Flash required for theatre work


robbie_d

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 10:43
Hi all,

I'm going to be directing a production of Noel Coward's 'Blithe Spirit' in July.

It is a bit of a make-or-break play for the theatre group in question as audience numbers have been dwindling a bit of late and we really want to revamp the group, and get people talking about it again.

As part of this I've suggested having photos at the entrance of our venue of the cast, rehearsals, previous productions, etc. which I've said I'm quite happy to take.

As you can imagine, shots in theatre often involve less than optimum lighting conditions, so I'm using this as an excuse to buy a flash (not that I really needed an excuse though!).

I use a K-m and I'm looking for a decent but reasonably priced flash to use with it.

The shots will be static portraiture, group shots of cast, portraiture-range action shots (i.e. whilst the rehearsals are on going) and wider action shots (incorporating two or three cast members).

Can anyone recommend me a decent flash that would fit the bill? Ideally something that you've got experience of owning/using.

As with anything I don't really want to spend a fortune, but will always pay extra for good quality.

Rob.
If you can't say something nice about Pentax, you won't say anything at all.

Apparently.

Anvh

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 12:32
Too be honest I don't think flash is the way to go with his harsh light or you are thinking of multiple flash set-up maybe?

The theatre have some power stage lighting I would suggest using those and get a DA*50-135 with his f/2.8 it should be able to cope pretty well with the light
Stefan


K10D, K5
DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135, D-FA 100 Macro, DA 40 Ltd, DA 18-55
AF-540FGZ
Last Edited by Anvh on 30/03/2010 - 12:32

mikew

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 12:38
Hop off to www.strobist.com and see what they advise in terms of requirements and kit. Very useful site which they seem to have redesigned and possibly ruined. It's all still in there but needs winkling out now.
---------------------------------------------------

You can see some of my shots at my Flickr account.
Last Edited by mikew on 30/03/2010 - 12:47

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Anvh

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 12:49
mikew wrote:
Hop off to www.strobist.com and see what they advise in terms of requirements and kit. Very useful site.

Mike that's like searching a needle in a haystack...

For P-TTL flashes this one is better link
For best value you will most likely will come out at the Metz48

If you want to do cheap strobist work then something like this is the cheapest you can get.
Triggers: Cactus v4 (transmitter, 2x receiver)
Flashes: 2x Yongnuo YN460-II
Here is something about light stands link
For umbrella, since you said group shots I would go for 2x 60" convertible white-bounce/shoot-through umbrellas.

All in all it would be around the £300
Stefan


K10D, K5
DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135, D-FA 100 Macro, DA 40 Ltd, DA 18-55
AF-540FGZ
Last Edited by Anvh on 30/03/2010 - 12:50

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robbie_d

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 15:03
Anvh wrote:
Too be honest I don't think flash is the way to go with his harsh light or you are thinking of multiple flash set-up maybe?

The theatre have some power stage lighting I would suggest using those and get a DA*50-135 with his f/2.8 it should be able to cope pretty well with the light

Thanks for your replies guys.

I should probably have mentioned this is in no way a professional theatre group and I won't be receiving payment for the photographs.

Stefan, I was thinking flash as during rehearsals the lighting is not always used (depends on the availability of the lighting guy), my normal approach with anything has always been "try and take the shot without the need for a flash" but it might be pushing it in this case. You've given me plenty of food for thought with the off-camera set-up you mentioned, and the Strobist blog linked by mikew had some decent advice. I'm not sure though, that as a first step into flash work whether I want to go in at the deep end with a (relatively) big set-up like that.

I was thinking of getting a decent flash to use on the hotshoe which would be capable of being used off-camera if and when I wanted to expand my horizons. Looking at the link you provided, the Metz 48 looks the obvious choice in respect of price versus performance.

I know the K-m's built-in flash could trigger the Metz 48 wirelssly in PTTL mode, but I'm guessing that if I wanted to use the flash manually then the Cactus transmitter/receiver is one of the most cost-effective ways to go?
If you can't say something nice about Pentax, you won't say anything at all.

