I wish I photographed my own work! I carry a tiny digital camera everywhere I go, but schedules are so hectic that I hardly have a chance to take really great shots. My advice: find a professional photographer that likes your work, and be sure they know what your working on. I have two great photographers who shoot a variety of my work pro bono, and their pics look 10 times better than mine, but be sure you always get permission from the company.
Chad R. Jung, lighting designer
Fort Worth, TX
Photographing my lighting design and special effects is essential. It allows me to not only save my work for my portfolio, but also allows me to refer back to old productions in a visual manner for research. I shoot most of my shows with a Canon Powershot A80. Its four mega pixels give me enough clarity in a package small enough to throw in my gear bag. Also, its basic video mode allows me to capture complex moving light programming and visual special effects. Utilizing Apple's .Mac and iWeb services, I can easily upload my photos to my virtual online portfolio. The iWeb program seamlessly interfaces with iPhoto's organizing brilliance, automatically creating all of the site's HTML code. The simple publish command places all of my content on the web with a simple, respectable URL short enough to place on a business card.
Nick Van Houten, lighting/special effects designer
I represent design and rental company, GRODA. I upgrade our web page, and thus all the company photos are processed by me. Most of the pictures on our web page (www.groda.pl) are taken by our lighting designers, operators, or technicians, depending on who is free. When taking photos, we often change little things in the lighting scene, in order to make it look good in the pictures: stop the movement of a lamp to avoid blur, reduce the brightness to minimize over-exposition, change the lighting scenes quickly to capture all the changes in the design in short time. It is good to have someone in the crew who will concentrate on this one task or to find some time after the show to capture all that was interesting or worth remembering. The camera that we bought recently for our company picture documentation is the DIGITAL 600 from Olympus.
Malgorzata Ostrowska, GRODA
I photograph all my own designs. In addition to that, this year I was contracted to make archival photos for all productions of The Dallas Opera. I use a Nixon D70 digital SLR camera with an 18-70mm lens and a tripod. I also have an IR remote for triggering the shutter. This allows me to get full stage shots in the typical low light conditions of theatre with a maximum of clarity. I catalog them and do minor processing with Picasa, a freely downloadable program from Google. If any more extensive processing is desired for special effects, I use Adobe Photoshop. This is only for non-archival purposes. I highly recommend a digital camera, as it frees you from worrying about how much film you are using. Since I usually only get one performance or rehearsal to shoot, I have to make sure I get all the shots I need the first time. Of course, it also means you can trash the bad stuff without feeling that your wasting money, film, etc. Each show's photos get burned onto a disk along with all related paperwork, plots, etc. and filed for easy retrieval.
Laura McMeley, freelance lighting designer/resident lighting coordinator, The Dallas Opera;
associate professor, CCCCD and SMU
I have photographed my own work for 25 years using a 35mm Canon AV-1 with Kodak Ektachrome 160T professional film. It's color balanced for tungsten lighting. More recently, I've been using a Sony Mavica FD92 digital camera. It takes great shots, but I don't think quite as balanced as the Ektachrome film. Plan ahead, pick your shots, and take shots both at photo call and a dress rehearsal. Always try to get shots of your work. You never know who's going to ask to see examples of your work. It might just get you that next job.
Sandi Bohle, lighting designer