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Technique Tuesdays – Getting ready to shoot a dance

I’m two weeks out from one of my favourite yearly events, Swinging Vegas at Gloster Swing Dance. A fantastic night of dancing and raising money for amazing causes. This year we are very lucky as The Revolutionaires are coming to strut their funky stuff; as a dance photographer it is a perfect event to capture. But what does it exactly mean for me in terms of prep?

I’m capturing in three different forms; general photography, a Photobooth and video. So I need a variety of kit that is easy to transport, easy to handle on the night, and quick to pack down at the end of the evening. I’ve played around with several different set-ups over the last couple of years, trying to refine and reduce my kit and make the most of the features that the cameras have. With each event I’ve weighed up the pros and cons of what I took vs what I actually managed to capture and I’m at a point where I have a lot of flexibility without having to compromise on image quality.

...the band, the caberet performers and the dancers will be the ones to create the atmosphere and the story of the evening...

For the general photography and the photobooth I’m going to be using my Canon 5D MkIII. This beast might be a weight to carry around for a whole evening but it can capture 3200 images and has the low light capability that I need to avoid using flash for every image. I’ll be using this for photographing the dancing, the caberet and the photobooth images so my main issue will be making sure I have the settings dialed in for each change of lighting. The 5DMKIII has 3 custom settings on the dial which I will be using, so I will be doing a bit of research beforehand to make sure that they are all working. I also want to experiment a little bit with blurred images and rear curtain flash.

The photobooth set up is fairly straightforward, a black backdrop with a custom hand-painted frame. I love to do these frames and have quite a collection now, all made from A1 posterboard. So next week I will be popping out to buy the board and paint up the frame. I also have a lot of inflatable instruments which I’ll be bringing along; if you let people loose to be silly then you get some amazing images. So I’ll be hunting them out and checking for punctures.

Video is a new element and I have a two-fold approach. Mainly I’ll be shooting on my Canon 760D which I have now fitted with a handle and boom mike. This allows for a steadier image as well as a bit of creativity in the capture. I also like playing with timelapse sequences and will be using an Ipad mounted on a lightstand to capture as much of the dance as possible to use as starting points and B-Roll. I need to test this rig and clear out the memory as the ipad cannot use external memory which I find quite limiting.

And then there is the usual battery charging, memory card clearing and packing up to make sure that I have everything to hand. I don’t make a specific list of shots to get; the creative aspects are very much dependant on how I feel on the night. The band, the caberet performers and the dancers will be the ones to create the atmosphere and the story of the evening; I’ll be there catching it through the lens ready to share it to the world.

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