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Archive 2012 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling
  
 
mbpautz762
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


I've been given a photo pass to shoot at one of my favorite musician's concerts in Atlanta (February). This is an honor for me personally because I'm a fan, but I also think it could open up a few doors if I nail it. The thing I am worried about is that I've never shot an event that has that much action in low light. If you're not familiar with her style, she dances while playing the violin, and most of her songs are very fast. She is very active on stage doing twirls, backbends, jumping, etc.

I have no idea of the lighting situation, but from what I know so far, I was planning on spot metering the face when possible and adding maybe +.5 compensation. I would be shooting manual with auto ISO and trying to keep the shutter speed around 1/250 to 1/320 at a minimum. Do you think this needs to be faster?

My other question is about autofocus. I have a D800 and would be bringing a 70-200 VRII, 35 f1.4, and maybe a 24 f1.4 as well. I honestly don't think my D800 will track her movements very well, and the burst speed is not good. Do you think I would be better off renting a D4 for the weekend? Is it noticeably better while tracking in low light?
Also, for you veteren concert shooters, what focus mode would you recommend? I usually use single point and recompose, but I feel the concert will be too fast for that to be a good idea. I usually don't trust multi-point or auto area with fast primes, but I think I might have to on this one. what do you think?
Thanks for your help - it is appreciated!!

a link to an example if you're curious. It's one of her music videos that shows the sort of action I can expect on stage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRPOztxXWlQ&feature=share&list=FLUP06f7TwMbK3LwGEnIZSiw



Dec 31, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Jim Rickards
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


The video linked is all outdoors in good light. If you are shooting a concert on stage, the usual lighting is dark, with the artist lit brightly. This can be a difficult gig.

My experience is with some school concerts with stage lighting. I found that I got better results when I did NOT let the camera meter the subject. Especially a fast moving subject. Rather, I found an exposure setting that would work, set it in Manual Mode and used it until the lighting changed. The lighting for the scene will vary wildly, but mostly the lighting of the violin player should stay fairly steady.

Shooting in RAW so you can work the white balance later is a must, IMO. Stage lights have various temperatures.

I hope others with more experience than I will add to this thread.



Dec 31, 2012 at 08:58 PM
mbpautz762
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


definitely will be shooting in RAW. I've shot weddings where the DJ brought those terrible red and purple lights for the dance floor. What a disaster! I can only imagine a concert would be worse



Dec 31, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


I've shot lots of concerts and other stage performances in all kinds of lighting situations and venues, so here are some tips. As Jim says, the ambient lighting will likely be dark, but the artist will be sufficiently lit to give you a decent exposure. The lights themselves will be bright, and if you get them in your frame, that's a plus. Black is black, so don't worry about that. My starting point for any stage performance is ISO 800 or faster, shutter priority at 1/250, and see what I get in terms of exposure on the face. If that's not enough, especially on a modern camera like the D800 or D4 (though I'm a Canon guy), just ride the ISO up to where you get good exposure at 1/250. If you can get up to 1/320 or higher, then that's great, especially for a fast moving performer. I use center-weighted average metering; don't try to spot meter a performer on stage. It's not a portrait setting, and you're likely to miss the spot more often than hit it. Metering, focusing, and recomposing will guarantee a missed shot every time, unless she's stationary. I do use the center focus point pretty exclusively, and shoot wide enough to get enough latitude to crop to an interesting angle. Be careful with your fast primes. If you're up close, the depth of field at f/1.4 will be extremely shallow, and a well-exposed but out of focus shot is useless. Almost all of my shots are at f/2.8, and depth of field with a 70-200 is good.

Use the first few frames to establish a good setting on the face, and then just go for it. I wouldn't switch over to manual exposure at that point, because conditions will change. Stay in shutter-priority, and then just go with it. Look for moments; anticipate the performer's moves. If you know the music, you're way ahead. Once you've established your baseline exposure, you can keep up with the performance. Don't wait for a shot to be there or you'll miss it. Anticipate it and go for it.

Here's a sample of a nighttime outdoor concert shot, focusing on the main performer, Greg Adams. Though he's pretty stationary at this moment, I could capture any motion he would give at these settings. He's well exposed, the lights in the back give visual interest, and black is black. Good to go. Easy.







Jan 01, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


After reading your post again, here are a couple of additional points. First, don't use auto ISO. The camera will think it needs to bring in more light than you need to properly expose for the highlights. Can you imagine the camera trying to render the shot above as 18% gray? Check your histogram during the first song. You'll want to avoid highlight clipping, but everything else can go wherever it will, as long as you don't blow the highlights on the performer. Find a good ISO and lock that in, adjusting only if there are major changes in lighting conditions. Same with spot metering; that's going to result in widely varying exposures, depending on the spot you hit. You simply can't spot meter a moving subject. You definitely don't want to try to spot meter a face, and then add exposure compensation. Fussing with exposure compensation will guarantee that you miss your shots. Find a baseline exposure setting and stay with it. That's why I use shutter-priority. It takes two of the three variables out of play (ISO and shutter speed), and with center-weighted metering, pretty much guarantees a decent exposure. For autofocus, I use AI Servo (Canon), which tracks a moving subject. I forget what the Nikon equivalent is called, but I do know it's very good.

