This has been a busy week for photographing performers – wrestlers and opera performers so far, and, within 24 hours, numerous burlesque performers at Great Canadian Burlesque Girlesque Expo ’14. Herewith, I humbly offer three suggestions, intended to help me get good images of your performance, of course, but also to ensure your audience sees your best performance – the most important thing, of course!
These suggestions are based on my 6 years experience with this type of photography, not to mention about 30 years teaching people platform skills (how to work the room when leading workshops and conducting presentations.) While there are some obvious differences in the types of performance there are also similarities as far as what works and what detracts in any of these situations.
- Step into the light! Get familiar with the lighting setup where you’re performing. Plan your act to keep you in the light where possible. Try to keep at least some bright lighting on you, accented by colour, rather than the reverse. Deep red and blue lighting are particularly hard to shoot. I’ve tossed more great performance images or tried to salvage them as black and white shots than I care to remember. If you’re planning to move through the audience, or hang from the rafters, see if you can make sure at least one follow spot follows you.
- Engage! Look at the audience, your fellow performers, around the room, smile, frown, up and down. Eyes wide open (to look alert, and to get some catch lighting – light reflecting off your eyes) make all the difference. The shots that get tossed here are because someone looks bored or develops an ongoing relationship with their shoes/the floor/anything but the people you’re here to entertain. And believe me, the audience picks up on this. Have fun – you’re doing this because you love it, right?
- Come out, come out! Speaker stacks, mics, curtains, props, hands, costumes, back of stage – all things that block the audience’s view of you and make it difficult to get that money shot. Think about this when you’re doing your tech setup. Usually I’m one of several photographers and we’re in different parts of the room, so at least one of us will get something, and being aware of this will make it easier for all of us.
That’s it! Have a great performance – I’m looking forward to seeing it!