Battle of Jericho

Spot metering. *Shakes fist*. This has got to be one of the most frustratingly delicious aspect of dance photography that I still have not quite nailed down confidently. The above picture, while it’s not a terrible shot, clearly states that I have a long way to go in terms of shooting a live stage with variable spot lights. I guess the saying is indeed true – “one cannot simply point the spot meter at the subject and get a decent result”.

The ideal process of metering in general would be to focus on the part of the subject that you want to base your metering on – which in most cases would be their face. Seems pretty easy enough right? However, unless you have fast twitch reflexes and can accurately use spot metering focused on a subject’s face while they are jumping and flailing around, your shot will most likely be over-exposed as the camera processes that the light around the subject is too dark and compensates. While there are two other options available to use, matrix metering and “that other one with a circle and a dot”, using seems to much based on luck. You might end up with the proper exposure, or you might not. I’m not much of a gambler unfortunately.

Sometimes I imagine myself as a sniper with a reticule of the size of a peanut aimed at a dancers forehead. Sort of like that scene in Enemy at the Gates where the main character is popping headshots timed to when bombs are exploding. Except instead of trying to increase a kill-count, I’m trying to shoot events with less pictures tagged for “deletion” due to improper exposure and metering. It’s actually quite addicting. Is this TMI? Probably.


  1. Kevin SueChueLam

    Did you try setting the exposure time and aperture? I usually take a couple of test shots to get it right, if possible I use my flash for fill if I’m in a room with whiteish walls and usually everything looks ok. As long as you don’t point your flash right at your subject, it isn’t totally obtrusive. If you shoot in RAW, there’s usually enough data to tweak your shot what would be a couple of stops either way. I try and look at the result right away and correct if required.

  2. Francois Beauchemin

    I agree with Kevin, on a stage shot your best bet is to shoot manual and look every couples of shot if the scene have changed and adjust. On most dance show the FOH (front over head, the light coming in front of the stage) should not vary too much during a performance so your exposure should not vary. And RAW is always your friend :)

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