Sunday, 26 August 2012

Concert Photographs

We want to take some great concert photos but what do we really need to know? 
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First of all, forget about auto settings on your camera. You need to determine fast what the light conditions are. There's plenty of lights on stage and the performers are constantly changing position so make sure you set your camera fast for the available light.
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Second, forget about using flash. This will just destroy your photos and make them look like they were taken in your garage with a dull small camera on auto. You need to capture the available light and atmosphere of the event so stick to what the stage has to offer. Some performers will get easily annoyed if you use flash so... this is a big no-no.
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Mount a wide aperture lens that will capture lots of light for the sensor. If you haven't got the money to get your hands on a 2.8 vario lens then use a prime which will limit you in a way but will get you great results in terms of sharpness, focus and light.
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Use higher ISO settings. ISO100 just won't do you any good. All your shots will look dull and dark. Bring up the ISO to at least 600 and go higher if you have to. Remember that this is NOT shooting outdoors during the day and you need to make use of that high sensitivity of your sensor.
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If you were thinking about using a slower shutter to compensate for using ISO100 (or something like that) you were guessing wrong! The performers on stage will be moving constantly while interacting with the audience. They will not stop to strike a pose for the photographer. Set your shutter speed to 1/200 (you wanna go slower, don't go under 1/125) or higher if you want to capture the moment instead of turning up with blurry bigfoot-like creatures in your photos.
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Change your position (if you can) so you capture different angles and all the musicians on stage. This is very important when you really want to show what a great deal the show was.
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Take some photos of the audience. Lighters in the air, or shoot the stage through raised arms but don't overdo it and keep the camera pointed and the stage and performers 99% of the time.
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Sometimes the spotlight will hit the main performer so hard that their face might get overexposed so check quickly if this is so and change your settings to maintain proper exposure.
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Lights on stage have different colors to make the visual part of the show stronger and more interesting to the eye. So, how do we set our white balance? Sometimes we have blue lights hitting the front man and sometimes it's a red light on his face. Well, this is not to worry about because white balance is not a problem. If the face is blue-ish, or red-ish, then this is what the light was at the moment the shot was taken. That's just it and this is how it was. It's not your problem and it's not a problem at all. However, if you want to make the image stronger and not think about color, just change the photo to black and white and increase the contrast to a level that you personally think could be OK. I use automatic white balance and it turns out that the results are pretty good.
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Aperture. I would shoot stage performances with a wide open (F2-2.8 sometimes I'd go with 4 but that's not very often) for 2 reasons. First of all, I want to emphasize on the person on stage that I'm pointing the camera at and secondly I want to have more light so I can bring up the shutter speed to be able to really freeze the frame and make it look as if the performer was posing especially for me.
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Shoot raw files so you have more processing options.

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Now go ahead and find yourself a concert to shoot!

All the best,
Kamen Kunchev