I recently had a high concentration of stage plays to photograph in a single week. I typically photograph around 15-20 productions a year, plus promotional work, but recently had to shoot three productions for three companies in the space of six days, at theatres in Hertford and Potters Bar.
I frequently work with Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society, covering both production photos and promotional work.
Later this year The Society will be staging a production of When We Are Married by J.B.Priestley, for which I was asked to produce a period photograph of the main characters. This was to be a family photo similar in style to those used by other production companies to promote the play – a shot of the six main characters posing for the camera.
We did the shoot at The Society’s headquarters where we found a suitable backdrop to pose the actors in costume. We shot a number of poses but chose the final shot after experimenting with various expressions and positionings.
As this was a period photo we chose not to have the subjects smiling. This was the style of the day because exposures were long and holding a smile for that period of time was not feasible – which is why everyone in the 19 century looks unhappy!
As a final touch I then added a sepia effect to the image along with a vignette.
The photo appears on promotional materials such as posters, social media and in the printed programme for the production.
One of my oldest clients is Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society and every year I’m delighted to be asked to photograph their youth group’s annual production at Hertford Theatre.
This year’s production was The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and featured a cast of around 40, together with a supporting adult crew of technicians, make-up artists, chaperones and front of house staff.
Shooting takes place during the final dress rehearsal, which typically runs in real time, stopping only for serious technical issues.
The photographs are taken from the auditorium – anywhere from the back of the raked seating right up to the front of the stage.
As with all theatrical productions I never use flash. Stage lighting is more than adequate and a lot of work goes in to putting together a lighting plot that adds visual drama to the production.
There are some basic guidelines when approaching theatrical photography.
Firstly – and I can’t emphasis this enough – do not use flash. Not only is it distracting to the performers, but it completely negates all the hard work that goes in to lighting a production. One of the key elements of any production is the lighting design, adding drama and effect, concentrating the audiences view and creating mood. Using a flashgun completely obliterates this – quite literally in a flash. Stage lighting is typically adequate enough for any respectable SLR. I often choose to shoot in manual mode and open up the lens aperture, whilst selecting an appropriate ISO speed for the lighting conditions. Otherwise you might want to use Shutter Priority and a speed setting (ISO) that gives you a shutter speed roughly equivalent to the focal length of the lens. On my Nikon 600 you can also set the ISO to auto in shutter or aperture modes.
Secondly, stay out of the way. A lot of work goes in to theatrical productions and the performers and backstage crew need to focus on their roles. Any distraction from a photographer should be kept to a minumum. Wear dark clothing so that you can blend as much in to the background.
If possible, photograph a dress rehearsal – so you won’t distract any audience and you will be able to cover more shooting angles.
Finally, shoot both wide and close up. Show the characters in relation to the set and each other.
This year’s pantomime at Hertford Theatre was Sleeping Beauty, presented by Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society.
I’m no particular fan of pantomime as entertainment but as photographic material it’s marvellous! Lots of bright colours, animated characters, comedy expressions and plenty of light!
I do a lot of work for HDOS and as well as photographing the shows I also provide displays of images during the run so that cast, crew and support staff can order prints and photo CDs of the production. These can either be collected later from The Society’s HQ or delivered to the customer’s home.
More photos of the production can be found on Facebook – just click on the link below.
A few weeks ago I took some promotional shots for a local theatre company who were promoting their latest production Agatha Christie’s The Hollow.
The brief included a series of posed shots from the play featuring the performers in costume with props. The photos were then used in promotional materials including posters and the programme for the production.
The shots were taken in a rehearsal room at the company’s headquarters using my mobile studio.
Interestingly, the crab shown in the last image was actually a flat printed cardboard cutout, but through the magic of photography appears very real and three dimensional.
In addition to the posed shots I was also asked to provide some informal black and white images of the play in rehearsal. Other theatre companies have also asked for these in the past and I’m more than happy to provide these. The rehearsal shots were taken handheld using ambient lighting.
Along with the posed shots these images also appeared in the programme.
If you’d like to know more about the photographic services I offer to theatres and drama companies please click the link below.
As the Summer draws to a close many theatre companies are starting a new season. In Hertford, The Company Of Players opened their new season this week with a production of Blithe Spirit, directed by Paul Morton.
The Company is celebrating it’s 50th year and the opening night was attended by Sir Ian McKellen, who is president of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, of which The Company is a member.
I do a lot of work for CoPs, who perform in a small 63 seat theatre close to Hertford town centre. The building was originally a school house and was purchased by The Company in the sixties. The size of the theatre means that you work very close to the stage and can get some excellent angles and close-ups that would be hard to achieve in a full sized auditorium. The downside for the performers of course is that they’re more than usually aware of the photographer in their midst.
Photo Gallery: Blithe Spirit
(from The Company Of Players website – opens in a new window)
Another theatrical assignment at Hertford Theatre! Last night I photographer the dress rehearsal of Arabian Nights, presented by the young wing of Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society.
This is an annual presentation by the group, known as the Young Idea, and gives the performers valuable experience working on a professional theatre and in front of a paying public. The production is staged for four nights, plus a matinee on Saturday.
As well as photographing the production for HDOS I also provide prints and photo CDs for cast, crew and proud parents.
I dropped in to Hertford Theatre yesterday to take some shots of The Company Of Players’ rehearsal of “A Few Good Men”, which is their Theatre Week entry for 2012.
The production is one of six plays being staged as part of the annual festival in Hertford.
My aim was to get a range of shots, showing the production in rehearsal, including actors (both on and of stage) and crew.
At the end of the week I’ll be photographing the winners after the awards ceremony on Saturday night.
Earlier in the week I photographed a production of Black Comedy, a farce by Peter Shaffer. The play centres on the events that take place in a flat during a power cut, and features a reverse lighting plot. This is to say that the stage is lit only when the action takes place in darkness. The play opens with a darkened stage and the first few minutes of action take place as if the lighting were normal. However, a few minutes into the show there is a short circuit, and the stage is illuminated to reveal the characters in a “blackout”. So, the first challenge for the photographer is the almost complete lack of stage lighting!
Luckily there is a moment where there’s virtually no movement and I was able to capture this shot, which is a 2 second exposure at F4.5 ISO800. You can actually see more in this shot than you could with the naked eye!
Thankfully, most of the rest of the production is well lit, the only other challenge being a raised upstairs bedroom area (seen at the top of the stairs in the picture above). I had to photograph these scenes from the top of the raked seating towards the back of the auditorium to get a good angle.
Otherwise, there were plenty of visual moments to capture as the characters groped their way around the stage.
If you like to find out more about the theatrical photography services I offer, please visit www.stevebeeston.co.uk.