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09-10-2012, 03:24 AM   #1
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Live music gig - techniques/tips please

Hi all,

My daughter has been asked to take photos of her boyfriend when he sings as a guest with a band at the weekend.

She's nervous (16), as it's low light, high energy (hardcore metal type stuff) and she's a beginner.

She has a k-r with both standard kit lenses, not the 18-135, and I additionally have a Vivitar 28mm/f2.8(manual), SMC 50/1.7(manual), SMC 80-200(manual), Tamron AF18-200 she could use if necessary

I've suggested that the k-r should be reasonably capable if she concentrates on using TAv priority, allowing the Auto ISO to give her the best chance of sharp shots.

I've warned her that this may mean more noise.

I've also suggested manual focussing to give her a chance to prefocus without waiting for the auto focus.

Have I got this right?

Does anyone have any suggestions or tips to get her started and impress her boyfriend with the results?


09-10-2012, 03:42 AM   #2
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The K-r and the 18-135 will be marginal in this sort of environment, but if it is was she's most familiar with she'll probably get better results than using unfamiliar lenses.

If she's good with manual focus, she will get good use from the 28/2.8 and 50/1.7 primes; they are both very useful focal lengths.
How fast is the 80-200? If it's f4.0 or better I'd take that as well.
09-10-2012, 04:00 AM   #3
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Thanks to Adam i have had success inside a pitch black circus tent shooting Jazz, Although it was with my K7 but the settings might still work.

She is better off shooting manual because she will have a hard time with autofocus and therefore she could use a fast manual lens (I use my Sigi 70-200 f2.8 in full manual mode)

The thing is to set the contrast hight to allow the everything else to go higher.

If the K-x dose it set the High/Low key of minus max
Contrast +1
Contrast Highlight +2
Contrast Shadow +2
Fine Sharpness +2

ISO 1600 (you could get lower) f2.8 (or as fast as it will get)
EV -1 ish
which allows you (me) to get the shutter speed up allot (I got as high as 1/400)

Here is a link to my success

and to Adams original Post

Good Luck, look forward to see some pics
09-10-2012, 04:05 AM   #4
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You might read the post I wrote here where I give some tips how I usually shoot concerts:

If she wants to shot in any automated mode, watch out that the shutter speed is not set too low by the camera (below 1/80 is no good, unless you want a moving effect). As well, the light measurement is very often tricked by the dark background and fast changing lights.

Good luck to her

09-10-2012, 04:19 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by cozzykim Quote
I've suggested that the k-r should be reasonably capable if she concentrates on using TAv priority, allowing the Auto ISO to give her the best chance of sharp shots.
Have I got this right?
I'd say, almost but not quite. Remember that automatic exposure will always seek to average out the whole image to 25% grey - for most cases like this that would mean the singer in the spotlight will come out hopelessly overexposed while the background is spot-on, with excessive amounts of noise because of the high-ISO.

I'd at the very least set the camera to center-weighed metering or even spot-metering, limit the auto-ISO to 6400 and advise her to chimp a lot and zoom in on the singer to make sure he's exposed correctly. On center-weighed, that might even mean dialing in up to a -1.5EV exposure correction.

Then the one thing you didn't speak about: white balance. This can be a tricky one with all the multicolored stagelights and stuff. I usually don't even try to get it right when shooting, it changes ever few seconds. But do take the camera off auto-WB. What you set it to is not so important, as long as you have an unvariable base setting like daylight or tungsten. You can then afterwards define little batches of raw images that (from the preview or embedded thumbs) look like they have more or less the same lighting and convert them with the appropriate settings.

On PP, one more thing: do NOT go for any kind of neutral rendition. I see this mistake made all the time - it's like balancing out the reds and oranges from a sunset: there's nothing left afterwards. If the singer has a blue spotlight on him, it should show in the image, same for the other colors. That way you preserve the atmosphere of the place best.


09-10-2012, 04:27 AM   #6
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Further to my previous post: in extreme conditions it might be worthwhile to at least capture the action and the sense of being at the gig by going for a contrasty look but boyfriend will then not be recognizable:

09-10-2012, 05:04 AM   #7

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Excellent gig shooting tips newmikey

For that kind of act, I'd just go Tv at about 1/125, auto-ISO, centre-weighted AE.
Doing the shoot with manual focus is doable, but if it's a hardcore metal band they are going to be moving all over the stage like crazy, and manual focus may be tricky. Best see how far she can go with AF - but set to centre-spot only. Then fall back to manual focus, perhaps once she feels more confident.

