I met Will Loney at a friendly back-yard barbecue in mid-July. We started talking about his acting in community theater, and before I knew it I had an invitation to photograph Lamplighters Music Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady.
See all the pictures here.
I’ve always loved the original Broadway Cast soundtrack with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, and when I heard that British stage comedian Geoff Hoyle was playing Eliza Doolittle’s father Alfred, I knew it would be good.
I was right – the rest of the cast matched Hoyle’s performance, especially Sharon Rietkerk as Eliza Doolittle.
It may seem obvious, but when you’re enjoying the photography, the pictures are better. I had a few obstacles to overcome at the Lesher Center venue, though. Because of the video shooter’s sight lines, I couldn’t stand anywhere I’d block his shots. So I had to capture stills from a low angle stage-center or to the sides.
Low-angle up-the-nose captures can be unflattering, especially with heavier subjects. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem with this cast.
Stage lighting usually presents at least two challenges: It’s dim, and its color temperature is always changing. At least this time, there was enough lighting for reasonable ISOs in the 400-800 range. However, I shot everything raw, knowing I’d have to color correct at least slightly afterward.
Watch for actors posing in lighting that mimics classic portraits. Many stage directors work with crew and cast to achieve great lighting effects, so the shots will be there if you look for them.
I brought and used three cameras. I had digital SLRs with 24-70mm f/2.8 for ensembles and 70-200mm f/2.8 for tight couples and head shots. I also used a Leica M8 with 50mm f/1.4 for some small groups and pairs. The Leica requires manual focusing, but it and the older 50mm Summilux give pictures a clean, natural look I can’t get with my Canon dSLRs. I used the zooms at f/2.8 for most pictures to isolate subjects (and because I didn’t have tons of light). I alternated between f/1.4, 2 and 2.8 with the 50mm lens to control depth of field.
The other main tip is just to tell the story that unfolds in front of your lens. Wait for emotional expressions and gestures to get it across. Then edit ruthlessly down to the very best pictures afterwards. Editors don’t buy bad shots with good intentions.