In the darkness of the dance (shooting at a nightclub)

Igor PDML-StR pdmlstr at
Thu Nov 6 15:10:44 EST 2014


Thanks for your response.

1. So, essentially your answer to the main question I asked is:
"If it hurts, don't do it".
(i.e. don't shoot with the wall too close in the background).

2. Gels: yep, thank you for the reference, I saw it earlier in another 
thread, and thought I might use that... I am a bit reluctant, as it adds 
yet another contraption to the whole setup.
(And if I am coming to a dance, especially these days, I am trying to 
reduce the complexity of the setup, so it is easy to set and put back into 
the bag.)

3. Sometimes I choose to correct the color balance in post, but often, I 
leave it as is, as in this case:
Besides, when you have a combination of various lights as here:
the gel would probably produce some weird results...

4. To flash or not to flash, - I know your minimalistic approach.
I agree, it can be annoying. However, I disagree with the rule that if it 
needs a flash, that it is annoying...
It might work for slower dances, but for fast lindy & balboa, you often 
need a flash to freeze the motion. We discussed this with you.

5. Thanks for showing those FB galleries.
What's interesting in them is that most of the dance photos look as if 
they were taken daytime. I am often catching myself that I am 
overlightening my dance photos to much in post getting exactly that 

6. Yep, you recognized the people correctly.
If you go one step up in the URL (or click on "Index") you can see more 
photos of those (and other) people from that event.
I believe you've seen that Jeremy's photo before.


Yep, I know your approach with respect to minimization of using flash.

  Larry Colen Wed, 05 Nov 2014 10:45:17 -0800

Igor PDML-StR wrote:
> I'd like to share a video-tutorial, and discuss some of the issues
> raized (but not necessarily addressed) in it.
> While most things in the video might be obvious to people who have tried
> to shoot at this type of venues (like Larry), I thought it might still
> give some useful ideas. E.g. I haven't thought about trying the ring
> flash. (Larry, have you?) I am still not sure a ring flash offers any
> advantage (and not having one, I cannot try it myself).

I don't have one, or rather I have a "ring diffuser" which is OK for
macro, but too week for flash.

Interesting the shots at 4:10 look side light.

> But having seen
> this video, I am thinking if using the sources with what I call for
> myself "stencils" (I am drawing blank right now on what those are called
> - a few PDMLers had shown here their studio potraiture work with those
> sources.)
> This video might also a reasonable introduction into the topic for the
> "newcomers" to the scene.
> (Should I have spelled that as "newcamer[a]s"? ;-) )
> I haven't been shooting at "real" nightclubs, - only at geeky dance
> scenes, but the environment is very similar: dark dance floor, some
> weird lighting, sometimes rapidly changing. And I found there is no
> "silver bullet". All venues are different, and some things work better
> at one, and not that well at another. So, the solution is to try and
> decide what works the best on the spot.

My rule of thumb is that if it is dark enough to need flash, then people
will get annoyed at you for using flash.  I was at a couple of dances
last week where other photographers were using flash (a WCS and one
lindy).  I was surprised that most of the photographers did not put a
CTO gel on their flash.

By the way, these are awesome:

And if you go to a theatrical supply store, and ask nicely, you can get
a roscoe sample pack for free.

> As for the video, seeing the lights on the wall, I was hoping the guy
> would show some ideas of how to get them into the shot, but I didn't
> notice any shot where those would show up. (I was expecting that they
> would when he was using an LED source.)
> I know it is hard. I previously shared some attempts.

You need to shoot far enough from the wall and close enough to your
subjects to make use of inverse square so the flash doesn't wash it out.
   You then need to adjust your exposure so that the lights show up
properly without the flash, then bring in the flash.  Use a slower
shutter speed to give more exposure to the background without getting
more light from the flash.

> Sometimes (close to the stage with the band playing live) you can find
> more light and shoot with just a fast lens and high ISO:

Is that Milo/Mr. Moo?

> and it can spill over on the nearby dancers:
> In other cases, you have to resort to a flash:

Looks like Jeremy.

> In this case it was a direct flash
> (I don't remember I may have had a Gary Fong Cloud diffuser).
> The ceiling there was _very_ high and not reflective, and the room was
> huge, so, no walls were nearby. In this case the lights in the back came
> out well. The use of flash allowed to freeze the fast motion of the
> dance, and the separation from the back wall assured those colored
> lights were not overpowered by the flash.
> But I still don't have a good idea what to do in the situation shown in
> the video so that the back lights would come out well.
> Short of some sort of HDR (e.g. two images with and without the flash),
> I am not sure if that would be possible.
> Anybody?

I think you just need to get the dancers away from the wall.

By way of comparison, these photographers used flash, with a CTO gel:

And these were ones I took mostly without flash:
typically FA31, f/1.8 1/50 ISO 5000

Here was another dance, where I shot mostly without flash.  There were a
couple times I tried using it, and just couldn't get the TTL to behave,
but sometimes it worked OK as a fill:

I found the decorative lights to be a real nuisance, particularly when
they'd shine directly into my lens and cause all sorts of flare and
glare in the final photo.  When I used a flash, it was mostly with a CTO
gel to get the flash color balance closer to the ambient.

It has been my experience that as a dancer, when other people are
shooting flash, it gets very annoying very quickly.  Even when I'm using
flash, I'll often try to lean on the ambient light as hard as I can, and
use as little flash as I can get away with.  That's one reason I like to
use CTO gels, because when you are only shooting a couple of stops under
with the ambient, the color balance mismatch between subject and
background is really jarring, unless you are specifically going for the
straw background.

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