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Stage Shows and Events
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Stage Shows and Events

Stage shows and other theatrical events are a popular part of travel itineraries. They are, however, among the most difficult photographic subjects you'll encounter. The two major obstacles are low light levels and limited stage access.

You can overcome some of the problems of low light by setting a relatively fast ISO speed, such as 800 or 1000, but even then you're likely to be working with slow shutter speeds. If you have image stabilization, you can probably shoot safely to 1/30 second or even slower, but if you're working without stabilization, keep shutter speeds at 1/60 second or faster to prevent camera shake.

Because stage performances are rarely static events, you're bound to get some motion. One solution is to watch the performance long enough to get a feel for when there will be lulls in the action and shoot at those instances. Sometimes it's better and less frustrating simply to accept a certain degree of subject blur, or even exaggerate it by using longer-than-necessary shutter speeds.

Stage lighting is also tricky to expose for, with bright spotlights hitting some parts of a stage and other areas falling into darkness. The best solution is to use a telephoto lens to isolate an individual performer, and take your meter reading from that person's face. Be especially careful not to let bright spotlights or very dark surroundings into the frame—either will mislead the meter. Incidentally, flash is rarely allowed; even if it is, it's not recommended because it destroys the beauty of the theatrical lighting.

As to stage access, occasionally you'll have plenty of mobility and will be able to approach the stage or performance area freely. More commonly, if you want close-up shots, you'll have to work from a distance using a telephoto lens. In some cases, you may want to switch to a wide-angle lens to include more of the overall setting.

Remember, too, that if the stage lighting is very dim, your autofocus system may have difficulty finding sharp focus, so you may need to switch to a manual-focus mode if that's available.

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