Photo Communication


PURPOSE These photographs are intended to publicize the performance and enrich the theatergoers experience. The primary use is to provide the playgoer an opportunity to contemplate the experience and meaning of the play. ART FORM 8 x 10 pearl finish RC paper prints are displayed in the Theater Department's precut mats. They are selected by the Director and displayed in the Umble Center hall. Photographers must print with full contrast range including as much continuous grey tone and snappy blacks and whites as possible. Dust spots must be retouched. Prints must fully fill the 8x10 paper in order to fit the mats provided by the theater. Provide small professionally printed name cards to be displayed to identify yourself as the photographer. MAKING THE EXPOSURES No cameras are allowed during performances. Often the best time to work 30 minutes before dress rehearsal. They will need to know when you expect to come so they can be in costume (be prompt and be ready). Ask them to take poses representing "high points" in the performance. Have them get into character. House lights can be turned on, strobes can be used, and actors can take poses. Instead of using a flash with it's contrasty uneven light, you may find a tripod will give the extra depth of field needed for some great available light exposures. 

Exposures can also be made during dress rehearsal (without strobe), but available light is only marginally adequate and the situation is very difficult. During rehearsal 400 film would need to be pushed to 800 or 1200. Or, use P3200. Only sharp focus and correct exposures will be displayed. Try a role of film during rehearsal for the learning experience, but do not depend on having these prints accepted in competition with exposures made before rehearsal with the house lights on. In evaluation, learning experiences are also given credit. If possible, take a short role of film in the theater at an earlier time in order to prepare yourself. See Processing below for a warning about the loss of one negative.

COMPOSITION Actors generally know how to pose, but the photographer still needs to consider camera angle (watch for background possibilities and problems). 

1. Try getting closer. Fill the frame. Don't plan to crop much as it will get grainy and not be as sharp. Consider blocking the actors closer together for the photograph than when they actually play the scene. 

2. Look for good tonal exchange between faces and background. You want the actor's faces to project out of the photo. Change the lighting if needed. 

3. Pay attention to which way people face in your composition. 

4. Look for action (freeze the scene if needed).

PROCESS AND PRINT If you push 400 film or if you use P3200, use T-Max developer and process at least as long or longer than the recommended time. Process your film immediately, make good contacts, and bring them to the Director for selection. Print on pearl (non-glossy) paper. If any of your prints are used, they may be able to reimburse us for a "reasonable amount of materials" including film, chemistry and paper. Sometimes the actors or others also purchase prints from the photographers. Maybe the Record or Yearbook will use your print. 


Begin by getting the latest information available regarding the best developer, temperature, developing time and agitation routine. Find out what other students have learned using the same materials and shooting speeds. Feel free to check with the instructor about this. Compare your meter to others. Camera meter calibration errors can give you unsatisfactory results even if you do the same processing another student does. 

T-max liquid developer is recommended. It is in a square plastic Kodak bottle. Carefully measure out and mix at the exact temperature. Use 2 ounces of liquid concentrate from the Kodak container and 8 ounces of water for each film. Check temperature carefully.

PROCESSING THE TEST SHOTS For your first P3200 film, test your processing by developing only your film leader with about three shots attached to it. Cutting the film will probably ruin one negative. Leave the rest of your film inside the cassette. Process these first test shots alone. Save the developer and use it for the whole film, but add 10% to the time since it has been used once. PROCESSING THE MAIN FILM If the test shots look and print like normal negatives with full contrast and reasonable mid-tones, use the same developer (which you saved), and develop the rest of the film the same way with only a slight increase in time to allow for the using the developer twice. 10 % more time should do it. Discard the developer after developing a whole film. 

If the negatives from the test look too thin and lack contrast when printing, you'll want to increase the developing time and/or temperature significantly. Increase it least 25%, 50%, or double the time. A 50% increase in developing time will be about the same as one stop more exposure. So, if you negs are only slightly thin, increase from 10 minutes to 15 minutes (if 10 minutes was the original time). If the negs are really thin, consider 50% more time plus 5 degree higher temperature. 

If negatives are too dense (black) reduce time and/or temperature. 

All pushed film and high-speed film will be grainier. Some newspaper labs use substantially less agitation in hopes of minimizing grain. This also slows the development, so be consistent. Flat white areas will tend to develop more around the edges when there is inadequate agitation, but longer times with less agitation does decrease grain while maintaining contrast.

SCHEDULE Meet with the director very early in order to schedule the best time to make the exposures in time to have prints to display at the time of the performance.

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All rights reserved © Marvin Bartel, instructor. 1998. None of these materials may be publishedor copied in any form without prior permission from the author. Goshen Photography students have permission to print a personal copy. Others may request authorization by sending e-mail to:

updated 8-99