Concert photographs - advice needed

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Shacklebolt, Nov 4, 2009.

  1. Shacklebolt macrumors 6502a


    Sep 2, 2004
    So, I just finished photographing CMJ for Pitchfork. Was a heck of an experience. Photographed a lot of great bands.... and learned a lot about my limitations as a photographer.

    Some of my problems continue to be 1. Clipping 2. Exposure 3. Composition.... the first two especially, though certainly the third as well. I see other photographers who are shooting the same show and whose photos I view as, frankly... better than mine, even if their gear is on par or slightly inferior. I shoot at high ISOs in poor light and the photos end up looking ridiculously grainy. I drop the shutter speed to compensate and the blur is distracting.

    Would anyone be so kind as to point out some of the flaws with these pics, and ways they might go about remedying them? They're all fine... but I don't feel like any of them are really great.


    FWIW, all shots taken with Nikon D300, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, and in one case, an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6





  2. designguy79 macrumors 6502

    Sep 24, 2009
    Try taking photos from a different perspective -- for example, hold the camera as high above your head as possible and point it slightly down. Takes practice and experimentation, but would give it a little more "interest."

    Also, try getting lower and framing the stage/performers with some people in the crowd.

    Sometimes the more technically correct images (sharp, properly exposed, etc) are the most boring.

    Also, pick one subject and use the "rule of thirds" more.

    Have fun, hope that helps a little!
  3. mdwsta4 macrumors 65816

    Jul 23, 2007
    as far as exposure, i typically find at all the shows i've shot at i can get away with using ISO 800-1250. With cameras producing better high ISO results nowadays, i don't mind going a little higher. and with so many images being B&W, i feel i can go even further since grain isn't as noticeable/distracting. for lenses i started off with a canon 50 f1.8, then a sigma 30 f1.4 and upon going to full frame almost exclusively use a sigma 50 f1.4 or canon 85 f1.2L. i don't even bother taking anything with a larger aperture than f1.8 or zoom out because of it's size (unless of course i can bring flashes). primes are faster and it's good for you to move/zoom with your feet to see other perspectives rather than zooming with the lens. shutter speeds depend on the show, but they're typically in the 1/40 to 1/80th range.
    I find keeping settings around there will get me the results i'm after 85-90% of the time. depending on why i'm shooting, i also know what the images will be used for, so i'll know if i can push ISO or crop the hell out of it because it will only be online.

    for some advice based on what you posted...

    your first image is great. there's enough open space on the left for his gaze, the exposure is pretty good (could probably dodge the face a bit), and the backlighting is killer. it would be nice if his elbow wasn't cut off and maybe there was a little more space above his head, but overall i dig it. of course, it's web-sized so i can't see noise/focus

    two is boring. looks like a simple snapshot. bland colors (concerts usually have a lot of reds. try converting to B&W). don't be in a hurry either. wait for Rae to DO something, not just touch his hat.

    three i feel like i'm invading his personal space and it's uncomfortable. i would have either zoomed out or zoomed way in. this is halfway and doesn't feel right. i'd also suggest moving more to your right so that light would have been behind him acting as a backlight and hopefully gotten rid of that banner on the right which is distracting. this is also screaming for portrait orientation.

    four again reminds me of snapshots. poor composition, weird focus, instruments cut off. the second one again, cutting off his hands and the fretboard. his face is extremely boring. as far as exposure, look at where the artist is standing. sometimes they'll move forward/backward into better/worse lighting. look for that and wait until they're where you want.

    five, underexposed and again, should be in portrait orientation (if you can't publish in portrait, think square orientation). the second image has their backs to us and is uninteresting. had you focused solely and closely on the closest person and that awesome red backlight, you probably could have had a cool silhouette.

    don't think you always have to keep the body/instruments/etc in focus or in the frame. also don't think exposure always needs to be right. sometimes that moody shadow or blown highlight really makes the shots. basically, just keep experimenting and practicing and make the best with what you have!

    and since i dished out some criticisms, here are some of mine from when i first started




    and sometimes shots don't even show the artist's face!



    it's not the equipment either. Use what you have available to you. I used a G-series P&S for this one

    good luck!
  4. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I have a thing against using flash at a show. It's distracting to the performers and the audience, and also calls you out as the jerk that just blinded everyone. Finally the photos don't look genuine.

    The problem with the dark spaces is the ISO and shutter speed. I found that when I use my 50MM 1.4f I can get good photos is the really low light. I never want to shoot above an ISO of 800, and I can not hold the camera steady enough to have a shutter speed lower then 640.

    When taking photos of a show I move around a lot. Not only to get many different perspectives, but also to find the best light. If I can get the drummer to look over to the left the stage lights that would otherwise create silhouettes now hits the drums, and the drummer spot on.

    Of coarse though at my CD release party I hit my aperture and was shooting at 2 when I thought I was at 1.4. Dark crap pics.

    Of course when you are stuck with a grainy image, work with it. here is an example from one of our recording sessions. The studio was ridiculously dark. I had to use a pen light to look at my notes. Even with all my low light equipment I was not able to get shots that were not super grainy and dark. The lights were off in the vocal room. The only lighting was the atmospheric lighting in the control room.

    Attached Files:

  5. dazey macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2005
    with exposure, always shoot in manual mode and watch your 3-histogram charts. You will often find that one channel is massively brighter than the others. If you have time you can try and custom whitebalance to give an idea of how they are going to come out, but if you are only shooting the first 3 songs then there is little time. Don't forget that you will probably get some clipping somewhere, on the face obviously isn't allowed but lights should be clipping. In general yours look under exposed.
    ISO varies massively from group to group and venue to venue anyway, as does the shutter speed that you can get away with. On a D3 up to 3200 is pretty good if you need it. Sometimes you can get away with 1/60 on a 50mm lens, if they are bouncing all over the place 1/200 is sometimes needed.
    I am lucky that the place I do most of my band shots doesn't allow flash so that takes that option away most of the time!
    my stuff is here
    lots of club stuff with flash as well as some band work. I tend to shoot with 85 f1.4, 180mm f2.8 on D3 and then a wide angle or two.
  6. stagi macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2006
    I would also try and get your exposure set when you first arrive and know the difference in exposures from the different areas of the stage. That way you are shooting in manual mode and going to be getting good consistent exposures. Just find out what the exposure will be for the subject in the main parts of the stage and go with that. If any highlights are clipped that's fine but you want the subject to be exposed correctly. That and a custom white balance also when you arrive and should help the images a lot.

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