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Gear Talk => EOS Bodies - For Stills => Topic started by: ahsanford on May 09, 2013, 03:58:57 PM

Title: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 09, 2013, 03:58:57 PM
I was fortunate enough to get a photo pass to shoot a rock concert in my area. 

I am not a pro photog by any stretch, but the chance to marry up my two great interests (music + photography) was too good to pass up.  I've attached my really crude 101-level experience and lessons learned from the activity.  I welcome the concert vets to straighten me out if I've come away with the wrong learnings.

Gear selection

   
Shooting up front
       
I got to the stage before the set and one of the organizers was on stage.  I flagged him down and he explained the classic thing I've read about:

           

Camera Settings
       

Composition lessons learned
       
                       
Output / post-processing (note I'm somewhat odd in that I just use PS's Adobe Camera RAW instead of LR, Aperture, DXO, etc.)
       

Please set me straight if I've misinterpreted the concert shooting experience with my statements above.  There may be a vital trick I am missing.

Thanks for your thoughts!

- A

Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 09, 2013, 04:22:34 PM
A few hits and one clear miss (the drum shot) to show how much I still have to learn!

Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 09, 2013, 04:29:34 PM

A few others...
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: DArora on May 09, 2013, 04:51:19 PM
Useful post & great pictures. Thanks for sharing. :)
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: LowBloodSugar on May 09, 2013, 04:51:47 PM
Thanks for sharing!  Seems like a solid workflow...
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 09, 2013, 05:01:25 PM

Can any concert vets tell me how strict the 'stay below the stage' mandate is?  Will I get bounced if I sneak the camera above stage-level?

- A
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: SithTracy on May 09, 2013, 05:58:15 PM
Awesome photos.  I took my 5dmk3 with me to my first show... no pit pass and restricted to a lens that was smaller than my fist as well to my seat.  Went w/ the EF 85mm F1.8 so I did some cropping @ 8 rows back.  No where near as good as yours but not bad for croppy's.

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8120/8698853986_a3c5e88aa6_b_d.jpg)

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8419/8698095875_657cf95565_b_d.jpg)
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: moocowe on May 09, 2013, 06:50:27 PM
I shot my first concert with the 5D3 and 70-200 IS II last week. It was a relatively small venue with poor stage lighting.

I used AV mode, f/2.8, ISO 8000, and min shutter speed set to 125th. I was pretty happy with the shots I got using those settings.

I'm looking for the same advice on post processing. The noise cleans up fine, but I'm wondering how to go about setting white balance. Iccan't get a natural skin tone due to the colours of the stage lights, so how do I choose a temperature?
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: Harry Muff on May 09, 2013, 06:55:17 PM
I shot my first concert with the 5D3 and 70-200 IS II last week. It was a relatively small venue with poor stage lighting.

I used AV mode, f/2.8, ISO 8000, and min shutter speed set to 125th. I was pretty happy with the shots I got using those settings.

I'm looking for the same advice on post processing. The noise cleans up fine, but I'm wondering how to go about setting white balance. Iccan't get a natural skin tone due to the colours of the stage lights, so how do I choose a temperature?


Just go with what looks good. It's your image and nobody knows the colour would have been at actual moment.


Gig lighting isn't about being natural.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ScottFielding on May 09, 2013, 07:02:25 PM
Very interesting read, thanks for sharing your experience, and great shots!
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: Ewinter on May 09, 2013, 07:10:11 PM
If it's skin tone under harsh gig lights- anything warm, if you're bumping the contrast, crank the luminance in red, orange and yellow channels.
Stops people looking like cheetos
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: Quasimodo on May 09, 2013, 07:27:35 PM
I was fortunate enough to get a photo pass to shoot a rock concert in my area. 

I am not a pro photog by any stretch, but the chance to marry up my two great interests (music + photography) was too good to pass up.  I've attached my really crude 101-level experience and lessons learned from the activity.  I welcome the concert vets to straighten me out if I've come away with the wrong learnings.

