What gear and where to sit to capture theater productions

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

If you were on the front row of the theater you would not see this photo. The reason is simple. The actor is laying down on the stage just above the orchestra pit area.

This is why I like to go to the very back of the auditorium to shoot photos of theater productions at my daughter’s high school. If I need to I can even stand because no one is behind me.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/55

This is another photo of the same theater. You can see how people in the front few rows are actually below the stage.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.4, 1/400

Now the downside to being all the way in the back of the room means you will need longer glass than a kit lens.

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500 [600mm]

I love shooting with the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S and the Sigma TC-2001 2X converter. It lets me get pretty close like in this photo from the play Little Shop of Horrors at Roswell High School.

Most of the photos I take are between 200mm to 600mm.

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 2200, ƒ/2.8, 1/500 [300mm]

Here I took the 2X converter off and zoomed all the way in to get this photo.

I highly recommend shooting with a monopod so as to keep the camera steady and also that is one big beast with a Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S and the Sigma TC-2001 2x.

This lens combination is great with a lot of events and situations other than sports or wildlife.

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 [550mm]

Theater Camera Gear Recommendations:

  • Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5–5.6
  • Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S
  • Sigma TC-2001 2X
  • Sigma TC-1401 1.4X
  • Nikon D750
  • Manfrotto 294 Aluminum 4 Section Monopod
  • Manfrotto by Bogen Imaging 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter w/200PL-14
Mirrorless Camera System Recommendations:
  • Fuji X-E2
  • Fuji XF 18-55mm
  • Fuji XF 55-200mm
Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500 [550mm]
Camera Settings Tips:
  • Auto ISO – when shooting check the LCD and to compensate use the EV dial to under or overexpose.
  • Check Histogram for accuracy.
  • Use Blinking Highlights to let you know what has no details. Be sure faces always have detail.
  • Custom White balance for “White Light” if possible. Many theater lighting schemes use a lot of color, be careful that you are balancing to the lights without gels.
  • Tungsten is often the correct white balance for theater lighting–but not always. Don’t try and color correct every scene when the lights are often intentionally giving a color cast.
  • Scene brightness will change the color temperature as well. A dimmer set at 10% will make the light more orange than at 100% brightness.
  • Try to use shutter speed that is closest to the focal length. If 200mm use 1/200 and if 500mm then use 1/500. This is why having a monopod will let you shoot darker scenes to help keep the camera steady.