Shooting A Live Band: Suggestions?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by LillieDesigns, Dec 28, 2007.

  1. LillieDesigns macrumors 6502

    LillieDesigns

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    Oct 18, 2005
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    Los Angeles
    #1
    I received my Rebel XT for Christmas and am trying to get acquainted with it as quickly as possible. I'm going to take some pictures of my friend's band tonight (I am unsure if it is going to be a dark or light setting) and am looking for some tips for shutter speeds, ISO's, settings, etc.

    Everyone does the "ghost effect 'artsy' live band" shots, but I'm looking to get some clear shots I can even mess around with HDR.

    Basically, I need some setting tips on how to get the most out of my shots tonight. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

    P.S. - I'm using the kit lens.

    Edit: I just figured out an older Quantaray 70-300 zoom lens works great on my camera too. Better choice?
     
  2. tibbon macrumors member

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    Jun 8, 2006
    #2
    A large number of people do the ghosty/artsy shots for live bands because they can't do anything else. Whatever gear they are using they are either using poorly, incorrectly, or the gear itself is crap.

    You will not be able to do HDR with a band, period. Maybe, just maybe if you have a D3 set to ISO 25000, using a 50mm 1.4 lens, but short of doing that you'll never be able to fire off the shots fast enough to not have serious issues with things being 'different' between frames. Lighting also in a live situation will not allow this (as it's constantly changing).

    Neither the kit lens nor the Quantaray likely will do the trick well. You could use either if you had a sweet wireless multi-flash system set up with colored gels, but that's not the case for most of us either.

    Keeping the budget low, I'd recommend to run out as fast as you can and get the fastest 50mm lens that Canon offers (I'm a Nikon guy so I'm unsure as to models) but I think Canon makes ones between f0.97 and f/1.8. Do that, and push your ISO up pretty high (3200-6400) and shoot in RAW. Shooting in RAW should give you a little extra lattitude for fixing exposures later. Be prepared to shoot a lot of photos that don't turn out well. Don't chimp though, and sort through them later.

    Keep the lens as open as possible. Learn good hand holding technique (not hard). 1/25th shutter speed seems to be the slowest I can reliably do and still get somewhat usable photos. You probably won't get any faster than 1/125 or 1/250th in a concert setting unless it's a pro concert that you have press passes to. Any other club gigs will generally be insufficiently lit.

    Insufficient lighting in most clubs and shows is an understatement.

    The only time this advice changes is for outdoor daytime concerts. Then you can shoot just as you'd shoot anything outside.
     
  3. Evangelion macrumors 68040

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  4. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #5
    No HDR is possible unless you have a tripod AND the band is frozen in carbonite.

    You need an extremely fast lens (f/2 or faster) at a very high ISO (1000 or greater.)

    Your best value for money is a 50mm f/1.8 ($75) or 85m f/1.8 ($325). If you can afford it, a 50mm f/1.4 ($325) would be helpful as it adds a lot more light over the f/1.8.

    Any price constraints?
     
  5. LillieDesigns thread starter macrumors 6502

    LillieDesigns

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    #6
    I know I can't do a multi-shot HDR with moving objects, but I've messed around with single shot stuff and it has worked alright.

    I just want to get clear shots without the hard light of the flash. It's my first time shooting a band so I'm not expecting miracles.

    So out of the two lenses I have (the stock and the Quantaray), which do you recommend?

    Thanks for all the help so far.
     
  6. Peace macrumors P6

    Peace

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    #7
    I shot bands for several years.

    The most important thing you could do to get a good shot is get a photo pass and get in the pit.
     
  7. LillieDesigns thread starter macrumors 6502

    LillieDesigns

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    #8
    Getting close won't be a problem, I'm looking more for camera setting advice so I don't end up with blurry, overexposed, or underexposed shots.

    Like I said before, I see so many "bad" shots of bands. It's my first time shooting one so I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel, I just don't want to waste my time taking overly mediocre shots. :)
     
  8. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #9
    I don't think the Quantaray will be fast enough, even at ISO1600; same deal on the kit lens.

    A $75 50mm f/1.8 is a better bet than either. I would rather crop a good shot that is wide than get in closer with a crappier lens. The 50mm lets in 333% more light than the Quantaray -- that makes a big difference in low light. 400% more light if you use a 50mm f/1.4 lens.
     
