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Old Nov 29, 2012, 8:34 AM   #11
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If you get close, you'll be looking up at the performers on the stage, so your best perspective will be from farther back. A longer lens will suit you better.
Good point on the perspective. That might suggest what lens you consider. That and budget.

Different than cheerleading IMHO. With cheerleading shooting from below can help to make the aerial stunts look more impressive. If shooting from above, the BG will be the floor. Where as shooting from below makes the BG the back curtain which can be a nice BG. And it can also help to show more distance between the topper and the base.

And in cheerleading (the competitions I went to) there is something called "the pit". Its the area right in front of the stage. When your team is up, you rush into "the pit" to cheer for your team. If there is a pit, it gives you a chance to get right up to the stage so nothing is between you and the cheerleaders. So you might be able to get away with the shorter zoom rather than the longer zoom.

But cheerleading competitions are really high-energy. So if you're firing away with a camera right beside the stage, no one will even notice you. Whereas at a ballet recital, I can see how that might be disruptive. So further away might be better.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 11:44 AM   #12
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My daughter does cheer (JV) and I have shot her competitions with my mirror-less E-PL2 which is not a great camera for sports but it can get the job done.

I agree with the others that a fast lens will be key, most likely you'll be shooting from the bleachers and a flash will be worthless.

I have found that 50-90mm (35mm equivalent) works the best. At 50mm you should be able to capture the whole stunt and then crop later as needed. At 90mm you'll find that you can just get the flier while she is being held up or in the air. If you go much longer than that you will find that you are having trouble tracking the flier.

For a DX sensor Nikon DSLR I would recommend getting a fast 30-50mm prime lens for this activity. The sub $200 Nikon 35mm f1.8 prime would be an excellent option for shooting a cheer competition.

I know everyone is saying 70-200mm zoom which would be appropriate for shooting a soccer game where the distance to the subject is further but for a cheer competition this isn't a good choice. An average cheer routine is 2.5 -3.5 minutes in length and things are happening fast, you don't have time to zoom in and out on the subject, by the time you get the framing right the stunt is over. A stunt may come together and dissolve in a matter of seconds, you want to make sure you capture it fully and quickly and worry about framing later. Having a wider field of view will greatly help to make sure you don't have someone half out of the frame. and you can just crop in post processing.

The first competition I went to with my new camera I brought my 45-200mm zoom (90-400mm in 35mm equivalent) and found myself shooting at the 45mm end the whole time. My daughter is a base and I got some great shots of the flier in poses but only my daughter's head is visible, my wife was more than a little disappointed. Next competition I used a 25mm prime lens (50mm in 35mm equivalent) and found it worked much better. I could get the whole stunt in frame from the flier to the bases so that my daughter was fully visible. Both times I got some great shots but only with the wider lens did I get the whole stunt and since it was a prime it was considerably faster and I could therefore use faster shutter speed resulting in less motion blur.
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Last edited by ramcewan; Nov 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 11:49 AM   #13
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If you get close, you'll be looking up at the performers on the stage, so your best perspective will be from farther back. A longer lens will suit you better.
as I just said in my post above I completely disagree with the longer lens approach based on my experience, I have some excellent zooms but a "normal" fov fast prime is a better tool for cheer competitions.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 12:38 PM   #14
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An average cheer routine is 2.5 -3.5 minutes in length and things are happening fast, you don't have time to zoom in and out on the subject, by the time you get the framing right the stunt is over.
Yeah. 2-3 minutes doesn't seem to be a lot of time.

Personally I used a zoom (Tamron 28-75mm f2.8) and I was all over the focal range. [Of course I like zooms.] Going wide to get the whole team. Zooming in to get just one group of girls.

The things that I thought helped me out was just learning their routine inside and out so that I already had my camera positioned, oriented (vertical vs. horizontal) and zoomed to where the girls were going to end up and then waiting for the action.

