So we went to a jazz performance in our little town last night. As usual, my wife’s lever for prying me out of the house was that I could bring cameras and take pictures. As it turned out, she had to get up early Sunday though, so we only stayed for the first set. As usual there were plenty of people waving around cell-phone cameras and those silly shirt-pocket things. I had a pocket camera once – and I spent a fair amount of money on it too – but the picture quality was lousy and I don’t think that I ever took more than about a hundred shots with it. I think that it will still be quite a while before cell-phones or pocket cameras can seriously challenge “real” cameras, even the quality compacts like the Fuji X-100.
From years of picture taking in the theater I have developed a standard technique for indoor perform-arts photography. First, although I use Av in most general photography, I set the camera for Tv for these sessions, usually at something like 1/80 or 1/100 sec. This is because that stopping motion is more important than DoF in these situations. I also make sure that the camera is set for “priority override” though, which means that once the aperture limit of the lens is reached, the camera will override the Tv setting and lengthen the shutter-speed anyway. My 5D also has auto-ISO, which I use – although my older 1D does not have this feature. I used to fuss over the metering mode quite a bit too, trying spot-metering and AE-lock and all that stuff, because the high-contrasts of performances under stage and spot lights can be problematic. After a while though I decided that this fooling around was way too much effort. These days I just keep my standard meter-mode (center-weighted usually) and just regularly glance at the LCD review. If the shots that I am taking are not exposed properly I’ll simply shove the ev-dial in the appropriate direction and reshoot (under harsh condition this can be as much as +- 2ev). It really seems faster to do that than to fumble with multiple button pushes and AE-lock constantly. After all, it’s not like the Old Days of film where every frame cost real money. Another thing that I do is fix my AF to use the center point only. I will then put that AF point on what I want in focus, half-press to achieve and lock the focus and then recompose and shoot. Doing this is very fast and easy and it gives me the confidence of knowing exactly where my focus point is, rather than hoping that the camera will read-my-mind (I have found that it doesn’t do a very good job of that). This is especially important when using a large aperture prime lens, because those DoF can be very thin.
For theater publicity shots I often adjust the WB after-the-fact, although I did not do that in this sample. Canon, as a manufacturer, is known for leaving significant tint in their AWB algorithms, and you either like it, or hate it or compensate for it. Although I often compensate for it, in this case I decided that I liked the warm tones of the incandescent lighting and left them alone. When there is a human in the picture, warm is almost always better than cool tones anyway.
By the way, the music was great, especially this guy on the sax. I got about a dozen decent shots of the group and the venue and sent them off to both with a note telling them that they were free to use them if they wanted to.