The cruddy weather lately has inspired me to temporarily move the focus away from outdoor photography to a very tricky but worthwhile type of indoor photography: stage photography.
While stage photography may seem simple to the naked eye, the lighting and constant movements that must be continuously mapped are akin to jumping on a trampoline while balancing on an operating jackhammer and snapping pictures.
The overall public consensus seems to be to take every possibly photograph of the idol on stage, post them all to Facebook, and allow friends to “ooh” and “ahh” over how close their friend—the photographer—was to their personal hero.
Stage photography can be a spectacular foray into the world of professional photography, but like any other foray, it requires practice, and a keen eye for detail. Before attempting stage photography of any type, please make sure that the appropriate DSLR and lenses are available in your camera bag. In addition a strong, lightweight, and compact tripod should be present at all times. While this might seem cumbersome to use when moving about the audience snapping pictures of Jon Bon Jovi or The Phantom of the Opera, the results are well worth the effort.
Aperture & Shutter Speed
Aperture and shutter speed are important considerations. Experiment with different apertures, shutter speeds, and lenses in different performance arenas. Each arena and show will have its own stage, strobe, and background lighting that may rapidly shift as the show progresses. Keep a notepad in your case kit and make sure to take notes on which settings, aperture, shutter speed, and zoom lenses worked best for which productions and at which performing arts centers.
If your camera has preset settings, then you’re in luck! First try using the Sport setting. This setting is used to capture rapid movement, and most of these settings come with automatic shutter speed and aperture adjustments to ensure that the perfect lighting effect is captured. One of the greatest settings ever created is the smile or face setting. This setting will detect the most important image in a picture, usually the human face, and make that image a point of focus resulting in spectacular shots of facial expressions, clothing detail, and the way that the light plays off of our hero’s face.
Suggested DSLRs with similar settings include the ever popular Sony Cybershot, Olympus Stylus, Panasonic Lumix, and Canon Rebel EOS. Feel free to shop around and choose the highest megapixel digital camera with the best settings for your style of photography. When determining which digital camera to invest in, ensure success by checking for the accuracy of the LCD screen in displaying pictures. Wisdom has shown us that investing in a diversified lens kit before you take on this stage photography venture is a must. Bring an extra memory card and make sure to have several charged batteries on hand—for that you will need either a wall socket or computer based digital camera batter charger.
Plan ahead for the first few events so that the venue seating is purchased with an eye toward having enough space to move around and photograph the subjects, backdrops, and lighting effects. Be prepared to change out lenses, and settings. Open yourself up to full experimentation in these situations. Try different angles and even different color scenarios. Does your camera have a black and white setting? Use this setting to take timeless picture perfect for sale to local newspapers and eZines. Bring along your fish eye lens to rock concerts and take a picture of the crowds interaction with the rock star. The emotional affect that a picture like this can bring on when viewed by fans is far more than the normal picture worth 1,000 words.
Keep a checklist of everything that you will need to successfully photograph your venue in your case kit. Then you will be instantaneously ready to run out the door and take that next award-winning stage photography shot the next time your friend calls you to tell you that she has two tickets to Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Hannah Montana, Live in Concert series with zero warning.
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