How to shoot awesome dance floor photos at weddings

Sep 19, 2019

Andy Dane

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How to shoot awesome dance floor photos at weddings

Sep 19, 2019

Andy Dane

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I love dancing shots at weddings! Nothing like getting stuck into the middle of a party and capturing everyone having an awesome time. But invariably the lighting for the party isn’t great, what’s fantastic for a party atmosphere isn’t always good for a photographer. So if you want to capture some incredible dancing shots, you’re going to need to add your own light.

My approach

I like to capture a bit of movement in the dancing, I feel it adds to the atmosphere and captures the sense of the party. So I tend to drag the shutter a little to let a little more ambient light in and get those light trails. I don’t like to overdo it though, so I’m typically using a shutter speed of around 1/10th of a second. Just enough to get some nice trails, without them dominating the image.

I’ll shoot most of it from close up, with a 25mm lens, capturing the party from within. Getting in amongst it on the dance-floor to try and capture the feeling of being there.

I use a narrow aperture, around F11, and I pre-focus to approx 1.2m in front of me. So I don’t have to worry about focus, just being in the moment.

I’ll also shoot some from the edges of the dance-floor, typically with my 55mm, but using a wider aperture, and without dragging the shutter. Giving some more atmospheric images showing more of the dance-floor rather than the gallery just being close up with shutter drag.

My set-up

My lighting set up stays the same pretty much regardless of how the dance floor is laid out. I use three speedlights for the dancing shots. I will have two of these on stands either side of the band or DJ, with the light stands set as high as I can get them, the speedlights on 50mm zoom and pointing down and inwards, not quite at 45 degrees, but so that they are spreading light across the whole dancefloor. I start with these on 1/64 power and adjust as necessary.

I leave the lights on the stands on Group A on my remote, so they’re both always at the same power.

My third flash will be in my hand, zoomed to 24mm as I’m going to be close up to the action, and set to TTL. Having it in TTL and in my hand means I can change how it’s used. I can point it at the ceiling or a wall to bounce it, or point it directly at my subject.

I have the light in my hand set to Group B, so I can change the power independently from the flashes in the background.

To start, I’ll leave the speedlights turned off. I know I want a narrow aperture, so I’ll dial in F11. I’ll start with a shutter speed of 1/10th and adjust the ISO so i’m getting the light trails that I want. If I want longer trails, I can reduce the shutter speed some more, and decrease the ISO.

I want the flashes to freeze the movement, and I don’t want light trails in front of my subjects, so I set the flash mode to rear. The flash will overpower the light trails this way and ensure that my subject stands out.

And then I’ll get stuck in, adjusting the flash power if necessary if I’m not freezing the action, or if I’m blowing highlights.

I can’t give you exact settings that will work every time, as it all depends on the ambient. But if you follow the process of getting the light trails how you want them first, and then adding your flash, you can’t go too wrong. As long as you’re using equipment that means you can change the power settings from on the camera, it’s a simple job of bumping them up or down.

Hope this helps!

About the Author

Andy Dane is a Norwich based wedding photographer with a love of travel photography and candid street/family photography. You can see more of Andy’s work on his website and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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14 responses to “How to shoot awesome dance floor photos at weddings”

  1. Bertram Plischke Avatar
    Bertram Plischke

    Low light, aperture at f11 and direct flash. Sounds like an article from 1996. ? There are greater ways to get much better and impressive photos.

    1. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      Bertram, define “better.”

    2. Bertram Plischke Avatar
      Bertram Plischke

      Johnny Martyr more quality because of low ISO, more bokeh because of wide aperture and less shadows because of indirect flash light.

    3. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      Bertram, nah. There’s no such thing as “more quality” because quality is not linear. And “more bokeh?!” Bokeh is an adjective.

      What you are describing is a DIFFERENT method. There is no “better” method.

    4. Bertram Plischke Avatar
      Bertram Plischke

      Johnny Martyr maybe a different method, but no one I know takes candid and prefocussed photos at f11. ? Just my opinion ?

    5. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      Bertram, so you define “better” on how all the people who you know do things? Where is your creativity? What makes this photographer’s method leas than your friends’ method?

      I prefer shallow depth of field also but that is a personal preference, not universal law.

    6. Bertram Plischke Avatar
      Bertram Plischke

      Johnny Martyr my creativity is to do my thing and my method. ? You prefer your method, I mine. ?

    7. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      Bertram, yes, and the author of this article has his creativity and his method. There’s for all of our methods. That’s what makes photography such a rich artform and practice; diversity!

    8. Bertram Plischke Avatar
      Bertram Plischke

      Johnny Martyr of course, it’s diversity. The headline instead gave me the information to increase my level but It doesn’t. ?

  2. Johnny Martyr Avatar
    Johnny Martyr

    Super fun shots! Good advice.

    DIY featured my method for reception photos several months ago. Neat to compare a couple different techniques!

    https://www.diyphotography.net/shooting-wedding-receptions-on-film-with-no-flash-and-no-automation/

    1. Andy Smith-Dane Avatar
      Andy Smith-Dane

      Hah went to comment on it, turns out I already had :)

      I mix it up, I don’t shoot like this at all for the actual reception pictures, which will all be either natural light, bounce flash, or off camera flash, depending on how much ambient I have to work with.

      But this is how I shoot the dancing (other than the first dance)

  3. Kario Avatar
    Kario

    Seriously, nothing “AWESOME” about those photos….

  4. JOhn C Avatar
    JOhn C

    Not a fan, the confetti overpowers the people

  5. steve Avatar
    steve

    I love the atmosphere in the pics full of energy and intimacy. Well done.