Taking Dance Recital Pictures | Baton Rouge, LA Family Photographer

It is that time of year when the sequins and tutus come out and the hair goes up in buns.  That's right.  Recital time!

My girls aren't in ballet yet, but I know it is in the near future.  If you know me, you know what a large role dance played in my life growing up.  I danced into college.  I still to this day, have an album of my pictures through the years.  

So, when I started getting into photography, I asked my good friend who now runs the company I used to be in if I could photograph their performances.  Man, let me tell you.  It was a lot more challenging than I ever thought.  However, it is a project I hold close to my heart since it marries two passions I have.  

Why is photographing stage performances so difficult?  It mostly boils down to the lighting.  The darkness of the theater, the bright and harsh stage lights, combined with fast moving objects at a distance just creates a hot mess to try and get some good shots of your little one.

Here are the things I've learned in photographing performances that can be carried over to your dance recitals.


#1 - First, if possible, try and photograph a dress rehearsal.  Then you have a little more freedom to move from your seat, get a better angle and you won't be as disruptive.  

#2 - Ask your little one which side of the stage they are on, if they aren't going to be all over it.  Then you know where to be looking.

#3 - Don't be afraid to photograph from an angle other than center.  I like to get on the sides sometimes, especially if I' want to get more close ups of an individual dancer.

#4 - Equipment....... you really do need some sort of DSL or manual mode camera.  Ideally one that handles low light situations well.  Point and shoot cameras won't do well in these circumstances.  Also a good telescoping lens is best so you can zoom in and still get crisp and clean pictures.  I personally favor Canon's 70-200mm lens.  It allows me to get in tight on dancers and also get full stage images.  If that's not an option for you, then try some kind of telescoping lens.  There are several options, that's just what I tend to use.  Oh, and turn on image stabilization if you are holding the camera, turn it off if you are using a monopod or tripod.

By the way, did you know that you can rent lenses?  In fact, I do that from time to time, and it is a great option if you really want to get some great shots, but can't justify buying the lens you want for the job.  Here are a couple vendors, but there are many more:  Lens Rentals  &  Borrow Lenses

#5 - This one is big.  NEVER USE A FLASH!  It is dangerous to the dancers on stage.  

#6 - Your camera settings.  This is where is can get tricky.  I like to use shutter priority, TV setting on the dial.  This helps me so I don't have to go in and manually adjust my ISO every time the lighting changes on stage.  My camera reads the light, knows the time value (TV) I want, and adjusts to get the right image.  I also go into me settings and set it to be -1 on the exposure scale.  The reason for this is becuase the lights on stage a very bright, and I can always bump up my exposure if I find it to be too dark.  However, if the metered light is good on the subject but the rest of the stage is brighter, it can blow out the highlights, and once you do that, getting the detail back is a huge challenge.  I set my TV at 1/250 to ensure I don't get blur.  I do not recommend going any slower than that.  The third thing I do is adjust my camera to be in continuos shooting silent mode.  This allows it to continue to take images as long as I have the shutter button held down, helping me get some of the shots I want when dancers are moving fast.  Silent is just for courtesy.

So how did it go?  Were you able to get your little one while on stage?  If something didn't work the way you wanted, let me know, I'm happy to try and trouble shoot where things went wrong so you can get it right next time.


Tricia is a photographer in the Baton Rouge, Houston and Victoria, TX area, specializing in family photography.  You can find out more about a session for your family HERE.