  9. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020

    ChrisBrightwell

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    #10
    If you keep the kit lens @ 18mm and f/3.5, you should be able to pull some usable shots. You might be able to push the zoom out to around 24mm (max f/4), but I wouldn't go any further than that.

    ISO 1600, 18mm, f/3.5 ... might try shooting full manual, with those settings, and tweak the shutter speed as needed. Concert lighting can be absolutely impossible to meter for automatic exposure.

    Shoot RAW. It'll let you slightly under-expose, then correct it in post.

    If the show is darkly lit (heh), you'll still struggle with dragging the shutter. If it's fairly well lit, however, you should be fine.

    Ultimately, however, I'd recommend investing in a fast zoom (the 16-35 f/2.8L comes to mind) or a handful of super-fast primes (starting with the 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4).
     
  10. Buschmaster macrumors 65816

    Buschmaster

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    Minnesota
    #11
    You can practice shooting in dark rooms around your house for practice.

    I usually go into shutter priority in these settings. Often I underexpose by 1 or 2 exposure bias because it is better to get a crisp shot that I can brighten up a bit rather than a properly exposed shot that is too blurry.

    You'll probably want to shoot wide open aperture if you're using a kit lens all night. I would say maybe go fully manual and set the aperture way open and try and keep your shutter at least at 1/60 or faster.

    If you can, 1/90 or 1/125 would be great but that may be pretty tough for you to achieve with your current set of tools.

    You shouldn't see any noise worth noting at ISO800, and even 1600 shouldn't be unbearable. If these are to be printed, about what size will they be? I've gotten prints at ISO1600 and at 4x6 they come out looking ok.

    Definitely shoot raw. This way, if your white balance is off you can certainly correct it, and I can imagine at a concert this would happen quite often.

    Also, if you shoot raw it should be easier to brighten your pictures up.

    The best thing you can do is go in there knowing that the first few times you take pictures in any capacity (If it be studio, light box, outdoors, macro, etc.) you're learning. So to learn the most you can, take lots of shots and experiment. Don't hardly take the time to review anything for too long. When you get back tonight or whenever you have time, look through the pictures and sort them. Put ones that turned out the best, ones that turned out ok, and ones that turned out the worst into 3 separate categories. Then look at the settings and see what worked best for you to get the best shots. It may have been the ISO adjustment, it may have been underexposing and brightening it up later, or it may have been that there was enough light to get a properly exposed shot and still have it be crisp.

    Hope this helped!
     
  11. bocomo macrumors 6502

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    New York
    #12
    good advice all

    i would like to add that you shouldn't bother with auto focus either

    the "artsy" blur stuff you were referring to is almost always due to using a slow shutter speed (need to for exposure, but the band is moving). so you have to find a balance between dark/sharp or bright/blurry

    remember, the answer is always: shoot more




    and have fun
     
  12. LillieDesigns thread starter macrumors 6502

    LillieDesigns

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    #13
    I'm trying everything you all have suggested and I either get really grainy shots or really dark shots.

    The 1600 is giving me almost black photos and when I try to edit them I get a ton of grain.
     
  13. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

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    #14
    Unless you have a fast lens (I'd say F/2.8 or faster) you are going to have a very hard time with this. Even at ISO 1600 the pictures are going to be either dark, or very blurry. And when you try and edit an underexposed photo, pushing the exposure too far will reveal a lot of noise.

    You should get an 85mm F1.4 if you can get your hands on one, and then bump up your ISO as far as it will go. If you do that, you might get a few that will look good. And you will need to be relatively close to the band and have a tripod.

    You'll find this task to be nearly impossible with the kit lens.

    SLC
     
  14. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #15
    Welcome to dark photography! :p As you jack up the ISO (to achieve faster shutter speeds) - the grain increases. On your camera, you will certainly notice it after ISO1000 -- that's just the state of things, you can't take grain-free shots in very low light with the lenses you own. Check your settings too. A dimly lit room at ISO1600 should give you grainy, not abnormally dark shots.

    Otherwise, we should just be more blunt -- you cannot get the kind of results you want from the lenses that you mention. Going from a f/5.6 lens to a f/1.4 lens adds 400% more light. Going from f/5.6 to a cheap ($75) 50mm f/1.8 lens adds 333% more light. That lets you take the ISO down to 640 or 800 (far less grain) and the shutter speed up to 1/50 or 1/60 (less motion blur.) Use a monopod or tripod and you will get a lot more keepers.
     
