February 26, 2015, 11:15:34 PM

Author Topic: My First Concert Shoot  (Read 848 times)

drmikeinpdx

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My First Concert Shoot
« on: February 22, 2015, 12:28:28 PM »
I mostly shoot glamour/nude/naughty genres.  When I shoot in my studio under controlled conditions, the percentage of properly exposed and focused photos is very close to 100%.  Depending on the model or client I'm working with, the percentage of photos I send to them can vary from roughly 10% to roughly 70%.

Last week I tried something new.  A friend in the local live music community got me a stage pass to a blues benefit concert in Portland, Oregon at the Crystal Ballroom.   My last event photography was as a high school yearbook photographer, back in the last century, so I was looking forward to the challenge and seeing how my fancy 21st century camera gear would handle the job.

Photographing this concert was quite a challenge, even with modern equipment.  My keeper rate was 20 out of 700.  I didn't have much problem with exposure.  I just used my 5D3 on manual and did not try to adjust for the quick changes in lighting.  Nearly all of my shots had acceptable exposure.  Mostly at ISO 6400.   Lightroom easily handled the noise reduction job on the RAW images.

Most images were rejected because the performers had a microphone or some other object covering part of their face!  How rude!  LOL

I did have a big problem getting sharp images.  I'm still evaluating the reasons, but here are some that I believe are factors.

1.  Some of my lenses had a problem locking focus on the performer's faces.   I only brought three lenses, the 35mm 2.0 IS, the 50mm 1.2L and the 85mm 1.8, since I knew I would be able stand at the edge of the stage.   The 35mm had the worst focus reliability.   I suspect this is due to the focus sensor covering a larger area and picking up other high contrast objects like microphone stands.   

2.  I almost always shot wide open.   However, I could tell via my LCD screen that I was having sharpness problems and did try a few shots at smaller apertures and higher ISO.  That did not seem to help.

3.  I did not try use any kind of camera support, although I saw another photog with a monopod, so perhaps I could have used one.   One funny thing about the Crystal Ballroom is that the ancient wood floor is mounted on springs to enhance the dancing experience for the folks who used the place 100 years ago.  I could definitely feel feel the up and down motion!  So I guess maybe a monopod would not have helped.  :)

Anyway, here is one of the keepers with the 35mm F2 wide open.  I applied a lot of sharpening in Lightroom, which is not something I'm used to doing.



Here is the link to the gallery if you wish to see the other 19 keepers.

http://mikeshane.zenfolio.com/f725079218
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My First Concert Shoot
« on: February 22, 2015, 12:28:28 PM »

Marsu42

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2015, 01:45:37 PM »
Care to write what iso & shutter speeds you used (you killed the metadata from the shots)?

Most images were rejected because the performers had a microphone or some other object covering part of their face!  How rude!  LOL

That's the problem with non-posed scenes like wildlife or events - things that get in the way stack, i.e. the keeper rate is logarithmic to the quality. It's easy to get "good" shots, but "excellent" is very far in between. There's a neighboring thread on keeper rate... http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=25110.0

1.  Some of my lenses had a problem locking focus on the performer's faces.

Well, I'm not a lens guru, but esp. for events in low light there seems to be a huge difference between af systems and lenses - say the "worst case" legacy primes like 35L/50L and a snappy 24-70L2 that is designed just for this very purpose.

2.  I almost always shot wide open.   However, I could tell via my LCD screen that I was having sharpness problems and did try a few shots at smaller apertures and higher ISO.  That did not seem to help.

Play around with a dof calculator of your choice - depending on focal length and subject distance stopping down doesn't really help a lot, esp. on ff. You have to nail the focus, or else. And "wide open" your primes have a ridiculously thin dof, so either you print/view very small or you have to stop down to a dof that is equal to a fast zoom.

3.  I did not try use any kind of camera support, although I saw another photog with a monopod, so perhaps I could have used one.

Due to the short swing-in time of IS, unsng a monopod can even help with fast tracking turns. But I've seen pro photogs using a monopod in situations when I was sure it didn't help, you really need to try it. In your situation it should be useful as your lenses don't have IS and a monopod might help you stabilize when you're in a hurry and don't use perfect camera handling technique.

I applied a lot of sharpening in Lightroom, which is not something I'm used to doing.

That's the way: If the focus is hit for six, crank up the sharpening :->

Here is the link to the gallery if you wish to see the other 19 keepers.