Apparently.

Anvh

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 15:29
Robbie the biggest problem is like I said the harshness of the light if you use direct flash, it will kill the atmosphere in your photos so in my opnion I wouldn't use that approach.

Since you've the opportunity to place equipment I would go for the set-up I said, two flashes on a stand with a big umbrella.
Simply place them at both sides of the stage at 1/2 power or maybe even 1/4 if you can don't use 1/1 because the reload will take to long.
So 1/2 power and then use the diaphragm in combination with you ISO speed to get a correct exposure. If you and still use iso 200 than I would use 1/4 flash power and iso 400 that way you can make two to three continues shots with flash.

robbie_d wrote:
I know the K-m's built-in flash could trigger the Metz 48 wirelssly in PTTL mode, but I'm guessing that if I wanted to use the flash manually then the Cactus transmitter/receiver is one of the most cost-effective ways to go?

If you go for the Metz 48 then I would just go for P-TTL wireless mode.
But for the price of a Metz48 you come pretty far in the direction of a 2 flash strobist setup but those flashes I mention are manually flashes without P-TTL wireless support so you "need" something like a cactus to trigger them.
Stefan


K10D, K5
DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135, D-FA 100 Macro, DA 40 Ltd, DA 18-55
AF-540FGZ
Last Edited by Anvh on 30/03/2010 - 15:30

robbie_d

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 15:32
Is it just me or is the topic of flash photography completely baffling?
If you can't say something nice about Pentax, you won't say anything at all.

Apparently.

Anvh

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 15:42
Well it's another dimension in photography.
Normally you're at the mercy of the sun but now you can control the sun.

here this what I mean with the flash light link

I hope you see a difference in this:
Direct flash at his worst though, it would be a bit better on stage


With umbrella and light bounced back (reflected) from the leftside



Lighting a complete stage is more difficult though so I hope the stage is quite small or else your only option might be direct flash...
Stefan


K10D, K5
DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135, D-FA 100 Macro, DA 40 Ltd, DA 18-55
AF-540FGZ
Last Edited by Anvh on 30/03/2010 - 15:45

robbie_d

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 16:20
A remarkable difference between the two Stefan.

If I was using a hotshoe mounted flash, could I not use it with a diffuser to overcome some of the direct flash problem?

In terms of lighting a complete stage I won't need to do that. When I say there won't always be lighting a mean the proper stage lighting, there will be levels of ambient light.

I also won't be taking pictures of the whole stage, as I mentioned in my OP, it will be portraiture, fairly close-up action shots of 1-3 actors and maybe a couple of full cast shots.
If you can't say something nice about Pentax, you won't say anything at all.

Apparently.

Anvh

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 16:42
Robbie, if you mean with a diffuser those plastic thing then no.

Those small plastic things make light softer most of the time by throwing the light out in all direction and relying on walls and ceilings to reflect light back, in big rooms like a stage or outdoors those things are pretty useless.
You also have other device that make the light source look larger so softer but they still are pretty small so good enough for a single person poertrait but not for a portrait of 3 persons, you need to stand back so much that it slmost looks like a direct flash.

For lighting up scenes flash on a stand is the best option, there is no real way around it I believe.
I would simply position the stand just out of the frame power at 1/4 and maybe creating some contrast be setting one at 1/8 (or position it further away from the scene) and you make some test shots to get the exposure right (iso - aperture) and that's it.
All done in 1 or 2 minutes depending the amount of adjustments to the light you need to make.

Here look at this, it isn't so scientific link
More here if you like the guys link
Stefan


K10D, K5
DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135, D-FA 100 Macro, DA 40 Ltd, DA 18-55
AF-540FGZ
Last Edited by Anvh on 30/03/2010 - 16:44

robbie_d

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 16:53
Anvh wrote:
Robbie, if you mean with a diffuser those plastic thing then no.

