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Author Topic: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting  (Read 5150 times)

Chris Burch

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Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« on: September 21, 2012, 06:42:03 PM »
I have heard people complain about LED lights and excessive blown highlights, but I finally ran into a problem with it this week.  Unfortunately it's on performers' faces.  Here are 2 shots that were perfectly exposed for the subject but pretty much unusable in color because of the blown out faces.  Dropping down the highlights in Lightroom made it look even worse.  Converting to B&W makes it reasonable.

Both pics shot with a 5D3, 70-200 f/2.8II, ISO 3200, 1/100, f4.0, daylight wb.  Straight conversion to jpeg with no other adjustments.
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Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« on: September 21, 2012, 06:42:03 PM »

mirekti

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2012, 06:49:14 PM »

OMG this looks nasty, especially the drummer's face!!
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CharlieB

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2012, 09:39:00 AM »
Stage lighting is a real pain to work with.  Stages are always lit for audience effect, not for photographers (unless the performance is being filmed or televised).

One thing that does come to mind, is the skin tone on the female singer.  I'm wondering if she is actually a bit over exposed.  Not to sound racially motivated, but her skin tone in the images is perhaps lighter than it should be, suggesting a little over exposure.  I know its very hard to estimate, because skin tone varies a whole lot in individuals.  She looks very nice in the images, but I don't know how she actually appeared.  Everyone, please think of what I said as a technical comment from a guy who has shot more than his share of mixed race weddings... jeeze... ugh.. the lighting, not someone trying to make some racial statement.

I've shot my share of jazz bands too.  Often, stage lighting is moody... extreme, dramatic, sparse, and not what you want.  My fallback for those jazz bands was always an M3 Leica with 35mm and 90mm lenses, and either 2475 Recording or later the Illford 3200 high speed stuff... processed very very carefully (for grain reduction).

I think you could have used a stop less exposure and corrected in post... maybe a stop and a half.

This is maybe strange, but I'm thinking about bird photography for a moment.  I remember three weeks of shooting birds down at Flamingo in the Everglades.  Had a terrible time with some white herons.  They simply did not meter.  This was film days, but I was shooting K200 in 35mm and 120 sizes.   Out for processing.... back in three days.  Total crap.  Had to find the birds... shoot again... still crap.  The only determination I could make was the birds plumage was reflecting in a way that the meter could not see.  I was using a Pentax digital spotmeter, and the small area meter on Canon F1 cameras.  They literally glowed... not unlike "glowing" of certain laundered white clothes under UV lighting.   I'm wondering if some of that is going on in the digital world, as represented by your images.


Chris Burch

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2012, 03:15:34 AM »
The conversion from raw to jpeg makes the skin tones look more over exposed than they really are, but I could have gone a little darker I suppose.  Regardless, I've never seen the level of distortion on a face like the one behind her.  The only time I've seen that much blowout is straight out of the light itself, not when reflected.

After I finished editing the entire shoot, it was the magenta lights that were most problematic.  I did see it again under blue lights, but not as badly as the magenta.  It's like certain color channels were overloaded in the camera.

I pulled down the magenta and did some spot exposure reduction to make the face in the center less noticeable.  For the wider shot, converting to B&W made it pretty usable.
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stringfellow1946

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2012, 05:14:26 AM »
Yes I know what you mean with the LED lighting; also what I find even worse is the use of smoke machines. At the bigger festivals / gigs its the first 3 songs of any act & no flash so you have to be very quick.
What I do now is take individual photos of the main members of the band/group waiting for the lights to change until something comes up that’s usable. Failing that, then its convert everything to black & white & you then you might have something that’s hopefully usable. I also switch to spot metering a lot of the time.
With your first 2 photo’s I personally would just crop them for the singer, the bass player has a microphone in front of him (totally unusable in IMHO) & like you have said the drummer & the piano player the highlights are blown.
For me personally the noise/grain in rock group photos does not bother me in the slightest in fact I think it can add to the atmosphere of the photo. (But that’s just my opinion). I quite happily shoot at anywhere between 4000- 16,000 ISO.
Hope that’s of some help but I suspect other photographers do things totally different to what I do.

These might give you some idea of what I’m trying to say believe me the lighting & the smoke was really bad when this group were on stage.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.387308171337543.87339.149059145162448&type=1
 
The lighting was even worse when Gary Numan was on stage, very very dark & more smoke than bonfire night. The two red photos I included just to show how difficult things can get. So it’s just a matter of waiting for the lights to hopefully become useable.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.387306571337703.87337.149059145162448&type=1
 
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pwp

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2012, 06:36:32 AM »
Welcome to stage photography. The lighting ratios are not going to be set up for your benefit. It can be a real challenge. I tend to expose for the main action/subject which you have done with the singer. You just have to surrender to the fact that other areas will be over-lit or under-lit. It's all part of the "look" of stage photography and I think there is a lot of "licence" given to the fact that images may have blown out areas. It's reality.