Gear selection

  • Faster wins.  Unless you are shooting a daytime outdoor show, you will 95% of the time be shooting close to wide open to avoid ISO values above 6400.  Faster glass will let you walk that back to 3200, 1600, etc. depending on the light.
  • Closer wins.  Shorter focal lengths handle longer shutter speeds better.  The golden rule of a maximum shutter of 1 divided by focal length is about right.   So a 50mm lens can get by with a 1/50s shutter, but a 200mm lens will need a 1/200s shutter, which often will require disastrous ISO levels.
    • So it's no surprise that I rarely see large sports glass off on the wings of concerts in large venues.  I don't think I've ever seen anything longer than an 70-300L at Coachella once the sun goes gown.  Most everyone I see in concert photo pits is carrying some sort of ultrawide (fishbowl, 14 prime, 16-35, etc.) and either a standard zoom (24-70 or 24-105) or prime (the 50 F/1.2 and the 135 F/2 are a regular sight).  Some folks pack the 70-200 as well.
    • I recognize this point (closer = better) completely dismisses the value of different glass for framing and composition, but if you want a sharp shot in this light, you have to make tradeoffs, right?
    • Also, your proximity to the stage, the size of the stage, etc. will drive the lengths you need.
  • What I brought and what I used it for:
    • Body = 5D3.  Not a selection issue for me as the alternative was my old T1i.
    • 28mm F/2.8 IS.  Not super quick, but IS on such a wide angle is super useful in the dark.  Used for wide shots up close at the stage (two guitarists in frame together, wide stage shot, etc.) as well as venue shots from the sidelines. Used it 5% of the night.  More about that later.
    • 50mm F/1.4.  This is my staple low light tool, but I noticed that it was front-focusing when I was setting up prior to the band coming out, and I didn't want to have to use MF.  It stayed in my bag until late in the night for some balcony shots as a result.  Used it for about 5% as well.  Need to set the AFMA on that and get it sorted.
    • 70-200 F/2.8 IS II.  A flagship sports / photojournalist / wedding lens, but F/2.8 is not ideal for concert lighting.  That said, there aren't many faster options at this length (other than the impressive 135mm F/2 and the comically large (but equally impressive) 200mm F/2).  Though I was planning on using the 50mm most of the night, I ended up using this 90% of the time.  It fared better than expected on focusing in low light, but the concerns of length vs. shutter speed needs obviously came up, so the ISO had to climb.  The 70mm end was not wide enough just a handful of times, but I made do.
   
Shooting up front
       
I got to the stage before the set and one of the organizers was on stage.  I flagged him down and he explained the classic thing I've read about:

  • I had fifteen minutes stage access, i.e. right at the stage (in front).  This is often phrased as being for three songs, but being a prog rock show, that could be 90 minutes.  So, for this show, it was stated as '15 minutes'.  Then I'd have to skedaddle.
  • No flash, of course.
  • No video, of course.
  • In that first 15 minutes, my head had to stay below the level of the stage, i.e. on my rear-end or kneeling.  Thais was not a traditional pit -- it was a four foot stage at a concert hall. 
    • This ended up greatly limiting my framing.  I was limited to waist up shots of the players for the most part, and shooting the drum kit was simply not happening without framing out the bottom 30% of the kit (the drum risers were not particularly high at this event).
    • This requirement effectively killed the up close / wide opportunity of the 28mm lens.  I had the awful choice of 1/3 of the VF being blocked by the stage or my two rocking guitarists being stuck in the bottom corners of a wide shot (not a good look, even after perspective correction).
  • For this show in particular, I could not mill about the aisles to shoot after the first fifteen minutes (house rules about blocking view or people leaving for the restrooms).
           

Camera Settings
       
  • RAW only.  Say this ten times.  I didn't even bother with the JPG + RAW as my card was rather full already.  With ISO 3200+ and with crazily shifting lighting, RAW is really the only way to go anyway.  JPG is useful for some shooting needs, but here, RAW is the best call.
  • Mode: I believe that Av, Tv and M all work (as always) provided you keep an eye on what you are not prioritizing. As a creature of habit, I shot aperture priority, but I was constantly working the triangle of Ap / shutter / ISO to get the best possible balance I could.   Call it 'manual shooting with metering for better exposure'.
  • Default setting was wide open or perhaps 1/3 - 2/3 stop narrower, ISO 6400 (3200 with the fast primes, perhaps).  ISO and aperture adjusted to get a more desirable shutter speed.  Exposure was generally a shade under normal (like -1/3 or -2/3 EV) as you don't necessarily want the background fully exposed (your subject will be too bright).
  • Standard (evaluative) metering -- I didn't need to mess with it at this event as the lighting was decent enough.  (Spot metering has been a prior call in some dark caves I've shot in the past.)
  • One shot focusing.  It's the most accurate unless you want to capture a burst of some David Lee Roth jump kicks (and the house lights are on).  This was not that kind of show at all.
  • Single point AF or the very small plus-shaped point cluster AF.  AF worked really well that night.  Lighting was decent.   Darker lighting + less modern AF glass = AF will hunt and you will miss shots.
  • Focused and then reframed on the wide glass (those are more DOF forgiving), but largely moved my AF point to the subject in the desired framing for the longer zoom I was using.

