Concert Photography 101 : Basic Camera Settings

22 01 2010

Death By Stereo : Yucca Tap Room / Tempe, AZ
Taking great photos at concerts has everything to do with knowing how to use the proper settings on your camera. I don’t care if you are shooting with a $750 camera or a $7,500 camera. If you don’t know how to use it under specific concert circumstances – you will not get the shot.

Before the show there are a couple of things I think about. Have I ever seen a show at this venue before? What access restrictions do I have? Is there a photo pit? These questions all lead up to the final question: What is the lighting like at the venue?

Light dictates all of my decisions regarding camera settings.

ISO: The simplest definition of ISO is the measure of film’s sensitivity to light. In digital photography ISO measures the digital sensor’s sensitivity to light. (For a complete explantion: click here)

I set my ISO to the lowest available setting that produces a properly lit image. I don’t like to shoot at ISO 1600+ because of the noise or extra grain in the photo. With that being said – there are situations where it can not be avoided.

How Do I Know What ISO Setting Is Right? There are two ways to quickly determine ISO settings – Test shots or live view. Use your camera’s live view mode to see when you need to push (increase) the sensor’s speed. Live view is helpful to confirm settings before and during all my concert shoots.

Shutter Speed and Lens Aperture: As I mentioned in my previous Concert Photography 101 post, before I was comfortable shooting in manual mode I relied on TV (or shutter priority mode.)

Why? For most venues I tend to max out my lens’ aperture at 1.8 or 2.8 – so there is very little thinking about aperture. When shooting in shutter priority the aperture is automatically adjusted by the internal light meter (we’ll get into metering in the next post) as I alter the shutter speed. Again use your camera’s live view function to preview the photograph. It’s typical for me to change shutter speeds as the stage lights change. Often I go from 1/125 to 1/45 during one or two songs.

These three things (ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speeds) are the simplest way to get on the right path to taking good concert photos. I suggest you practice at your house and get a feel for how your camera reacts to different light. A good experiment is to turn on all the lights in a room – take a couple of photos with different settings. Do the same with medium and dim light. Review the photos and document the settings. Why would you wait until the night of the event to experiment?

If you visit my Flickr gallery you can view my camera settings for every photo posted – take advantage of this information and get a feel for what settings you’ll need at the next show.

As always, I want to know how you do things – leave a comment and share some of your knowledge with everyone.

To view my complete photography portfolio please visit www.grtaylor2photo.com

GRT2 Self Portrait July 2009

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2 responses

22 01 2010
Yaggi Photography Kent Wedding Photographers

I’ve never tried the Live View Mode at the beginning of a shoot, but will definitely try this on my next shoot. I did, however, try shooting shutter mode the last time I wasn’t able to use flash and produced some good results.
Thanks Greg for another good post.

26 01 2010
GRTaylor2

side NOTE: The photo above of Death By Stereo definitely shows Glen E. Friedman’s influence on me as a photographer.

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