Robin’s tips for photographing theatre

I have shared some tips on Concert Photography quite recently (which can be found here) but I have also recently dipped my toes into theater photography. Live plays and theaters share many similarities with musicals and concerts and they are often presented in a mixed genre for increased dramatic and production quality. However, I have also been to a few theater shows that are almost entirely different and require a different set of shooting rules and photography considerations in comparison to traditional concert photography. In this article I explore the importance of playing by the house rules and at the same time finding ways to optimize camera settings to get the best out of a given situation. Special thanks to Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center (KLPAC) for the opportunity to shoot the dress rehearsal for their recent theater play titled “The Ring of Nibelung”.

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Repost: Avoidable photographic errors

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Rule number one: there are no rules. A ‘mistake’ may not necessarily be a mistake if it helps convey the message or story or feeling intended by the photographer. I can easily think of multiple examples that go against every scenario described below. That said, for the most part, I’ve found these ‘mistakes’ to hold true. And if you want to achieve something very specific, then you either won’t be reading this article in the first place, or you’ll know when to bend the rules. The general viewing public probably has some preformed opinions of what is right/good, but these are born out of as much ignorance as conditioning by companies trying to sell more software or lenses or something else. There are rational reasons why these opinions may not necessarily be right in the context of fulfilling creative intention.

The previous article covered the differences between eye and camera, and what this means in practical photographic implementation.

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Medium telephoto lenses for street photography

Given how widely practiced it is, its no surprise that street photography has many rules-of-thumb, and one of them has to do with focal lengths – the traditionally preferred ones have been on the wider end such as 28mm, 35mm and 50mm. However, I’ve often found myself using an unconventional focal length of 90mm. While the wider focal lengths may be more suited for environmental portraits and story telling, using a longer focal lengths allows me to break away from that stereotype and to create a more dramatic outcome.

In this article, I will explore why medium telephoto is my preferred focal length and the advantages of using tighter framing in street photography. It’s important to not that since I primarily shoot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 these days, “medium telephoto” here refers to 90mm in 35mm terms.

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Micro four thirds and insect macros (part II)

This is a follow up to the last article on insect photography but unlike in that, I will not discuss techniques today, but rather why I find the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system ideal for newcomers to photography, who want to explore the world of insect macro. [Read more…]

Insect macro photography techniques – an ongoing experimentation (part I)

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When I first ventured into photography, I started with insect macro photography, and it quickly became an activity I indulged in often. Macro photography, I think, is one of the more technically demanding types of photography, and is a good, if masochistic, way to learn and get all your photography basics right. In addition to different techniques to gain magnification, you have to worry about accurate focus, proper hand-holding technique, and the use and control of additional lighting and lighting modifiers.

After a recent attempt at insect macro work (for the OM-D E-M10 Mark II review), I found myself with a renewed itch to hunt for insects to photograph. This in turn lead to me writing this article sharing my techniques for insect macro photography.
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Street Photography Workflow

Apparently infographics and flowcharts are all the rage these day, so I thought it might be cool to produce a workflow chart to show you my street photograph process. The chart is quite self-explanatory I think.  [Read more…]

Cut points and edges

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Symmetry and clean termination points – lowered contrast at the edges helps, too.

In the past, I’ve written about the importance of conscious exclusion in the process of composition: you don’t want to confuse your audience by including elements that are irrelevant or worse, distracting and visually stronger than the main subject. As we know, the very act of composition itself is one of both cropping and curation: we are choosing what not to show as much as what to show, based on our own preferences and biases. How we structure the rest of the composition around that is very much up to us, and of course the intended story or message of the image. But where do we end things – and in what situations is a little trimming necessary? How can we achieve a clean frame and a clean idea?

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The difference between trimming and cropping

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This may seem like nitpicking, but I assure it isn’t. There is a fundamental difference between trimming and cropping; I had a lengthy email discussion with a reader recently on exactly why it makes a difference – both compositionally and conceptually. There’s a third ground too, which is very much intention-driven – and unlike situations that require attorneys, photographic/creative intention is much easier to prove.

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Back to basics: subject isolation

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The man: color, texture, contrast, motion. We’re not really missing shallow DOF, are we?

Regular readers will know that I’ve distilled down four common traits of a strong image: quality of light, clarity of subject, balance of composition and ‘the idea’. The first is very simple: does the light present the subject in a flattering way or as you would desire? Is it directional (i.e. are there shadows) so that it’s possible to determine spatial layout of the scene? The last two require some practice, and the final one is really an never-ending quest for every photographer because there is no limit to the complexity of message that can be conveyed. Today, we will look at the easiest yet most commonly overlooked one of the four: subject isolation.

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Repost: HDR, the zone system, and dynamic range

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My eyes, my eyes! I had to work quite hard to make this as a) I don’t own any of those filter programs and b) I don’t do this kind of hyper toned, overlapping HDR. The actual, final version of this image is at the end of the article.

Note: I’m reposting this article as a refresher before I talk about something a little harder to define in the next one.

HDR/ High Dynamic Range photography is perhaps one of the greatest blessings and curses of the digital age of imaging. On one hand, we have retina-searing rubbish that’s put out by people who for some odd reason celebrate the unnaturalness of the images, encouraged by the companies who make the filters that make doing this kind of thing too easy – and on the other hand, there are a lot of HDR images out there that you probably wouldn’t have pegged as being anything other than natural. There is, of course, a way to do it right, and a way to do it wrong. I use HDR techniques in almost all of my images – I live in the tropics, remember, and noon contrast can exceed 16 stops from deep shadows to extreme highlights – we simply have no choice if you want to produce a natural-looking scene.

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