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Dance Photography -- The Instagram Challenge

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I went to see a DanceNOW showcase of emerging artists this month held at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. I was not going to photograph the showcase -- just see some new work and meet some new people. But whenever I watch dance, I see pictures, and I wanted to shoot.

I just started playing with Instagram, and I thought it would be a fun challenge making some dance photographs with the app. Shooting with Instagram on the iPhone is far from an ideal way to capture dance. Especially the way I like to capture it. I like to use two cameras with both wide lens and long lens at the same time. I like having the freedom to move around the theater if need be. With my digital cameras I can shoot hundreds of images very quickly without reloading and without any delay on the trigger or delay in the capture processing. I can keep shooting and make choices later in the editing room.

From the seat I was in at the showcase, there was a host of challenges I would face. So I decided I'd make it a fun game for myself.

The challenges:
  • Limited movement for camera location
  • Strong graphic elements in background (trim on the wall and distinct architecture of the ceiling)
  • Slow shutter speed
  • Delayed shutter trigger
  • Backlit from only one light source and a left-side window
  • I had never seen these works before (although I'm used to that)
  • Square frame format (I'm used to the rectangle format of the 35mm)
Rules of the game:
  • Only allowed to upload 1 image per dance
  • The image must give a feel for the choreographer's work

Once I captured and uploaded one image, I couldn't shoot any more of the same dance. So I was gambling on every piece wondering, "If I choose this picture, will I miss something really fantastic that I haven't yet seen?" I wanted to capture a variety of shots, too, so I was hoping to capture something unique in each piece. There were two pieces where I took image after image and kept hitting delete instead of upload, thinking I could make a better shot or a more interesting moment was coming. I erased a few good shots and ended with NOTHING! So frustrating.

All in all, it was a fun game, and I'm looking forward to a chance to try it again. Did I win this round? You be the judge.

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This article first appeared on 4dancers.org.