Oh, and of course she should get close to the action. And work different angles of the stage to find points where she can get some good shots off. And if her BF is in the band, she should certainly be sure to get a few decent crisp shots of him in action, otherwise there will be drama

Re white balance, if you know someone in the band, it would be ideal for correcting your WB in post-processing if you could arrange to have a little 18% grey card (or equivalently toned strip of tape) stuck somewhere inconspicous on stage where it might be visible in most scenes.

This will allow you to easily use things like the WB dropper tool in PDCU or Lightroom to tune the WB of the scene. As newmikey says, you may not want to (or be able to) produce a fully daylight equivalent WB rendering, but it may help you rescue a scene with dramatically bad colours.

I would also suggest you and her do a bit of practice with all the gear to make sure everything works in dim light, at the approximate distance from the stage she will be shooting etc, so she is comfortable with both the gear and the rough parameters of the scene.
09-10-2012, 05:16 AM   #8
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Thanks fellas, I've followed all the links, some nice shots there.

My thinking was that she could use TAv to keep a reasonably high shutter speed and lowish aperture (a couple of stops down from max aperture?) to allow her to use manual focus on the 18-55 with a reasonable depth of field buffer, while allowing the auto ISO to take care of exposure.

I'll make sure that she knows to fire of plenty of frames to hopefully get some decent keepers.

I'm pleased to find that you've suggested centre weighted metering, as I'd already suggested to her that this would be the best option to combat variable lighting.

I hadn't considered the white balance, I think I'll suggest that she takes some practice shots and to make sure it isn't set on auto.

The 80-200 is max f4.5 so probably not a good idea.

The trick here is probably to get in close to the action, I hope she doesn't come back with a broken camera from the mosh-pit, should I lend her my brand new k-30 with its better sensor, maybe not

EDIT: Thanks rawr, I was typing while you posted about getting close to the action.

Last edited by cozzykim; 09-10-2012 at 05:28 AM.
09-10-2012, 05:44 AM   #9

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For these kind of small, friendly shoots, to preserve good relations between everyone involved, I would also suggest that your daughter try and ensure that each member of the band gets a good shot (or two) taken of them while performing on stage. It would be a diplomatic error to let the lead singer or her boyfriend hog all the limelight.

While the lead singer or BF may merit the most shots, don't forget the other guys on guitar, drums, keyboard etc. I always try and get a decent shot of each muso if I can in any gig like this. People like the poor old drummer never get enough attention, and they appreciate it. Doing so can get you some great shots too.

That is if your daughter can get close enough to make this possible. Some of this is hard to do from a distance.
09-10-2012, 06:05 AM   #10
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Hi. Although I'm not much older than your daughter, I thought I might share my limited experience. Here are the thoughts that come to mind, in order of importance:
1. Shoot RAW.
2. The K-r is a pretty capable camera. It will take ISO 3200 without any problem, if she doesn't actually underexpose.
3. Set WB to daylight, auto will do a mess of a job. Set it later as you wish in post processing.
4. I use my 50mm f/1.4 manual focus lens. Sitting in front of the stage gets a nice perspective.
5. Manual mode, FIXED exposure. Lighting isn't really that variable on stage, maybe the drums are less lighted. Aperture should be around 2.8 for OK sharpness, at least 1/40 to avoid shake, if she's OK with some subject blur. If not, either pick a moment when the guys are not jumping, or raise the shutter speed to 1/125, dropping something else.
6. Live view focusing, absolutely no doubt. The K-r has a good enough screen for that. Maybe have a spare battery.
7. She will have the hardest time actually finding a good angle for the shot, not figuring focus or exposure.
8. She may need getting used to the lenses you have to offer her BEFORE the concert.

I attached two snaps taken by me at a concert. I know they're not perfect, there's tons of color clipping etc, but I used them to illustrate my advice. Hope it helps.

09-10-2012, 06:13 AM - 1 Like   #11
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Also good points, thanks.

This is a big gig for her BF as he's been asked to guest for a bigger, more well known local band. Having said that they're usually pretty close quarters venues and they'll have VIP armbands so I think she''l have no problem getting close to the action.

I'll remind her that the band will be hoping to see more than just their guest singer in the shots though

I'm thinking that, rather than a bag full of different lenses, she may be better off just using the kit 18-55 and employing a couple of the techniques suggested.

