Usually when I’m shooting belly dance, I’m working in very low light. Apparently people who light stages think the absence of light creates ambiance. Or perhaps they just have better eyes than me. 😉 Also I generally am not allowed to use flash – which is fine with me.
So how do I maximize the possibility of capturing the moment when there’s barely enough light on the moving subject to even permit autofocus to work?
I’m generally shooting in Aperture priority (‘Av’ on a Canon mode dial) because the stage is usually not evenly lit front to back and side to side. There are three factors at play here:
- the camera’s aperture
- the “speed of the film” – ISO setting on your digital camera
- the shutter speed.
In Aperture priority mode I can control the aperture and the ISO and the camera will calculate the third factor (the shutter speed) based on the settings I dial in for the first two.
The aperture (f-stop) controls the depth of field (how much of the subject is in focus) in front/back of your focus point. Want lots in focus? Then dial your aperture up numerically, e.g. f/8 or f/16 (this is also called “stopping down”).
What’s the tradeoff? The more that’s in focus (where the ISO remains the same) the more time the camera needs to get the picture imaged on the sensor/film. So if you want more speed – dial your aperture to a lower number (open up your aperture), e.g f/2.8, f/2, or whatever is the fastest (widest) aperture the lens you are using will permit.
“OK, so I’ve dialed down (opened up) my aperture and my shutter speed is still 1/4 second and I’m only getting blurry smears! I need real stopping speed! You lied you dog!”
WHOA!!! Hold up there!
That’s were the ISO setting on the camera (film speed or ASA) comes into play. For example all of the settings below give you the same exposure:
“So all I have to do is crank my ISO as high as it will go and I’m done – yes?”
Yes… and no… As with everything in photography there are trade-offs, what you gain in one arena, you lose in another. In this case – digital noise.
But we’ll talk about that another time. Stay tuned…