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« Holiday Performances Part II | Main | Exposure Compensation in Snow »

Holiday Performances Part I

‘Tis the season for school performances, so here are a few tips for getting the best photographs of the little ones.

First, unless your kids are performing at Carnegie Hall or The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where sears are reserved, you’ll want to get to the performance hall early to stake out a seat. The reality is that because you are not going to be allowed to use a flash (check you manual as to how to shut it off before you get to the hall), you are limited to shooting hand held. As a result, you need to shoot with as short a focal length lens as you can to minimize camera shake. The rule of thumb here is that you would set the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the lens focal length. So if you are shooting with a 200 millimeter lens, you would shoot at 1/200 of a second. All well and good if you are shooting outside. But shooting with the available light of a performance, even with a high ISO setting, it will be almost impossible to get to a 1/200 shutter speed. So that means you want to shoot with a 100-135mm maximum focal length. And that means you have to be pretty close to the stage to get close in a your favorite actor. So stake out your seat as close to the front as possible but above stage level so you can see the actor’s feet. And try to get as close to the center as you can. Volunteering to shoot another parent’s kids when they have the seat you want could be a great negotiating strategy. Have someone guard the seat for you so you can go to a great opportunity for images--make-up and wardrobe.

Assuming you’ve called in advance (or you are a major donor to the theatre department), you should be able to get access to the staging area. I recommend this highly, because there is a wonderful sense of vitality and spontaneity to this environment, and there are abundant opportunities for candid, journalistic images. Try taking close ups of makeup being applied, wardrobe going on or being adjusted, and the actors strutting their stuff.

Here are a few examples of this kind of image from a performance I shot recently.

In the next entry, I’ll talk more about shooting the actual performance.

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