In preparation for the workshop I'm presenting this summer, "How to Take Dance Photos that Don't Suck," I've begun practicing with lo-fi camera capture. Most people don't have pro cameras and fast lenses. I want to do a workshop for the casual shooter who wants to boost their success rate. I thought it a good idea to see what that looks like personally.
I shot still photos of the dance last night with my iPhone 4. I've done video in this hall with this iPhone, and it's a surprisingly good video camera. Stills? Not so much. Even with my Canon 5D Mark II's, this is a challenging hall to take a good photo in. With the iPhone, I found the best I could do was "interesting", impressionistic images. This is what I will have to hold as the best option for the typical, badly lit dance hall.
One thing I'm learning is that it's a lot harder to previsualize your shot with an unconventional camera. I've never been fond of compose-on-the-back-of-the camera cameras anyway, as I seem to need to envelope my entire eyesight, closed off as it were, in a through-the-lens point of view, to feel like I know where I am. Camera smashed against face style. With the phone I lose that. The decisive moment is a lot harder to discern and anticipate. It may be a reason why everyone's Instagram shots are mostly of things that don't move.
Another thing to expect with iPhone dance photography is a really high failure rate. No matter how intentional you are with choosing your shot, mostly it's not going to work. A big issue is shutter lag--you have to learn to fire ahead of the shot. Which is going to limit your ability to compose it. With the show shutter speed in a dark hall, the best approach is to pan with the action and hope something looks sharp. Accept that you will suck, most of the time. I shot well above 200 photos. I threw a hundred of them out in the first edit. Maybe 10 merit further attention. You can see those here.
I have several camera apps on the phone--Mattebox and CameraPrime, among others. I can't tell if the shots look better, but the interfaces made shooting with them more difficult than the vanilla OS camera app. In camera processing is a non-issue for me, as I'm loading them into Photoshop, but I'm going to have to address this issue in my workshop.
Can you tell I'm at the bottom end of a steep learning curve? I'm taking suggestions for where I can get educated.