Well, even on these there are some oof and/or motion blur - but some look just fine considering what to expect in high contrast lighting. If you do this more often, getting faster af'ing lenses might be a good idea - but otherwise I guess having a low keeper rate with these is a given, and a crafty photog never tells how many shots he/she discreetly trashed :-)

drmikeinpdx

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2015, 01:57:53 PM »
Thanks for the pointers, Marsu!

If I do more of this kind of photography, which I'd like to, I will bring longer primes.  Probably my 100mm F/2 and my 135mm F/2, maybe my 200mm F/2.   Maybe a monopod too!

I was really interested to see how the 35mm stabilized lens would work, sharpness wise.  However, due to the less than perfect focus accuracy, I could not tell if the stabilization helped much.   

I have a feeling there is a good reason why so many event photographers use a stabilized 70-200.   Although I have to admit my arms were noticeably sore after holding my relatively lightweight rig for 2 1/2 hours.  I suspect a great white lens might be a problem for me in that respect.
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tahoetoeknee

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2015, 04:17:34 PM »
It looks like the venue had good light and the players were spotted well, I shoot in a club with varying low light, sometimes no spot. I shoot my shutter speed at no less than 1/250, aperture 2.8 to 3.5 ISO 6400 and as high as 10000, here's a few shots from a shoot last sat. with half decent spots on the players. Oh and I use canon24-70mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8 and a 15mm 2.8 fisheye

mackguyver

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2015, 04:28:56 PM »
I think those came out quite well if that was your first concert.  Concerts are tough to shoot because of the darkness, changing lighting, and lack of freedom to move around a whole lot. 

That keeper rate is pretty low, so maybe we can help you sort out what might have gone wrong.  First of all, what AF mode & point or set of AF points were you using?

I tend to use f/1.2-2 primes wide open, manual mode 1/100s or faster, ISO 1600+ (whatever gets the right exposure & shutter speed).  I find single point AF works best and typically use the center point, center every shot and then crop later.

Marsu42

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #5 on: Today at 12:43:30 AM »
I tend to use f/1.2-2 primes wide open, manual mode 1/100s or faster, ISO 1600+ (whatever gets the right exposure & shutter speed).  I find single point AF works best and typically use the center point, center every shot and then crop later.

Did you compare that vs. a f2.8 standard or wide angle zoom? I'm asking because while it's a 1-2 stops slower, you can make up for this by zooming in, essentially getting less noise by cropping less - depending on how much you'd have to crop from the prime. And of course a uwa zoom should is nice if you're standing right before the performer :-)

I did some research on this once, and from my observation on concerts photogs are split between multiple primes and fast zooms. Or do you find a very fast prime is better just because it has a brighter viewfinder and you are able to frame anything at all in a dark concert?

mackguyver

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #6 on: Today at 10:13:47 AM »
I tend to use f/1.2-2 primes wide open, manual mode 1/100s or faster, ISO 1600+ (whatever gets the right exposure & shutter speed).  I find single point AF works best and typically use the center point, center every shot and then crop later.

Did you compare that vs. a f2.8 standard or wide angle zoom? I'm asking because while it's a 1-2 stops slower, you can make up for this by zooming in, essentially getting less noise by cropping less - depending on how much you'd have to crop from the prime. And of course a uwa zoom should is nice if you're standing right before the performer :-)

I did some research on this once, and from my observation on concerts photogs are split between multiple primes and fast zooms. Or do you find a very fast prime is better just because it has a brighter viewfinder and you are able to frame anything at all in a dark concert?
I've used primes because of the low light which makes AF difficult, but mostly because I've always had to sneak my gear into concerts, at least big ones.  I've done other events (where I was the photographer), but I've always used the 24L II, 50L, and 135L, with the 135L being the best by far.  I'm sure the the Mk II f/2.8 zooms would work quite well, too, but I've never tried them as I always found f/2.8 too slow for the low light events I shot.  At f/2, I was always at ISO 1600-6400 just to get 1/100s, so the extra stop wouldn't have worked well.  I don't think the viewfinder would be much different, but the AF would be harder to lock & track.

I don't really do events anymore, but concerts are a blast to shoot.  Unfortunately where I live now we don't get much in the way of good bands and it's gotten very difficult to sneak in SLRs when I go to big shows out of town. 

