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|Category:||Portraits and People|
Photography at gigs - Tips on producing great gig images in low light.
- Camera – For larger shows pocket a superzoom compact such as the Nikon Coolpix L110. If you're going to a smaller venue you'll probably be able to take a DSLR in with no issues. Pick one such as the Nikon D7000 which gives you good ISO range as you'll be working in very low light situations.
- Lens - A fixed prime lens such as a 50mm f/1.8 will serve you well.
One of the biggest challenges you'll face at a gig is getting the exposure right under stage lights,
as different coloured lights and often harsh back lighting and smoke will all pose problems. You will need to set your camera to its maximum aperture if you can and set the ISO as low as you can while still maintaining a suitable shutter speed under the conditions. Typically, for arena shows somewhere between ISO400 and ISO1600 will normally suffice. For darker shows in smaller venues then you may need to increase the ISO further if your camera allows it to reduce motion blur and camera shake. Another point to remember is that autofocus may struggle in low light conditions, but to be honest it will generally be more reliable than focusing manually if your subject is moving and the light levels are low. Spot metering can be useful, particularly if you're shooting a strongly backlit subject, as you'll find at many gigs. Just make sure you adjust your camera's exposure compensation setting to achieve the correct exposure if you choose to work this way.
Flash or no flash?
If you're shooting from the crowd, you will often be too far away for flash to be of any use. Many people believe that they shouldn't use flash because 'it spoils the atmosphere'. This is a common misconception derived from people getting lacklustre results in auto with their flash. If you can get close enough for it to be useful, the key is to ensure that the flash exposure is well-balanced with the ambient light. This will result in exposures with bags of atmosphere, colour and it will also allow you to freeze the action. Of course it will depend on how appropriate using flash is too. A quiet gig with an acoustic performer may not be the right kind of atmosphere to start blitzing away with flash.
Who are you photographing?
If you're photographing an acoustic performer sat on a stool, or stood at a microphone, you will be able to get away with shutter speeds that are quite slow. However, try using a shutter speed that equals the focal length of your lens if you don't have image stabilisation, or of at least half the focal length if you do. If the performers are more lively, you will need much faster shutter speeds to freeze the action. Start of at 1/250sec and see how it goes.
One final point: Arrive early, get a good spot and don't move. Also, remember that you're supposed to be there to enjoy yourself too!
Whether you're a beginner looking for a compact camera or a pro in the market for a high-end DSLR visit Nikon – the company who has photographic gear to suit everyone.