Drama Photography

My daughter is in a lot of drama 1. This means I get called upon to take photos of her various performances, and often end up feeling inadequate.

I’ve found shooting drama performances an interesting challenge, because you can’t really “cheat” and manage take a decent image of the stage. I almost always shoot in “P” mode, but inevitably this leaves my drama photos looking garish and washed out. The highlights created by the spotlights overwhelm everything in frame.

Thanks to the manual 500mm reflex lens I picked up, however, I’ve been inspired to trying other shooting modes. Last night, during a performance I switched to manual mode and essentially ignored my DSLR’s light meter. I didn’t really want the whole frame fully illuminated, just what was lit on stage.

I began this experiment with my 40mm lens, as it has the highest aperture of all my lenses. Shooting manual yielded in such good results I actually decided to switch to my 55-300mm lens for the second act. This proved a bit more tricky, as the aperture changed with my zoom level, but I was still able to capture some sharp images which I really liked. I did need to apply some significant noise reduction in Lightroom, as I was shooting at a rather high ISO, but I still liked the end results 2. Aside from noise reduction, I also was able to adjust exposure and basic highlights and shadows to improve the quality.

I’m very encouraged by the results. I was able to capture some images which put me into the midst of the play from back in the balcony!

The image below is one of my favorite from the show. There’s a small bit of motion blur near the hands, as I had to drop the shutter speed somewhat, but rest of the frame is actually quite sharp.

Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie
Nikon D7000 with 55-300mm lens
ISO 2000
1/80 sec

  1. Almost all of it is on stage now, too, which is awesome
  2. And I really would love to pick up a Nikon D500, the noise reduction is supposed to be phenomenal in the newer Nikons. 


  1. Peg Horton says:

    You must be proud of your daughter and you must be pleased with your work. I love them both.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Jamison says:

    Are you spot metering when you’re in P mode, or just letting the camera decide how to light the frame? I tend to mostly shoot in P but with my settings adjusted to give me a bit more control.

    1. wezlo says:

      I do need to check my metering, as I’ve never explored that aspect of the camera, but I was REALLY pleased with shooting Manual!

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