Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tips: Taking Concert Shots

I've been lucky to shoot local Bay Area musicians in a variety of venues - small intimate clubs, casinos, lounges, bars, etc. I've now shot nine different artists/groups - a few multiple times.

I started shooting musicians in February 2007, so I'm still learning. When I began, I didn't realize how challenging shooting in low light and varied lighting situations was/is. Each location has its unique challenges - in some bars, the musicians aren't under lights; in some clubs and lounges, the musicians are under lights that change frequently. As I've been shooting, I've been referring to a variety of sites for improving my images. Some of the tips I follow - as well as a list of resources - appear below.

Two tips that aren't technique related that I swear by are as follows:
  • Become friends with the band; you may get more access and as you get to know the band you'll get better shots. Share your photos with the band.

  • Respect band member's wishes - if someone only wants to be shot from the left, be nice and stay to the left. If the band trusts you to protect their image, when you're in a venue that requires a photographer's pass, you may find yourself on the list.
"What you should strive for in a live music photo is technical excellence, dramatic lighting, high-interest or key moments, and dynamic composition. ... Nailing all four is tough. But do it and you're onto a truly winning photograph. Don't let these criteria hold you back. Shoot if it looks or feels right." Source: "Secrets of Killer Concert Photos Revealed," Jaime Howard, PopPhoto, 12/2006.

Technique Tips:

  1. Check with the venue to see if cameras are allowed.

  2. Choose a fast lens - maximum aperture of 2.8 or greater.

  3. Select a fast lens with IS (image stabilization) if possible.

  4. Shoot in RAW mode.

  5. Start with an ISO of at least 800; don't be afraid to bump it up to 1600 or 3200 if your image is underexposed. Grain (noise) over missing the shot altogether is worth it.

  6. Set white balance to Tungsten. "This is the main light source after all. Don't be to worried about skin tones being of; those color gels are there for a reason. Alternatively, use K and set color temp to 2800 to 3400K depending on taste and front light color. Use 2800 when dominant 'warm' and 3400 when dominant 'cool' lighting is used."

  7. "In order to freeze most of the motion of the musicians, ... use a reasonably fast shutter speed. On a wide angle ... [don't] go below 1/30 sec, and for ... longer lenses ... try to stay above 1/100 sec."

  8. If flash is allowed, and you're within range of the band - no more than 10 feet with most flash units - dial down the power to give performers just a kiss of flash.

  9. "[I]f the light show is particularly dramatic, ... switch to aperture priority to keep up with the ever-changing light (if ... shutter speeds [are] high enough [- 1/30 sec for wide angle lenses and 1/100 for longer lenses])."

  10. Use spot metering if musician is in a spotlight and meter on the performer's face. Increase exposure compensation either a half stop or full stop.

  11. Use spot metering or center-weighted metering if stage has flashing lights all around. See Steve Mirarchi's tips on which to choose.

  12. "Get some wide angle shots, close-ups, and mid-range portraits. And turn around and face the crowd every once and awhile, you might get some awesome crowd shots!"

  13. "Don't take close-ups of the performers' faces from a steep angle below them. All you'll see is nostrils.

  14. "Don't take wide angle shots of women performers. It often doesn't look wery flattering."


Ciao Bella!