  15. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020

    ChrisBrightwell

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    #16
    Try posting a few test shots with some EXIF data and let's see if we can help you.
     
  16. LillieDesigns thread starter macrumors 6502

    LillieDesigns

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    #17
    Thank you for the help everyone. I decided since it's a small venue and since the band doesn't mind, I'm going to use my flash. I have the camera set in manual mode and after trying what seemed like 100 different combinations of shutter speeds and ISO's I have found a decent setting for tonight.

    I ran around the house snapping all kinds of dark rooms with different lights and then ran them through different types of editing software and I finally settled on some settings that are (seemingly) giving me the best shots.

    You're suggestions have not gone unheard, however, and one day when I borrow some lenses from a friend of mine I will mess with different settings for live shows.

    My pictures may not come out perfect tonight, but I'm looking to experiment a little bit and have some fun. I'll be sure to post some of my pics from the show and let you guys (and girls) give me some pointers.

    Sorry for writing a book. Thanks!
     
  17. termina3 macrumors 65816

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    TX
    #18
    If possible, set your flash up off-camera. I know the Nikon CLS supports this, and it's a really useful feature to have an SB-800 flash on one side while your on-camera flash sets it off.

    Again, dunno if it'll work with your setup. Sounds like a SB-800 equivalent is way out of your equipment level.
     
  18. Shaduu macrumors 6502a

    Shaduu

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    #19
    Get a fast lens (Canon and Nikon 50mm f/1.8s spring to mind), pump up your ISO to at least 800 and shoot with a shutter at about 1/30 or faster, depending on how well-lit the stage is. And, as has been said before, make sure you shoot in RAW.

    I've managed to shoot concerts with a Fuji S5600 locked at 50mm f/3.5 and ISO400. They're not ideal settings but it shows how flexible concert photography can be when you have a steady hand holding the camera.

    Also, I think this goes without saying but, shoot as much as is physically possible. I aim to fill my card with RAW shots - so about 130 highest quality images on a 1GB CF - and then repeat the process with as many cards as I happen to be carrying at the time. It's pretty much given that you'll take some crappy pictures as everyone does, so by shooting as much as possible, you'll hopefully have a few decent ones to work with out of the crap.

    One final point: imagine that using flash is equivalent to spraying the place with machine gun fire, avoid using it unless you really, really have to.

    Good luck with your shooting. :)
     
  19. Plymouthbreezer macrumors 601

    Plymouthbreezer

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    #20
    I'll chime in here, only because I get decent shots without a fast lens... Just gotta play around with a few things, including your shooting positions. Below are some from a few shows taken with no flash (obviously), and my Nikon D70's kit lens - the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 - which is not a speed demon by any means.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the above shots certainly aren't horrid, despite the lighting conditions, band member's movement, and my slower lens. While higher ISOs helped these shots immensely, a quick shutter, in combination with keeping the aperture as open as possible, was of more importance in capturing these images.

    Good luck!
     
  20. LillieDesigns thread starter macrumors 6502

    LillieDesigns

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    #21
    So I started messing around with some of the pictures. I pretty much tried a ton of things when shooting and have only begun to scrape the hundreds of pics I took.

    I know some of the pics are a little overdone, but I was having fun :D

    More to come.

    Flickr
     
  21. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020

    ChrisBrightwell

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    #22
    Try it without the flash first, IMO. The harsh light from the flash destroys the on-stage light effects.
     
  22. LillieDesigns thread starter macrumors 6502

    LillieDesigns

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    #23
    I threw some more up, let me know what you all think.

    I know they're not the best, but it was my 3rd day with the camera.

    Live Shots
     
  23. MacNoobie macrumors 6502a

    MacNoobie

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    #24
    I've been shooting concerts for awhile now and still havent nailed it down exactly I've tried spot metering and all that garbage and still rely on matrix metering or what ever Canon calls it now. I've shot a lot of low light concerts hand holding a 70-200 f/2.8L IS lens at ISO1600 on a 1D Mark II N body and getting great results. I usually end up getting to around 1/20th of a second or less but I usually try and get it over the 1/focal length rule.

    Anyways heres a western themed concert I've shot the "tone" wasnt done in Photoshop btw.

    http://www.zieba-photo.smugmug.com/gallery/3257711#215048155
     

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