Compromising Image Quality for Moment Quality

One more post about Dancing With the Ojai Stars. When photographing dance, I want to freeze the action. As I mentioned in the previous post, I strove to shoot at 1/500 or 1/400 throughout, but this required AutoISO to choose 6400 most of the time. It was a questionable trade-off, because the images are very grainy. This is why I prefer to shoot dancers in a studio environment with flash units. Even though my flash synch shutter speed is only 1/250, the flashes freeze the action because the scene is illuminated for a small fraction of that 1/250 of a second, so the flashes freeze the action.

Sure, the action is frozen, but the resulting image is very grainy. Still a lovely moment.

At 1/500 of a second, the dancers are frozen, even if their jump ropes are not. The grain is less pronounced because I did not attempt to lighten the image. At larger sizes, however, the grain is disturbingly visible.

You cannot capture moments like this with a slower shutter speed, although there is an argument for showing the action through motion blur.

As I've said, converting to black and white doesn't exactly minimize the grain, but makes the grain more acceptable, because this is how we remember many black and white action photos. Also, because I find higher contrast more palatable in black and white, I don't mind exposing for the highlights and letting the shadows fade to pure black. This conceals some of the grain.

With a flash, I can freeze the action and minimize grain. At this particular session, I accidentally underexposed the original images, so there is more grain than is necessary, but you can still see that the image is much cleaner than the performance shots above.


Filed under Camera Gear, Dance and Theater, Low Light, Post Processing

2 responses to “Compromising Image Quality for Moment Quality

  1. spot on, i always maintain that its bettery to get a sharp shot thats grainy/noisy rather than a shot blurred with camera shake.. and in ur case too when u need the shutter speed to achive a certain effect. and definitely, converting to b/w enhances the look coz it takes noise and makes it grain (sort of) – the horrible color noise cannot be seen in b/w.

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