“Boy” (press)
“Boy”; February 2-18, 2018; Steel River Playhouse, Pottstown, Pa.

This is a sample from my latest theater shoot of last night, which was press-photos for the show “Boy” to be put on February 2-18, 2018 at Steel River Playhouse, Pottstown, Pa. The press-photos always need to be tight compositions because there is never a set ready this far in advance of opening, but there often are piles of junk on the stage that need to be avoided.

As is true for all of my press shoots, I need to do my own lighting. Although I don’t always, this time I decided to bring along a hair-light because it wasn’t clear to me if this show was in the theater’s black-box or the upstairs rustic “loft”. It turned out that it was the latter stage, so maybe I didn’t need the hair-light, but I used it anyway for the practice. The effect is subtle (as I believe it should be), but you can see it highlighting the back of the female actor’s head, as well as the back of the couch behind her.

My preference in these situations is to do everything, both flash and camera, in manual-mode (as well as shoot RAW, of course). With a little experience you get to know the “ballpark” for all of the settings, and from there the adjustments are minor and easy. My key-light was about 45-degrees camera-right fixed at ½-power into a silver reflecting umbrella, the fill was at about 45-degrees camera-left fixed at ¼-power into a silver reflecting umbrella that was probably 50% further away from the subjects than the key. The effect of this is a natural and pleasing (IMHO) imbalance of the light without hard shadows, which can be seen most clearly in the male actor’s face. The hair-light was directly opposite the key-light, camera-left and behind the subjects. That speedlight was fixed at 1/8-power and pointed directly at the actors using only the built-in 14-degree wide dispersion panel. All three were fired with Vello Freewave Aviator RF-triggers. These are less expensive that the industry-standard Pocket Wizard and I have been happy with their performance.

After I set the lights and aimed them, I did a test-shot at Av-f2.8 (to blur that annoyingly distracting brick-wall) and Tv-1/200 (my fastest normal-sync) at ISO-728. There is not much room on this stage and the actors were close to the lights, and this turned out to be way too bright, so I dropped the ISO to 100 and that did the job. I manually set the camera to flash-WB, but as is the deliberate habit with Canon, the color was still too “cool” and I warmed up the image from 5500k to 5900k in Lightroom. My standard Lightroom development profile also includes; Clarity +20, Vibrance +20, Saturation -10 (to offset the vibrance boost). I did a little cropping on this in Lightroom too, but nothing else.

My standard workflow is to then bring the image from Lightroom into Photoshop, and I did a little spot-sharpening on the actor’s eyes/nose/mouth. I usually do this spot-work rather than general sharpening because the face is the critical component when people are involved, and I don’t want to aggravate noise or other flaws elsewhere in the image. After that I run noise-suppression with the NIK “Define” plugin. I know that some say that you should do noise-processing first and sharpening as the last step, but I simply disagree with that. Normally my own final-step in processing is to use the Photoshop “Image/Adjustment/Curves” function. Here I select “show clipping” and move both the light and dark sliders until there is just a little clipping indicated on each end. I find that this is an excellent way to fine-tune contrast and get the greatest dynamic-range out of the image without having to trust in your monitor’s calibration too far.

I’ll post a thing or two when I do the production shoot of this show at the final dress, which should be February 1st.
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By John-Pa on 2018-01-15 18:36:10
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