Recommendations for Photographing Show

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Duncan J Murray, Sep 26, 2005.

  1. Hello,

    I may be photographing a theatre production at some time in the future. I
    currently have a MF Pentax Super-A, with 50mm F1.4 and 35-70mm F3.5 lens -
    and I may be able to get hold of an SMC 100mm and 28mm.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for how to photograph this? Would you use
    flash? If you wouldn't use flash, would you be using tungsten-balanced
    film? And what ISO?

    Thanks in advance,

    Duncan Murray.
    Duncan J Murray, Sep 26, 2005
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  2. Duncan J Murray

    ian lincoln Guest

    "Duncan J Murray"
    My biggest piece of advice would be to shoot during the full dress
    rehearsal. The main lights as well as stage lighting. Especially if you
    don't want to use flash. You also get to stand where you want without
    obscuring view of audience. This will not be a problem if you are the
    official photographer. You may even get help or requests from the show
    director of anything particular to shoot. You will be less of a distraction
    and put them under less pressure during rehearsals and the troupe are used
    to you from the get go.
    ian lincoln, Sep 26, 2005
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  3. Duncan J Murray

    Colin D Guest

    Flash may be ok for shooting individual cast members, or groups, but not
    if depicting the show itself, where stage lighting sets the mood. You
    have a problem there with film though, you can't really use the same
    film for stage shots and flash because of the color balance question.
    You should use tungsten-balanced film for the stage shots, or daylight
    film with an 81A filter - but you lose film speed.

    If this shoot is important to you for portfolio or business reasons, I
    would suggest you beg, borrow, rent, or invest in a digital slr camera
    for the job. It takes care of the color balance issues, it will give
    you ISO speeds of at least 1600 with far better noise/grain than even
    400 ISO film will, you can get far more shots (hundreds) on a flash card
    than a roll of film, it's quicker to change a flash card than film when
    necessary, and you can check immediately if you got the shot you
    wanted. At the dress rehearsal, if you're the 'official' photographer,
    reviewing the shots in camera will allow you to re-do a shot if

    Personally, I wouldn't even consider doing a stage show with film these
    days. I have done stage shows in earlier years, with grainy film, bad
    color balance from mixed lighting - dimmed floods and spots go red,
    etc. RAW digital will allow you to deliver better color, more shots to
    choose from, sharper images thanks to higher ISO speeds. And with
    appropriate software and a digital projector, you can deliver a slide
    show that will knock their eyes out.

    Last, go buy a few theatre or acting magazines and study the shots they
    publish, to get an idea of what's acceptable or expected.

    Colin D.
    Colin D, Sep 27, 2005
  4. Duncan J Murray

    q_dise Guest

    q_dise, Sep 27, 2005
  5. Duncan J Murray

    q_dise Guest

    q_dise, Sep 27, 2005
  6. Duncan J Murray

    Norm Dresner Guest

    "Duncan J Murray"
    Oh, gosh ... In 1959 - 1962 I was the main photographer for my college
    newspaper and shot, among many other things, the Players' productions for
    it. Of course, I used a Speed Graphic with mainly Tri-X sheet film and
    flash but infrequently I splurged on a roll of Royal-X Pan (ASA 800-1600,
    usually pushed to 3200) to shoot available light. Always shot at the dress
    rehearsals since earlier I couldn't rely on there being any costumes and
    after that were the actual performances and nobody wanted flash going off

    Today ... First choice would be a Digital SLR that went to (at least) ISO
    1600 with as fast a lens as I could use or rent. With my Nikon D70, I'd
    rent the 85mm f/1.4 and I'd have a really good chance of getting good
    pictures with the stage lighting. My 50mm f/1.8 would usually be too short
    for good shots of the really dramatic scenes between 2 or 3 performers but
    would provide some good overall shots.

    If I had to use film, I'd go with the fastest negative (color) film I could
    get. ISO 800 is readily available and there are a few 1000-1600 too.
    Nothing is too fast. For most stage lighting, an f/3.5 lens is only
    marginally useful unless it (or the camera) has active vibration reduction
    or you shoot from a tripod and time the shots to the (mostly) stationary
    points in the action.

    Since I'd shoot with stage lighting, I wouldn't count on any film giving
    good color reproduction. That's why digital would be the first choice. If
    I had to use film, I'd just get the fastest film I could and plan on
    scanning it and fixing the color in Photoshop (or similar).

    Flash will not only give the wrong lighting (that's why stage productions go
    to such great lengths to assemble vast quantities of lights and filters),
    but would also disturb the actors. If flash is your only choice, get scene
    moments restaged after the rehearsal.

    Norm Dresner, Sep 27, 2005
  7. Duncan J Murray

    Matt Clara Guest

    "Duncan J Murray"
    Are you going to be on stage? If not, you'll definitely be needing longer
    lenses. 70-200 would be a good place to start.
    Matt Clara, Sep 27, 2005
  8. Duncan J Murray

    Guest Guest

    For just documenting and color accuracy I would go with Digital SLR as
    well but I must say that my wife, the pro of the family, shoots live
    performances almost exclusively with film and when people see the shots
    they always comment on how warm and rich they are and they often get
    picked by magazines or sold to performers. It depends on if you are going
    more to just record the event or for something more artistic to be used
    for an album cover or brochure. In my field I see pros shooting both
    digital and film at most events. If you already have a good film camera
    go with that and rent a decent DSLR as well. Should cover all your bases,
    so to speak.
    Guest, Sep 27, 2005
  9. Duncan J Murray

    Guest Guest

    Guest, Sep 29, 2005
  10. Duncan J Murray

    Guest Guest

    Guest, Sep 29, 2005
  11. Duncan J Murray

    Jim Guest

    I do this all the time... First do a rehearsal..
    Second I use film.. Stage lighting is good, but not always that good.
    I am concerned about noise int he inevitable underexposed corners.
    I will venture in with my digital some time in the near future.

    If use ISO 200 or 400 Slide Film. 200 If I can get away with it.
    Print film is OK if you scan and can set edit digitally to inusre
    correct color. You can also do this if you have a lab you trust. I
    will often shoot a gray card as fram one under the brightest scene
    light as reference point for the processor.

    I use my 80-200 F2.8 (Fast is important here, for exposure in your
    case, for AF in others),
    50 1.8 and 20 2.8 . The 80-200 is my favorite. Lets me get
    facial expressions, isolate actors from the background and all round
    flexibility. The 20 gets used for scen shots and the 50 when 80 is
    just too long.

    DON"t USE TUNGSTEN FILM. Tungsten is balanced for 3200K Most modern
    theater lighting is much cooler than that (but no where near as cool as
    daylight) . Use daylight film. It might be a little warm, but that is
    better than the effect of the opposite. I know.. made that mistake

    The director or stage manager (or even the cast) will chase you out of
    the theater with what ever instrument is at hand if you use flash. If
    you are taking posed or stills for a purpose (promotion, lobby or
    picture board shots) , then ignore this rule, and use studio lighting
    if available. Otherwise, use two flash. Many theaters have lots of
    black which eats up light. But if you are shooting live action, flash
    is a huge annoyance and you will wash out the atmosphere so carefully
    created by the lighting and set designers and annoy the actors.
    Jim, Sep 29, 2005
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