How I Shot It - Ballroom Dancing Image

I knew I wanted to do this image before I showed up for the wedding day.  The bride had told me in our last meeting that we had access to the venue’s theatre as well as the fact that she had danced on that stage growing up.  We are always trying to find ways to incorporate our couples stories into their wedding photography so this one was a softball.  

As is the norm with weddings, there are hiccups with every plan. Even knowing I wanted to do this image I managed to leave my tripod in my truck which was about a 10 minute walk away.  Not having 20 minutes to spare I had to improvise.  I’ve found over the years that ANYTHING can be improvised!  I backed up as far as I could go and and set down my Thinktank Airport on it’s side.  Ideally I would have loved the compression of an 85mm here but I didn’t have room to do this without a tripod.  So I went with the 16-35 and racked it out to 16mm.  Why?  Because at 35mm or lower I expect to have some kind of distortion in the background and sides.  I know this and I know I can correct for it if I have room to do so.  By going to 16mm I left myself the room in the final image to correct for the inevitable distortion.  Again, not ideal but we are winging it at this point folks.  

For the exposure I determined it took her about 1 second to go from the outstretched position to his arms.  To give myself some wiggle room I set the shutter speed to 1.6 seconds and dialed in my exposure from there.  My final settings were 16mm, 1.6sec, F/2.8, & ISO 100.

The reason I had her start in the outstretched position was because I wanted to emphasize that in the image and not have her moving through that position too quickly.   By starting her in that position it would help to burn that into the image more than anywhere she was moving through.  

The lighting was done by using the Profoto B1 with the 2’ Octa gridded.  The light was feathered towards me so that it just barely brushed the couple with light.  This minimized the amount of light spill into the background.  The modeling light was also turned on and left at full power to aid in making their movements really burn into the image.  

With the exposure dialed in and the B1 in rear curtain sync to freeze the final position of her in his arms, it was time to dance.  We took about half a dozen frames to get one I liked.  In hindsight, the light should have been to camera left to light her face better and I would have had my tripod to allow shooting at 85mm which would have allowed me to know exactly what my framing was looking like.  However, with this image I was wide enough to correct it and make it work.  Something I always tell our associates, know your gear and know what you’re capable of doing with a file.  On wedding days you don’t always have time to get it 100% right in camera.  If you understand your gear and what you can do with a given file though you can get the file you need to complete your final vision in a short amount of time.  

If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments!

- JD