Photo Feature: Live Music!
Taking photos at gigs is always tricky, for a number of reasons – as you’ll probably know if you’ve ever tried it! This is probably one of the styles of photography where I do the most post-editing… but why, what are the main issues you face?
The biggest issue, of course, is that the lighting is not uniform… think frequent bursts of coloured light, strobe lighting, darkly lit parts of the stage… it’s an exposure nightmare! What can you do about it? Well, often not enough to remedy the issue completely! You just have to get the exposure as close as you can to the correct setting… start with an aperture setting of between f1.8 and f2.8 to let in the most light (but you may well still need to change the levels when you get back to your computer). The other thing you can do that will help with the light issue is to set a high ISO – start at ISO 1600 and see how you get on (but bear in mind this may mean the final images are slightly grainy).
Next, if you’re standing in the mosh pit down the front, just staying on your feet can be difficult, let alone trying to line up a perfectly composed shot! Trying to avoid camera shake can be tricky and, unless you have a press pass, there is no way you are getting a tripod into a gig with you… so you just need to be ready to shoot at the calmest moment, when you can stand as still as possible. A fast shutter speed will help, but the issue with that in this environment is that it may not let enough light in… so experiment with your ISO, aperture and shutter speed (the exposure triangle) and see what combination of settings works best. Maybe start with a shutter speed of around 1/200 or faster to freeze movement – if you are watching a band, singers in particularly move around a lot so unless you want to capture a blur across the stage, use a fast shutter speed! (Although you can also get some great effects with blurred action, so don’t be afraid to give that a go too!)
Taking an expensive DSLR camera to a gig is often not feasible (due to the risk of loss, damage, etc). So, often you’ve got to make do with your smartphone and all the limitations that brings with it. Saying that, I have got some reasonable shots with my iPhone. The biggest issue with phone cameras of course is that when you zoom in the quality is pretty poor so unless you are very close to the front, you won’t be able to get decent close ups of the band – although that doesn’t mean you can’t get other decent shots!
But, if I’m being honest, I quite like gig photos where the final image is not technically perfect – that feeling of movement and excitement can be portrayed perfectly in a slightly shaky, off centre, dimly lit image. So get out there and give it a go – with a little trial and error you should be able to get some great shots! Photography is all about practice after all…
Have you taken many photos at gigs? How did they come out – let me know in the comments?