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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On stage

If you're shy about approaching people to take their photo, a great place to get some fantastic shots (you're expected to take photos!) is at a stage show.

Most countries have somewhere where they put on a dinner dance and show featuring indigenous dancing. The biggest challenge is how to photograph these events and keep them looking natural.

The best way to kill any atmosphere is to use your flash. That harsh, horrible white light just destroys any ambience. So that means you're going to need a faster ISO (I almost said film speed but then realised that probably none of you are shooting film anymore!) to keep your shutter speeds nice and fast to stop any motion.

Another good way to stop motion is to aim for a lull in the dance, when people aren't moving as much. Here, even though I was using 400ISO film, many of the shots were quite artistically blured because of the fast movement of the dancers. (Remember if you stuff up - it's art. Whenever you take a bad photo - it's art.) Where was I? Oh yeah, lulls in movement. I waited until the dancer paused and looked up at the ceiling and snapped away.

The show was under tungsten lights and I had daylight film in the camera, hence the slightly yellowish glow. I did some other shots with tungsten film and although the skin tones look more natural, the overall scene looked too 'blue' for my taste. Of course with digital shooting Jpeg you can do all that with the white balance. Even better, shoot RAW and just process it to your taste afterwards.

Shooting under these sort of conditions is always pretty hit and miss. You never know what you're going to get - or even if you're going to get anything at all. But it's great fun trying. Just remember to turn your flash off, bump up your ISO and wait for lulls in the action and great people photos are yours for the taking.

By the way, this picture was taken in the Cook Islands during my honeymoon! Who says men aren't romantic. Don't all people work during their honeymoon? Sorry honey. But you know I'm a photography addict. It was taken with a 70-200mm zoom set on 200mm and wide open at f2.8. I didn't have my tripod so my wife let me lean it on her shoulder. Now that's what I call an understanding partner. :)

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