Archive for August, 2008

I’ve had a blog for awhile, however now I figured a way to make it more efficient. That being said I’m going to cut right to the cheese.

On Monday the 11th of August a local Syracuse (NY) band had me come to their first show in Rochester (NY). They brought me in because of, as they called it, “your gnarly way to shoot bands.” I’ve been shooting bands for quite some time now, mostly in the punk/hardcore scene because many of my friends are in those types of bands. One of the great things about that style music is that shows are usually held in small clubs and very intimate. Granted this show was held at the Penny Arcade which is sizable, the majority of shows I shoot are rooms the size of a studio apartment.

Ok, down to business. The only way to get good live band shots is to get right up in the thick of things. Generally you can get away with this at small club shows but kissing up to a promoter or being pals with a band, it shouldn’t be hard, they’re people too. Generally a decent venue has some sort of stage lighting (example right) so you will be able to lower your flashes power. I shoot a Canon 430 Speedlite and picture right was @ 1/16 power. Naturally this helps with preventing over-exposure and making your job easier in post (which was limited).  I tend to keep a nice open aperture between 3.5 – 5.0 to create a nice shallow depth of field.

The key, for me at least, is to get right into the action. Noboy wants to see pictures from the crowds point of view, and the band that’s paying you to shoot them certainly doesn’t want sub-par shots to use. Thus I get right on stage (if there is one) usually next to the stacked monitors stage left or right. One trick that I try to avoid is the blindly holding the camera up and praying to god I get the shot technique made popular with inexpensive D-SLR cameras in the 21st century. If you have a photo pass, take a second to frame the shot.

If you do have to do the Aim and Pray method at least make sure you’re using a speedlite mounted on your camera; the infrared light should go off and act as some sort of framing mechinism. I have done the Aim and Pray method in shows that are in small rooms where kids are jumping each other and beating each other to oblivion. You will get some okay shots by attempting the Aim and Pray method, but if we’re trying to front

ourselves as ‘professional’ then we might as well frame the shot. It is difficult during a small club show, there’s no denying that.

One thing I immediately do upon arriving home from a show is loading the shots into Adobe Ligthroom. If you don’t use Lightroom, you need to. Adobe offers a free trial at their website, that’s how I figured it out. After tagging and bagging and keywording everything I get right into the develop module and come up with a look I want. Mind you, it’s incredibly easy to apply presets to your photo’s in Lightroom, but they are just guidlines. The photo to the left is a preset I actually made using some exposure corrections and split-toning. One of the new features in Lightroom 2 that I have fallen in love with is the post crop vignetting. It’s quite a powerful little add-on from Lightroom 1.4, it gives you tremendous flexibility to feather and shape your vignette to get the look you desire. This particular boarder effect I made reminded me of an old medium format edge, so I applied it to the (now) above photo and the rest in the set.

One of the things I strive to do when I import band photos is try to come up with a different ‘look’ to each band. This distinguishes all the bands that played the same show apart from one another. Plus it gives me a reason as a color corrector to develop new looks.

The best advice I can give to someone looking to shoot small concerts is to simply get in the thick of it, without being a nuisance to the band or he spectators; no Aim and Pray; shoot manual (absolutely positively never automatic); and watch out for stage dives.

That’s about it for now, until next time;

– Benson

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