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From the author of Photographing the School Play

Photographing the School Play

Let's say your kid is in a swashbuckling production of The Pirates of Penzance. You're sitting in the middle of the auditorium, and you'd like to get some wide-angle shots and some close-ups of your kid on stage.

Use these settings:

  • White Balance: Set to the light bulb (tungsten).
  • ISO: 400.
  • F-stop (if available): 2.8.
  • Shutter speed (if available): Start with 1/25, but you may have to go as low as 1/10 second and wait for a shot with no movement on stage.
  • Flash: Don't use your flash from the audience—if you do, you'll get a great shot of the hairs on the top of the person's head in front of you, but that's sort of a distracting thing to have in a picture. Save the flash for use after the play is over, when the kids are nearby and posing for you.

To meter this scene (set to center metering, as mentioned earlier), press the shutter button halfway down and center the image over the part of your shot that you want perfectly exposed. Then move the camera to compose the shot however you like. If you want dark areas of the stage to be more visible, lean the exposure a bit toward a darker area on stage, to get more readable information in the image.

Keep in mind that if your shutter speed is lower than 1/15 second, when Major-General Stanley chases Frederic the Pirate around onstage you might catch a messy blur. The camera's sensor is being exposed to the image for longer than the instant it would take to freeze the motion.

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