Those small plastic things make light softer most of the time by throwing the light out in all direction and relying on walls and ceilings to reflect light back, in big rooms like a stage or outdoors those things are pretty useless.
You also have other device that make the light source look larger so softer but they still are pretty small so good enough for a single person poertrait but not for a portrait of 3 persons, you need to stand back so much that it slmost looks like a direct flash.

For lighting up scenes flash on a stand is the best option, there is no real way around it I believe.
I would simply position the stand just out of the frame power at 1/4 and maybe creating some contrast be setting one at 1/8 (or position it further away from the scene) and you make some test shots to get the exposure right (iso - aperture) and that's it.
All done in 1 or 2 minutes depending the amount of adjustments to the light you need to make.

Here look at this, it isn't so scientific link
More here if you like the guys link

Thanks for your patience Stefan, this really is a leap into the unknown to me, but I'm looking forward to it!

I'll carry on reading up on the theory of lighting then try and come to a conclusion on what kit I should invest in.
If you can't say something nice about Pentax, you won't say anything at all.

Apparently.

mikew

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 17:37
Do people expect a perfectly exposed shot of a stage play? They will of head & shoulders for the actors but scenes from the play may well look better done with stage lighting rather than perfect flash illumination. You'll surely need a lot of flash to effectively light even part of a stage but I dare say Don or Ken will be along soon.

Mike
---------------------------------------------------

You can see some of my shots at my Flickr account.

Don

Link Posted 30/03/2010 - 22:02
I got a friend that does something similar for a big company that does dinner theatres.

here's what he does:

Shoots the cast in costume on seamless white, 3 light setup.

Shoots each cast member separately and adds them all to a final psd in seperate layers to create a groupshot.
(if an actor is replaced, he need only shoot the replacement and drop him in... as opposed to reshooting a groupshot...

then a background and text stuff is overlayed...

then for the stage shots he uses a tripod and the stage lighting.

in other words shoot them seperately, or use the stage lighting, and no flash

if you do go with say, a pentax 360 and shoot through umbrella, you could set up a tripod, get a decent ambient exposure for the set (maybe slightly under expose it) then do one shot of each cast member on different places on stage, and light each person with your shoot through umbrella, have the umbrella close to the subject... have your camera stationary, getting the whole stage in the frame... stack all the images when your done, and just erase out the umbrella from each frame letting only the people and the stage show through...
when you're done you got all the people, each properly exposed in seperate layers and they'll all line up because you never moved the camera!
Fired many shots. Didn't kill anything.
Last Edited by Don on 30/03/2010 - 22:17

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gartmore

Link Posted 31/03/2010 - 09:41
I work in theatres, a lot.

The normal front of house shots of the cast are usually 10x8 black & white prints of studio portraits. You can see some of mine here: link although these are three lights and a reflector jobs.

To do something like those economically I suggest you need a lightweight lighting stand like this: link, a bracket like this: link, a brolly like this: http://www.calumetphoto.co.uk/item/753-141C/, some radio triggers like these: link and any old manual flashgun. There is no reason to buy an expensive dedicated flash.

If you are going to do action shots then the stage working lights will certainly not be enough and flash will be horrible. If you can shoot at the tech run or the dress then use a monopod, there usually isn't room for a tripod. You may find that the lighting states in a play are pretty constant in terms of levels, I would work out the correct exposure for skin tones and set the camera to manual exposure.
Ken
“We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson -

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robbie_d

Link Posted 31/03/2010 - 11:21
Cheers guys, this is all really useful advice. I'm completely in the dark when it comes to flash photography (no pun intended), so thanks for all your input.

Ken, if I could get head and shoulder shots anywhere near half as good as those on your site I'd be a happy bunny. Thanks for the links too, it looks like I can out together a decent basic set of kit for not much cash. Do you have any recommendations for decent manual flashes?

I should be alright with my tripod at the tech and dress, we have a proscenium stage in a big hall, so I should be ok for room.

The only problem remaining is pictures to form a rehearsal diary, which would be under working light, though I suspect this might be a pipe dream at my budget.
If you can't say something nice about Pentax, you won't say anything at all.

Apparently.
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