Photographing Live Theatre
Live theatre photography is always a fun and challenging project. The idea is to create images that can capture an audience’s imagination and give them a teasing slice of what the play or musical is about, without giving away the whole story.
There are two methods that we use to get the best results. The first is to have the directors and producers draw up a list of scenes and character interactions that can be staged before a dress rehearsal. These a great because it allows us, with the cooperation of the tech director, to play with the lights and adjust things to the most conducive levels for great photography.
The drawback is that the actors may be coming in cold and we lose some of the spontaneous, in-the-moment emotion.
The second method is to turn the photographer loose to roam the room and the set during a dress rehearsal or preview, to capture the production as it unfolds.
This is often my preferred method, as I can get scenes and lighting that we wouldn’t otherwise capture. There are challenges to this method as lighting cues are fast and dramatic and some moments flit by in the blink of an eye.
Dress Rehearsal Photography
The tools to capture live theatre involve shooting with very fast lenses, relying on a good autofocus system and using a camera with really clean high ISO settings. My Nikon 810 system has been a tried and true friend for several years for these projects.
The other tool is training myself to anticipate the action and watching carefully for actors entering the stage. They come on for a reason and following them often leads to the action.
Sometimes, you can plan for visiting the theatre during an earlier rehearsal as a kind of scouting run. But, more often, that is not in the budget and isn’t possible.
For this production, I came in cold, during a preview run. Positioning myself toward the back of the theatre, I had the run of the place.
Dustin Bell, the founder of OTP, commented to me in an email: “My god!!!! I spent all last night fighting the urge to share all of these hahahahaha so amazing and I can’t thank you enough!! We just used a few for an email and I’m getting draw dropping responses :-)”