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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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20 Feb 2021 8:04AM   Views : 186 Unique : 112


Iíve been doing pictures of live performances for a very long time indeed. I haunted the local folk club before I went to university Ė and at school Iíd taken production photographs of school plays, and even a couple of concertsÖ However, when I photographed the Edgar Broughton Band in 1971 from on top of the school piano, I committed one of the great sins Ė I Used Flash. Possibly it didnít matter so much with loud music and a lights show, but itís something I have avoided ever since.


Itís great if you are taking the official pictures for a production or performer, and can shoot with no audience present. You can ask for a rerun of a particular part of the show or song, and you can adjust positions and lighting to suit your purposes. Thatís not on for a live performance Ė at least if you want to avoid becoming the most unpopular person in the room! The value of being prepared to shoot in a tatty rehearsal room on a Sunday afternoon comes when you get to see the actual performance, and you know what will come next.


You will read a lot about having to take pictures during the first three songs: thatís true for the big gigs Ė and you and I probably wonít get our cameras through the doors anyway. But pick a small local gig, or make friends with either the venue owner of a band, and be generally nice to them, and itís amazing what you can do.

Iíve photographed a band called Venus Rising twice, as a result of answering casting calls on Purpleport (the lead singer does a little bit of modelling, as well), and the second occasion was at a venue with wonderful stage lighting, and a midweek audience, allowing me very free access. Pubs with occasional live music can be a good place to drink (when they open their doors again: and everyone will welcome activity, post-Covid, I reckon!) Similarly, answering a casting call has led me to burlesque performances organised by Triple Threat (youíve seen them in my pictures: but the shows involved multiple performers).


Iíve generally found that an 85mm lens will be sufficient at a small venue: if you are using a zoom, be prepared to visit the upper reaches of your ISO range (and with an older camera, you may have to do that, AND deliberately underexpose) consider 3200 ISO the new 100Ö Take care to move around the room as little as possible, and go behind people whenever you can: the value of repeated visits to the same venue lie in being able to identify the places to be. Travel light, so you donít have to worry about leaving your kit unattended, or carrying a bulky bag all the time.

Donít use flash. Just donít Ė I remember, the day after an Al Stewart gig at Durham Students Union, the accusing way a good friend asked if it had been me with the flash, interrupting the performance. Fortunately, it hadnít been. Even back in the Seventies, Iíd learned that flash enrages fellow audience members as well as killing all the atmosphere of a gig. Thatís even true with a Gary Fong light modifier, by the wayÖ


Give pictures (possibly prints, more likely digital files) to anyone and everyone: if the performers and venue like you, youíre home and dry for the next gig. Often, itís not big, high-quality files they need Ė itís pictures that will look good on Instagram and Facebook. And when you promise to deliver, make sure that you arenít late. Like yesterdayís Kodak Retinette, itís better to underpromise and overperform.
Of course, there is one way to be certain: book a house concertÖ The final picture is of Kirsty McGee in my front room Ė a wonderful present from my son for my 60th birthday. The only photographic problem is that I was so spellbound that I took very few pictures indeed.



dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1805 England
20 Feb 2021 8:12AM
Do I have to look out the negatives from the Al Stewart gig, as well? We're heading for a part 2, if so... Give me time to locate the pictures, and to work out something extra to say!
Chrism8 14 971 28 England
20 Feb 2021 8:20AM
Live performances are superb, I've done a few in local pubs and was lucky enough to be asked to shoot a local Cheltenham band at the lead singers rented house which was massive and had a 45 min performance just for me in a decent hall sized room in which to grab some shots and also to try and get a cover shot for their next album, we did eventually get " the shot " and oddly, it was the very very last shot in the evening, mucking about in the garage, they also used about 10 other images of mine in the inside cover and back cover

Link here
Interesting blog John

Gig photography is something I've done a little of ... but would so much love to do a lot more of

I will be pushing to achieve this once we're able to get back to live music shows

Colin Smile

20 Feb 2021 9:21AM
Just like a fisherman, my regrets are the photographs that got away. When I was around 20 a photographer friend, who used to shoot publicity images for a local nightclub venue that seemed to attract good groups, asked if I could cover for him taking dressing room portraits and pictures of the performance. But I declined as I didn't think I had the experience. I only found out a couple of weeks later that night was The Three Degrees!
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1805 England
20 Feb 2021 10:11AM
I failed to mention Barryyoungnz and Bliba as two of the people I follow who have posted excellent images from live music gigs. Barry, living in New Zealand, has already been able to return to live music gigs. I'm suffering from Prime Minister envy...
saltireblue Plus
10 11.6k 71 Norway
20 Feb 2021 11:43AM
I've done a lot of live stage photography the past few years. Everything from a local bar where there wasn't room to swing a cat, to outdoors at a disused military fort.
I have found that I basically can manage with just 2 lenses. A 35mm f/1.4 - excellent where the light is not up to much, and for keeping ISO as low as possible. I use this lens when standing close to the stage. Secondly, the versatile Fuji 50-140 f/2.8. Excellent for shooting further from the action, and the benefits of f/2.8 through the whole range is not to be underestimated.

The local bar - the one with no elbow room - was a venue I shot every time they had live music. Usually twice a month. Unfortunately the lighting was totally unusable, and I had no choice but to ask the artists if it was OK to use flash, and promise not to take too many photos. Most agreed, although a couple of groups did say no, something I had to accept. I was paid by the owner to do the gigs, and lost out financially if I couldn't provide photos. Fortunately, it only happened a couple of £100 a time, it was a good gig. The bar closed down a couple of years ago, unfortunately.

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