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04-26-2010, 07:25 AM   #1
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Blown out faces in concert photos

I have recently been trying to take some concert photos in venues that are not that well lit. The lighting that is available is mostly aimed at the performers faces. The problem I've been having is that in most of my shots the faces get all blown out. Everything else except for the faces look pretty good though.

I have tried using exposure compensation for this, but in order to get decent exposures of the faces the rest of the picture get really dark. I know theres no magic solution when the scene is that dynamic, but to my eye the stage is not that poorly lit, its just that the faces are so bright.

I've been shooting with aperture priority set to 2.8 and ISO1600 (using a K7) to get as much light in as possible, but I'm not sure this is the best method for concert photography. Ive read somewhere that using shutter priority is a better method but I have no idea what speed to use, and unfortunately I have very limited time to shoot during the concerts so I can't really afford to try different settings out.

Any suggestions?

04-26-2010, 08:09 AM   #2
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Practice.
And shoot raw if you aren't already. That will give you more headroom for highlight/shadow recovery.
And get used to the fact that you are going to have very dark shadows if you have reasonably well exposed faces.
This is one of the few situations where a very long dynamic range helps, though I don't know if there is a sensor made yet that will encompass what you want.
04-26-2010, 08:13 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by mindglow Quote
I have tried using exposure compensation for this, but in order to get decent exposures of the faces the rest of the picture get really dark. I know theres no magic solution when the scene is that dynamic, but to my eye the stage is not that poorly lit, its just that the faces are so bright.
Your eyes do a good a job of opening and closing their aperture (iris) as you look around the stage, and your brain does a good job of compensating too (the equivalent of post-processing). But if you could stop your eyes and brain from doing this, you'd see the same thing as the camera - faces in spotlights really *are* that much brighter than shadows on stages, typically. I generally like this look and in fact will often use PP to darken the background further, as the rest of the stage is often quite cluttered and distracting. But you can certainly do the reverse in PP - brighten the shadows to show more of the stage. Fill light, curves, shadow/highlight, local contrast enhancement, or lighting are typical names for the PP tools you'd want to check out.

QuoteQuote:
I've been shooting with aperture priority set to 2.8 and ISO1600 (using a K7) to get as much light in as possible, but I'm not sure this is the best method for concert photography.
Getting as much light as possible is certain a good idea, unless it's an unusually well-lit stage. The problem I have with Av - or *any* auto mode - is that you end up getting varied exposures depending on the relative ratio of brightly lit faces to dark background in the scene. I find the exposure really is normally pretty constant, so shooting in M mode, with aperture wide open and shutter speed set as fast as you can reasonably get (without having to underexpose too much or raise ISO too high).

I have a series of blog articles on concert photography you might find useful. Here's the one on shooting technique:

Marc Sabatella: Concert Photography - Technique
04-26-2010, 08:16 AM   #4
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Perhaps you could try the following:

1) Menu -> Custom Menu # 1 -> Option 7 -> Set to 2.

And / or:

2) Use centre or spot metering for the light meter.

See if that helps.

- Bert

04-26-2010, 08:46 AM   #5
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TAv mode is your friend here... Spot metering and RAW are also key to this type of situations as pointed out by Marc, Wheatfield and Bymy141. Also, spot metering is very tricky - don't focus on the really bright (white shirt) or dark spots.

Here is an example...
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04-26-2010, 08:49 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bymy141 Quote

2) Use centre or spot metering for the light meter.


- Bert
Yep. I would use spot on the faces.
04-26-2010, 08:56 AM   #7
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One more thing, you do not want to find out that you have totally wrong exposure at home, you want to know while you are a the shoot.
I've got in the instant review mode (first menu, tab 3) the instant review histogram and Bright / Dark Area boxes checked.

You'll know when something is wrong from the preview and you can then always compensate.

- Bert
04-26-2010, 12:32 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by mindglow Quote
I have tried using exposure compensation for this, but in order to get decent exposures of the faces the rest of the picture get really dark.
Welcome to the challenge facing photographers for 100 years

04-26-2010, 01:49 PM   #9
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Using spot is hit and miss, and sitting that more than a couple of rows back from the stage trying to meter of someones face is more likely to be miss. I'd suggest shooting in manual for that situation.
04-26-2010, 05:06 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
Using spot is hit and miss, and sitting that more than a couple of rows back from the stage trying to meter of someones face is more likely to be miss. I'd suggest shooting in manual for that situation.
Whether an automatic/priority mode or manual mode, the metering determinations are going to be the same regardless of the metering pattern you select.
04-26-2010, 05:25 PM   #11
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If noone has mentioned it yet, try using spot metering and meeter off the the performer's face (or another equally lit spot). This will expose properly for the face. As Wheatfield notes, the shadow areas will be very underexposed. Shooting raw can provide additional flexibility in rescuing the image in post processing but it won't correct the initial exposure. Dave
04-27-2010, 01:11 PM   #12
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Blown out faces

Question: what lens are you using?
04-27-2010, 01:47 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ira Quote
Whether an automatic/priority mode or manual mode, the metering determinations are going to be the same regardless of the metering pattern you select.
Yes but in AV mode it really matters, in manual it doesn't.

The camera is continually evaluating it's metering in AV mode; reevaluating shutter speed settings and iso settings for every single shot you take. In manual it will give it's view on how much your settings are over or under, but it's only a suggestion, it doesn't actually change your shutter and iso for potentially every shot as you are under control. That's the point of manual.
04-27-2010, 03:12 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
Yes but in AV mode it really matters, in manual it doesn't.

The camera is continually evaluating it's metering in AV mode; reevaluating shutter speed settings and iso settings for every single shot you take. In manual it will give it's view on how much your settings are over or under, but it's only a suggestion, it doesn't actually change your shutter and iso for potentially every shot as you are under control. That's the point of manual.
Totally understood. And I totally missed the point you were making.

I shoot manual 99% of the time, and totally forgot the actual practical aspects of this regarding an auto mode.
04-27-2010, 06:47 PM   #15
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I just had that same challenge this past weekend. It was a dance recital and each presentation had different costumes, some black, some white and everything in between. I tend to shoot P or Tv and judging by the scene, will dial in + or - ev. In this instance I used matrix metering, not spot metering as there was a lot of movement, so focus and recompose wouldn't work for me.
This shot was ISO 6400, -0.7 ev and, although there are some blown highlights on the dancer to the right, for the most part I am pleased with it (her hat IS white however). (One thing I notice is that when I post to the forums, the pics look much softer than the original, not sure why)

(EDIT: the OP had asked about shutter speed, this was 1/200)
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Last edited by gebco; 04-27-2010 at 06:50 PM. Reason: additional info
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