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How I Got the Shot: Karate Class in Low Light

(Vanelli’s note: Michèle Grenier, a talented sports photographer based out of Quebec City, Canada, needed 75 hours of mentoring before she could complete her degree in photography. After meeting her at Photoshop World a year earlier, she called to ask me if I could be her mentor—I’m based out of the East Coast of Florida. Honored, I said yes and, when she arrived, we dove into a 13-hour day of learning and shooting. To help reinforce her learning, I asked her to gather her thoughts and write a few “How I Got the Shot:” articles. Here’s what she has to say:)

Michèle’s story

Today, Vanelli challenged me to shoot a Karate class without flash. To put you in context: it was at night and the studio was poorly lit. See how I managed to pull out the best of this low-light, high-shutter-speed situation!

I’m quite used to shooting in crappy conditions. As we live 10 months out of 12 in snow in Quebec city—barely kidding here—I don’t have many opportunities to shoot outdoors throughout the year. Well, I could but, to be honest, I don’t really enjoy having my fingers freezing to the camera as I am wiping my runny nose on my sleeves. That being said, I  knew roughly where I wanted to start with this shoot.

Wide Aperture

Obviously, crappy light calls for a wide aperture. I went for f/1.8

Shutter Speed

I wanted it to be fast, but not so fast that I had to crank up my ISO too high. I usually shoot at 1/500 indoors—I think it’s the best minimum to freeze movement in gyms—but in this situation, the light was so low, I went for the fastest I could (1/320) without compromising too much my image quality.

ISO

My current camera body—Nikon D750—allows me to crank up pretty high my ISO; but, to my personal taste, I like to keep it under 2500.

Shooting

As you probably read in the first article “How I Got the Shot: The High Jump,” I looooove to shoot low angles. Lucky me, I found myself comfortably sitting on the studio’s cushioned floor the whole time. I was looking for candid shots, movements, but mostly interactions between Vanelli and his students. I wanted to illustrate his passion that still burns for this amazing sport as well as his passion for coaching—even after all these years. I wanted to show how his students had a great time and enjoyed being with each other and with Vanelli, too. I went for different angles, moving around the students as the class went on. I love to compose my pictures with an element in the foreground—a person, an object, anything to establish my position in the environment. It was pretty easy to achieve in the crowded room.

Final Thought

Because I wasn’t been able to get the shutter speed I would have liked to use (1/500), I decided to get more shots of expressions and interactions rather than movements. When you’ve got restrictions—light or space—you just have to work your way around it and get creative!

For more “How I Got the Shot” articles, click here

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