Performance photography in london, actor, actress

Dim Sum Nights Performance Photographs

I was asked to photograph one of the shows on as part of the 'Dim Sum Nights' events hosted by Yellow Earth. Michelle was acting in the piece (though she's not pictured here), and it was directed by her friend Pizza Lee. The actors here are Soraya Chau and Andy Yau [Edit: Corrected to stage name].

The Dum Sum Nights thing is essentially a showcase of new writing which takes place upstairs in the New World Restaurant in Chinatown. The company apparently chooses to commission some of the writers of the short pieces, several of which are presented as a kind of cabaret night along with the company's own short pieces. And the name is because they also serve something approximating dim sum.

Photographic Challenges

It should have been a fairly simple piece to photograph, consisting mostly of the two actors sitting at a table. However, there were a couple of significant challenges. Firstly, the back of the stage was a white wall with a large black television on it fixed dead centre - bits of sellotape adorned the wall but that really isn't worth mentioning. Secondly, the low ceilinged room was lit by small LED ceiling lights with a blueish green tint. The thrust stage was lit unevenly with two big tungsten fresnels. There were very few angles to shoot from that did not include a black television reflecting big specular highlights from the fresnels.

I therefore tried to shoot mostly from 45 degree angles to the left and right of the stage, but the stage being surrounded by tables meant that this was quite a long distance and changing too often would result in missing a lot, given it was only about a 10 minute piece. There was nothing I could do about the ugly lighting except trying to correct it afterwards in photoshop. The photo above has a lot of colour correction done, as well as toning down the light on the back wall and tablecloth. You can scroll down to the photo below to see how things really looked.

Suspending disbelief

An interesting thing about theatre: we willingly suspend our disbelief about an awful lot of stuff. A big black television on a white wall that's better lit than the actors is no challenge at all to forget when you're watching the show in person. Trying to photograph it makes you see things in a different way; I can definitely recommend it to anyone interested in designing, lighting or directing in theatre.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating the importance of this TV (never once looked at or mentioned during the course of the evening). This photo is straight out of camera with no edits - the specular highlight on the tv is blown out but the rest is exposed properly. You can also see some of the greenish blue of the ceiling lights in Andy's hair.

Television phtoography for the Theatre
(Just to be clear, this is a bad photo for illustrative purposes, and I'm only posting it because it is one of the few that shows the TV in all its glory)

If you'd like me to photograph your performance and you aren't planning to perform in front of a large shiny black television, let me know.

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