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Theatre Photography

18 May 2010 8:27AM
I have been asaked to take some photos of a theatre production and I have never done anything like this before. I am quite nervous about it as I have no idea (really) what I am doing. I am aware of how to use my camera, iso etc. but wondered if any of you had experience in this field and could warn me abouot possible ****-ups I could avoid!
I was not going to use flash as it might ruin the atmosphere (what I have read) however during staged shots I think I might be taking would it be beneficial to use some fill-flash to freeze movement and to register the ambient light in the background in order not to ruibn the atmosphere.
Would like to know what you guys think.
Thanks everyone

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User_Removed 12 398 6 United Kingdom
18 May 2010 2:17PM
Your right - no flash
What camera body do you have? - you will need something like at least a canon 5D MkII or Nikon D700 to produce quality high ISO images. Just depends what these people are expecting. You'll also benefit from some fast glass too?
Tell us what you have.
18 May 2010 5:59PM
hi Shawry,
I have a 5D , a 40D. I have 70-200USM L IS, 50mm 1.4 85 1.8. and 17-40. I think they should be ok.. but no flash you say? not even off camera, or fill?
davidbailie 14 457 7 United Kingdom
18 May 2010 6:16PM
I can give you some opinions as an actor and .......... no! no flash - I have worked for the two major companies for many years in the UK and never was there any flash - (nor anywhere else) you may be able to talk individuals/the director/management into static poses later but during a run through NO!

By definition it will need high iso shooting - have courage - stage shots music/theatre or whatever are rarely if ever pin sharp or noiseless!!

If you can get into a run through before shooting that will help you decide on where to aim for (I'm busking it now) - also I suggest you get into the circle front row and use a zoom lense - your 70/200 may well cover it all - just go for it Smile at the end of the day if you have 20-40 worthy shots they'll be pleased

Geraint 11 715 34 Wales
18 May 2010 6:53PM
Your 70-200 IS should be fine. You'll probably need to max the iso. When I've done production stills (with my 40D) I've often had to shoot at absolute extremes i.e. 1.8 primes shooting at 1.8, ISO 1600 and the slowest speed possible (while looking out for camera shake). It might be an idea to use a monopod though I don't like the restrictions and not being able to move quickly enough. As other have said - no flash. You wouldn't really want to anyway as it is much more pleasing to use the lighting that the play is lit by - you often get very dramatic colours that emphasise the action well. Check that it will be a tech run to ensure that you'll have the proper lighting.

Some tips other than technical - you'll probably find that you hit the ground running and shoot everything in sight to start with. That's fine - it's important to get settled in - but try and slow yourself down and get a feel for the characters and actors and try if you can to get good angles going i.e. if it's a dialogue between two characters try and get yourself in a position where you can shoot over teh shoulder of one and vice versa. I assume you'll be taking photos of the dress rehearsal (not the live performance) so you should have plenty of time to move around.

And don't feel self conscious when you're moving around and shooting - they're actors and will absolutely love the attention! We all do don't we Davie?!!
Graflex 15 488 United Kingdom
19 May 2010 1:00PM
Just to say,welcome to the wonderful world of theatrical photography...
I can't offer any advice about cameras as I've NEVER used digital..just keep on the move around the stalls,if possible from the wings,and any posed pictures on stage afterwards.Using stage lighting of course.

All the masters did.Just study pictures outside theatres,give you an idea on the style.

I cut my teeth at the London Palladium/Royal Opera House with stage lighting...it's an art form,but can give you great satisfaction,better still using digital because you can see instant results.

Graflex (H)
thewilliam 9 6.1k
19 May 2010 2:33PM
Stage lighting can be a challenge but great when we get it right. When using mono film, choose a developer that gives good shadow detail. Don't underexpose or push any film. With digital, I'd use RAW and the 14 bit option and get the exposure "on the nose".

I did a fair bit of theatre photography but it was a few years back, using Leica M because I could see to focus, the lenses are good enough use wide open and the shutter is all but silent.
kaybee 14 5.8k 25 Scotland
19 May 2010 6:47PM
Don't stand next to the musical director and machine gun shots (saw a press tog get chucked out for trying that)
Remember to take shots of the orchestra too ...... they don't get enough credit.
If you can get into a box overlooking the stage, use it (it gives an unusual angle from the usual stage shots).
Don't be too worried about noise at higher ISO .... it can add 'character and atmosphere'.

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