Photographing school performances and church programs are often difficult – there’s a limit to the ‘great’ seats and the lighting can be tricky (skin tones often have a yellow tint from the incandescent lights and flash photography is usually taboo). Here are some Stage Performance Photography Tips to help you get better results using your SLR camera. Before I even get to the settings, always show up prepared! Pack the camera, make sure your batteries are charged, an empty your memory card or bring an extra, and if you’re facing very dark lighting, you may want to have a tripod with you, too. I’ve forgotten each of these at least once and have totally missed out on special ‘kodak’ moments for us!
Try to arrive early to the program and know where your child will be located on the stage. Although, the balcony seems far away, if you have a zoom lens, it’s can be a good option. Once you’re sitting comfy in your seat waiting for the crowds to arrive to see your star on stage…adjust your white balance to either auto or incandescent (some of the settings will have to be decided at the last minute when the lights go down – no worries, you’ll get it).
1. To compensate for the dimmed lights, you will want to raise your ISO to 1000 – 3200 (the quality of your photographs with a high ISO is dependent on your camera’s capabilities and your steadiness of hand.)
2. With the ISO so high, you will want to lower your aperture to F/4 – F/5.6. Take pictures as the lights go down to see what gives you the best results. Because the focal lighting is different than the background lighting your metered setting will appear to be underexposed (to the right of the metered line) when it is set properly.
3. Always expect motion (even if you aren’t photographing a ballet performance) and set your shutter speed to 1/125 – 1/160 to avoid motion blurring of your sweetie. Blurriness is very difficult – impossible to edit.
Shoot a variety of pictures, from close up to zoomed out (for larger cameras, an 18-105mm lens is really nice). Be on the lookout for moments where your child shines and don’t try to capture their final bow. Review the rules of composition: rule of thirds and the rule of diagonals to keep your composition interesting. Most important, hold incredibly steady (you may want to use a tripod) and plan on setting your camera to a burst setting so that out of the many pictures you take, a few will be great. It’s not an easy feat, but those few shots that you capture from the stage are incredibly rewarding. Once you’ve mastered these Stage Performance Photography Tips, we can move on to even more specifics! The fun thing about photography is there’s always more to learn…but progress feels so great, don’t you thing!!?! I’m crossing my fingers for you!