Capturing dramatic images of performances depends so much on the venue light set ups. Recently, I had the opportunity to shoot in at a local performance hall in Knoxville TN. The venue is called The International which is an old converted warehouse style building. The venue holds a multitude of acts from hard rock concerts to burlesque style entertainment.
As I arrived, my first objective was to determine what type of lighting conditions existed inside the room. The location is generally very dark with a generally large stage. The stage is equipped with a great spot light system.
My first question was on camera settings. Can I rely on the camera's metering system to get me the correct exposure? This would be my answer and doesn't necessarily mean it is the answer. I tried a couple of setting on the exposure side and found out that even on with Spot Metering, the camera wanted to take a general average of the frame to choose the exposure. Because there were very strong spotlights on the performers, the difference between lights and shadows was significant. The performers were overexposed.
The solution was to go completely manual. I played around with the ISO setting and decided on 1,000 ISO. Today's digital sensors render perfectly noiseless images at ISO settings of 1,000. Next, I set the the shutter speed at around 125 / second. All I needed to do was to adjust my aperture up and down to control the amount of light. I shoot with a mirror-less camera which uses an electronic viewfinder. This is an advantage over optical as I was able to gauge the exposure on the fly.
Other settings to consider is white balance. Oftentimes, the colorful stage lights make it very difficult to determine correct white balance. I shoot RAW and set the white balance to automatic giving me the ability to make white balance adjustments during post processing.
May advise to event photographers: