E900 Photography In The Theatre

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The E900 has a dedicated low-light mode for taking pictures in locations such as theatres. It’s the Normal [N] mode selected by the wheel on the camera top-plate. Unless you’re very close to the scene taking place, for example on the stage itself, there’s very little point in attempting to improve upon the automatic settings that [N] mode selects.

Wolfgang presents Siegfried with a sword at his coming-ofage ~ photograph copyright Stephen Bray e900photography.com
Siegfried accepts a sword from his tutor Wolfgang
Swan Lake Scene 1

The E900’s ISO setting [digital film speed] will probably automatically set itself to 800, and the white balance will also set to AUTO. This is good because the theatre lights have mixed wavelengths and the camera will balance the scene automatically far more effectively than you could using composite white balance settings. If tempted to make your own white balance setting please remember that the lighting engineers at the theatre will be constantly adjusting the colours of the stage lighting for dramatic effect and the camera auto-white balance can easily manage these variations.

Press the [F] button and ensure that the FinePix color is set to STD. This is important because theatrical lighting emphasises colours and if the camera is set on the ‘chrome’ [C} setting the colours of your pictures may be too harsh.

A warning light will no doubt flash in the camera viewfinder to show that there is a danger of camera shake. This is unavoidable when taking low light shots. You can, however, reduce camera shake by either using a tripod, or monopod, [some theatres may prohibit this], or by bracing yourself firmly in your chair and resting your elbows on the arms of the seat, or your knees, and holding the camera firmly against your forehead whilst looking through the optical viewfinder. In this way your body acts as a tripod ~ your hands and arms acting as two of its legs and your head as the third leg.

The more you zoom toward the telephoto setting the less light will fall upon the CCD sensor that captures the digital image. This is a function of optics, rather than electronics. The camera will compensate by using slower shutter speeds and so the risk of camera shake and blurring as the performers move about the stage is increased. Some scenes, even in opera and ballet can have static moments so these may be captured even when the shutter speed selected by the E900 is as slow as half a second. On the other hand you should also try some shots when the performers are performing fast but predictable movements. These when recorded at slow shutter speed produce a painterly effect. Of the two e900 shots taken on this page the second, at the bottom of the page, is far better admired. I use it as a post-card.

e900 settings for theatre photography
The buttons used to make the changes recommended in this article

Before attempting to take pictures in a theatre you should make two additional settings to your E900. Firstly go to the Settings Menu and switch off both the Beep Volume, and also the Shutter Volume, [Items 2 and 3 on page 1 of the settings menu]. This will make your camera absolutely silent so others won’t be disturbed by noise from your photography. Secondly, you will also be well advised to switch off the camera LCD screen. This will help conserve your battery power, remove the temptation to examine every shot as it’s taken enabling you to both enjoy the performance as well as your photography. It also forces you to view the theatre through the optical viewfinder, which is a far better way to note details such as facial expressions than is possible using the LCD monitor at a distance.

The LCD monitor is disabled also via the settings menu. It is the first item on page two. Please note, should you for any reason wish to switch the monitor on you can easily do so by toggling the button to the left of the viewing screen.

On no account should you use flash in a theatre. It isn’t effective and detracts, rather than adds to picture quality. It may also result in you being ejected, or otherwise assaulted, otherwise mild mannered members of the audience.

Wolfgang presents Siegfried with a sword at his coming-ofage ~ photograph copyright Stephen Bray e900photography.com
A pas de deux for Odette and Siegfried
Swan Lake, Scene 2

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