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

Monday, August 9, 2010

Photographing stage shows

One of my favourite things to photograph on my trips are stage shows. Yes they can sometimes be a bit corny and obviously put on for the tourists, but they're usually colourful and vibrant and very welcoming of photographers.

If the stage show is happening at night then it's most likely going to be under tungsten lighting - which shows up as quite orange on daylight white balance. If you put your camera on to its automatic white balance or even the Tungsten setting you will get a more neutral, blueish colour.

In situations like these, even if you're regularly a Jpeg shooter, I recommend that you shoot Raw. The reason for this is that, like many things in this art, white balance is a subjective decision. The colours that you capture are supposed to represent how you felt, not necessarily a strict recording of exactly how it was.

Tungsten lighting is the perfect example of this. Here you can see the look I got with a daylight setting (only in this case it was daylight balanced film). It has quite an orange glow to it but you know what? I like it. I think it gives a sense of welcome and friendliness. It adds a nice warm glow to the faces of the children and looks inviting. A 'correct' white balance with tungsten can often look cold and clinical. Anything but inviting. But sometimes the daylight setting can be just too orange. So if you shoot Raw you can look at the images later and decide on a colour temperature setting that you find visually appealing.

If you're like me you'll probably find that you use different white balance settings for different images depending on the look you want. For close-up portraits where skin colour is more of an issue you might prefer a slightly more natural look, whereas for wide-angle shots of the whole stage you might prefer that warmer, orangey glow. At least when you shoot Raw you can pick and choose what tickles your fancy.

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