Composition lessons learned
       
  • Obvious, but must be restated -- shooting nearly fully open has a tiny working DOF.  F/1.4 - F/2 on the 50 prime is fine for a single subject, but if you want more than one musician in the frame, I had to do one of the following:
    • Stop the aperture down to F/5.6 - F/8, which usually meant increasing the ISO even further (i.e. 8000+)
    • Wait for the two musicians to be about the same distance away.  That happens less often than you'd like.
    • Wait for the house lights to come up.
    • Get further away, like on the balcony.  Larger distance = larger working DOF for a given aperture.
  • Move your feet.  Unless you know a band very well, your principal subject might not be where you want them to be.
  • Keyboards, mic stands can interrupt your framing, look unattractive, etc.  Again, move your feet.
  • Knowing the songs really helps.  With an emotive frontman or musician, if you know when the hook drops or the solo starts, you can time your shots for a rock face, fist pump, gospel arms, etc.
  • Don't forget the stage lighting.  Try to frame up the subject against a stage spotlight, or possibly just shoot the band member as a black silhouette in a field of color.  (Need to do that more next time.)
                       
Output / post-processing (note I'm somewhat odd in that I just use PS's Adobe Camera RAW instead of LR, Aperture, DXO, etc.)
       
  • Skintones are flat and tough looking at these high ISO settings, even on my great low light rig.  Extreme care has to be taken to avoid saturating skin tones in post processing, or your rock star looks like he spent a week in a tanning bed.  Also, software that avoids oversaturating skin tones can often fail as the stage lighting (if you didn't back it out with RAW WB processing) pulls the skin tone out of 'skin tone range'.  I need to do selective color editing in post, but I never do.  More work than I'd like.  I just did macroscopic RAW adjustments like vibrance and saturation, but at a fraction of what I'd normally do for the aforementioned skin tone reason.
  • White balance management is great with RAW, but I don't know if the goal is to subtract out the lighting tint on the subject or if I want to capture that as part of the composition.  I can do either, but I wasn't sure which to do.
  • Noise reduction is unfortunately necessary as the ISOs are high.  I generally hate what this does to details, so I do it sparingly.
  • Sharpness adjustments in RAW processing are a staple adjustment usually, but with low light it amplifies the noise.  So I generally did less sharpening to limit the noise reduction needed.

Please set me straight if I've misinterpreted the concert shooting experience with my statements above.  There may be a vital trick I am missing.

Thanks for your thoughts!

- A

Thanks for a very interesting and informative reading :)
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: RGF on May 09, 2013, 07:36:20 PM
Great pix and very helpful post.  Thanks
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: K3nt on May 10, 2013, 03:25:36 AM
Awesome post. Thank you! Brilliant advice.
I don't get the "miss" on the drum shot. I think it looks good.  :D
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ewg963 on May 10, 2013, 04:41:29 AM
I was fortunate enough to get a photo pass to shoot a rock concert in my area. 

I am not a pro photog by any stretch, but the chance to marry up my two great interests (music + photography) was too good to pass up.  I've attached my really crude 101-level experience and lessons learned from the activity.  I welcome the concert vets to straighten me out if I've come away with the wrong learnings.

