A few weeks ago I attended my friend Anisha’s jazz funk dance class in Mumbai to take some photographs. Now I’d never done any ‘action’ photography before (unless you count musicians jumping around on stage), so naturally I did a lot of reading online on photographing dance. The one piece of advice they all give – your shutter speed should be at least 1/125th of a second to be able to freeze movement.
Let me tell you, they all lied. I found myself able to capture movement only at 1/500th of a second in a room with large windows, meaning lots of light. At 1/125 I was getting lots of blurry hands and feet. Some people might be okay with that. I am not one of those people.
An important thing I learned about photographing a dance class is to not start shooting the moment they start dancing. It’s a class, so the choreography will be repeated plenty of times. Spend one or two of the rotations simply observing and learning the choreography so that you’re prepared for the moments where they might pause for a second and you know what direction they will be facing at which parts of the song. Then move around the room and shoot from different angles, keeping the choreography in mind. It’s certainly a lot more productive than shooting blindly and hoping to get a good shot.