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I mix with a lot of people who believe that you should claim your expert status as soon as you can, to be the best in your field.  Because i am a Belfast Photographer and competition is so high for work, this is important.  Whilst i may not yet be an expert i think that i specialise in working with theatre and drama companies around Northern Ireland.  I started working with the Tinderbox Theatre company several years ago during a production called, True North.  Up until then i had only really worked with Queens Drama Department but this alone gave me a huge insight to what drama and theatre groups needed and wanted from some one like me.

I often get tarred with same brush when i tell people i am a photographer.  Immediately they associated me with the wedding and press photographers that people see on an often daily basis.  People don’t realise availability of work from other sectors in the country, drama and theatre being one of those.  But it is a specialist area of work.

The pictures and images i create are used to publicise the show.  They have to entice, encourage and almost seduce the audience along to the show.  People more than ever buy and choose with their eyes.  Because of the times we live in more than ever people are picky about what they spend their money on.  I have to work with a team of people to produce posters and adverts to get people to come along to theatre.

Tinderbox are producing their next show, ‘”Summertime” which is placed around a church Ballybeen, Dundonald.  For this shoot whilst it would of been easier to shoot the images in The Mac or some other space but we thought shooting on location would create more atmosphere for the images.  I would have all four cast members for this shoot as we had to get several combinations of photographs for different uses in local media.

I shoot on a Nikon D3s.  Its a full frame digital beast.  Its heavy and well worn though still produces better images than my recently purchases Nikon D600 and despite having almost double the resolution at 25MP and better video capabilities the D3s feels comfortable in my hands.  I don’t have to look at the buttons or dials, i know what everything does and how best to push it.  The D600 is still new to me so of course it will take time to learn how best to use it.

Something that i have had for longer than the D3s is my little 50mm F1.8 prime lens.  Pretty much the cheapest lens you can buy new at usually less than £100, you can get it cheaper second hand.  I have been having some what of a love affair with it recently.  I always use a zoom lens for work such as the 24-70 or the 70-200 VR.  They are both amazing lenses but there is something about the bokeh produced by the 50mm F1.8 lens that is so silky smooth and moreish.  The other big draw to prime lenses (which i am only understanding now) is that they don’t zoom.  If you are too close to your subject you move away and if you are not close enough you get closer.  Simple as that.

I wanted for this photo shoot to place as much focus and emphasis on the cast but at the same time i had to leave space for the graphic designer to add text for advertising posters.  For the first set of images i kept the aperture around F6.3, i had to make sure all of the cast were in focus.  At this aperture value the background would only blur a little but the cast would still stay focused.  As it was fairly cloudy and the sun was being heavily defused i broke out my trusty speedlights and set them up to provide fill light.  For the group shots i used the 24-70 to give me a little more flexibility.

I started using the 50mm F1.8 lens on the smaller group shots.  Whilst shooting with an aperture value of F1.8 produces amazing blurry backgrounds you really have to be so careful with where and how control the camera.  Because the depth of field is so shallow its very easy to mess the image up.  I usually leave the focus point right in the centre of the frame and recompose the shot whilst holding the focus point.  But the small movement of recomposing an image like this can actually throw the focus out.  To make sure the image didn’t become out of focus i framed the subjects then focused instead of focusing then composing.  I framed the two cast members and moved the focal point with the D-pad on the back of the camera.  This would ensure a focused image.





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