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Rock concert photo techniques?

 
 
Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-09-2006
I'm curious what suggestions people have for shooting rock concerts
at small venues. (I'm sure one regular here will suggest that I stay
home unless and until I'm an expert, of course. :^) Dunno what he
thinks we _should_ be doing to become expert; make cranky posts to
USENET, I guess.) Problems I've encountered include:
-dim lighting
-oddly colored lighting
-lights pointing into the audience from the back of the stage
-blocking (mike stands, singers with mikes/hands in front of their faces)
-performers who move around a lot
Also, what's people's feelings on using flash? I find it necessary most
of the time, but obviously "flashy" pictures tend to look like crap.
Any other issues or concerns people have run into?

So far the best things I've found have been
-shoot a lot and be prepared to throw away a lot
-shoot RAW
-use high ISO
-use flash and a diffuser
-have a flash with a quick cycle time (it's a real pain to miss a good
shot opportunity because your flash wasn't ready again yet)
-accept the limitations of the scene and use them; it's never going to
look like a studio portrait, so go for a more impressionistic feel

Another concern I have is about combinations of ISO/aperture/shutter
speed for less-than-optimal conditions like this. If you stop down to
get better depth of field, your exposure time goes up and now that
guitarist rockin' out has too much motion blur (although flash helps
with this). If you open up to get better speed, your depth of field
becomes small and proper focus gets harder, and autofocus doesn't work
so well in dim light...I guess manual focus is probably the way to go
for this? Also, if anyone knows of any good books about this topic, or
even just collections of good concert shots, that would be great.
Thanks!

--
Oh to have a lodge in some vast wilderness. Where rumors of oppression
and deceit, of unsuccessful and successful wars may never reach me
anymore.
-- William Cowper
 
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sonsdad
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-09-2006
Hi
There is a great book by Jon Sievert, Concert Photography that should help.
I try to shoot without flash but using a fast lens, I have a Nikon 85mm 1.8
and 70-210 2.8. You do need to seek permission or you could lose your gear.
Start in a local bar, bands are often happy that someone is interested in
taking shots. I am sure you are correct to try using Raw although the read
speed can be a pain sometimes, My rule is if it moves use JPEG if it is
still use Raw. Hope this help a bit
Cheers


On 9/6/06 17:04, in article e6c660$4em$(E-Mail Removed), "Jeremiah DeWitt
Weiner" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> I'm curious what suggestions people have for shooting rock concerts
> at small venues. (I'm sure one regular here will suggest that I stay
> home unless and until I'm an expert, of course. :^) Dunno what he
> thinks we _should_ be doing to become expert; make cranky posts to
> USENET, I guess.) Problems I've encountered include:
> -dim lighting
> -oddly colored lighting
> -lights pointing into the audience from the back of the stage
> -blocking (mike stands, singers with mikes/hands in front of their faces)
> -performers who move around a lot
> Also, what's people's feelings on using flash? I find it necessary most
> of the time, but obviously "flashy" pictures tend to look like crap.
> Any other issues or concerns people have run into?
>
> So far the best things I've found have been
> -shoot a lot and be prepared to throw away a lot
> -shoot RAW
> -use high ISO
> -use flash and a diffuser
> -have a flash with a quick cycle time (it's a real pain to miss a good
> shot opportunity because your flash wasn't ready again yet)
> -accept the limitations of the scene and use them; it's never going to
> look like a studio portrait, so go for a more impressionistic feel
>
> Another concern I have is about combinations of ISO/aperture/shutter
> speed for less-than-optimal conditions like this. If you stop down to
> get better depth of field, your exposure time goes up and now that
> guitarist rockin' out has too much motion blur (although flash helps
> with this). If you open up to get better speed, your depth of field
> becomes small and proper focus gets harder, and autofocus doesn't work
> so well in dim light...I guess manual focus is probably the way to go
> for this? Also, if anyone knows of any good books about this topic, or
> even just collections of good concert shots, that would be great.
> Thanks!


 
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Joseph Meehan
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-09-2006
Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner wrote:
> I'm curious what suggestions people have for shooting rock concerts
> at small venues. (I'm sure one regular here will suggest that I stay
> home unless and until I'm an expert, of course. :^) Dunno what he
> thinks we _should_ be doing to become expert; make cranky posts to
> USENET, I guess.) Problems I've encountered include:
> -dim lighting
> -oddly colored lighting
> -lights pointing into the audience from the back of the stage
> -blocking (mike stands, singers with mikes/hands in front of their
> faces)
> -performers who move around a lot
> Also, what's people's feelings on using flash? I find it necessary
> most of the time, but obviously "flashy" pictures tend to look like
> crap.
> Any other issues or concerns people have run into?