Bottom line: find a good baseline exposure and then forget the camera during a song. The more you worry about exposure, metering, recomposing, etc, the less you focus on the performer. She's where the money is. Stay with her.

By the way, I shoot a lot of frames, and if your baseline exposure is close, shooting RAW doesn't really give you much advantage. It'll just fill up your card. Same with burst mode. The above shot is jpg, straight out of the camera.



Jan 01, 2013 at 03:25 PM
mbpautz762
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Steve - thank you very much for your information....I will definitely re-think how I do this. The tips on not worrying about the camera after getting a baseline exposure is gold. I tend to get so wrapped up in the settings that I might have missed some shots. thanks!

From what you're saying I might be better off sticking with the D800 instead of throwing a bunch of money at a D4 for the weekend. Would you still use center-weighted metering if say, the performer was wearing a black shirt that might throw it off?




Jan 01, 2013 at 05:40 PM
TractionAction
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


You do have your work cut out for you that is for sure.
Just found this video of her:
NYE Concert

I have shot many a Concert myself

What I have learned is to be sure both focus and exposure on the Musicians face is dialed. The rest will take care of itself. I always shoot raw and 100% manual. I don't use burst mode. For most shows, I was only allowed to shoot the 1st 3-4 songs, then that's it. I used a 70-200mm and 24-70mm 2/8 glass. My max iso is around 800 to prevent to much noise.

I suggest you practice your low light shooting at other concerts or similar events in your area prior to your shoot. Good luck and have fun!

Edited on Jan 03, 2013 at 05:51 PM · View previous versions



Jan 01, 2013 at 06:31 PM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Metering the exposure won't really be an issue for you. I use center-weighted because you have to use something. But in reality the only important exposure is the performer's face; once you dial that in, it'll probably stay the same throughout the performance. 99% of my performance shots are 1/250 at f/2.8. My meter might show that as underexposed, but it doesn't matter, because what's important (the face) IS properly exposed. Everything else goes where 1/250 at 2.8 gives me. If the overall scene brightens, I might get 1/250 at f/4 or more. That's a lot of latitude, so if your performer is really moving around, dial up to 1/320 or 1/500 if you can support it. And if you're going to use the D800 on this energetic performer, don't be afraid to dial up the ISO to give you that additional shutter speed. Again, a concert is one place where you don't want to let the camera "think" for you, except as a starting point.

Here's another recommendation for you. After watching a bit of her performance, I think I would definitely use a wider angle optic from time to time to get her full body and some of the stage. (I use a 16-35 f/2.8). But don't rely on a too thin depth of field at f/1.4.



Jan 01, 2013 at 07:46 PM
mbpautz762
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


ah! Thank Seve, I wasn't thinking straight when I read that the first time. hopefully I'll be able to attend the sound/lighting check and get my baseline exposure there. I don't think I need the D4 anymore after reading your info - D800 tracks well enough with the center point, but I'll miss the 10fps. I am constantly amazed how much latitude the D800 gives me if I goof an exposure.


Jan 01, 2013 at 11:08 PM
mbpautz762
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Hey Traction, I have a question for you too.... in your experience, who decides how much of the performance the photographer can shoot? The musician or the venue?


Jan 01, 2013 at 11:17 PM
 



TractionAction
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Ah...The musician (most cases), along with any conditions such as where and where not to shoot.


Jan 02, 2013 at 03:14 AM
friscoron
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


In my experience with concerts, it's been pretty standard that the photographer shoots the first three songs.


Jan 02, 2013 at 03:34 AM
Arka
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Thanks for alerting me to the fact that she's touring; I'll be going to see her in either Anaheim or San Diego. She is awesome. I imagine it's going to be tough to shoot though,since it'll be more like shooting a dance concert than a music concert.




Jan 03, 2013 at 06:50 AM
mbpautz762
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Hey Arka - if you contact her personal assistant Jennifer after getting your tickets and mention you're a photographer, she might hook you up with a photo pass for the concert. Lindsey's entire staff is very nice and approachable.

I'm hoping that since I have a good rapport with her team so far, I might get to cover the entire show instead of just a few songs. and maybe get a little better access. who knows!



Jan 03, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Michael H
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


You have some good advice here for sure. My profile link will take you to a site I manage with my friend Joe. We shoot a lot of shows...if you have any specific questions about images posted there let me know.

