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Old Nov 15, 2008, 1:03 AM   #1
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I have not seen anyone with info on how to shoot when your child is dancing on stage or in concerts...... I am new to slr's and need to know what is the best setting or lens to use when shooting my daughter dancing. I have the Nikkor 18-200 vr lens and the Nikkor 70-300 vr lens..... both of which we purchased because we do not always have front row seats during performances..... any help will be appreciated....
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Old Nov 15, 2008, 6:48 AM   #2
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It will be very difficult to get blur free shots with those lenses of something like a dance recital with typical school stage lighting, since they're both relatively dim lenses if you zoom in much, with a widest available aperture of f/5.6 on their long end.

A much brighter lens would be desirable for that type of use. The problem is that most brighter primes available won't Autofocus on a D40. So, you may need to stick with a zoom (which would give you more flexbility for framing, but available zooms won't be as bright as some of fixed focal length lenses available).

If budget permits, you may want to consider something like a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR, or a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX HSM (around $799), or a Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 (around $699). These would all Autofocus on your D40.

Those lenses are all 4 times as bright as your two existing lenses if you zoomed in much, allowing shutter speeds 4 times as fast for a given ISO Speed and lighting level (f/2.8 is 4 times as bright as f/5.6).

With your existing lenses, it would be a tough call. What I'd probably do is use the 70-300mm VR and try not to zoom in any (i.e., sit close enough so that you can use it on it's 70mm end). That would give you f/4 (which is twice as bright as you'd have zooming in towards the longer end of your lenses).

Then, set ISO speed to ISO 1600, open your aperture up all the way (i.e., shoot in Aperture Priority mode with it set to the lowest f/stop number available, which would be f/4 if you didn't zoom in any with your 70-300mm.

Then, see what kind of shutter speeds you're getting. My guess is that you won't get much over about 1/100 second (if that much). You won't be able to stop much blur from subject movement at shutter speeds that slow. So, you'll need to try and time your shots when the dancers are as motionless as possible for a higher percentage of keepers (which will take some practice).

Check your results in playback, using your histogram as a guide to help out. If your photos are too bright, use a -EV setting with Exposure Compensation for a darker exposure. If your photos are too dark, use a +EV setting with Exposure Compensation for a brighter exposure. I'd probably use Center Weighted Metering.

Alternatively, use manual exposure with the Aperture set to f/4 and adjust shutter speeds until Exposure Looks correct with average lighting on stage (which will tend to vary, so expect some exposure differences using that approach).

I'd probably set your White Balance to Tungsten (Incandescent) in most stage lighting.

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Old Nov 15, 2008, 6:01 PM   #3
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thanks for the advice.... the lens looks so huge compared to my small d40..... will it be able to hold it? would you happen to know where I could puchase this at the most affordable price? and do you recomment using another brand for lenses? I read alot that people use other lenses in the same ranges.... are there differences?
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Old Nov 15, 2008, 6:44 PM   #4
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Yes, the 3 lenses I mentioned are a bit larger and heavier than you're accustomed to. They have to be a larger to let more light in. ;-)

The Tamron is the lightest of the bunch (but, it's still not a small and light lens). The Nikon is going to focus a bit faster, followed by the Sigma. The Tamron is going to be a bit slower to focus (which probably wouldn't matter much for a dance recital)..

That's one reason I usually use a prime (fixed focal length versus zoom) lens for that kind of shooting (they tend to be a bit smaller and lighter for a given focal range and brightness). But, most of the brighter primes in short to medium focal lengths won't Autofocus on a D40 (since the entry level Nikon models like the D40, D40x and D60 don't have focus motors built in, requiring lenses that do if you want Aurtofocus, ruling out Nikkor lenses like the 85mm f/1.8 or 105mm f/2, unless you want to give manual focus a try, which might not be a bad idea).

A zoom would give you more flexibility in that lighting (but, you'll probably need an f/2.8 or brighter lens to have any chance at keepers when subjects are moving).

Low light shooting with moving subjects is very demanding on both your gear and skill level for best results to keep your percentage of keepers at a higher level, since movement can result in motion blur unless you're using relatively bright lenses and time your photos so you take them when your subjects are as still as possible.

You may want to try the 70-300mm to see what you get (keeping in mind that if you zoom in much, your shutter speeds are going to slow down). That would give you a better idea of what the lighting is on stage there. At dance recitals I've shot in my area, lighting left a bit to be desired, even using a bright prime. Then, post some downsized samples of your results here, and we can get a better idea of the equipment you'll need for better results.

But, you're probably going to want something brighter than you have, meaning an f/2.8 or brighter lens (brighter lenses have smaller available f/stop numbers) for a higher percentage of keepers without blur from subject movement, unless lighting is much better than I'd expect it to be.

The larger the school, the better the stage lighting is likely to be. Do you have much flexibility in where you can sit and shoot from (that may open up some more options, if you can get a bit closer)? There are a number of other choices available that may be worth considering, too (for example, a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8, or an even shorter zoom).

As mentioned before, you may want to try one recital with your existing lens to get a better feel for the lighting, using the tips I mentioned above. Then, post some samples here so we can get a feel for what would have worked better, depending on how bright the lighting is there.


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Old Nov 15, 2008, 7:18 PM   #5
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P.S.

One other approach would be an external flash like the SB600 or SB800, depending on close you are to the stage (provided they don't mind them there).

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Old Nov 16, 2008, 6:45 PM   #6
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okay, so here is one of the photos I took at a recent dance recital...... there were some pics that came out nice and some that didn't with lots of blur..... I really love taking pictures of people/events especially of my kids.... thus the purchase of the slr, but I am trying to get accustomed to all the terminology and the setup with this entry level model before I put money into the d300, which I really want...... with the right lens too ...... let me know what you think of this.... this I shot with the 18-200vr
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Old Nov 16, 2008, 6:46 PM   #7
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okay, so here is one of the photos I took at a recent dance recital...... there were some pics that came out nice and some that didn't with lots of blur..... I really love taking pictures of people/events especially of my kids.... thus the purchase of the slr, but I am trying to get accustomed to all the terminology and the setup with this entry level model before I put money into the d300, which I really want...... with the right lens too ...... let me know what you think of this.... this I shot with the 18-200vr
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Old Nov 16, 2008, 6:56 PM   #8
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Old Nov 16, 2008, 7:04 PM   #9
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this was like totally blurry, but I like that I got a clear shot of one of the dancers...I don't know how I did that????? I usually just keep shooting..LOL..

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Old Nov 17, 2008, 12:02 AM   #10
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oh, and how would you change the shutter speed on the camera.... and what does it mean by f/????? and where do you change that on a d40???

thanks jim for your help!
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