Stage photographs for high school's one acts
I'm going to be taking photographs at dress rehearsal for a high school's three one act plays. My equipment: Nikon D70s (ISO 200-1600), 24-70 mm f 2.8, 70-200 mm f 2.8 Vibration Reduction, Nikon SB-800 speedlight flash. I also have a 50 mm f 1.8 non-autofocus lens I'd have to use in manual mode. and a flash bracket. I am permitted to use flash (along with ambient stage lighting, of course) and take photos from any location in the auditorium, including right at the front of the stage. Suggestions from maximizing IQ (Image Quality)? Thanks. Tom..

Comments (5)

I shoot these quite often as a photjournalist. Use 24-70 mm up front. Flash on bounce card if lighting works. Keep ISO as low as possible with available light if you can, even ask director to turn up lights. Use grey or white card to set wb before shoot. Move back when necessary to catch wide scenes ad move up for tight shots use stage and elbows for bi-pod.

I use apature to correct for lighting changes. Use wide attachment when necessary on flash. Take a couple of shots from back with 200mm..

Take portraits of lead actors. If you can take a few scenes set up of the directors favorites this will keep them happy. Remember the main actors need close-ups of their main scenes keep an eye on the main actors in each scene..

Hope this helps, have lots and lots of fun!Let the light in!.

Comment #1

I haven't been in the scenario you describe but the advise above seems excellent. I would be tempted to have your manual 50 f1.8 on a second body (if you can borrow one from a friend) and shoot with that lens as well. It will definitely perform better in low light.Rationally I have no hope, irrationally I believe in miracles.Joni Mitchell..

Comment #2

No small part of the atmosphere or appearance of a stage production is the lighting. While bringing up the lights or using flash will go a long ways towards reducing or eliminating problems with slow shutter speeds, it changes the look of the results (and the make-up)..

So you may be "forced" to crank up the iso and use the fastest lenses, the 70-200 vr may be more flexible than the 50/1.8 in some ways. If you've caught other rehearsals and blocking sessions, you may be able to find the better spots to shoot from and the points in the play where there is the least movement. You might suggest/request a couple of sessions with cast/lighting but staged to allow shooting w/o movements, maybe even include use of a monopod or tripod? Some nice prints of the production for posters?.

Something to consider is if there will be others shooting during the rehearsal and what they may or may not be doing or allowed to do with flash. If you have a special invitation or allowance to be shooting as you are, you may want to suggest that this be announced to reduce bent noses and bad feelings if other parents or shooters don't have the same privileges...

Comment #3

I do quite a bit of stage photography. My advice:.

Leave the SB-800 at home. It will bleach out the stage lighting and atmosphere..

Shoot RAW.

Set WB to Incandescent (It is impossible to preset WB because gels change the WB as does the power output of lamps as the productiom moves along. So just use 3000K (You can adust in PP if this looks to be out and batch process). If you can sit in on the tech rehearsals you might want to try tweaking Incandescent to -2 with a few test shots but if there are a few lights running at 80% power or less 3000k will be nearer than 3200K..


Try to borrow a 2nd body. If you cannot at very least make sure you have a QR plate on the cam so you can move away from your tripod quickly..

You will need ISO 1600 f/2.8. Use S mode and drag the shutter a little to give minimum shutter speed of 1/60th-1/100th (with the D70 I would not drag more than -0.7 EV max as it tends to underexpose and you will really bring up the noise. My D80 and D50 both expose for the shadows and I tend to stop at -1.0 EV.).

If you can get a 2nd body consider putting the 50mm pre-focused on a one tripod to capture the whole stage and using the 70-200 for more closeup shots..

Try and get some angled shots to vary the point of view..

If you have just one body use the 24-70 and get in close on a tripod so that 18-20mm would be needed to cover the entire stage (Very little usually happens close to the wings). Make sure you have a decent ballhead on your tripod so that you can get to portrait mode quickly. (I use one on my monopod as well)..

If you have studio raked seating like many UK colleges the 70-200 may have you too far back and above the actors for optimum use. If you have an orchestra pit and raised stage be prepared to bring a small step ladder and set your tripod high (shots up people's nostrils are not flattering)..

These days I use two bodies on a T bar on a Gitzo Studex tripod. I now tend to put my 50mm f/1.4 (at f/2) on the D50 to capture the whole stage and my 80-200 f/2.8 on the D80 for closer shots. But sometimes I use the 24-70 plus 80-200 to give myself effectively an 8 x zoom range..

Unless you are really bossy (or lucky!) nobody will stop for you so try to get some advanced knowledge of what is coming so you can plan. Shoot lots and be prepared to spend ages sorting your output down to a smaller number to PP..

Final thoughts:.

1. Do yourself a check list. It is really annoying to discover you left WB on Auto!.

2 Use a couple of cards and swap part way through to proof against disaster. Back up to a notebook PC if you can..

Chris Elliott.

*Nikon* D Eighty + Fifty - Other equipment in Profile.


Comment #4

This thread already has some of the best advice I've seen in DPR lately..

A couple of other thoughts....

If you shoot from a low angle, you'll end up with the ceiling over the stage in your background..

So, the step stool, or even a step ladder, advice is good..

I'm in the available light camp the lighting director worked hard to get a "look" to the show, and you should maintain it..

It's probably a good idea to get, before or after, a shot of the whole cast, and you should set up a mni-studio, perhaps with some of the scenery as background, for a good head shot of each performer,.

These headshots are often used in the lobby the night of theperformance..


Comment #5

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