In our previous article on Hair Lights and Lens Flares, we discussed ways to spice up those everyday dance pictures by using some creative back lighting flares and effects. In this article, 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.

First off, this technique requires you to drop your shutter speed quite low, to around 1/15th of a second. 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.

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.  To give you an idea, the picture shown above was captured using a Canon 40D with a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye The camera settings were as follows: shutter speed of 1/15th of a second, aperture at f/2.8, and a film speed of 400 ISO.

Now, since the camera will be picking up a lot of light, I should mention that this effect is best captured in darker settings. In brighter settings, your flash will not be able to produce enough light in order to freeze your subjects, resulting in a completely blurred image. Thus, the dark and moody atmosphere of a dance floor works perfectly.

After you have adjusted your camera shutter speed, aperture and ISO to expose the background colors and lights, you will want to start working with your flash unit. Your flash unit is what you are going to use to freeze your subjects in place as you turn your camera.

Depending on the distance from you to your subjects, and whether or not you are bouncing off of a wall, you will need to adjust your flash unit’s power settings to make sure enough light hits your subjects so that they are frozen in frame. So, set your flash unit to rear curtain sync and make sure the unit is set to ETTL, and then adjust the flash units exposure level starting at 0.

In order to obtain a nice soft light we point the 580EX II straight out from the camera towards the ceiling, and use a Jumbo Flip-It bounce card pointing toward the subjects to fill in the shadows under the eyes and nose and what not. However, if you don’t have a nice wall to bounce off of, or don’t have a bounce card, keep in mind that you can point your flash straight at your subjects as well. The light will just be a little more harsh and flash-esque.

Now, once you have adjust all of your settings, start taking a few practice shots. Point your camera at your subjects, and then begin twisting the 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. Since we like to bounce off of ceilings and walls, we twist the camera and then fire as soon as the flash is pointing directly at the wall we are bouncing off of.

Hopefully, after your first shot, you will have everything right and you will see your subjects frozen in the frame. Now, it is just a matter of practicing and perfecting the shot! If you find that your subjects are still not frozen, then that means there is not enough of your flash light hitting your subjects. Therefore, you can try dialing up your flash power, or even pointing the flash unit directly at your subjects rather than bouncing it.

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!

Article written by:

Justin Lin
Lead Photographer | Partner
Lin and Jirsa Wedding Photography