Gear selection
  • Faster wins.  Unless you are shooting a daytime outdoor show, you will 95% of the time be shooting close to wide open to avoid ISO values above 6400.  Faster glass will let you walk that back to 3200, 1600, etc. depending on the light.
  • Closer wins.  Shorter focal lengths handle longer shutter speeds better.  The golden rule of a maximum shutter of 1 divided by focal length is about right.   So a 50mm lens can get by with a 1/50s shutter, but a 200mm lens will need a 1/200s shutter, which often will require disastrous ISO levels.
    • So it's no surprise that I rarely see large sports glass off on the wings of concerts in large venues.  I don't think I've ever seen anything longer than an 70-300L at Coachella once the sun goes gown.  Most everyone I see in concert photo pits is carrying some sort of ultrawide (fishbowl, 14 prime, 16-35, etc.) and either a standard zoom (24-70 or 24-105) or prime (the 50 F/1.2 and the 135 F/2 are a regular sight).  Some folks pack the 70-200 as well.
    • I recognize this point (closer = better) completely dismisses the value of different glass for framing and composition, but if you want a sharp shot in this light, you have to make tradeoffs, right?
    • Also, your proximity to the stage, the size of the stage, etc. will drive the lengths you need.
  • What I brought and what I used it for:
    • Body = 5D3.  Not a selection issue for me as the alternative was my old T1i.
    • 28mm F/2.8 IS.  Not super quick, but IS on such a wide angle is super useful in the dark.  Used for wide shots up close at the stage (two guitarists in frame together, wide stage shot, etc.) as well as venue shots from the sidelines. Used it 5% of the night.  More about that later.
    • 50mm F/1.4.  This is my staple low light tool, but I noticed that it was front-focusing when I was setting up prior to the band coming out, and I didn't want to have to use MF.  It stayed in my bag until late in the night for some balcony shots as a result.  Used it for about 5% as well.  Need to set the AFMA on that and get it sorted.
    • 70-200 F/2.8 IS II.  A flagship sports / photojournalist / wedding lens, but F/2.8 is not ideal for concert lighting.  That said, there aren't many faster options at this length (other than the impressive 135mm F/2 and the comically large (but equally impressive) 200mm F/2).  Though I was planning on using the 50mm most of the night, I ended up using this 90% of the time.  It fared better than expected on focusing in low light, but the concerns of length vs. shutter speed needs obviously came up, so the ISO had to climb.  The 70mm end was not wide enough just a handful of times, but I made do.
   
Shooting up front
       
I got to the stage before the set and one of the organizers was on stage.  I flagged him down and he explained the classic thing I've read about:

  • I had fifteen minutes stage access, i.e. right at the stage (in front).  This is often phrased as being for three songs, but being a prog rock show, that could be 90 minutes.  So, for this show, it was stated as '15 minutes'.  Then I'd have to skedaddle.
  • No flash, of course.
  • No video, of course.
  • In that first 15 minutes, my head had to stay below the level of the stage, i.e. on my rear-end or kneeling.  Thais was not a traditional pit -- it was a four foot stage at a concert hall. 
    • This ended up greatly limiting my framing.  I was limited to waist up shots of the players for the most part, and shooting the drum kit was simply not happening without framing out the bottom 30% of the kit (the drum risers were not particularly high at this event).
    • This requirement effectively killed the up close / wide opportunity of the 28mm lens.  I had the awful choice of 1/3 of the VF being blocked by the stage or my two rocking guitarists being stuck in the bottom corners of a wide shot (not a good look, even after perspective correction).
  • For this show in particular, I could not mill about the aisles to shoot after the first fifteen minutes (house rules about blocking view or people leaving for the restrooms).
           

Camera Settings
       
  • RAW only.  Say this ten times.  I didn't even bother with the JPG + RAW as my card was rather full already.  With ISO 3200+ and with crazily shifting lighting, RAW is really the only way to go anyway.  JPG is useful for some shooting needs, but here, RAW is the best call.
  • Mode: I believe that Av, Tv and M all work (as always) provided you keep an eye on what you are not prioritizing. As a creature of habit, I shot aperture priority, but I was constantly working the triangle of Ap / shutter / ISO to get the best possible balance I could.   Call it 'manual shooting with metering for better exposure'.
  • Default setting was wide open or perhaps 1/3 - 2/3 stop narrower, ISO 6400 (3200 with the fast primes, perhaps).  ISO and aperture adjusted to get a more desirable shutter speed.  Exposure was generally a shade under normal (like -1/3 or -2/3 EV) as you don't necessarily want the background fully exposed (your subject will be too bright).
  • Standard (evaluative) metering -- I didn't need to mess with it at this event as the lighting was decent enough.  (Spot metering has been a prior call in some dark caves I've shot in the past.)
  • One shot focusing.  It's the most accurate unless you want to capture a burst of some David Lee Roth jump kicks (and the house lights are on).  This was not that kind of show at all.
  • Single point AF or the very small plus-shaped point cluster AF.  AF worked really well that night.  Lighting was decent.   Darker lighting + less modern AF glass = AF will hunt and you will miss shots.
  • Focused and then reframed on the wide glass (those are more DOF forgiving), but largely moved my AF point to the subject in the desired framing for the longer zoom I was using.