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #6 on: Today at 10:13:47 AM »

Besisika

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #7 on: Today at 01:37:04 PM »

Most images were rejected because the performers had a microphone or some other object covering part of their face!  How rude!  LOL

1.  Some of my lenses had a problem locking focus on the performer's faces. 
 I only brought three lenses, the 35mm 2.0 IS, the 50mm 1.2L and the 85mm 1.8, since I knew I would be able stand at the edge of the stage.   
2.  I almost always shot wide open.   

I am not professional either but shoot few of these a year, sometimes in low light, sometimes not.

I find shooting concert and boxing to be very similar. I do a lot of waiting for the moment.
I chase for 3 things:
1 - the right light: I usually don't shoot in magenta or green or red - shoot mainly yellow and I really wait for it. I need this kind of shoot for any member of the band and I prefer taking those when he/she doesn't move - these are image quality shots (1/80-100s)
2 - story: I chase for their reaction - here I go for high ISO and faster shutter speed (1/250s). I don't care about the light, I just need the right reaction.
3 - For him/her to look at me (1/100s).

I use only prime (that's because I don't own a zoom, I only recently bought 100-400 II and haven't had the chance to try it). My preference is 85mm at 1.2 for 1, 200mm 2.8 for 2 and 135mm 2.0 for 3. I will soon incorporate wide (or super wide) angle in my arsenal.
I always start with 1 then 2 then 3. Always wide open. The distance gives enough dof.
I never focus on their face, I focus on their chest and when really, really needed I use a flash trigger with assist beam.
I always shoot burst of 3 at least, sometimes 4 or even 5. My configuration is shoot first then focus, and for the second shot: focus first then shoot.
Usually, the 2nd click is the keeper, so I pre-shoot.
The key for me is waiting for the right moment. I really really pay attention to that and can go 3-4min without taking any shot until I get what I want, then I burst.
When I am the main photog, I ask for permission to use flash and when allowed I bounce it from  the other end of the room (einstein) using, usually, a lighting ratio of 35-50% flash.
When dealing with a very famous artist, I rent the 200 2.0, but it is quite heavy for a concert, hand-held.

drmikeinpdx

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #8 on: Today at 01:46:35 PM »

That keeper rate is pretty low, so maybe we can help you sort out what might have gone wrong.  First of all, what AF mode & point or set of AF points were you using?


Hi mackguyver!

I was using one shot autofocus, usually the center point, but sometimes tried various outer points. 

As this was my first concert type event shoot, I deliberately used a lot of different settings and three different lenses.  That made it hard to come to any quick conclusions.

I have now had a chance to go back through most of the photos and analyze them for the source of the blur.  I have to say that it looks like there is no single cause.  Some of them are blurry due to camera motion, some are blurry due to subject motion and some are blurry due to the focus being off.  Some blur is due to shooting wide open or at very high ISO.  Most shots actually show some blur from a combination of the above causes.

I've decided that the stabilization on the 35mm F/2 actually works quite well.  Also, that lens doesn't lose much sharpness wide open.  Now if I could just make it focus more accurately!

Virtually all of the out of focus shots with all three lenses were front-focused by a couple of feet.  This corresponds to where the microphone stands tend to be, so I'm thinking that maybe the focus sensor I'm using at the time is locking on to the bright chrome mic stand.  They do say that the sensor covers an area larger than the rectangle in the viewfinder.  Maybe I just need to be more careful with focus spot placement, or pre-focus or use the spot focus option.  More fun things to try!

One positive thing about my 5D3... i tried auto-iSO for a few dozen shots and it worked great with the metering set to "evaluative" - I was surprised at that.

Fortunately, I was just shooting for my own practice.  I do enjoy a tough photography challenge, plus it was good to see what some of the other photographers were using.

The most interesting thing I saw was a rig that consisted of a 70-200 zoom and a speedlight on some kind of 5D class body.  The interesting part was that the speedlight was rotated to the left.  So when the photographer held his rig vertically, the light pointed down at the floor of the stage about halfway between the floor and the performer.  I assume he was using floor bounce, which is a pretty clever way to illuminate the shadows under chins and on faces when the performers are wearing hats.   The color balance might be odd, but with all the colored stage lights, it doesn't make any difference.
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mackguyver