You missed one. The sign on the door that says no cameras allowed and a
few large bozos to enforce the rule.

>
> So far the best things I've found have been
> -shoot a lot and be prepared to throw away a lot
> -shoot RAW


Not bad idea

> -use high ISO


Likely, but how good of an idea depends partly on the camera.

> -use flash and a diffuser


Some places don't like cameras let alone flashes. Most of the time you
are not going to have a flash that is powerful enough and you will not be
close enough to get any benefit from it. Diffuser.. I don't think so, it
would only reduce the effective working distance for your flash. If you can
use flash and your flash is powerful enough for the distance, I would not
use diffuser as for that use, I like the harsh look of the flash.

> -have a flash with a quick cycle time (it's a real pain to miss a good
> shot opportunity because your flash wasn't ready again yet)


Yea, but if you do it often enough, you learn to predict action.

> -accept the limitations of the scene and use them; it's never going to
> look like a studio portrait, so go for a more impressionistic feel


Best advice of the list.

>
> Another concern I have is about combinations of ISO/aperture/shutter
> speed for less-than-optimal conditions like this. If you stop down to
> get better depth of field,


DOF will no be a problem unless you are rather close.

> your exposure time goes up and now that
> guitarist rockin' out has too much motion blur (although flash helps
> with this). If you open up to get better speed, your depth of field
> becomes small and proper focus gets harder, and autofocus doesn't work
> so well in dim light...I guess manual focus is probably the way to go
> for this? Also, if anyone knows of any good books about this topic,
> or even just collections of good concert shots, that would be great.
> Thanks!


--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit


 
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Jonathan Telfer
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      06-09-2006
Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner wrote:

> I'm curious what suggestions people have for shooting rock concerts
> at small venues. (I'm sure one regular here will suggest that I stay
> home unless and until I'm an expert, of course. :^) Dunno what he
> thinks we _should_ be doing to become expert; make cranky posts to
> USENET, I guess.) Problems I've encountered include:
> -dim lighting
> -oddly colored lighting
> -lights pointing into the audience from the back of the stage
> -blocking (mike stands, singers with mikes/hands in front of their faces)
> -performers who move around a lot
> Also, what's people's feelings on using flash? I find it necessary most
> of the time, but obviously "flashy" pictures tend to look like crap.
> Any other issues or concerns people have run into?
>
> So far the best things I've found have been
> -shoot a lot and be prepared to throw away a lot
> -shoot RAW
> -use high ISO
> -use flash and a diffuser
> -have a flash with a quick cycle time (it's a real pain to miss a good
> shot opportunity because your flash wasn't ready again yet)
> -accept the limitations of the scene and use them; it's never going to
> look like a studio portrait, so go for a more impressionistic feel
>
> Another concern I have is about combinations of ISO/aperture/shutter
> speed for less-than-optimal conditions like this. If you stop down to
> get better depth of field, your exposure time goes up and now that
> guitarist rockin' out has too much motion blur (although flash helps
> with this). If you open up to get better speed, your depth of field
> becomes small and proper focus gets harder, and autofocus doesn't work
> so well in dim light...I guess manual focus is probably the way to go
> for this? Also, if anyone knows of any good books about this topic, or
> even just collections of good concert shots, that would be great.
> Thanks!
>

Not tried it myself and it depends if your gear can do it - but how about
second curtain flash sync? So you get blurred movement of the artists
doing their stuff and then the flash will get the detail. A quick google
should explain it much better than me.
I would have thought you'd have to be close and with a stable support.

Jon
 
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Gank
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-09-2006

"Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:e6c660$4em$(E-Mail Removed)...
> Also, what's people's feelings on using flash? I find it necessary most
> of the time, but obviously "flashy" pictures tend to look like crap.


Not only that but in small venues you will **** off the band members if you
use flash. When I use to shoot concerts on film cameras I used to use high
speed film and no flash. Flash from longer distances is useless anyway.


 
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David Dyer-Bennet
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      06-09-2006
Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:

> I'm curious what suggestions people have for shooting rock concerts
> at small venues. (I'm sure one regular here will suggest that I stay
> home unless and until I'm an expert, of course. :^) Dunno what he
> thinks we _should_ be doing to become expert; make cranky posts to
> USENET, I guess.) Problems I've encountered include:
> -dim lighting


Yep. Digital helps a lot. High ISO, and tungsten balance, does
things film never touched (I know no reason they *couldn't* have made
ASA 1600 tungsten film, but they never *did*).

