Go with the flow

Com­bine a con­stant light source with an off-cam­era flash­gun and waltz your way into slow sync flash pho­tog­ra­phy with Ja­son Par­nell-Brookes

NPhoto - - Contents -

Use slow sync flash to cap­ture a sharp shot of a dancer plus a mo­tion trail

Cap­tur­ing dance through stills pho­tog­ra­phy can be a real chal­lenge; the move­ment of a dancer has to be con­veyed in a static im­age. Some pho­tog­ra­phers will pho­to­graph a dancer mid-leap, oth­ers will get the dancer to hold in­tri­cate poses. But there’s an­other way to cap­ture dance: us­ing slow sync flash pho­tog­ra­phy.

What does slow sync flash pho­tog­ra­phy mean? Well, it’s the sim­ple act of us­ing a long ex­po­sure, com­bined with a flash fir­ing at ei­ther the be­gin­ning or end of the pe­riod when the shut­ter is open. The long ex­po­sure al­lows am­bi­ent light to ex­pose the scene, and the flash pro­vides a mo­men­tary burst of light to freeze any mo­tion. For our photo we worked with a pro­fes­sional dancer, but you could just use an en­thu­si­as­tic friend run­ning and leap­ing into the frame.

De­pend­ing on the power of your lights, your set­tings will vary. Our set­tings were f/10 at 4 secs and ISO200. This kept the depth of field nice and deep, main­tain­ing good fo­cus on the per­former as he moved around the scene. The four sec­onds were all the dancer needed to com­plete his move, while ISO200 en­sured that our im­ages would be free of noise.

It’s best to shoot against a plain wall or black back­drop. Have your dancer stand in front of the back­drop, and po­si­tion a flash to the right of the cam­era shoot­ing into the scene, and a con­tin­u­ous light (or desk lamp) to the left, to pro­vide the am­bi­ent light.

The key to this tech­nique is to set so-called ‘rear-cur­tain sync’, which means the flash fires at the end of the ex­po­sure rather at the be­gin­ning. If your dancer is mov­ing from left to right, this will re­sult in an im­age with a blur of move­ment and colour on the left, and a crisp, sharp dancer at the end of the blur trail on the right.

Slow sync flash pho­tog­ra­phy is the sim­ple act of us­ing a long ex­po­sure, com­bined with a flash fir­ing at ei­ther the be­gin­ning or end of the pe­riod when the shut­ter is open

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