Shoot manual.
Relax. Don't get wrapped up in the technical details and over-think things.
Shoot manual.
Establish a starting point for your settings, and work from there.
Established manual settings.
My starting point is always 1600 / F2.8 or 3.5 / 1/250
Manually change from there.
Get a couple shots, and quickly make adjustments to your exposure. Be flexible. You have the ability to capture a look/feel you want to.
Adjust manual settings on the fly as needed. The show is professionally lit for a reason. Capturing that look can be important and manual settings will be your key to consistency.

Single point focus with expansion.

Time will go fast if you are limited to 2 or 3 songs. Get what you can while you can. Depending on the artists, the first couple of songs can often be lit similarly. This will play to your advantage when you manually lock your settings.

Did I mention shoot manual settings? The problem with any auto-mode is it tries to make everything 18% gray. This will generally result in vastly over exposed faces under the spotlights as the camera tries to balance the dark areas of the stage. Spot focus can help your starting point for the manual settings. As the popularity of LED lighting and large light walls grows your job gets even tougher. Manual will be the only effective way to consistently get good shots.

For hardware, I generally have 2 bodies. One with a 70-200, one with a 24-70. 15mm fish, 35 1.4 and sometimes even a 300/2.8 are in the bag ready to go. If I don't have the big glass everything I need is in a photo vest or a think tank belt bag or two. Your access point will determine the best fit. Keep it as simple as possible.

As your confidence in the exposure grows, start trying to be more aware of the shot and what's in it. A singer at a microphone for example. Look for moments where they have backed away from the mic showed in the face. Watch for big shadows over the face too. Little things like that.

Relax, enjoy the experience. If this is your first concert, know that you WILL mess up. You will probably miss some shots you wanted, but you will probably get some you didn't expect. It will be a learning experience for sure. You will do fine.

enjoy and be sure to share the results!

-mike



Jan 03, 2013 at 07:57 PM
mbpautz762
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Great info Michael! What do you mean by single point with expansion though? Is that single point with tracking that will expand into neighboring points?


Jan 03, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Michael H
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


mbpautz762 wrote:
Great info Michael! What do you mean by single point with expansion though? Is that single point with tracking that will expand into neighboring points?


I'm a Canon shooter, so I don't know what exact terminology might be used on Nikon. But yes, it is like you said. One primary point with the ability to shift in a somewhat controlled manner to obtain a better focus point. There is no perfect approach here, but that will help. To be honest, this is one that I debate with myself all the time. I want the focus to be on the eyes or other key elements. This will sometimes slip off.

Enjoy!



Jan 03, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Prashr
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Excellent advice by everyone. I'd like to add a little of what I've learned myself. Try and get the entire instrument in the frame along with the musician. Try not to cut off portions of the performers' limbs. Also in the video that you posted - I noticed that she does a high kick with her left leg while playing. Be on the lookout for such moves.

Shoot loose unless you're going for closeups. That way you will have room to crop and/or straighten if required. Look for interactions between band members so that you can get more than one musician in the frame.

When shooting drummers, I like to shoot short bursts as there is no way of knowing which frame will have the stick position/hair flying/tongue out etc etc all coming together.

Although you might primarily want to shoot from her right side to get her face and instrument in the picture, don't neglect shooting from the other side as well, especially if she's backlit. Look for positions from any angle where you can get the rear lights to act as a back light.

Also, if there are any banners or logos in your background, make sure you get the complete logo or banner in a couple of shots. You never know when the parent company could request it.

Lastly - *don't* forget the audience, turn around and take a few shots, especially when the lights hit them. See if you can get far enough to the side of the stage to get a wide angle shot of the performer along with the audience.

You don't have to click only when she's performing. Shots in between songs or during audience interaction could turn out to be great as well.

Good luck and don't forget to show us what you got that night.

- Prashant



Jan 03, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Brooke Meyer
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


I shoot a lot of theater and ballet. (Quit the rock stuff due to the 3 songs, stuck in the mix pit, give us your copyright, you can't show it demands.) As an odd duck shooting Pentax K-5s, f2.8. ISO 1600 and 1/320 will handle most of it. I use ISO 3200 and 6400 a lot. Put it on manual & watch your histogram. Do use a single AF point and acquire and track with the rear AF button so your shutter will be ready. And shoot raw, don't let the little man in the camera make your decisions

Variations on the advice you've already been given except for, the music will tell you what's going to happen, let it guide you. It's why you're there.



Jan 04, 2013 at 03:05 AM
mbpautz762
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Need help photographing first concert - Lindsey Stirling


Than you everyone who has contributed - I'm very excited to shoot this concert and put all your suggestions into use. She has several signature moves which I'm hoping to capture.

She has been very approachable so far and is allowing me to shoot the entire set and still retain copyrights to my images. I can share them on my website and social media too. Plus, she might be allowing me backstage a little before the show. very excited for this opportunity!



Jan 04, 2013 at 04:29 PM
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