Composition lessons learned
       
  • Obvious, but must be restated -- shooting nearly fully open has a tiny working DOF.  F/1.4 - F/2 on the 50 prime is fine for a single subject, but if you want more than one musician in the frame, I had to do one of the following:
    • Stop the aperture down to F/5.6 - F/8, which usually meant increasing the ISO even further (i.e. 8000+)
    • Wait for the two musicians to be about the same distance away.  That happens less often than you'd like.
    • Wait for the house lights to come up.
    • Get further away, like on the balcony.  Larger distance = larger working DOF for a given aperture.
  • Move your feet.  Unless you know a band very well, your principal subject might not be where you want them to be.
  • Keyboards, mic stands can interrupt your framing, look unattractive, etc.  Again, move your feet.
  • Knowing the songs really helps.  With an emotive frontman or musician, if you know when the hook drops or the solo starts, you can time your shots for a rock face, fist pump, gospel arms, etc.
  • Don't forget the stage lighting.  Try to frame up the subject against a stage spotlight, or possibly just shoot the band member as a black silhouette in a field of color.  (Need to do that more next time.)
                       
Output / post-processing (note I'm somewhat odd in that I just use PS's Adobe Camera RAW instead of LR, Aperture, DXO, etc.)
       
  • Skintones are flat and tough looking at these high ISO settings, even on my great low light rig.  Extreme care has to be taken to avoid saturating skin tones in post processing, or your rock star looks like he spent a week in a tanning bed.  Also, software that avoids oversaturating skin tones can often fail as the stage lighting (if you didn't back it out with RAW WB processing) pulls the skin tone out of 'skin tone range'.  I need to do selective color editing in post, but I never do.  More work than I'd like.  I just did macroscopic RAW adjustments like vibrance and saturation, but at a fraction of what I'd normally do for the aforementioned skin tone reason.
  • White balance management is great with RAW, but I don't know if the goal is to subtract out the lighting tint on the subject or if I want to capture that as part of the composition.  I can do either, but I wasn't sure which to do.
  • Noise reduction is unfortunately necessary as the ISOs are high.  I generally hate what this does to details, so I do it sparingly.
  • Sharpness adjustments in RAW processing are a staple adjustment usually, but with low light it amplifies the noise.  So I generally did less sharpening to limit the noise reduction needed.

Please set me straight if I've misinterpreted the concert shooting experience with my statements above.  There may be a vital trick I am missing.

Thanks for your thoughts!

- A
A few hits and one clear miss (the drum shot) to show how much I still have to learn!
Great post and pics and thank you  :) I really liked the drummer pose.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: markojakatri on May 10, 2013, 05:34:56 AM
I have good experiences of using 70-200/2.8 IS II in events. 85/1.2 II is also very good lens for low light as well as 135/2L which you mentioned. Get close to capture THE FEELING. Check some of my  Air Guitar World Championship (http://www.markojakatri.fi/tapahtumien-valokuvaaminen-air-guitar-world-championship-ilmakitara) photos from last year.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: Eli on May 10, 2013, 06:09:06 AM
How'd you manage to get the pass?
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: celliottuk on May 10, 2013, 06:12:30 AM
This is an excellent write-up. I think it's great that you have taken the time to help the community.

I would like to add a couple of other pointers (I have been doing concert photography for 5 years, and got a whole lot of things wrong in the first years, so this is a list of my "Battle scars")

1.Make friends with security. If you have time to get to the venue early, talk to them, they are really great people (in the most part), and will make your life a whole load easier, and might even give you access to areas that you really shouldn't have access to.
2.Do what security say! It doesn't matter if you have a photogs pass, if security ask you to move, or whatever, MOVE-you won't be able to hear why they want you to move, and having a conversation with them is impossible. Failure to comply with their wishes inevitably and quickly leads to you being removed from wherever you are.
3.Use two cameras. You don't have time to change lenses
4.Learn how to replace a memory card(or change lenses if that's what you need to do) in complete darkness
5.If you are in the photographers pit, don't stand for any longer than necessary in one position, you will annoy the fans, and either they will give you a crafty thump in the back, or they will ask security to remove you, either way, not good
6. General band photography (i.e. doing all the bands in a multi-band line-up) is generally not permitted, regardless of what your pass says, you need the permission of each bands management to take photos. If you don't have that, again, security will be called
7. Take crowd reaction shots. The bands just LOVE pictures of the crowd going wild
8. The bigger the band(Later on in the event), the more of a  light show they get, so, if you are shooting an early band, be ready to push the ISO as high as you can get it without totally intrusive noise appearing in the shots
9. Take a few "Safety shots" in automatic, then move to fully manual, you will end up with much more impactful shots that show the band being flooded with light, or maybe, just getting a musician with a little rim light.
10.Listen to the music. The lighting may be tuned to the music that's being played, and by timing your shot to go with the beat, you might end up with a better lit target.
12. Wear ear plugs! I'm now pretty deaf as a result of being in the photographers pit for too many hours, which is right next to the speakers. Don't end up like me!
13. If you are in competition with other photographers a) respect their needs-don't get in the way of their shots b)Get your shots off to the commissioning magazines/web-sites/e-zines, before the other guys do. (You are in competition with them!) "Fast" is commonly better than "Best", when it comes to what shots an editor chooses
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: CanadianInvestor on May 10, 2013, 06:22:08 AM

