Stage Performance Photography – Workshop 29th November 2015


I booked for this day because I didn’t think I was going to find a studio photography workshop in good time enough for Assignment 5. I don’t feel confident taking photographs when people are moving, or with external lighting and so this Workshop seemed a good idea. It was at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell which offers several Courses and Workshops on photography

South Hill Park also offer their white room studio space (including lights and white background) for hire by the hour on certain dates and have Digital Media Open Access (printing facilities and computes – free for use) similarly.

Our tutor for the day was Alex Harvey-Brown one of the Digital Media Managers. Alex is a professional photographer, specialising in portraiture and performance photography, and he also acts as the official photographer for South Hill Park Centre.

The Day


Nine of us gathered, most of whom were quite experienced amateur photographers. We had a brief introduction to the format of the day and some simple advice on technical matters as basically we were having the opportunity to learn through practice. Alex explained that high dynamic range lighting throw a camera’s meter and depth-of-field depends on distance from stage.

  • Use as wide an aperture as possible
  • Maintain shutter speed of 1/100-1/200 if possible
  • Use manual exposure with ISO as primary control.
  • High dynamic range lighting throws the camera’s meter
  • Single shot is better for stage rather than continuous
  • Matrix is the most versatile AF area whereas single point is reliable and accurate but not as responsive
  • Telephoto lens with fast speed is best

The Sessions

We had two sessions in the black-box studio theatre which has a small stage with a few rows of tiered seats. The windows were covered with black blinds most of the time. The first session was with three actors who improvised scenes and were entertaining to watch. There were some fast changes in lighting – spot, overhead, face on, red, blue.


We then had a break in the digital media rooms where we did some initial editing, followed by another session in the studio with a dancer

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It was easier during the second session because our dancer needed to slow down to rest/cool-off at various times.

The day ended with us doing some more editing and then sharing some images from the day. I haven’t done large amounts of editing apart from one where I hadn’t caught the dancer as central as I would have liked and so I ‘stretched’ the frame using content aware.

I really enjoyed the day and felt my confidence grow as time went on. It wasn’t too easy to see in the dark and I found the fast changes of light in the first session quite difficult to cope with. I was amazed at how quickly exposures changed according to the type of light. Generally I was using IS0 8000 plus to give me the necessary shutter speed and some of the photographs are consequently grainy. . I’ve recently upgraded my camera to a Canon 6D which does work well on high ISO so I was pleased with that. The zoom is a 24-70mm and I think I would have been better with a longer zoom. We were encouraged to walk around to get different viewpoints but I didn’t want to have to get right into people’s faces to get a close-up.

I feel reasonably satisfied for a first session and would like to do another, just for the experience  and for some fun, because it was fun with a relaxed atmosphered. Alex has created a group on Facebook for people who have attended photography courses at the Centre and they also meet occasionally so worth thinking about.