But my goal that season might be different than most. I wasn't just trying to get pictures of my daughter. I actually shot to capture the whole team throughout the season so that I could put together a slide show DVD at the end of the year to hand out to each of the girls on the team. Personally I'm glad I had the fast zoom. Because I was able to zoom in/out, it reduced the chance that I missed a shot because I had the wrong focal length.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 12:48 PM   #15
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let me suggest something to the OP: you CANNOT make good photos and be a good spectator at the same time. The two don't mix. You also are not going to get high quality wide angle shots and high quality isolation shots with one shooter. Not going to happen. The idea of - shoot wide and then crop down doesn't work very well at higher ISOs - the best such tools are going to be the full frame cameras. When you use any of the crop sensor cameras in question at high ISOs and crop heavily (to go from group to isolation) you lose a lot of detail and/or accentuate the noise. SO, my advice is - shoot a routine from one perspective or the other - either with the notion of getting group shots or the notion of getting isolation shots. It takes a high degree of skill to do both - it's easier if the only subject you want isolation on is your daughter AND you know the routine. This falls more into the category of HOW to shoot. And it's very different than how you would watch as a fan. But, if you want to make better photos you not only need to change your equipment you need to change the way you try and photograph.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 12:50 PM   #16
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But my goal that season might be different than most. I wasn't just trying to get pictures of my daughter. I actually shot to capture the whole team throughout the season so that I could put together a slide show DVD at the end of the year to hand out to each of the girls on the team. Personally I'm glad I had the fast zoom. Because I was able to zoom in/out, it reduced the chance that I missed a shot because I had the wrong focal length.
I think it all comes down to the setting, all of the school cheer competitions I have been to have been in a high school gymnasium where I'm close enough that I'd get mostly single people and/or head shots with a 70-200mm. Maybe it is just the difference in setting and/or team size but I couldn't get the whole team in frame with that lens.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 1:15 PM   #17
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you CANNOT make good photos and be a good spectator at the same time. The two don't mix.
Yeah. That was the thing.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 1:46 PM   #18
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You also are not going to get high quality wide angle shots and high quality isolation shots with one shooter. Not going to happen.
Yeah. I was thinking of mentioning this before.

When you go to some competitions with professional photography teams showing up, there can be half-a-dozen photogs walking around shooting.

One or two photogs on each side down low with 70-200 f2.8 lenses capturing the flyers. A couple of photogs with wider zooms or fixed lenses walking around in front. And a videographer with a huge video camera on top a platform built above and behind the judges.

If there are multiple performances, maybe go for something different each time.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 2:08 PM   #19
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If there are multiple performances, maybe go for something different each time.
Or even across events. Each performance try a new approach - wide center, isolation center, isolation left, isolation right, wide left, wide right etc. You can get ideas by looking at the photos of event photogs that might be shooting these competitions
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 4:56 PM   #20
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I want to upgrade from a point and shoot to a Nikon Dslr camera. I know nothing about these. My 11 year old does competitive cheerleading(indoors) and I would like to know what I need in order to take action shots during her competitions.I would a Nikon bc that is the point and shoot I have now. She is a flyer and I would love to get shots of her in the air. I know I have a lot to learn. This site seems to be the most helpful!! I would love to get a camera under $700 while they are on sale for Christmas. I have found deals on Nikon D3100 and D3200 but not sure what type of lens I need?? I have also looked at Nikon D5000 and I realize it's more money and I probably need a starter camera Any help would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!!
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I think you guys are coming at this from a pro perspective and everything you said is true, if you want the absolute best shots you are going to need two people, one shooting wide and one shooting isolation shots, or at least two cameras, or maybe a very expensive zoom. I think you need to remember that bknk123 owns a P&S now and is looking to get something better to take pictures mainly of her daughter. Making those high quality isolation shots with a 70-200mm zoom is going to require skills that (no offense meant here) bknk123 doesn't yet have. Not only that but at north of $700 it blows the budget without even getting a body.

bknk123,

This is again why I would say get Nikon DSLR with the kit lens and a 35-50mm f1.8 prime. Most likely you'll be able to put the camera in a sport mode and fire away. The f1.8 aperture is big enough (wide, fast) that you will be able to get higher shutter speed without high ISO in the low light of an indoor gymnasium.

Your pictures will end up being stunning compared to the P&S you are used to and since your daughter is 11 there will be years to perfect her skills and use something like the 70-200mm f2.8 for those isolation shots if that's what you end up wanting to do.
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