So, some auto focus, and some manual. Centre weighted metering with a bit of -Ev. Keep shutter speed up (Tv and TAv) and don't be too scared of highish ISO.

@kcobain, thanks, if it was me shooting I'd go for the fully manual fixed exposure option and just concentrate on the focus, that's one of the reasons I suggested TAv as it allows her to fix the shutter speed and aperture and not have to worry about them. I guess any noise in the high ISO exposures will just look like spit, and there's usually plenty of that flying around at these gigs

I'll post a couple of her results if she'll let me.
09-10-2012, 07:39 AM   #12
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This is obvious, but just in case - tell your daughter NOT to use the built-in flash :-) (you said she's a beginner, so she might be tempted to use it).

I'd recommend shooting in RAW - if she can't process it, you can help her with that afterwards. That way you don't have to worry at all about the white balance, and, to some degree, about underexposure (overexposure is worse). You can do miracles with underexposed RAW files, and if they're underexposed because of faster shutter speed, it helps you to better avoid movement blur. So - if it looks a bit dark on the camera's LCD, don't worry, it'll be just fine later!

If the club is packed, Tamron AF 18-200 seems like a good choice, 'cause she won't have the space to quickly change lenses in a wild crowd. The downside is, it's quite slow on the long end.
SMC A50 f1.7 is a very good lens, if you can get the focus right. When I bought it, it was the fastest lens I ever had, and combined with k-5 I was amazed by the ability to shoot in a very dark environment. And when the focus is right, it's very sharp.

Maybe one last thing - I sometimes make the mistake of trying to get 'a shot of it all', which is not necesarily the best approach. It's good to have a couple of pictures of the entire band in one shot, or the crowd, or even the band and the crowd together, if conditions allow, but it's also good to concentrate on the details - musicians' faces, hands holding the guitar, fingers on a keyboard etc. The more various, the better.
09-10-2012, 12:22 PM   #13
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Thanks Happyman,

she has already sussed that flash isn't a good idea after a previous attempt

The RAW will probably be an issue she'll want to shoot jpeg for ease of viewing and (in her mind) PP, she's a teenager don't forget

I like the 50/1.7 too, it's great with the k-30 in pseudo Av mode or Manual.

I don't have to worry about the creativity aspect, she's a lot more of that than me

I want her to learn some of this herself, but give her some tips to get her started and not lose interest because of poor results.
09-10-2012, 12:24 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by cozzykim Quote
The RAW will probably be an issue she'll want to shoot jpeg for ease of viewing and (in her mind) PP, she's a teenager don't forget
Does it bother her if she shoots RAW + JPEG?
09-10-2012, 01:48 PM   #15
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i shoot concerts and use most of the advice given, great stuff folks! I'd overlap a bit and give my usual concert shooting tips"

1) always shoot RAW to control white balance and reclaim some underexposed shadows

2) Given the list of lenses, I'd use the 50/1.7 for most of the shooting and switch to some of the others for some variation. Zooming with the feet as much as allowed.

3) use MF since it will be hard for AF to get a fix in dim light

4) if using auto lenses, go with SPOT metering and lock on the subject's face, etc. If using the manual lenses, spot wont work, so go with centre weighted. If using center weight, it may help to underexpose by a couple clicks to prevent blowing out when the spotlights are brightest.

5) set aperture to wide open or a click down from open for a little better sharpness

6) get close so the camera can grab as much light as possible.

7) stage lights may look bright against darkness, but they are probably going to challenge the camera. I like to use Tav mode to lock my shutter around 1/125th (faster if people are moving fast, hair thrashing, etc), aperture as mentioned in #5, and let the camera choose the ISO.

8) A tip i learned from Marc Sabatella is if you are struggling to maintain decent ISO due to insufficient light, underexpose all the shots a little in order to buy a couple of clicks of shutter speed and then bring up exposure in post processing. You can always brighten dark but sharp photos, but you cannot fix motion blur, even though the pics came out properly exposed. I still use this tip once in awhile when it is just too dark.

9) some stage light colors may bleed and create a perceived lack of sharpness. Reds and magenta spotlights will wreck havoc but can be tamed by desaturating the offending color in post. Shoot when the white and yellow lights are going, lol.

10) pay attention to the performance and start to predict movement of musicians and also lighting cues(if applicable). You want to flatter the band, so shoot in bursts to get several frames and pick the best.

11) don't get hurt!

more pics here:

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