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11 Dec 2023

Camera Twist

kæmərə twɪst
Term: Camera Twist
Camera twist is a technique for capturing motion at the edges of the frame while freezing subject motion in the center for effect. It combines long exposure with direct flash.An example of where the camera twist technique can be useful is when photographing wedding guests dancing at a reception. By using direct flash and twisting the camera, interest is added to an otherwise static shot.

Dance Floor Camera Twist

Motion can add excitement to typically bland dance floor photography. When you are working a lackluster ballroom, why not try and add some interest? Learn how to create in-action dance floor shots that are going to impress your clients!we wanted to touch on another camera technique that will spice up your dance floor pictures (or really any picture) by adding a little twist, literally.

While you can create twist and zoom effects in Photoshop, creating these images straight out of the camera saves you time as well creates a much more natural image. So, without further adieu, here is how you go about creating the camera spin effect.

Note: This article is part of our YouTube video series, Minute Photography, where we explain photography tips & tricks, myths, and techniques all within 60 seconds!

Watch the Dance Floor Camera Twist Video

Step By Step Instructions

Here are some standard settings for direct flash dance floor twists:

  1. 1/5th, f/4.0, ISO 100 (starting)
  2. 1/8th flash power, 70mm zoom (starting)

It’s important that the lighting (such as the DJ’s lighting) is positioned behind the subjects on the dance floor. That way, when twisting the camera to create light streaks (which occurs because of the slow shutter speed), the color from the lights illuminates only the background, not the subject. The flash will freeze the subject, making the motion blur effect complete.



Step 1: Dial in your camera settings


You will want to adjust your camera’s exposure settings to capture background colors and lights. The easiest way to do this is to simply meter on the background, and to set your camera’s exposure settings to expose the background to be properly exposed or 1 stop under exposed as we prefer. We typically will under expose the background a bit since we want the lights and background colors to show up in the picture, but not to over power the subjects. This technique requires you to drop your shutter speed quite low, to around 1/15th of a second.

Step 2: Flash Settings


Because the shutter speed is so low, you will need to use a flash in order to freeze your subjects motion. While you can use a built in flash, this technique works best using an on a DLSR using a camera flash such as a Canon 580EX II or Nikon SB900. Yes, point your flash directly at the subject (as much as that pains you), and dial a proper flash power that doesn’t overpower the scene or cause heavy highlights on your subjects face. We recommend starting out at 1/16th – 1/32nd flash power, using your flash either in manual or TTL.

Step 3: Choose your Method of Twist


Point your camera at your subjects, and add movement into the image by shaking, twisting, zooming, or panning your camera.  Rather than firing the shot at the beginning of the twist, wait until about half way through your twist to shoot the shot. This will ensure that the twist motion is smooth.  In combination with the slow shutter speed, the ambient lights(mostly from the DJ’s up-lighting), will create a blurred effect while momentarily freezing your subject with the flash.


And there we have it; an instant upgrade from the flatly-lit dance floor action shots that were taken with a flash bounced towards the ceiling. Try this trick the next time you are out on the dance floor capturing candid moments and show the guests and your clients the back of your camera so they can see the effect in action!


We look forward to hearing of all your twisting adventures, let us know how it goes and feel free to post your site down in the comments section if you have a sample “twist” you would like to share!

To master foundation lighting techniques, check out our Lighting 101 workshop, or stream it along with a myriad of photography and post-production education as an SLRL Premium member. Stay tuned for more simple & effective photography tips & tricks in our Minute Photography series!