Group member, Robert Vass, drew from his long experience working with Questors Theatre in Ealing both as a theatre photographer and as an actor, to give us a presentation on theatre photography. He explained the particular challenges and pitfalls of working in theatre conditions, the low light, the distortions of stage lighting specific to both LED and tungsten, and the difficulty in capturing actors in action. Apart from the constant of low light, the main challenge is that you are often dealing with a moving situation which means you sometimes catch actors in unflattering poses (Robert’s tip: wait till the actors have finished speaking!) so it is difficult to keep that balance between energy, motion and aesthetics. A variety of shots are always needed, often focusing in on one actor with another being in the frame but out of focus, so you need to remember which actors you have shot and in what combination so that you can avoid repetition. What’s always vital is to ensure you have a picture of everyone in a show. Robert feels that his experience as an actor has helped him significantly as he has an awareness of how the actors will behave and move around the stage, and what they are likely to do next at a given point in their performance.
Another issue with the photography is simply timing, as publicity shots for a production are often required well in advance of that production getting underway. So, with no costumes or sets, sometimes no actors, ingenuity becomes another essential for the theatre photographer. The type of publicity shots needed also varies with the production, and some creativity is required to take pictures that are reflective of the particular show. Robert showed a number of prints of different shows demonstrating the different aspects of the work as well as different types of show. He also showed some images of the layouts of shots used in the in-theatre notice boards.