If you have the chance to get backstage at your child’s dance shows, do it.
It’s the perfect opportunity to take your camera along and capture some memories from the behind the scenes. (With permission from the dance school of course)
Luckily my girls usually perform their shows at the theater two or three times over a few days so that gives me the chance to sit and enjoy the show in the audience at least once. Then for the rest, I’ll be backstage with my camera.
I want to share some tips with you on how to successfully capture some beautiful moments in what can be a tricky scenario.
I prefer to use prime lenses. A 35mm and an 85mm are great choices for this.
However, it does get a bit fiddly trying to swap lenses every so often. By the time you’ve switched your lens the moment is over and you’ve missed your shot.
I managed to get around this by taking two cameras with me, one with a 35mm and the other with an 85mm but I would definitely recommend using a zoom lens such as a 24-70mm as it’s easier and less weight to carry around.
Stage lighting can be challenging. It’s going to be dark, it’s also going to be very bright. I recommend shooting RAW in manual mode with spot metering so you have full control over your exposure.
I set my ISO around 2000, aperture around f/2 and adjust my shutter speed as needed. I don’t like to go too slow with my shutter speed though as the dancers move around quickly at times and I like to keep my photos sharp.
I usually set my white balance to auto as the lighting changes so much it’s one less thing to have to worry about and adjust whilst shooting.
Change your perspectives throughout. Move around and get shots from different angles. Use a wide angle lens for group shots on stage or zoom in for a close-up.
It’s also important to get an audience perspective but this can be difficult as there’s no room for you to stand in the auditorium while the audience is seated. Rehearsals are perfect for these type of shots as the seats are all empty and you can stand wherever you need to.
Try to capture some of the true in-between moments that happen backstage. It can get so busy with everyone rushing around with costume changes and it’s part of the event you want to capture. Be sure to stay hidden and out the way but keep watching for those moments.
Don’t forget the details! A well composed detail shot can also tell part of the story.
Placing your subject and other elements in certain places in the frame can make a very pleasing photograph and helps to create a good storytelling image.
Look around to find different objects, lines or doorways to use as framing. Try using the rule of thirds or adding negative space. Using these techniques helps to draw the viewer’s attention to your main subject.
This is also a great opportunity to get some creative shots using backlighting to create silhouettes.
Adding some contrast and decreasing the blacks and shadows in Lightroom/PS is pretty much all is needed. I also add some noise reduction to reduce the grain caused by the high ISO. If I find I’ve underexposed slightly to save highlights, I’ll need to bump up the exposure in post too.
Converting to black and white is also a favourite.