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03-01-2009, 09:35 AM   #1
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Beginner looking for concert photography tips

Hello! Brand new to the forum, and brand new to shooting anything bigger than a point and click. Very excited to pick up some tips as I've wanted to experiment with photography for years now but am just not finally getting around to it.

I brought my K110 D to a local club last night to snap some photos of bands, and as I'm sure most of you know, there was a good amount of completely black shots along with others full of swirling lights. I've read up a little in the past, and I think the goal is to open up the aperture as much as possible, and make the shutter speed as fast as possible, but this is something I'll need to work on.

Any tips on where to start as far as concert photography? How far can I go with the K110 D and what it came with before I have to go out and buy a new lens/flash?

Thanks!

03-01-2009, 10:02 AM   #2
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How far can the k110d go?

I'm no concert photographer and had no special access, those were shot from my seat with the K110d with the 50-200 kit zoom with no flash.







Basically you shoot at ISO 800-1600 in Apperture priority mode, apperture wide open, spot metering, spot focus, and take LOTS of pictures as many will be a wreck.

Pat
03-01-2009, 10:12 AM   #3
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If you look about halfway down the front page of this forum (a I write this), you'll see another thread from a couple of days ago titled "Shooting Gigs" - check that out.

My own advice is to use M mode, as otherwise exposure varies to wildly from shot to shot as the meter tries to compensate for the bright lights or else the absence of light. Work out a good basic exposure (by trial and error if necessary) and then leave it alone - most of the time, that works fine.

Aside from that, use the highest ISO you can stand, the largest aperture you have available, and accept tha whatever shutter speed you end up with probably won't be enough to stop most of the action. So it is mostly about timing and luck.

If all you have is the kit lens (DA 18-55), you'll really be struggling - the maximum aperture just isn't very large. Most concert photographers use f/2.8 most of the time; even larger apertures (f/2, f/1.4) at times too. So you'll need to find out what focal length(s) you like to shoot at and then investigate getting "fast" (large maximum apeture) lenses to cover those lengths.

Formost people, the obvious place to start is a 50mm lens - the FA50/1.4 is available new for under $200, or if you want to go cheap, manual focus 50's can be had for under $50. For me, 50mm is too short most of the time, because I like taking closeups. So my main lens is a manual focus M100/2.8 (available used for around $100). But I use a 50 some, too, and wider lenses too, depending on the look I'm going for and where I'm positioned.
03-01-2009, 11:35 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies guys! The camera came with a PH-RBA 52mm Lens, is that better than what you mentioned Marc?

I'll hit that other thread and start reading. Thanks again. Now to figure out what ISO means.

03-01-2009, 11:42 AM   #5
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ISO is the speed of the film you are using, the lower the number the slower the film was, but more detail it could capture. Higher number meant a faster film, but it was grainier.

Well it was in the "old days" in digital photography it translates to the sensitivity of the image sensor:

Low ISO = long exposure times, less noise and great detail
high ISO = much faster exposure times, but noisier image

On your camera to access the ISO setting, press the FN button, and then the right arrow on the 4 way controller.

Pat
03-01-2009, 11:53 AM   #6
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I'm playing with these settings now (kinda hard in sunny Los Angeles, but I'm drawing the blinds.)

Should I be using flash with these settings? I noticed last night that when I used the flash it would highlight whatever or whoever was in front of me, and shade the object/person I was trying to shoot.

Thanks again!
03-01-2009, 11:56 AM   #7
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Well, as I just commented in the other thread, I personally cannot recommend using a flash at a gig.

It annoys the performers, defeats the stage lighting effects and lights up stuff you do not want to see in the photos.

I'm sure there are situations where the flash is warranted, but I don't know enough about it to comment... Marc? I'd like to hear your opinion on flash use at performances?

Pat
03-01-2009, 12:00 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ve2vfd Quote
Well, as I just commented in the other thread, I personally cannot recommend using a flash at a gig.

It annoys the performers, defeats the stage lighting effects and lights up stuff you do not want to see in the photos.

I'm sure there are situations where the flash is warranted, but I don't know enough about it to comment... Marc? I'd like to hear your opinion on flash use at performances?

Pat
I think maybe I should stay out of that other thread, only because everyone over there seems to know what they're talking about and I don't want to slow down the conversation.

I would certainly prefer to not use a flash.. I performed in bands for many years and have too many shots that highlight the pipes hanging from the ceiling because of the flash My issue last night, and right now actually, is that when I set the ISO high and the aperture wide open, I get a black photo. Is there something obvious I'm doing wrong?

Thanks for your patience with the n00b.

03-01-2009, 12:32 PM   #9
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I wouldn't use flash at gigs. In fact I wouldn't use flash anywhere but in the studio as I find it intrusive. People do though, especially journalists.

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Shot with the K100D Super and FA43 at 800 ISO, f/3.5, 1/20s. Definitely could have been sharper if I didn't mind increasing the noise or decreasing the depth of field. But this does show the incredible colour rendition of this lens. (PP to curves etc. was done, but it started pretty vivid anyway.)

Some would think 43mm is too short. But it's fine, especially if you have the K20D and don't mind cropping in when necessary. I have also used the FA77 in halls where I could sit 5-8 rows back and still frame shots just fine.

Lens speed counts, even if you're not shooting wide open. You get better auto-focusing and more light in the viewfinder.

The cheapest option would be the FA50/1.4. I wouldn't try to do any of this with the kit lens. Though it can be sharp that's only when it has enough light -- it's just way too slow for a concert.
03-01-2009, 12:40 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by JackStands Quote
My issue last night, and right now actually, is that when I set the ISO high and the aperture wide open, I get a black photo. Is there something obvious I'm doing wrong?
Now thats odd!

