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Lighting with Flash: Capturing a Dancer in Motion

with David Hobby

Video: Setting the stage: Flash macro shoot

Photographer David Hobby captures the strength and grace of a dancer in motion, lighting her against a blow-away white background.
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Lighting with Flash: Capturing a Dancer in Motion
Video duration: 0s 1h 38m Appropriate for all


In this installment of the Lighting with Flash series, photographer and publisher David Hobby demonstrates using strobes to freeze action while capturing the strength and grace of a dancer in motion. After working through the lighting challenges of a dance studio, David sets up a white, seamless background and shoots some test shots, adjusting the flash units to create a white "blow-away" background that will enable the photo to be easily composited. Next, he photographs the dancer, working with her to capture a relaxed expression as she leaps and strikes various poses. After the action shots, David lights and shoots a portrait.

Topics include:
  • Assessing a space and setting up a background
  • Lighting a background to create a "blow-away white"
  • Working with umbrellas and ring light adaptors
  • Lighting to show musculature and form

Setting the stage: Flash macro shoot

(music playing) Okay, so for last couple years, I've had a partnership with the Howard County Arts Council, which is this awesome organization in our county that furthers arts, Howard County Arts Council. And what I have contributed to that, and gotten out of it, is just a really good deal for me. They have something every year called the Rising Stars Competition, in which they have ten of the most promising young artist in a variety of genres from around the county and they show up and they have this American- Idol-type show, and the winner, by audience vote, gets $ 5,000, so that's a decent amount money for someone starting out in the arts. It's a decent amount money for someone who has been in arts for 20 years, sadly. So, what I have done as my contribution to that is I photograph all the finalists, do head shots of them. I do magazine-style portraiture of them. And on the surface that's just such as the straight donation that I have made, but when you start to dig a little deeper, you see how value that is for me. On the one hand, I'm getting a steady stream of a really creative young people who are willing to try lots of interesting things, and from that I've gotten multiple pictures in my portfolio. Just in the last couple years, I've probably put half a dozen pictures on my portfolio from this project alone. And it's just a very gratifying thing to be working with the Howard County Arts Council and feeling like you're part of what is making art special in Howard County. So, today we are at their headquarters, and we're shooting in their main dance studio. I've shot here before. In fact, I have shot dancer Casey Matera here last year. So, I'm familiar with the space and frankly, this is a space that's available for me to use occasionally because of my partnership. I don't have a big studio, but I can always come in here and use it if I need a big studio. Lots and lots of potential good downstreams from that relationship. So, today we're going to be shooting Stephanie Yezek, who is another dancer, and I shot here recently outside at sunset, as you can see from a picture that we should be showing you now. And we're shooting in a controlled environment to shoot her on white and not having to be matching that sun ambient as it's dropping down very quickly. We've got a very controlled environment. Every time she goes up, the light is going to be exactly the same, and we can really push and get something, hopefully, that's a nicely timed expressive moment that shows her off both as a dancer and as a person.

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