> -oddly colored lighting


This is not a problem; you want your pictures to look like the show,
and if the show is lit in funny colors your pictures should capture
that.

> -lights pointing into the audience from the back of the stage


This causes horrid flare in cheap zooms. Use better lenses, and use
lens hoods. Then it's just hot-spots.

> -blocking (mike stands, singers with mikes/hands in front of their faces)


Move around yourself, and be patient.

> -performers who move around a lot


Nothing to be done.

> Also, what's people's feelings on using flash? I find it necessary most
> of the time, but obviously "flashy" pictures tend to look like crap.


Definitely undesirable -- ruins the look of the photos, as you say.
And the shows often put considerable effort into lighting design,
which flash then throws away.

> Any other issues or concerns people have run into?


> So far the best things I've found have been
> -shoot a lot and be prepared to throw away a lot


Yep, even with film. Hundreds of shots for any one keeper usually.

> -shoot RAW


Can help, but also a lot of post-processing work and limits bursts.

> -use high ISO


Definitely.

> -use flash and a diffuser
> -have a flash with a quick cycle time (it's a real pain to miss a good
> shot opportunity because your flash wasn't ready again yet)


Yeah, if you're using a flash you need a pro-grade flash, powerful and
with quick cycling. Probably also an external battery.

But flash is almost never a good choice for rock shows.

> -accept the limitations of the scene and use them; it's never going to
> look like a studio portrait, so go for a more impressionistic feel


Yes, exactly. That's the key point -- photograph the show that's put
on, rather than trying to use the show as a venue to photograph
something you've thought up.

> Another concern I have is about combinations of ISO/aperture/shutter
> speed for less-than-optimal conditions like this. If you stop down to
> get better depth of field, your exposure time goes up and now that
> guitarist rockin' out has too much motion blur (although flash helps
> with this). If you open up to get better speed, your depth of field
> becomes small and proper focus gets harder, and autofocus doesn't work
> so well in dim light...I guess manual focus is probably the way to go
> for this? Also, if anyone knows of any good books about this topic, or
> even just collections of good concert shots, that would be great.


Now you know why people pay $1600 for the Nikon 70-210mm f/2.8 VR
lens, or the Canon equivalent, or even longer fast lenses sometimes.
--
David Dyer-Bennet, <(E-Mail Removed)>, <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/>
RKBA: <http://www.dd-b.net/carry/>
Pics: <http://dd-b.lighthunters.net/> <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/SnapshotAlbum/>
Dragaera/Steven Brust: <http://dragaera.info/>
 
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tezster@gmail.com
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      06-09-2006
[snip]
> So far the best things I've found have been
> -shoot a lot and be prepared to throw away a lot
> -shoot RAW
> -use high ISO
> -use flash and a diffuser
> -have a flash with a quick cycle time (it's a real pain to miss a good
> shot opportunity because your flash wasn't ready again yet)
> -accept the limitations of the scene and use them; it's never going to
> look like a studio portrait, so go for a more impressionistic feel


All good starting points -except for the references to the flash. I
almost always never use a flash - you wash out all the concert
lighting, so what's the point?

It's definitely challenging, but that's what I like about it. In a way
it's easier because the 'scene' is already setup for you. What you see
is exactly what your shooting conditions are - no need to 'set up'
anything.

You basically take some time to study and get to know both the venue
(lighting, shooting angles, audience, etc...) and the band (songs,
movement tendencies, placement of the mic, band equipment, etc...) and
go from there.

I find shooting wide open is fine. Especially in smaller bars/clubs
that really have limited lighiting, you need every single packet of
light to reach the camera sensor. It's not that big of a deal if the
image isn't the sharpest it could be because you're not shooting at the
ideal aperture. The two most important elements are getting the correct
exposure and focus, because without that, nothing else matters.

Once you have a good handle of your camera and your own abilities, you
should have a good idea of how steady you can haldhold your camera at
various focal lengths while still getting a fairly sharp photo.

Shooting in RAW is great since you can bump up the exposure by a stop
or two and do your WB corrections as well. After that, I do a bit of
noise reduction (if needed).

The best thing to do is just go out there and shoot... you gain a lot
of knowledge on the field through plain experience and trial-and-error.

Terence

 
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Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      06-10-2006
Just wanted to say thanks for all the advice offered so far, and
I'll take it all into consideration. A friend pointed out to me an
article on concert photography: "Concert, Stage, and Low-Light
Photography", by Steve Mirarchi.
http://www.photo.net/learn/concerts/...i/concer_i.htm
And he does discuss flash usage, interestingly enough, including second
curtain.

