but sometimes with lots of light like on a gym floor). I have had my camera for a while but really only just starting to learn how to use it. Going to try AF-C, set the AF area mode to 3D and the shutter to 1/200. Does that sound right? Not sure about the ISO setting.


  • Howdy @stephferber - Which lens or lenses do you currently own? This will help determine which settings you should start with. All the best! :)
  • edited June 2013
    I am using the kit lens. Probably need to get a zoom, but no idea where to start.
  • edited June 2013
    @stephferber - I was afraid of that...I'm a big believer in saving money and not splurging on expensive lenses if you don't have to, but unfortunately for indoor or low-light action photography (sports, dance, etc...) you'll need to spend a few bucks.

    The reason being is that your 18-55mm is like a pair of dark Ray-Ban's. Ever tried wearing really dark sunglasses in low light situations? It's not only tough to see things in front of you, but you have to physically slow down in order to walk around without tripping over things.

    That's what happens when you attach the kit lens to your D3100.

    It's fine when you're outdoors in bright light, but in low light it will just slow things down...specifically the shutter speed. As you may already know, you need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.

    In order to combat this you can either raise your ISO to it's maximum level (bad) or you can use a 'brighter' lens that will let more light into the camera (good).

    A 'brighter' lens is one that can obtain an aperture around f/2.8 or below. Your 18-55mm lens can only get to f/3.5 when shooting at 18mm and f/5.6 when shooting at 55mm.

    When you couple a low aperture f-number with a lens that can zoom, you're left with a high price tag. The ideal lens for dance recitals and low light action is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. Sigma and Tamron both offer the same lens at about half the cost if you're interested.

    Another option is to go with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G (see my visual guide). It's much cheaper than the 70-200mm f/2.8 and will allow you to shoot with an aperture of f/1.8, which is great for low light action.

    The only caveat is that you'll need to physically move around the auditorium to frame and compose your shots, which may be difficult if it's a packed house.

    I hope all of that makes sense...happy shooting! :)
  • edited August 2013
    It depends how much light you are working with. I shot video of some line dancers where there were windows either side of the hall giving plenty of light.

    If you have a tripod, that is worth a stop or two, but you are probably using a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.

    I have taken photos in an Old Time Musical Hall production with only stage lights (mainly domestic bulbs) and from the back of a blackened room, hand held, and they came up all right with a kit lens. If you can brace yourself against a wall or pillar you can get away with f/5.6 at 1/6 second, Manual exposure, AF-C, AF Mode Single, Active D lighting Auto, WB Incandescent.

    Set your camera up before leaving home and do a few test shots before the performance starts for final tuning.

    It goes without saying no flash, cleaned lenses, fully charged battery (with spare in your bag) and formatted memory card.

    I have even taken 1second hand held, but was well braced. Hold your breath for silken water effects.

    Why not try a dummy run in the house or garage with just a bit of directional lighting from a reading light/standard lamp. It is all about trying rather than buying a collection of expensive lenses that may only be used once.

    I know some places (the pc brigade at schools) are a bit funny about parents taking photos of their children in case they are taking them of other children; a lot of rot I say.

    Some photographers like to brag about what equipment they have got and want to get rather than taking photos in challenging conditions with kit lenses and getting away with it.

    Good luck.
  • edited August 2013
    Thanks for sharing @bluestar! It's much appreciated. :)
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