Thank you for this informative and exhaustive Instruction Manual.  I go to a few gigs and now will have to find a means of getting in as a photographer and at least pretend to know what I am doing.  However, I really like to enjoy the music and the atmosphere and therein lies my problem!

Thanks, again.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: Click on May 10, 2013, 07:08:59 AM
@ ahsanford

Great post. Very useful information. Thank you for sharing.  :)
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 10, 2013, 10:42:06 AM
I have good experiences of using 70-200/2.8 IS II in events. 85/1.2 II is also very good lens for low light as well as 135/2L which you mentioned. Get close to capture THE FEELING. Check some of my  Air Guitar World Championship (http://www.markojakatri.fi/tapahtumien-valokuvaaminen-air-guitar-world-championship-ilmakitara) photos from last year.

I've heard of this event.  Crazy.  Great, great shots.

- A
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 10, 2013, 10:45:08 AM
How'd you manage to get the pass?

I actually had two 'ins' to get one at this event.  My friend runs a large music blog (large staff, many writers) and it counts as press.  He could have played that card, but he didn't have to.  He previously interviewed one of the acts over the phone, and just dropped that artist a request on his twitter feed.  The artist himself green-lit the request.

- A
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 10, 2013, 10:55:52 AM
This is an excellent write-up. I think it's great that you have taken the time to help the community.

I would like to add a couple of other pointers (I have been doing concert photography for 5 years, and got a whole lot of things wrong in the first years, so this is a list of my "Battle scars")

1.Make friends with security. If you have time to get to the venue early, talk to them, they are really great people (in the most part), and will make your life a whole load easier, and might even give you access to areas that you really shouldn't have access to.
2.Do what security say! It doesn't matter if you have a photogs pass, if security ask you to move, or whatever, MOVE-you won't be able to hear why they want you to move, and having a conversation with them is impossible. Failure to comply with their wishes inevitably and quickly leads to you being removed from wherever you are.
3.Use two cameras. You don't have time to change lenses
4.Learn how to replace a memory card(or change lenses if that's what you need to do) in complete darkness
5.If you are in the photographers pit, don't stand for any longer than necessary in one position, you will annoy the fans, and either they will give you a crafty thump in the back, or they will ask security to remove you, either way, not good
6. General band photography (i.e. doing all the bands in a multi-band line-up) is generally not permitted, regardless of what your pass says, you need the permission of each bands management to take photos. If you don't have that, again, security will be called
7. Take crowd reaction shots. The bands just LOVE pictures of the crowd going wild
8. The bigger the band(Later on in the event), the more of a  light show they get, so, if you are shooting an early band, be ready to push the ISO as high as you can get it without totally intrusive noise appearing in the shots
9. Take a few "Safety shots" in automatic, then move to fully manual, you will end up with much more impactful shots that show the band being flooded with light, or maybe, just getting a musician with a little rim light.
10.Listen to the music. The lighting may be tuned to the music that's being played, and by timing your shot to go with the beat, you might end up with a better lit target.
12. Wear ear plugs! I'm now pretty deaf as a result of being in the photographers pit for too many hours, which is right next to the speakers. Don't end up like me!
13. If you are in competition with other photographers a) respect their needs-don't get in the way of their shots b)Get your shots off to the commissioning magazines/web-sites/e-zines, before the other guys do. (You are in competition with them!) "Fast" is commonly better than "Best", when it comes to what shots an editor chooses

Thanks for the veteran feedback!  Excellent comments.

It spurs a few more thoughts on my part (numbered to yours above):

1) Along the lines of making friends with security, make friends with the other photographers.  If you are approaching their spot, be polite, use your hands to point to spot with an 'is that okay?' look (as they can't hear you).  Also, my editor friend said never hoist your camera above your head to get a shot -- it has a good chance to ruining another photographer's shot (also, at this venue, getting above stage level was a no-no).

3) My second body is a rebel and likely would have been devoured by the darkness, but yes, having two cameras are certainly a huge advantage.  I managed changing a lens in about 20 seconds at this show, but it was 20 seconds I could have been shooting and I could have clumsily dropped the lens in that darkness...

