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How To Shoot A Poorly Lit Stage At A Corporate Event?

I love photographing corporate events. Believe it or not, one of my key motivators is overcoming obstacles that come my way.

In the example below, I scoped out the stage in advance and the room lights were on full power, but there was no stage lighting. When I returned later, the room lights were turned down making the stage really dark. Trust me, it was far darker than what the images below make it appear.
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Take a look at a few tips that may help you do a better job photographing a poorly lit stage:

1) Know the ISO range or your camera
I don't mean know that it goes from 100 to 25,600 or higher but know when the noise (grain) kicks in to an unacceptable level. Although I prefer lower ISO's, I feel like my Canon 5D Mark III is pretty solid at 1600 ISO and even acceptable at 3200ISO. However, I wouldn't want to enlarge an image to poster size which is usually not what corporate event clients do. Oh, I can tell you that images at this ISO range look fine on a large screen because this client projected my images during the conference.

2) Use a tripod or monopod
It's rare that I shoot stage shots like you see in this post without using either a tripod or monopod. It's not uncommon for me to shoot a 1/30th of a second with my 70-200mm lens which is not ideal for handheld shooting. A monopod is easier to maneuver than a tripod but unless you have super steady hands, it's possible that it will rock a little. That's a key reason why I love using my MeFOTO RoadTrip Travel Tripod. It's not as large as my Manfrotto 055 Tripod and is easy to use around the perimeter of the audience.

3) Use a wired or wireless trigger
To avoid extra movement from my finger pressing the shutter release button, I often use a wired shutter release trigger that helps me avoid camera shake.

I get it. You may be having a lot of thoughts right now about ISO and it being too high or that a tripod is too much trouble or that a 1/30th of a second that you'll get motion blur if the subject moves. I completely understand which is why you have to gain experience to make all this work.

I zeroed in on the primary subject with a single focus point, had the camera on a tripod, used a wired shutter release and took numerous frames. However, I can honestly say that there was minimal focus and blur issues.

You will have to go out and test this for yourself and determine what's right for you. For me, I have a system that I like and that works.

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David Williams

Short Bio About The Author: I'm David Williams a professional commercial photographer focusing on corporate and business clients with some personal branding, lifestyle photography in the mix. My love for photography began in late 1981 while still in High School. I started making money with his camera in 1982. Brenda, my wife, and I started working together in photography in 1988 shortly after we met. Brenda and I married in 1989 and have two adult daughters. Please be sure to get a quote for services if needed. Call or Text: 919.723.8453. Please reach out to connect with me on LinkedIn.