Let’s Talk About Telephoto Lenses

One of the questions I get asked most is how a telephoto lens helps with theater photography. I admit that it sounds a little weird to most people when I recommend they add a telephoto lens to their collection, but the fact is that this lens can come in handy more often than you’d think.

  • You won’t be the only person taking photos professionally at a theater most of the time. It will sometimes be impossible to get a spot near the stag. This is where a telephoto lens will give you the reach you need to take photos of your subjects without going up to the stage.
  • Moving about and looking for the perfect angle to take a photo is one of the most important things you have to do as a theater photographer. You cannot do this with a prime lens because your focal range is very limited. With a telephoto lens, you can move around, find the perfect shot, and adjust your lens’ focal length to take the shot.
  • If you are standing far away from the stage and have a telephoto lens with a wide aperture, zooming into your subject and taking a photo at a wide aperture will enhance the bokeh behind your subject, allowing you to take some really attractive shots.

So a telephoto lens isn’t made just for bird watching and sports photography, you can use it to great effect for theater shots as well.

Keep Noise to a Minimum with these Tips

Noise is one of the biggest enemies of a good photo, especially when dealing with low light situations. It can not only lessen the detail in your photos but also make them look out of focus. Some of these issues can be solved with post-processing, but there is no real remedy to noise that eliminates it completely from a photo.

So before you head out to cover a drama in a theatre with tricky lighting, here are some tips to help you reduce noise in-camera.

Use a Lower ISO

The best way to tackle image noise is to use a low ISO value when taking the photo. ISO is the value that determines how bright your image is. A higher ISO means a brighter image and vice versa. But, a higher ISO also means lesser detail and more noise in images.

Today’s cameras have gotten really good at handling high ISO values. You can take images up to ISO 800 or even 1000 in some cases without seeing much visible noise. However, you should always do some tests to determine the highest ISO value your camera can handle.

Shoot RAW

If you don’t already shoot in RAW, start doing it right away. This is a format that contains all the data your camera captures for a scene, meaning that you can manipulate this data to your liking without degrading image quality. One big cause of excessive noise and grain in photos is that people try to brighten up JPEG photos artificially. A RAW file is different because you’re not adding anything new to the photo but rather choosing which aspects to highlight and which to subdue.

RAW photos also allow you to control noise levels in post processing more effectively. RAW editors like Lightroom and Aurora HDR have noise control settings that are very useful in this regard. Speaking of HDR, these images often have far more noise than normal photos because an HDR photo is a stack of multiple images, amplifying the noise in each. If you would like to reduce noise in an HDR photo, head on to www.aurorahdr.com and give this editor a try.

Use In-Camera Settings

Many cameras these days come with built-in noise reduction settings that you should turn on. These are geared towards the specific camera sensor and are often very effective at reducing noise right when you take the photos. The process does take a little time, but it is definitely worth a shot if you don’t want to fiddle too much with your photos in post.


Why You Need an Interchangeable Lens Camera

While it’s not necessary to have a DSLR or mirrorless camera to take great photos – you can take very good photos using only your smartphone – you have to rely on an interchangeable lens camera sometimes. Taking photos in a theatre is one of those times. Let’s see why you benefit from having a camera with interchangeable lenses for theatre photography.

Lenses Matter

The first reason is that it helps a lot to have a lens that is meant to be used in low light situations while photographing a play. Of course, there are fixed lens cameras that have great lenses too, but having the ability to change from a wide angle lens to a portrait lens comes in very handy.

They Have Bigger Sensors

Usually, most interchangeable lens cameras will have bigger sensors than compact or smartphone cameras. This lets in more light into the sensor, thus creating better images. Not only do the photos have lesser noise in them, they also have a bigger size and resolution which is useful in post processing.

More Accessories Help

A DSLR or a mirrorless camera will usually allow you to attach more accessories to them than others. You will have access to mic and headphones slots for video, secondary memory card slot for backups, all manner of lighting equipment and more. For a more professional photography shoot, these kind of things can really elevate your work.


So if you have to buy a camera solely for theatre photography or something similar, it’s better to invest in a DSLR or mirrorless camera so that you can keep using it for a longer time.

Best Lenses to Use for Theatre Photography

A big role is played by the kind of lens you use for taking photos of a play in a theatre. The camera body matters, sure, but the choice of lens often matters even more because you can’t always take usable photos with the camera’s kit lens.