12) Essential point, thanks -- I don't care how tough you think you are, ear plugs are a must.


Thx for the great feedback, celliottuk.  It is truly appreciated!

- A
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 10, 2013, 10:58:26 AM

However, I really like to enjoy the music and the atmosphere and therein lies my problem!

Thanks, again.

I understand completely.  My editor friend who got me in was quick to say 'get your shots out of the way and then get your gear out of the way.'  He knew I loved the bands on stage that night, and that once my fifteeen minutes was up I should enjoy the music and not try to squeeze 1-2 more keepers out from the crowd.

- A
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: privatebydesign on May 10, 2013, 11:14:24 AM
One more thing I have done several times and is a very good door opener. Print some cards, doesn't need to be anything fancy but with your email and preferably a blog on there. Take pictures of the crew, stagehands, lighting guys sound booths etc etc give them all a card and get your images up online somewhere.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: silvestography on May 10, 2013, 11:58:36 AM
Great job to the OP. I'm quite young (16) and just started doing concert photos. I shoot for a couple blogs (any philadelphia people might be familiar with 88.5 WXPN - I am shooting for them a bunch this summer). Another thing I might add is that if you're shooting manual, which I do basically 100% of the time, you have to remind yourself to change your exposure with the lighting, just as if you were chasing a setting sun. Also, different colored lights give a different impression of exposure; for example, I find purple and red call for a slight overexposure, while colors like green and even more yellow, which tend to be brighter because they're generally closer to skin tones, call for a slight underexposure.

If anyone has the time, I'd really appreciate someone heading over to my blog, http://silvestography.tumblr.com (http://silvestography.tumblr.com) and potentially give some pointers that I can keep in mind the next time I shoot. Cheers all.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: markojakatri on May 10, 2013, 04:04:38 PM


I've heard of this event.  Crazy.  Great, great shots.

- A
[/quote]

Thanks. Yeah it was and is awesome happening :). OP had great tips and I can totally agree with them :)
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: archiea on May 12, 2013, 12:08:52 AM
I shot my first concert with the 5D3 and 70-200 IS II last week. It was a relatively small venue with poor stage lighting.

I used AV mode, f/2.8, ISO 8000, and min shutter speed set to 125th. I was pretty happy with the shots I got using those settings.

I'm looking for the same advice on post processing. The noise cleans up fine, but I'm wondering how to go about setting white balance. Iccan't get a natural skin tone due to the colours of the stage lights, so how do I choose a temperature?

Usually in bars I'm like 2500K or tungsten since thats usually the predominant light.  I would go for a color temp that matches what you see on stage.

Post solution for skin tones:

You can have images that look identical to the stage, but as a photo (as opposed to video) the particular light on the subject may just be unflattering.  If shooting canons, the reds will get overexposed quickly, causing fleshtones to clip sometimes.

Talking strictly Lightroom, but applicable in other apps, I do the following for facial skin tones:

1) Adjustment Brush the face... possibly hands if they are near the face.  this may take some detail brushing to avoid eyes, teeth and hair,  but its actually somewhat forgiving.
Some options here:
2) Re-whitebalance the face using the adjustment brush controls.
or
2) desaturate the face, then use color tint in the adjustment brush controls to re-recolor the face.
3) You may need to adjust contrast/noise/sharpenss afterwards

other additional adjustments I do in the same step is add clarity to men's face, remove it for women.

Otherways the color tint works for concert shots: if you have an unflattering color from a light hitting the subject.  I had this image where a green light was falling a performer's hand.  Tinting it using a complementary color (in this case magenta/purple) helped neutralize the contamination. Otherwise, the above technique of desaturation and colorization applies as well.

Great tips everyone! thanks!
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: AudioGlenn on May 12, 2013, 12:54:27 AM
Thanks to the OP for sharing with the community.  very informative.  I try to do an outline like this for myself after every wedding I shoot. 
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: beckstoy on May 12, 2013, 08:45:22 PM
I've LOVED this thread because I'm dying to get more into this arena.  I've been directly asked to shoot band performances before, but never done the whole Press Pass thing. 

So, for all of you guys who do lots of this:  What should I do to start obtaining these Press Passes?  Do I need to work for/represent a publication directly? 

There are several concerts I'd love to shoot which are coming up.  I'd really like to make this happen.

Thanks in advance for your help!
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: silvestography on May 13, 2013, 01:13:04 AM
I've LOVED this thread because I'm dying to get more into this arena.  I've been directly asked to shoot band performances before, but never done the whole Press Pass thing. 

