Dragging The Shutter At The Daddy/Daughter Dance

Discussion in 'Other Genres' started by gryphon1911, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I was hired to get portraits at a father/daughter dance for the Reynoldsburg Parks and Recreation department.

    While there, I also agreed to get some grab shots in between formal shots. I had my Nikon Df tied up with the portraits, so I broke out the Olympus OMD EM1 with the Olympus 25/1.8 prime lens.

    As you can imagine, a dance setting has lots of darkness, filled with bright specular lights randomly bouncing off of every surface and person. This event was no exception.

    1/20, f/2.5, ISO 800 - no flash

    1/80, f/2.5, ISO 2500 - no flash

    These first couple of shots were taken without flash, to give you an idea of what the ambient levels were and the shooting conditions. For those interested, the EM1, while a tad slower to focus than normal, nailed focus 99% of the time - I was very impressed.

    I knew that shooting this way, even at higher ISO, would not give me what I was looking for and I'd have to break out a speed light. I do not have an Olympus specific speed light, but do have plenty of Nikon, so I used the SB-600. It is a little big for the EM1, but I use my fingers to support the weight of the speed light.

    This next shot was taken using the flash in manual mode at around 1/16th power and shot directly at the dance floor.

    1/200, f/4, ISO 800 - Flash at 1/16th power

    Well, they are well illuminated, but we have lost all ambient lighting. Still not what I am looking to provide to my client.

    Next, we bounced the light off the ceiling, which required the SB-600 to be powered to around 1/4 power. There were some pretty tall ceilings.

    1/200, f/2.8, ISO 1250 - flash at 1/8 power

    As you can see, the quality of light is getting better, but still not enough give us the mix of ambient light and motion stopping power.

    As you might have noticed, the shutter speed on these images were running around 1/200th.

    What happens if we "drag the shutter"? Dragging the shutter is a term used when you purposefully leave the shutter open for a longer duration and freeze the action of the moving subjects with the flash pulse.

    1/15, f/2.8, ISO 1250 - flash at 1/8 power bounced off ceiling

    In this case, we were running around 1/15-1/30 of a second and we start to get some good shots, that mix the ambient light along with the flash pulse to give us a better feeling and mood of the event that night.

    Here are some more examples:

    1/15, f/2.8, ISO 1250, flash at 1/8 bounced off ceiling

    1/15, f/2.8, ISO 1250, flash at 1/8 bounced off ceiling

    In the end, the take away is that you need to experiment and find that technique that will give you what you are looking for. In this case, an old favorite, dragging the shutter, gave some interesting flavor and set a mood that expressed the feeling of the event.

    For those interested in my main presence there - here are some of the portraits!




    Lighting setup was pretty simple, main light to camera left(AB400) at 1/8 power, secondary light(AB400) to camera right at 1/16 power. Both through umbrella boxes.

    Nikon Df with Nikkor 50/1.8D at 1/200, ISO 200, f/4
    Processed in Lightroom 5.7 using Nik Analog Efex(Bokeh) and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2(custom B&W - base Panatomic 25 film simulation with a bit of Film Noir 3 type settings).

    We wanted a quick in and out process so that the families could have as much time having fun as possible.
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  2. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Thanks for sharing your process in dealing with a difficult shooting scenario.
  3. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    Nice shots, were you using rear curtain on those drag shots?
  4. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    No, standard. The subjects were moving slow enough as to not make that big a difference. Had they been moving at a faster pace, I definitely would have witched it up to rear curtain to leave the light trail behind them.

    For those who don't know the difference between first and rear curtain, we are discussing the when the flash fires. Put simple, first curtain is when the flash fires at the beginning of the exposure, rear curtain, waits until just before the shutter closes to fire the flash.

    The difference, which is not as clearly evident here as it might be with other subjects is where the frozen subject will be in relation to the light trails.

    If we use a more dynamic subject, say a car at night, first curtain would give you the car frozen with the flash pulse,and the headlight/parking light trails in front of the car.

    Second curtain, would give you the opposite, which is the car frozen in front of the lights with the headlight/parking lights trail behind the subject.

    If you are doing a particularly long exposure, and pop the flash manually in the middle of the time it takes to get the picture, you would see light trails behind the car, the car in the middle, then more light trails in front.

    Hope that is a decent enough explanation.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2015
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  5. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    Here is a good visualization even if you just look at the picture.


    I understand what you mean about speed of movement and shutter I was really just trying to confirm what I was looking at. I often do drag shots, but always rear curtain. It's funny, if I went to an event like that with those two cameras I probably would've setup the E-M1 for the portraits and used the Df for grab shots since the Df is such a low light beast.
  6. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I knew that you understood the concept, just based on the question you asked, but I did not want to leave anyone else who might be new to it behind. :D 

    At that job, I had the Nikon D700 with me as well, but my camera bag got buried under all my other light gear bags. The EM1 and SB-600 were right there. I was out getting shots between portraits. I was running all over the place. lol. I would have much preferred the Nikons out on the dance floor as well, but I was trying to hurry and satisfy 2 different things at different times.

    I wanted to have everyone come back and get a portrait as they arrived, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.

    Also, good reference article. Thanks for sharing that.
  7. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    Didn't mean to make you think I thought you thought (say that 5 times fast) I didn't understand. I had just found that article when I was answering a question for someone else (earlier this week in fact) so I figured I'd add it.

    I know what you mean about running. I have a 4 - 5 hour event this weekend that I know I'm going to running at even though I hired a second for the event. A little over 200 people but at least it will be short.
  8. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Good luck with the event!
  9. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    Nice work and very helpful post. Im glad you showed the shots you took to move your process along. Im never brave enough to show the shots I didn't like lol!
  10. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I try to get the progression whenever I can, as I often write up a tech blog post for me website.
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