Christmas Dance group portrait photography in Exeter, Devon.

When deciding where to photograph a local dance group for some Christmas photos, there could not be a better place than Princesshay in Exeter. See how we got on. I’ve included a flash photography tip about how I achieved this lighting at the end…

A local dance group, Signature Rouge, needed some Christmas photos for new promotional material. Last year I did a Halloween photoshoot in Kents Cavern so I was certainly game for a Christmas themed group photography session this time around.

The location was the incredibly festive Princesshay in Exeter, Devon. If you’ve not been there over Christmas, it is well worth going and seeing for yourself!

There were plenty of locations to choose from and they already knew the spots and poses they wanted, so it was a nice and relaxed shoot. My lighting assistant that evening was Ben Fothergill.

Because there so so many locations to choose from I went with a lightweight and fast set-up. It’s pretty amazing how well the white umbrella lights a group. I would have had two umbrellas and two lights if I had the time, but one was enough for the run and gun session we had.

I went with two cameras, with a wide on one and a long prime on the other. It meant I could get the shots quickly and allow the poor group to cover up from the frosty weather as quickly as possible.

Photography set-up:

1x Sony A9 with Sony 85mm 1.4 (shot between F2 and F4)
1x Sony A9 with Sony 24-70 2.8 (Shot at F2.8)

1x Godox AD200
1x XPro Trigger
1x Photography umbrella
1x Light stand

If you would like your own portrait session or group session please visit my portrait photography page.

How did I achieve this lighting, a flash photography tip

The ambient light is so important but braving high ISO’s to achieve it is not easy on your nerves, especially if, like me, you’ve shot the majority of your past photos at ISO 100.

Embrace the high ISO. I knew I wanted a fair amount of the ambient light in these shots, I wanted those lovely Christmas colours to come through. It was a juggling act between bringing in the ambient but not enough that it blows out the very bright highlights. My shutter speed was at 1/80 hand-held (more than doable on mirrorless) so it was just playing with the ISO.

I shot the whole session with my ISO between 600 and 1,000. That doesn’t seem a lot but it makes a massive difference to the ambient light. Turn off your trigger, turn off your flash and get the ambient light how you want it first. Only then turn on your trigger and fire away.

If your flash photos look way too much like a flash photo, play with the ISO and don’t be afraid to push it hard to get the balance you’re looking for.

On this wonderful Christmas Eve, the only thing left to say is…

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Simon Day

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