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #9 on: Today at 03:06:56 PM »
The microphone has caused me to miss many shots, so that is definitely a culprit.  It seems to magnetically pull focus...but seriously the AF sensor is definitely bigger than the square in the viewfinder.  Also, I find that AI Servo is more reliable when the musicians are moving around, as long as you use the center point.  Auto ISO works quite well in most cases if you're in or shutter priority mode.  Speaking of which, I meant to say that it's a good option, too, because it will default to wide open in low light and you can still use exposure compensation if you've got someone wearing a white shirt or something like that.   Or use a 1D X with EC in M mode :)

The floor bounce sounds interesting, but I wonder how well that works off a matte black surface that is typically what you see.  I see some people walking around with their flash set like that all the time, too - maybe it's just a way to look cool?  I'm half serious, but hopefully he knew what he was doing.  The last group I saw in the pit (I scored front row tix!) were a mix of pros and idiots.  One guy was shooting his DSLR with a f4.5-5.6 zoom in LiveView held at arm's length.  I'm sure those shots turned out well!

Personally, I think flash ruins concert photos unless it's really subtle.  Also, did you see the link to http://www.ishootshows.com/ I posted in another thread.  There's a ton of great advice on that site - he's a Nikon guy, but it translates pretty easily.

yorgasor

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #10 on: Today at 07:56:20 PM »
I've shot quite a few concerts.  These photos are from my most recent one, just the other week.  I went in with my 5D3 and my recently acquired Nikon D3s (which has low light capabilities close to the 1Dx).  The colored lights from concerts have always been a bit wonky on my 5D3 (some pinks come out seriously saturated), so I tend to make most of my concert photos B&W.  I've also found I can get better shadow recovery from B&W than from color.

D3S_9503 by yorgasor, on Flickr

D3S_0374 by yorgasor, on Flickr

D3S_0486 by yorgasor, on Flickr

For this concert, I was able to keep pretty good proximity to the stage.  I ended up mostly using my D3s with old manual focus lenses: 50mm f/1.4 AIS (shooting at f/2, otherwise you get seriously wonky flaring), a 180mm f/2.8 AIS, a 35mm Sigma ART (used at f/2, shot in manual focus, autofocus seemed way off in that lighting) and then an AF-S 85mm f/1.8 (shot at f/2) which I used with autofocus.  For this cramped stage, they didn't move around that much, so once I locked in focus, I could squeeze of several shots before I'd check again.  I was really happy with the manual focus lenses, as the AF would occasionally track the wrong item and focus wrong.  My keeper rate was surprisingly high this way. 

I was able to keep most of my lenses around f/2 and my ISO between 2000-3000.  My shutter speed was mostly 1/160, which again was fine for a mostly stationary band.  If there had been a lot of dancing, it would need to be closer to 1/320 or 1/400, which is pretty tough to do in that lighting. 

I wouldn't bother with a monopod unless I was shooting with a heavy lens.  The 300mm f/2.8 would surely be attached to a monopod.

The best thing you can do (if you have close proximity and can move around) is to use a variety of prime lenses that work well around f/2.  Move around to different vantage points, and cycle through your lenses at each point.  That way you end up with a healthy variety of photos for a scene that may not change that much.

With 50mm and smaller, you can get a pretty decent depth of field, even at f/2.  For manual focus aids, on my 5D3, I use magic lantern and turn on 5x magnification when the button is pressed halfway for precise autofocus.  On the Nikon cameras, they have a focus indicator for MF lenses, where there are arrows which tell you which way to turn to focus, and a green dot to indicate focus achieved.  I've also taken a Canon split prism focus screen and sanded it down to fit my D3s, so sometimes I used that to focus.




drmikeinpdx

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #11 on: Today at 10:47:07 PM »
Beautiful black and white work, yorgasor!  I've noticed that quite a few concert photographers favor black and white.

I was talking to a photo buddy today and he showed me a concert shot that he had processed in an interesting way after becoming frustrated at the oversaturated colors from the stage lights.   Apparently, just reducing the saturation didn't look good, so he created a second black and white version in photoshop and combined the two, moving the fade slider to taste.  It was a very interesting look.

And thanks for the tips!  You have been very helpful.  :)

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drmikeinpdx

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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #12 on: Today at 10:51:03 PM »
I find that AI Servo is more reliable when the musicians are moving around, as long as you use the center point. 

Thanks, I should experiment with AI Servo, since I have barely tried it.   Do you prefer to activate it with a half press of the shutter button or do you use the back button?
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Re: My First Concert Shoot
« Reply #12 on: Today at 10:51:03 PM »