So, for all of you guys who do lots of this:  What should I do to start obtaining these Press Passes?  Do I need to work for/represent a publication directly? 

There are several concerts I'd love to shoot which are coming up.  I'd really like to make this happen.

Thanks in advance for your help!

If the person in charge of handling press for the band is nice, you really don't need any major credentials. I shot the xx simply by sending some emails, first to the venue to ask with whom I should get in touch to ask about something like that, and then to the contact they provided, who was very nice about making sure I had my pass and even responded to phone calls when my name wasn't on the list at the venue to sort things out. Other times, you'll get shut down, like by the Toro y Moi press manager, who basically said that since I'm not shooting for any super major publications (I would have been shooting for a really small music blog), they didn't want me in. That said, I know some people who were shooting for fun and got in, so I guess it really depends on who you contact.

If you can get yourself shooting for a blog, like for your local radio station, they'll handle all that for you, and obviously since it's a radio station they'll have a lot easer of a time getting you in.

Personally, I believe that since it's that easy to get in, there's no reason not to. It's a great exercise in photography, plus you get to go to a concert for free.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: celliottuk on May 13, 2013, 02:56:34 AM
I've LOVED this thread because I'm dying to get more into this arena.  I've been directly asked to shoot band performances before, but never done the whole Press Pass thing. 

So, for all of you guys who do lots of this:  What should I do to start obtaining these Press Passes?  Do I need to work for/represent a publication directly? 

There are several concerts I'd love to shoot which are coming up.  I'd really like to make this happen.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Who owns what rights at a concert, and who has the ability to issue passes and under what circumstances  is a complex issue, I'll try and give some guidlines, but always check them.
1.Small/Pub gig. The band have all rights, talk to them directly, but also check with the venue
2.Club gig. The band will have passed image control to their management company, and / or record company. Check with them, and the venue.
3.Working for a radio station/e-zine etc. The venue may have asked a radio station to cover the gig, after all, it's good publicity. The contract between the Venue, the promoter, and the artists, will state that photography will take place, HOWEVER, not all bands will sign that clause (For instance, getting a shot of Axl Rose, is, I guarantee, impossible). You will be told by security who you can, and cannot take shots of
4.Medium sized Concert (Up to 10,000 people) The concert organisers may have negotiated all image rights on a particular stage(Normally the main stage) to a Video production Company, so you may be allowed to take shots on the other stages, but not the main stage.
5. Large venues. Everyone wants to cover these, and passes will be in short supply. Really your only chance to to be an act-specific photographer, where the artists invite you specifically, or to work for a large, well known organisation/e-zine/magazine/record company (BTW, the concept of "Staff photographer" has more-or-less died, when I say "Work for", I really mean "Accredited by, or sponsored by")

There's a negotiation that goes on between bands, band management, promoter, record company, venue, other "Workers"-such as sound crew and lighting techs, and media which is a real dance, there are no real hard and fast rules. So I can only say that should should apply early via whatever "In" you have, be persistent-but pleasant. Your best "In" is via the band, and ultimately, they have the biggest say in what goes on.
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: tobiasv on May 13, 2013, 03:23:09 AM
Nice pictures of these Transatlantic guys!
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: beckstoy on May 13, 2013, 10:02:17 AM
Really good info!  Thanks, everyone!
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 13, 2013, 04:04:37 PM
I've LOVED this thread because I'm dying to get more into this arena.  I've been directly asked to shoot band performances before, but never done the whole Press Pass thing. 

So, for all of you guys who do lots of this:  What should I do to start obtaining these Press Passes?  Do I need to work for/represent a publication directly? 

There are several concerts I'd love to shoot which are coming up.  I'd really like to make this happen.

Thanks in advance for your help!


Off the cuff, I'd recommend approaching local papers (with an entertainment presence, section, etc.)  and local music blogs and ask if they need a photographer for shows.  Offer to work for free, take what shows you can, and build up a portfolio.

Not being a pro, I wish I could be of more help -- I just fell into this opportunity because I knew someone in the music press.

Good luck,
A
Title: Re: First photo pass to a concert! Lessons learned...
Post by: ahsanford on May 13, 2013, 04:08:14 PM
Nice pictures of these Transatlantic guys!

Lol, it took until Page 3 before the prog fan identified the act.  Technically, the shots were of The Flower Kings followed by The Neal Morse Band, but there was a Transatlantic encore. 

As the OP, shame on me for leaving the topic.  :-P

- A