Use a Fast Lens

You should have a lens with a wide aperture. A wide aperture allows for more light to enter the camera sensor, hence brightening up the images and reducing the need to slow down the shutter speed or crank up the ISO. This is essential, as a slow shutter speed will cause your images to blur and a high ISO will add unwanted noise.

Use a Wide Lens

Wide angle lenses are made to capture more of a scene than a normal lens can. These can not only help you take some great photos of the actual theatre when it’s empty but also help you in capturing images of the whole stage if you cannot find a good spot away from it.

Use a Telephoto Lens

If you do manage to find a good spot away from the stage, and if it’s high enough that the audience’s heads don’t get in the way of your shots, consider using a fast telephoto lens. You can use the extra range that a telephoto lens brings to bring your subjects much closer to your camera sensor than they actually are.

Every kind of lens serves a different purpose, so take a good look at the different types available and then make a purchase decisions based on the tips mentioned here. Your theatre photographs will thank you for it.


Remember these Things before Covering a Theatrical Play

A lot of work goes into making and preparing for a play. The whole crew puts a lot of heart and dedication into creating a play, every single time they perform. That’s the beauty of the theatre – it’s live, it’s raw, it’s right there in front of your eyes.

Knowing that it takes so much to make a play, everyone has to have a certain amount of respect for the craft. As a photographer who is covering the play, you have to be careful of what to do and what not to do.

Be Mindful of What You Wear

This is something so simple and yet so many photographers fail to realize the importance of clothing while shooting a play. Go black, and I mean full black, while photographing in the theatre. This is the best way to blend in, causing the minimum possible amount of distraction to the actors and the audience.
Another thing to remember is to wear shoes that don’t make sound when you walk. No one wants to hear the click clack of your footing while a actors try to deliver raw emotion to the audience.

Don’t Let Your Camera Be Noisy

Your camera should not become an obvious presence at the theatre. Many photographers fail to remember simple things about their camera, like turning off the focus light. This light, while of great use to photographers, can become a major pain for the actors.

If you use a mirrorless camera, you have a great advantage in the form of the electronic silent shutter that can be used while taking photos. The mechanical shutter is way too loud to be used in an atmosphere like this. If you don’t have the option to use an electronic shutter, try to time your shots in a way that allows you to mask the shutter sound with the music or the background sound.

Cover the Venue Beforehand

In order to not have to move around the whole theatre, try to take pictures of the space before the play starts. You will have the space to yourself for some time to really capture the essence of the auditorium. You can even go backstage during this time and get some great shots.

To take great looking images of the venue, a trick is to take multiple exposures and later merge them into an HDR photo to get capture all the lighting and architectural details of the space. You can use Aurora HDR for this purpose, as it provides you with a plethora of controls over the final pictures. More detail for this can be found at www.aurorahdr.com.


Carry the Right Lenses

If you spend just a little time researching what lenses are best for the kind of images you want to take. You can invest in all manner of lenses, from wide angle, to portrait, to telephotos. Just remember to invest more in prime lenses than zoom ones, as these often give you better exposed and crisper images. If you carry too much stuff with you, you will be more compelled to change your gear every few moments, causing the audience to notice your movements and yourself to lose precious time.

Know Your Camera

One of the most important things to remember while taking photographs of a play, or any other kind of performance, is to make sure you know the settings of your camera and lenses. Manual Mode is a great way to ensure that you get the kinds of shots you want, and that your camera doesn’t over or underexpose randomly. Set your camera’s aperture low in a darker setting so that you don’t have to crank up your ISO too high. This will also allow you to use a faster shutter speed and you won’t end up with blurry shots.

As for your lenses, you should be aware of the ‘sweet spot’ for each one. Every lenses have a certain aperture setting where they are sharpest, so maybe your f/1.7 lens shouldn’t be used wide open in a theater. Another thing to remember is that the wider your lens’ aperture, the lesser the focused part of your image will be. Therefore, if the available light is favorable, try keeping your camera’s f-number to 3.5 or higher.

I could go on and on, but these tips and tricks should be enough to help you understand why you need to act a little differently than usual in a theater. Don’t be in people’s face, don’t make too much sound, and just respect the fact that the people on stage have worked too hard to bring their show to the masses. Once you do that, you’ll automatically start being mindful of the little things that often go unnoticed, and end up with some amazing photos in the process.