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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Twittering and stage shows


Alright so the first thing you'll notice is this little button to the right here. It's a Twitter tweet button and a bit of experiment in a way to let you all keep track of when new posts turn up.

Which has nothing much at all to do with today's post but I always get a little bit excited when I try something new! Let me know if it works for you.

Speaking of new, how many of you have tried the challenge of shooting a stage production? They really are great fun to photograph although they can be a little challenging.

The first challenge is the light - or more importantly, the lack thereof. It's usually pretty dark inside so you need to bump up your ISO to get fast enough shutter speeds to stop the action. Here I used an ISO of 400 and was getting shutter speeds of about 1/100th second.

To make sure that you don't get too much noise at the higher ISOs you want to make sure to keep an eye on the histogram. You need to keep your pictures as bright as possible. The darker they are the more noise you're going to see. It's a lot better to darken a bright picture in the computer afterwards than it is to try and lighten up a dark picture.

The lights are usually tungsten or halogen as well which means they'll turn up as bright orange if you're in the Daylight setting on your camera. You can try the Tungsten setting but if that doesn't work shoot Raw and fix it later in the computer.

In terms of metering often stage productions use spot lights. So if you have a large area of black in the frame the camera is going to overexpose the image. You can compensate for this a couple of ways. If you have spot metering on your camera you can put your camera in that mode and spot meter off the people in the spotlight. If you don't then keep an eye on your histogram and dial in some minus exposure compensation if you find your camera over-compensating for all that darkness.

Often photography during a performance can be severely limited or even prohibited. If you get a chance give the theatre a call and ask if you can come and take some shots during a full dress rehearsal. Or if it's a show put on for tourists then you're sure to be allowed to photograph it. Just make sure to use a longer lens so that you can stand far back enough that you're not getting in everybody's way. The front row might look the most attractive but if the stage is raised up you'll be staring up the performers' noses and not getting very good eye-level shots.

For this shot here I was standing up the back of the stage and shooting with a 200mm telephoto zoom. This meant that I was at the same level as the woman on stage, and because I was standing up I wasn't in the way of the other tourists.

2 comments:

Mike D. said...

Thanks for the tips. I own a Canon 450D and a noob in photography. It's hard to take pictures in low light especially if the object is moving.

Paul Dymond said...

You're welcome Mike, I'm glad they come in handy. It is hard to get pictures of moving subjects in low light. If you can't get a fast enough shutter speed, or use flash, then often you just have to wait for a lull in activity and cross your fingers!