Not Martha

daily photo: Mar. 10th

There is no photo here for you to see today. Know what’s difficult? Getting pictures of people playing music onstage. Know why it’s hard? Colored light gels make skin look very strange, low light and movement make for lots of blur and capturing one person singing in a moment when their eyes are open and their mouth is closed is difficult while catching two people is impossible. So tonight at the secret early test the waters type of gig for a new band consisting of Scott Andrew and Jerin Falkner I got exactly zero usable photos. If anybody has suggestions for super awesome Canon lenses that will help me capture decent photos of people on stage I would really appreciate the guidance.

· comments [23] · 03-10-2011 · categories:dailyphoto ·

23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 marielle // Mar 10, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I never did get into using different lenses with my Canon, but when I shoot bands I only do black & white, and have been pretty happy with the results. And I never, ever use the flash.

  • 2 kat // Mar 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    jerin! i went to college with her. love that she’s popping up all over the place.

  • 3 wendy // Mar 11, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I’ve never shot a band, but I did shoot a live theatre performance recently… my best shots were with my 50mm f/2.8 lens, wide open. And then some fiddling with colour correction afterwards…

  • 4 Maria // Mar 11, 2011 at 12:12 am

    When I took photos of my friend, I’m pretty sure I used the kit lens. I just went with the funky colors, because I actually like the mood it brought to the photos. I’ve used the link to a flickr set as my website for this comment, if you want to see.

    It’s possible I used the 55mm fixed length for some of the photos, because I love that lens, but I know at least some were with the kit lens. I guess it all depends on the look you’re going for.

  • 5 Becky Sue // Mar 11, 2011 at 6:00 am

    The most affordable lens for the Canon that lets in the most light is the 50mm f/1.8. It’s not a zoom lens so you will have to physically move closer. I have the 50mm f/1.4 and the shots that I get in low-light are fantastic. And I agree with the pp about converting poor lit shots to black and white.

  • 6 Steffy // Mar 11, 2011 at 6:50 am

    I’m not really the photographer in the family … but my husband is. And he used to take pictures for our friends’ band, so I showed him your question and he said:

    To achieve “correct” skin tones you need to use a flash. This however is disruptive the band and audience. Instead, embrace the stage lights and their colors to be able to shoot at a decent shutter speed you need to have a lens with a wide aperture, f2.8 for f1.8 for example. Or, you can shoot with a darker lens but you will have to up your ISO to do so properly.

    Depending on your camera model this may get noisy as the sensor work for light, this is the equivalent to grain in film. Personally I like a 28-70 f2.8 for band shooting, Tamron, Canon, Sigma all make glass in the this range. Don’t expect to be able to shoot in the 1/1xx range of shutter speeds, embrace the 1/80 1/60 range and work with it. A little motion blur gives a dynamic feel to the shots. Hope that helps.

  • 7 Seanna Lea // Mar 11, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Wow. I hadn’t really thought about this, but the information from Steffy’s husband is awesome!

  • 8 Kristin // Mar 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I take photos for a weekly dance party for which the photos are posted each week. Low light and motion can add up to INCREDIBLE frustration! BUT you can totally do it with some tweaking and practice. I use my kit lens (lenses are $$!!). For me, an external flash is what is absolutely necessary. After I finally got one (part of the struggle is just affording one) it was SOOO much easier. I’m mostly photographing people dancing, so to keep from being too annoying/paparazzi, I use my flash at 1/4 or less strength and adjust the ISO and shutter speed to compensate. Getting the external flash off the camera with a cord will really help you control the direction of the light from your flash. Using a bounce card (there are a lot of diy ideas floating around on the net) will help you get more even light and also use a less intense flash setting.

  • 9 Kristin // Mar 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

    PS: I found this article (the technical parts specifically) really helpful.

  • 10 Lisa // Mar 11, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I have the same problem so I stopped taking pictures at concerts inside. Now I can enjoy drinking my wine and the music!

