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.