Sunday, May 20, 2007

Concert Photography - Part 2

Now that you have your assignment, photo pass, and some thoughts on how to act when you get there (covered in Part I), it's time to get down to the physical, technical aspect of exactly how you're going to shoot the concert. We'll start by thinking about equipment: primes vs. zooms, fast aperture lenses, camera bodies, and a recommended basic setup. Then we'll move on to basic exposure: stage lighting, metering systems, shutter speeds, and aperture settings.
"I will laugh in the face of shallow depth of field; I will harness all available light with super-fast aperture lenses; I will handhold my 200/1.8 wide open and smile." --Anonymous unemployed concert photographer

If you haven't played around with your camera indoors without flash lately, now would be a good time to take a hard look at those meter readings. Set your ISO rating to 400, your meter to spot (which you should have if you're serious about concert photography; more on that in a minute), and your mode to aperture priority, wide open. Point around your kitchen, bedroom, wherever. How often are you getting a reading of 1/125 or faster? Unless you have a very fast lens mounted (f/2.8 or wider), my guess is not very often, if at all. Now point directly at the skin of your palm; what's the reading? You're going to need at least that amount of light to capture the detail in a skin tone under those lighting conditions. Since most outdoor concerts have some kind of ceiling over the stage and indoor concerts need spotlights for the crowd to even make out the performer in the first place, you're looking at a very similar situation to what you've just metered. No wonder there are ISO 1600 and 2.8 lenses: one stop of light means the difference between a motion-allowing 1/60 and a motion-stopping 1/125.
Does this mean you should go out and spend a fortune on all those super-fast lenses, like a 50/1.0 or an 85/1.2? I wouldn't. In fact, I've never seen a lens that fast in use at a concert, and that's probably because of: 1) Shallow depth of field; and 2) Stage dynamics.
What's the least amount of gear can get away with?
This is actually an incredibly relevant question, since the last thing you want at a concert is a lot of gear getting shuffled, banged into, and shoved around. It's also an important question for beginners and those wishing to shoot one-time events. So here, in order, is what recommend:

1. 50/1.4 or 50/1.8. It's the time-honored way to get started, the so-called "normal" lens. With a fast prime you can experiment with depth of field and capture sharp images when you use high-speed films. Only a professional zoom can compare in terms of optical quality; Canon EF 50/1.4 and Nikon 50/1.4D is just as sharp wide open as the 70-200/2.8 wide open. That's economical quality for you.
2. 85/1.8 or 100/2.0. You'll be amazed at how close a 100mm gets you when you're even a short distance from the stage. An affordable telephoto is the next logical step in your system, and since those 135/2.0 models run upwards of four figures, your best bet is to grab a fast 85mm or 100mm, for which you'll pay no more than (exception: the Nikon AF-D 105/2.0 is wicked expensive).With only a fast 50mm and 100mm at your disposal, you can adequately cover most small and average-sized shows without flash. In fact, for about two years near the beginning of my pursuit of concert photography, that's all I used for lenses--those two.
3. Either a wide-angle prime (17-55/2.8 of Nikon, 16-35/2.8 of Canon) or a long telephoto prime (180/2.8, 200/2.8). After going to a lot of shows and switching off between your 50mm and 100mm, you'll have experimented enough to know where you need to go next, and that's either much wider or much longer. If you're enjoying small club shows, you'll probably want a greater sense of perspective, which a 17-35/2.8 of Sigma can easily render; If you're moving up to arena and large theatre shows, you know your 100mm just isn't cutting it anymore, and you need that 200/2.8. At this point you're getting pretty serious about concert photography if you're outgrowing your 50mm and 100mm setup by considering for yet another lens.
You might want to consider holding off until you can afford a 17-55mm/2.8 of Nikon or Canon 16-35mm/2.8 IIL USM, if you'll be working mainly in very small clubs and bars, or a 70-200mm/2.8 if you're stepping up to large arenas. There are advantages to both primes and zooms, of course. You'll get better optical quality with the prime, and since it won't be nearly as heavy as the zoom you can probably get away with somewhat slower shutter speeds. If your subjects aren't that active of musicians, the prime is probably the best choice for you. If you're finding yourself moving into rock, rap, punk, or another kind of high energy genre, the zoom's flexibility will be invaluable to you, and you'd be best served saving up for that.
Just why it s highly recommended that if you are trying to buy a new gears and you are serious about photography concert or what ever, you must invest for one time don't buy more lens. For me for wide angel lens 17-55mm/2.8 by if you are Nikon User and 16-35mm/2.8 IIL USM if you are Canon User and for telephoto you must have 70-200mm/2.8 with VR for Nikon User and 70-200mm/2.8 USM for Canon User and at least you must have 50mm/1.4 and 105mm/2.8 macro for both brand.


Anonymous said...

useful tips buddy =D

great work on the concert photos.

Culture Shiok! Singapore OFW said...

What do you think of the Sony DSLR with the interchangeable lenses?

PayPal Its Free Sign-up Now!!!

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.