English Nation Ballet staff photographer Laurent Liotardo captures images in tricky lighting conditions so was the perfect person to test out the cameras lowlight performance for the Nikon D3400 Campaign, according to Nikon.
As an active Instagram member with over 90k followers, Laurent’s images capture the movement motion of ballet, but it’s his use of light that really makes his images stand out. To get an impression of his work you can check out his Instagram pages at balletandphotos. His latest set of images was captured for the official Nikon D3400 promotional campaign and demonstrates how the camera performs in low-light conditions.
The series features images of dancer Melissa Chapski and follows routines from the Nutcracker. This performance is a new adaptation and uses the flow of movement coupled with the latest technology and costume design to create a stunning spectacle that enables the capture of this striking series of images.
In this interview from Nikon, Laurent explains a little about himself and his photography and gives an insight into using the camera to capture his striking images of dancers in low light conditions for the Nikon D3400 promotional campaign.
An interview with Laurent Liotardo on using the Nikon D3400 in low light
What is your background as a photographer?
I’ve been a ballet dancer since I was 12 years old, and danced all over France before coming to the UK in 2003 to join the English National Ballet, a company I still dance for today. Earlier this year, I made the leap to become the official staff photographer and videographer for them, which I fit around my day job of dancing. Ballet is my first passion and photography is my second love and now I specialise in dance, film and wedding photography.
I first became interested in photography at a very young age, when I began playing with my Dad’s camera. The first DSLR I purchased was a Nikon D80 which I put to the test on an English National Ballet tour in Versailles. Since then, I’ve always used Nikon cameras and NIKKOR Prime lenses.
I regularly use the Nikon D810, D5 and the D700. People always ask me what camera they should get if they’re just starting out in photography and having worked with the D3400 on this shoot, I’d recommend it. It’s a brilliant entry level camera.
What was it like working with the Nikon D3400 for this campaign?
I knew about the camera’s excellent low light capability, so when I was asked to be involved, I was immediately interested to push the camera to its limits and achieve some outstanding results. Capturing the iconic ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ in low light was an interesting idea and I was interested to see how the camera would perform, particularly as it’s an entry-level DSLR. I was impressed. It easily allowed me to capture the shots without compromise and was easy to use.
I also got to use the new SnapBridge feature which instantly uploaded all the images I took onto my smartphone. So, I could quickly look at which images I liked and then share them there and then.
As the shoot took place over the course of a long day, I wasn’t sure how many shots I could take on the D3400 on one charge. Thankfully, I only needed to change the battery once, so it lasted well.
What were the main challenges of the shoot?
For me, it was challenging to shoot in such dark conditions and I didn’t know if we’d get the shots we needed. However, the D3400 rose to the challenge. I pushed the ISO up to 6400 with no noise, which is impressive for an entry-level camera. I also experimented with some fantastic long exposure shots – although this is more of a photography technique, you still need to have the right equipment. You certainly couldn’t shoot anything like it on your smartphone.
What did you enjoy about the shoot?
Working with an accomplished dancer like Melissa Chapski was fantastic. I first became aware of her on Instagram and was immediately struck by how amazing she looked in pictures. Shooting her performing in the darkness was exciting. I’ve seen and performed The Nutcracker hundreds of times, so it’s great to see a completely different rendition. Working with a new camera was a positive experience and I loved being able to try the different NIKKOR lenses to achieve some amazing results and a soft bokeh.
As someone with a big following on Instagram, what qualities do you look for in the images you share?
I like to use the contrast between light and dark in my imagery. When shooting dancers, I aim to go beyond their physicality and capture their individuality, athleticism and the story behind the image, as well as the dramatic, beautiful lines. When selecting which images to share with my followers, I am very choosy and only pick the very best shots. I always try to post things that have meaning to me – not just shots that I know will achieve lots of ‘likes’ and ‘comments.’
Transferring images is usually an arduous process – what did you think from working with SnapBridge?
When out on shoots, I often need to share the images I’ve taken with others quickly.
SnapBridge appeals to me as you can quickly and easily transfer images taken on the camera to your smartphone to share, even when there is no Wi-Fi connection. SnapBridge allows you to share higher quality pictures and I loved how convenient and easy it was to use.
Why did you want to work with Nikon on this shoot?
I’ve been a Nikon user since starting my career in photography, so it was an absolute dream to be asked to work on this shoot; I jumped at the chance! The fact that this was all about an entry-level camera was a real draw as you can do so much with affordable DSLRs today, it’s easy to assume you need something more advanced. I’m passionate about using Nikon equipment to shoot professional ballet dancers as I’ve found the kit to be the most advanced in terms of accuracy while also capturing the dancers’ grace and beauty.
What is your favourite image from the shoot, and why?
The long exposure shot is my favourite image, and I was happy that we managed to get it. We captured it right at the end of the day so it was particularly rewarding as we only had a few chances to get it right – long exposure shots are notoriously tricky. Luckily we managed to get the shot after a couple of tries. It was a great way to end the day, knowing we’d accomplished what we set out to achieve.
What are your tips for shooting in low light?
You might be at a gig, or exploring a city at night, and that’s when a DSLR camera can make the difference in terms of the quality of the images you take. It’s important to have a wide ISO light-sensitivity range when shooting in low light, which the D3400 has – which is impressive for an entry-level camera. I could capture clear, sharp images even in the near-darkness of the theatre. The D3400 is also very quiet which is useful for shooting live performances.
What are your tips for capturing dance/ballet performances?
When shooting fast, precise movements, such as those by a professional ballet dancer, it is important to have a fast shutter speed to capture the exact shot with a crisply defined subject. Autofocus is another tool which helps capture dancers in motion, when you need to act quickly to grab the moment before it passes. The versatility of the camera is important too. When shooting dancers, the lightweight D3400 is perfect, as it’s small and portable, meaning I can easily manoeuvre around the stage, following the dancer.