Lighting with Flash: Capturing a Dancer in Motion

with David Hobby
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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

- Okay so for the 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. You know, it's the 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 10 of the most promising young artists 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 of money for someone starting out in the arts. That's a decent amount of money for someone who's been in the arts for 20 years, sadly. So what I have done, is my contribution to that, is I photograph all of the finalists, do head shots of them, do magazine style portraiture of them, and on the surface that's just a straight donation that I've made, but when you start to dig a little deeper you see how valuable that is for me. On the one hand, I'm getting a steady stream of really creative young people who are willing to try lots of interesting things.

From that, I've gotten multiple pictures in my portfolio just in the last couple years. I've probably but half a dozen pictures in 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're at their headquarters and we're shooting in their main dance studio. I've shot here before, in fact I've shot dancer Cassie Matera here last year. So I'm famliar with this 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 down streams from that relationship. So today we're going to be shooting Stephanie Yezek, who is another dancer. And I shot her recently outside at sunset as you can see by the picture we should be showing you now. And we're shooting her 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's 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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