Theatre and Stage Photography Tips

1. Use the “Big Picture”

Don’t shoot the close ups.

As a theatre and stage photographer you can easily be tempted to shoot close-ups of actors, scenery, props, and other objects. They may look dramatic and exciting but there is a danger that the picture will just become a catalogue of details. The “big picture” gives you the opportunity to show your audience a bigger version of the drama unfolding in front of them. There is also the danger that the “big picture” can be boring. If you are going to capture a lot of detail in your shots, make sure you show enough of the scene to give the audience a sense of what is really going on in the play, and how it came about. This will give them more of an understanding of the story and the characters. You may want to make use of a series of close ups to add to the drama and suspense. But be careful not to overwhelm the audience with lots of small details.

2. Shoot from Different Angles

A simple rule of thumb for shooting any photo is to put a light background behind your subject and use your camera lens to show different perspectives. When we see a face, it is usually from the front and side. Shooting from other angles, like above and below, will give you more options. If you want to make the image ‘pop’, try shooting the picture from a higher angle, and then making the image smaller to create the illusion of a larger space.

3. Use a Variety of Lighting

If the lighting is good, it doesn’t matter if the background is dark or bright, provided the subject is in focus. A strong highlight will enhance the drama of the scene, as it highlights the subject. If you are using flash, ensure that you put it at a high power setting, so that it is the main light source, rather than just one of the lights on your camera. If there is not enough light to capture the drama, you can add a light source, or use fill flash to help.

4. Experiment with Filters

Filters can make any picture look dramatic. Whether it’s adding a dramatic effect to a face or creating a dramatic colour shift in a landscape, filters can create images that are dramatic and make your audience sit up and take notice.

5. Don’t Be Too Technical

Most photographers today shoot on automatic. This means that they take pictures without touching the camera. However, you should still be able to adjust settings, such as shutter speed and aperture, to achieve the desired effect. It can be useful to think about what you want the picture to look like. Do you want to show a particular action, such as a person falling over? A landscape in the snow? A close up of a flower? Using the manual function will allow you to experiment with various settings to produce the perfect shot.

6. Keep it Simple

Don’t go overboard with your techniques. It’s tempting to use all sorts of special effects. However, they can take the viewer’s attention away from the picture itself. Keep it simple. Focus on using a variety of filters, shooting in low light conditions, capturing the big picture, and making use of different camera angles.

7. Find the Drama

Drama is something that can be used to draw the viewer in. Drama is made up of two things – plot and character. Plot is the story, which has a beginning, middle, and end. Character is the person the plot is happening to. If you are shooting a play, or a play within a play, you need to find a dramatic place in the story. You could focus on a particular part of the story, such as the protagonist’s journey towards the denouement. You might want to give the viewer a sense of the character’s feelings, which is done by including a strong facial expression. Or you could make the viewer feel part of the action. Do this by including a dramatic setting. You could photograph a character’s journey across a stage, through a doorway.