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Photography Question 

How to Shoot a Stage Performance

I just purchased a Canon Rebel digital camera. My son is in a stage performance, and we can take pictures ... if we do not use the flash. I used the no-flash setting and a tripod, and the shutter was too slow to get good pictures. Is there a better way to do it?

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7/13/2004 10:21:10 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Use a higher ISO setting.

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7/13/2004 11:29:14 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  What Bob C wrote, but in addition to that ... The performers themselves are usually pretty well-lit by spotlights, but the rest of the stage/theater is quite dark, leading to the camera's evaluative meter to choose more exposure/longer shutter speeds than really necessary. Set your Digital Rebel in one of the creative exposure modes (P, Av, Tv, or M), and with the center focus sensor on a performer, use AE Lock (thumb button marked by '*' on the upper back of the Digital Rebel). This invokes the partial metering mode, which meters just a small area around the center focus sensor. See pp. 78 and 84 of the user manual.

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7/14/2004 5:48:50 AM

Michael Kaplan   I love to shoot stage shows and NEVER use flash. I don't use flash for 2 reasons; 1) It will disturb the singers/dancers/band members 2) It will take away all the beautifully colored stage lighting.

I shoot with the Canon 10D so being that close you should be able to get the same great results that I do. You can see my PBase site to get an idea of what I am shooting (link below). Check under Becket Players 2003 or 2004 and Canada Day 2003 and 2004. The Canada Day are outside stage whereas the Becket are all indoor.

The way to get great pictures (or the way I do it):
1) I shoot ISO 800
2) I mostly use a lens that I purchased just for these type events. A Canon 50mm F1.8. It is a top quality lens and only ~$70 USD. The F1.8 will allow you to shoot fast enough to freeze performer movements.
3) I shoot in RAW so any adjustments can be made afterwards as if I had shot it that way to begin with.
4) I have white balance set on auto and adjust after but they come out mostly correct. I find just the odd image out of whack (one of many reasons to shoot RAW).
5) I do also use my 70-200 F2.8L IS for some pictures; the F2.8 is more than 1 stop slower than the 50mm but pictures are generally great as well.

When I use my other lenses which are F3.5-5.6 I get many more bad pictures, blurred movements by performers or camera as it is hand held. I don't use a tripod as I try to get all different angles and I'm all around the stage; front, sides etc. The tripod will help with camera movement but will do nothing for performer movements.

The other thing I do is shoot a lot of pictures and get mostly great ones. The last Becket show I did I have about 2000 RAW pictures taken from a few different nights so I have an assortment and am guaranteed many great shots. One night alone there were 669 RAW pics taken of the 2 parts of the show.

If you have any other questions just let me know and I'll be glad to help.
Michael Kaplan
Canon EOS-10D

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7/20/2004 8:16:57 AM

Michael McCullough   Try a higher speed setting one for lower light images and a faster lens would be a huge help as well but that is a fairly substancial cost!!!!

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7/20/2004 9:24:06 AM

Sara L. Tanner
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/2/2003
  I also want to shoot a stage performance. Our dog is playing the part of Sandy in the local production of Annie. I have a Nikon Coolpix 2100. Does anyone know what setting(s) I should use?

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7/24/2004 2:34:53 PM

Michael Kaplan   I am not familiar with your model myself so I just checked out the specs at DPReview. From what I see, you are very limited as there is no Aperture or Shutter priority. You do though have ISO up to 800. If you can not use flash (and if you are more than about 9ft at ISO100, a bit more if you up the ISO) then don't bother anyways.

I would use ISO of 400 or 800. 800 is preferable but you have to see how bad the noise is. I would do some test shots in a darkened room at ISO 400 and 800 and see if the pictures come out acceptable. If they are very bad at 800 then 400 will have to do.

After, you can always run the pictures thru Neatimage or similar program if you have one to help reduce the noise. Shoot best quality which is 1600x1200 on your camera. Don't use digital zoom, use only your optical 3x zoon and you can always enlarge or crop afterwards as needed.

Good luck with the shoot and post some pictures after!
Michael Kaplan
Canon EOS-10D

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7/24/2004 3:09:15 PM

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