  • 11 whitney // Mar 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I also highly recommend the 50mm f/1.8 lens. It’s super affordable (I think less than $100 on Amazon) and I usually get great low-light shots with it. I’m pretty sure I shot the photos in this series with that 50mm:

  • 12 Daily Coyote // Mar 11, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I used to shoot bands all the time – I used my Canon 28-70 / 2.8 lens ~ it allows for full stage wide angle shots as well as action portraits of individual members. I love this lens.

    I was shooting bands in the days before digital and shot film – I always used high speed film (high ISO) ~ *at least* ISO 400, and with B&W I often used ISO 3200. A high ISO allows for high shutter speeds to capture action. You can test altering the ISO in your digi camera to see how high you can go without getting too much noise.

    The other key for shooting bands is to get CLOSE! Gotta be close to the stage. Run around to find different angles – sometimes a light can be horrid from one side and gorgeous from the other (never use flash!!!). Shooting bands was always a full on cardio-acrobatic workout… I loved those days!

  • 13 megan // Mar 11, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Thank you all for the helpful advice! I will save up for a lens that will at least get me closer. And next time I’ll drag my tripod along.

    Whitney – I have that lens but in most cases I need a lens that will zoom, or at least get me much closer. I’m usually so very far away from the stage that with the 1.8 all I get is two tiny bright people on a stage that seems miles away.

  • 14 Jen Alien-Spouse // Mar 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

    When my husband was playing bass in a band I became their official photographer – Purely because I carry a battered little point-and-shoot with me at all times.

    The best shots of the band themselves (who were all ridiculously handsome) tended to be taken during soundchecks, when the light was normal and there was less jostling of the audience. That said I really loved to try and capture the feeling of the gigs by taking deliberately blurry photos with backlighting and weird colours.

  • 15 Lindsey // Mar 11, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I work at Glazer’s, but I am here just as a fan of your blog. You should stop in some time and chat up our awesome sales lady Laura. She shoots a ton of shows for the Weekly and the Stranger. Here’s her flickr.

    Her favorite lens is the Canon 35 1.4, but she shoots shows mostly from the pit up front. I can tell you that the gelled lighting is a pain for all shows. Most venues won’t let you use flash. It’s annoying for the band and fans, so you’ll definitely need a fast lens. Good luck and happy shoooting!

  • 16 Lindsey // Mar 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I should add that I just do the marketing and event planning for Glazer’s, so I’m not the foremost lens expert. But Laura is. :)

  • 17 Candace // Mar 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Ooh! I know! The Canon EF 50mm, 1:1.8 lens (or is that the one you have now?). I got one for Christmas and my live gig photos have never been better. I also play with the ISO and the F-stop & aperture settings. That lens will also give you really good bokeh effects.

  • 18 Alyson // Mar 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    If you figure it out, please post the answer. I would love to know.

  • 19 whitney // Mar 11, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Yes, as much as I love to 50mm, you do need to be close to the stage for it to be effective. I’m loving reading all the solutions and links everyone is coming up with!

  • 20 Mel // Mar 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    My husband ( is a band photographer and has used all kinds of lenses for his Canon digital cameras. He gets classic blur and movement by using the flash, shooting in color and converting to black and white later, and using a longer exposure time. The kit lens that comes with the camera is ok, but for band photography, a wider lens looks better I think, even though the 50mm lens is cheaper. He uses that for portraits and not live shots.
    I shoot film and I use very similar settings and it works well for me.

  • 21 Jill // Mar 13, 2011 at 6:09 am

    When I do this, I use my 50mm lens and an external flash. And I try to get as close as I can to the subject!

  • 22 Kate // Mar 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    This photographer has great inspiration and great advice. Perhaps something on his site will help.
    Good luck! Love the blog (though curses on you for linking to those French muffins…I am now dreaming of them).

  • 23 Dalila // Mar 14, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Megan, embrace the strange colours and blurr! Crazy coloured lights mean that you’ve been at a show and it’s real! And the blurring arm shows that there’s action.
    I use a vibration reduction 18-105mm zoom lens at shows so I can use my largest aperture and a slow shutter speed. Where there are tables, I bring my gorillapod tripod to set on the table as lugging my large tripod is too clunky. I’ve linked to some my music shots if you want ideas.
    I’d love to see you pick at least one of those photos to show us!

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