What lens are you using? What mode are you in?

Pat
03-01-2009, 12:59 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by JackStands Quote
Thanks for the replies guys! The camera came with a PH-RBA 52mm Lens, is that better than what you mentioned Marc?
That's not the name of the lens - that's the name of the lens *hood*. The lens is DA 18-55 or DA 18-55 II. That's written on the lens itself, as is the maximum aperture. It should say 1:3.5-5.6, meaning the maximum aperture is f/3.5 at the wide (18mm) end, and f/5.6 at the long (55mm) end. f/5.6 is nowhere near large enough (small numbers mean bigger apertures) for low light photography - you want at least f/2.8.

Short crash course: there are three things that affect exposure. Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Shutter speed is what you probably think: how long the shutter is open and allowing light in. Aperture is how *big* the opening is that lets light in. And ISO (sometimes referred to as "sensitivity", which is really the proper term) is how much light is *needed* for a good exposure. They are interrelated - open the aperture wider to let in more light and you can get away with a faster shutter speed. Same with increasing sensitivity.

In the various automatic modes, the camera handles this for you - it either picks all settings (P mode) or lets you pick one or two and it adjusts the others (Av, Tv). As I mentioned, I use M mode, because I don't *want* the camera picking something for me. I select ISO 1600, set my aperture to f/2.8 (usually), set shutter speed to 1/45 for starters, and take a test shot. If its too dark, I slow to 1/30 (but rarely more, or it's almost impossible to get a sharp picture). If it's too bright, I silently thank the lighting guy and then speed up the shutter and/or close down the aperture and/or reduce sensitivity. and then I shoot the whole concert with that same exposure, on the assumption that the lighting isn't going to change *that* much from shot to shot.
03-01-2009, 01:50 PM   #12
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As the case with many concerts, you really need to be close to the action to get good captures.
In the past I've used an FA 100 macro f/2.8 lens, which is actually quite good wide open (at f/2.8), and allows me to handhold the camera and be at a reasonable distance from the stage so as not to be intrusive. I've also used an M 200 f/4 lens, but struggled to get decent shots like those of the FA 100 macro.

If you're going to do concerts often, you'll need to invest in a good, fast telezoom or telephoto prime. With a K110D, you're probably limited to something like an FA 100 macro f/2.8, Sigma/Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 or maybe a Tamron 90 macro f/2.8. These lenses are not cheap (compared to the K110D and kit lens), so you'll need to think about how much you're willing to spend to get the results you want.
03-01-2009, 03:21 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
The lens is DA 18-55 or DA 18-55 II. That's written on the lens itself, as is the maximum aperture. It should say 1:3.5-5.6, meaning the maximum aperture is f/3.5 at the wide (18mm) end, and f/5.6 at the long (55mm) end. f/5.6 is nowhere near large enough (small numbers mean bigger apertures) for low light photography - you want at least f/2.8.
Like Marc said. You want the biggest aperture possible, which means the most light getting into the lens. A larger f-stop number (eg. 5.6) is actually a smaller aperture. That's why it's written as f/5.6 -- it is inversely proportional to the number. We desire the smallest f-stop number possible.

Starting with 1.0 and moving up one stop at a time, we get a progression of 1.0, 1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0 and so on (f-stops are based on factors of root 2). Each stop you move up means half the light is getting into the camera. Even one f-stop makes a big difference when dealing with low-light photography.

The kit lens at 55mm, where I imagine it is most of the time in a concert, is a rather horrid f/5.6. Marc suggests you need at least f/2.8 which is a lens that lets in four times as much light. On a budget, I suggest the FA50 f/1.4 which lets in 16 times as much light... there is simply no comparison to the kit lens.

Now, I wouldn't exactly recommend shooting at f/1.4 since you will have razor-thin depth of field. Very little will be in focus. But as I said before, "Lens speed counts, even if you're not shooting wide open. You get better auto-focusing and more light in the viewfinder." This is because, until you press the shutter button, the camera works with the lens wide open.

Of course, speed is not the only thing. There is also the fact of how sharp the lens is and how it renders. That's why I recommend the FA43 over the FA50, if it can be afforded. It's almost one stop slower but can be used wide open and is nice one stop down from that. The FA50 needs to be used two stops down to get the same sharpness, which amounts to the same usability in practice.

P.S. The fastest Pentax lens is f/1.2, only a third of a stop faster than f/1.4. So being at f/1.4 to f/2 is pretty darned good!

Last edited by rparmar; 03-01-2009 at 03:27 PM.
03-01-2009, 03:43 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
As I mentioned, I use M mode, because I don't *want* the camera picking something for me. I select ISO 1600, set my aperture to f/2.8 (usually), set shutter speed to 1/45 for starters, and take a test shot. If its too dark, I slow to 1/30 (but rarely more, or it's almost impossible to get a sharp picture). If it's too bright, I silently thank the lighting guy and then speed up the shutter and/or close down the aperture and/or reduce sensitivity. and then I shoot the whole concert with that same exposure, on the assumption that the lighting isn't going to change *that* much from shot to shot.
That's exactly the what I do as well, although I might go down to ISO 800 if I can still keep my shutter speed at a reasonable level.
03-01-2009, 09:28 PM   #15
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The only thing I'd add is, don't be afraid to fire away. Set er on burst and fill your card. And really work on the WB.

I shot my first show in a horribly lit bar Friday(with an M-50 1.4) so focusing was my biggest issue and out of over 400 shots I got 80 that are OK, but still haven't gone through again to select the ones I'm happy with(which may be zero).

But, I also had some issues with WB.... which I was gonna go into, but this isn't about me.
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