Before and After — KDH Duet

The Before and After series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Claire and Mariclaire rehearse at Cafe Dance.


  • Shutter:  1/250
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO: 3200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark IV
  • Lens:  Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

Composition and Processing

  • There are all kinds of technical challenges in getting this shot.  First, the overall lack of light from this angle (I could have shot from the right side, which was about a stop better, but the wrong composition).
  • Second, the mixed light in the scene (florescent and natural).  I could have shot without one or the other, but I would have lost a stop or two more.  I also could have shot from a different angle (from the left or the right) where there wouldn’t be a noticeable transition in the light (i.e. the same surfaces would have shown the same type of lighting instead of mixed, which would have been easier to manage in post, but again, those were the wrong angles for composition purposes).
  • Third, there’s a lot of motion.   That means a high shutter speed, offset by high ISO and a wide aperture.  Of course, too wide an aperture and one of the dancers would have been too out off focus.
  • One benefit of shooting rehearsals is that the same sequences get repeated several times.  That gives you a chance to get in a better position or try other settings.  I shot this set five different times, trying different angles and tinkering with ISO, aperture and shutter.  My final choice was less that ideal, perhaps 1 stop off where I’d have wanted to be in all variables (there’s a small amount off softness that would have been cured by 1/500 instead of 1/250;  there’s a noticeable drop off going from ISO 1600 to 3200 on the D4, more so than between lower settings;  and at f/4 both dancers would have been more in focus with this lens).  The compromise I settled on wasn’t perfect, but any more adjustments to one variable meant too significant a drop in another.


February 18 2012 08:31 pm | Photography

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