BTW, I've been lucky enough to find a venue/concert series that does not
give a wet flap about whether you do your amateur photography there.
:^)

--
Oh to have a lodge in some vast wilderness. Where rumors of oppression
and deceit, of unsuccessful and successful wars may never reach me
anymore.
-- William Cowper
 
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EarGuy
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-11-2006

"Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:e6c660$4em$(E-Mail Removed)...
> I'm curious what suggestions people have for shooting rock concerts
> at small venues.


Not to sound like an old fogie, but I've been shooting concerts since the
1970's (amature, audience - we don't need no stinkin' press passes!).

I learned quick to toss out your automatic exposure. The dark backgrounds
with illuminated faces will totally screw with your metering. Shoot manual.

Back in the film days, this was my rule of thumb, and it rarely failed me:

1. 400 mm film (the fastest available back then)
2. Shoot wide open aperature
3. Set shutter speed to 1/125. if the stage was dark, click down to 1/60.
If the stage was awash in ligh, click up to 1/250..
4. Get in as close as possible. No one wants to see 50 shots of a big
stage set.

I found that print film had enough latitude that this formula got me many
good prints. Hold that long lens steady, especially if you're shooting
1/60.

Now, we have digital. Your camera may have faster ISOs than 400, but you
have to trade off graininess vs. exposure. I start with the above settings
and bracket using my on-camera preview. That's what opening acts and
eraseable memory is for. Unfortunately, digital is less forgiving than
film.

No matter what, turn that flash off! It's annoying to your fellow
concert-goers. It annoys many performers. It may get you thrown out.

A few other things come to mind: Don't shoot during the first one or two
songs. Everyone, including you, is excited and jostling around. Give some
time to calm down before you bring our your camera. Often, the best shots
are taken between songs because the performers back away from the mike
stands, and look up from their hands. They might even smile at each other
and give a high-five. Don't blow all your film/memory early. The lights
and pyrotechnics are often saved for the last song before the encore.
Clothing may change for the encores, giving you a varied look.

Last, remember the great photographer's rule: F8 and be there. As
inspiration, here are some concert shots taken with a disposable camera. I
didn't take these, I was at the back of the venue. I do think, however that
the shooter used flash. But I really liked her use of lens flare, she knew
when to push the shutter, and her composition is good. I'd like to give her
a lesson in cropping, though.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...2/FL000022.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...2/FL000020.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...4/FL000001.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...3/FL000010.jpg

Have fun!
Dave
Earguy


 
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EarGuy
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      06-11-2006

"Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:e6c660$4em$(E-Mail Removed)...
> I'm curious what suggestions people have for shooting rock concerts
> at small venues.


Not to sound like an old fogie, but I've been shooting concerts since the
1970's (amature, audience - we don't need no stinkin' press passes!).

I learned quick to toss out your automatic exposure. The dark backgrounds
with illuminated faces will totally screw with your metering. Shoot manual.

Back in the film days, this was my rule of thumb, and it rarely failed me:

1. 400 mm film (the fastest available back then)
2. Shoot wide open aperature
3. Set shutter speed to 1/125. if the stage was dark, click down to 1/60.
If the stage was awash in ligh, click up to 1/250..
4. Get in as close as possible. No one wants to see 50 shots of a big
stage set.

I found that print film had enough latitude that this formula got me many
good prints. Hold that long lens steady, especially if you're shooting
1/60.

Now, we have digital. Your camera may have faster ISOs than 400, but you
have to trade off graininess vs. exposure. I start with the above settings
and bracket using my on-camera preview. That's what opening acts and
eraseable memory is for. Unfortunately, digital is less forgiving than
film.

No matter what, turn that flash off! It's annoying to your fellow
concert-goers. It annoys many performers. It may get you thrown out.

A few other things come to mind: Don't shoot during the first one or two
songs. Everyone, including you, is excited and jostling around. Give some
time to calm down before you bring our your camera. Often, the best shots
are taken between songs because the performers back away from the mike
stands, and look up from their hands. They might even smile at each other
and give a high-five. Don't blow all your film/memory early. The lights
and pyrotechnics are often saved for the last song before the encore.
Clothing may change for the encores, giving you a varied look.

Last, remember the great photographer's rule: F8 and be there. As
inspiration, here are some concert shots taken with a disposable camera. I
didn't take these, I was at the back of the venue. I do think, however that
the shooter used flash. But I really liked her use of lens flare, she knew
when to push the shutter, and her composition is good. I'd like to give her
a lesson in cropping, though.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...2/FL000022.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...2/FL000020.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...4/FL000001.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...3/FL000010.jpg

Have fun!
Dave
Earguy


 
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