I often just focus in on individuals and build a picture story of the production over a series of images. When the lighting is more even, that's the moment to grab your overall shots. It's handy having two or three bodies ready with different lenses so you're always ready for the changes. That perfect lighting moment may only be there for a moment. Stay with it, shoot heavily and be a tough editor.

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2012, 08:33:59 AM »
Seems like DR limitations in this scenario.

Looks like you correctly exposed the lead singer for the most part, but given the strong magenta lights on the drummer, perhaps "under" exposing the lead singer might have given some more DR coverage and "pullability" in post...

PS: B&W makes many over exposed shots look good...
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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2012, 08:33:59 AM »

pixbylorne

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2012, 08:55:02 AM »
Welcome to the world of stage lighting, you learn to love it or move on.  IMO, LED lighting should not be used on people!!!!! It is great for lighting backdrops or rigging-only! Sound and light people know this, but LEDs are cheap and do not draw much power, sadly, they area being used more and more. If you regularly work a particular club or event have this conversation with people in charge.

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2012, 09:28:06 AM »
You do realize that this is how the Men in Black were able to identify aliens?  Of course they had these digital detectors surgically implanted behind their eyes.

The aliens have a really, really odd response to magenta light that reveals their false corporeality.  Somehow the nera-infrared component of the magenta light is able to pass right through the "fake" atoms that are part of their extra-skeleton. What you are seeing is their underlying nondimensionality.

Not much to do but notify the authorities.  You might also let the folks at CERN know.  They were looking for evidence of some of these particles that help create the exoskeleton in their latest experiments. Anti-electrons and that sort of thing. Just don't touch them please!

Cheers!  Good luck!
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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2012, 10:39:58 AM »
As someone who does a lot of live music photography (mostly for fun, occasionally for profit), I feel your pain! I've had this problem many times in the past.

The main problem as far as I can tell is is that the metering systems of most cameras do not see certain colours correctly, even spot metering your subject doesn't work well when dealing with pink,red, green or blue lights. red and pink are by the worst in my opinion. I find that both LED and gelled tungsten lighting are nearly as bad as each other. 

My solution to the problem is to ignore the meter, and instead expose manually using the RGB histogram to check for clipping.

I had to use this technique at a gig last friday, The venue had pink, blue and orange gelled lights:
 http://500px.com/michaeleast/sets/breakfast_with_apollo_2_2012_09_21

The colour balance is far from perfect, but it was the best I could do in the circumstances.

My advice would be to use manual mode if you can, or aperture/shutter priority with as much exposure compensation as you need to stop the highlights blowing out.  On Friday I had to underexpose by as much as 4 stops at times to prevent the highlights clipping!

The 5D Mark 3's highlight alert playback mode be quite useful to show if anything is clipping.

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2012, 11:04:22 AM »
By now, You know its a common problem.  As you boost ISO's, DR falls.  I've never knowingly shot where led lighting was used. but I still find it near impossible to get everyone properly exposed.  This is where the D800 with its additional DR can make a difference, as long as the ISO stays low.  Its about the only practical advantage to the D800 over my 5D Mark II.  At high ISO's, the 5D Mark III has more DR than the D800.

Chris Burch

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2012, 12:26:03 PM »
Thanks for the feedback.  I shoot lots of stage photography, but have never encountered an instance with the highlights get this blown out in a freakish way.  It's the posterization that bothers me the most...it's very distracting in the photos.  If it was an even blow-out, I wouldn't really mind...this makes it look like an alien head right behind my singer -- not cool. 

I was shooting all manual by the way -- exposure was set for the main singer, not the band.  I guess next time I'll play around with overall exposure to balance for the highlights.  I shot video of the same scene with my 1DX and am quite curious to see how that came out.
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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2012, 04:15:40 PM »
I've seen something similar to that when using Lightroom 3 and using the highlight recovery slider. If pushed too far, the highlights look awful and are often better without the highlight recovery. Use of the clarity slider also has weird effects. I've noticed that Lightroom 4 is much better at recovering the highlight areas. Something else that causes havoc with highlights is use of lens blur in photoshop. I found that out when trying out something to get the desaturated movie effect on some photos, mainly just to try out the technique. I suspect that some lenses may also result in similar effects in the out of focus areas in some lighting conditions.
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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2012, 04:15:40 PM »

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2012, 04:49:06 PM »
Underexpose and try to recover whats left. ;D

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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2012, 05:48:04 PM »
Underexpose and try to recover whats left. ;D

Simplest basic strategy -- short of bringing a pellet guns and shooting out the offending lights!

Oh, and that woman needs a longer dress.
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Re: Blown-out Highligts in Stage Lighting
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2012, 05:48:04 PM »