Dance and Movement: Mixing continuous lights and strobes

My friend wanted to shoot ballet dancers and had a “peg” that she wanted to do. She wanted to show the flow of the movement of the dancers but also stop motion so their faces can be seen. I really like new challenges because it gets me thinking again and it pushes me to research and practice new techniques.

Ea Torrado and Erick Dizon

How to

We knew for this shot that we wanted to show the motion of the dancers but also freeze the subjects. As always, before doing a live shoot I research and practice the lighting. This makes sure that  I am comfortable during the shoot and don’t ave to worry about settings. Normally I start every New shoot with a theory in mind (lighting, gear and props to use, equipment). Then, either by myself or with an assistant, I practice the shoot so that I can execute it perfectly on the day of the shoot. This is me doing self portraits as practice:

photoHow to both show and freeze motion

Now, to freeze the motion I knew that using a flash (speedlight or studio strobe) was the best way to freeze motion. For sohwing motion, on the other hand, I chose continuous lights, so it was a mix of floodlights (halogen work lights used for construction) and modeling lights from the studio strobes.

Dancer is Shireen King Rosales on White

The Exposure

Depending on the movement of the subject we bracketed our shutter speed from 1-5sec, we shot this using bulb mode and rear curtain sync. Just like I explained last week, the shutter speed controls the ambient light. So, in our case it controls the amount of motion of the subject,  and the studio strobe or flash freezes the motion.

Erick Dizon on black background

 The Setup

Setup shot for Dance and Movement

For the 1st Set (on black) my key light was coming from the camera left thru a softbox. Then we had a second studio strobe with a barn doors, back right of the subject for the kicker light. Lastly, the floodlights (continuous lights) were placed back left of the subject.

For the 2nd setup we only used one key light, and 2 studio strobes pointing at my white seamless paper. We left all the ambient light and the modeling light of the studio strobes on.

The effects of using a black or white backdrops were very different, and where a black backdrop gave a sense of motion, the white backdrop photos resemble more of a double exposure.

More final outputs

Dancer is Ea Torrado

Ea Torrado

Dancer is Erick Dizon on black background

Erick Dizon

Dancer is Shireen King Rosales on white background

Shireen King Rosales

Ea Torrado on black background

Erick Dizon on black background

Shireen King Rosales on White Background

Ea Torrado and Erick Dizon

Ea Torrado and Erick Dizon

Thank you again to the Dancers Ea Torrado, Shireen King Rosales and Erick Dizon. And to Tuchi Imperial for inviting me to this shoot.

P.S. for more info on shutter dragging and dance, check out this tutorial from Benjamin Von Wong.