Concert Photography

blandbland Posts: 811Member
edited January 2013 in General Discussions
I thought we could get a Concert Photography thread going like we had on the former NR forum.

I just read a book by Alan Hess called All Access and I highly recommend it for those looking into shooting concerts.

What I'm about to ask and why I didn't try it out is because when shooting concerts we don't have time to experiment too much, with only the first two songs to shoot in.

He states in his book he shoots indoor concerts at 1/160 @ ISO 1600. Have any of you shot at this low of speed shooting indoor concerts?

Last Friday I was scared to shoot that low of speed so I shot at 1/250 on AutoIso instead of my normal 1/500 and was blown away by the extreme quality difference but it came at a cost of blurring, my ISO was running between 200 - 800. So I'm thinking the ISO 1600 would of froze the shots much better or it's equivalent at 1/250. Am I right or am I looking at this wrong?


  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    It depends on the lighting, and the camera's tolerance for high ISO.

    In general, subject motion creates more noticeable problems than noise, but each concert is different.

    A Rock concert where the musicians might have the motion effects of an athletic event is different from a classical concert where they usually do not move too fast (some conductors do ).

    It also depends how close you can get and how fast a lens you can use.

    I find white balance and contrast to be my single biggest problem with stage lighting.

    I regularly shoot theater shows (with permission), but try to stay back to not get in anyone's way.

    My typical rig is a D700 at ISO 3200, a 200-400 mm f4 VR (nikon lens) wide open on a tripod with gimbal head.

    At aperture priority at f4, my speeds vary between 1/160 and 1/250 sec.

    About 2 /3 of my shots are acceptably sharp, about 1 / 3 not, with subject motion accounting for almost all of the discards.

    I am thinking of a 300 f2.8 VR to up my shutter speeds, as ISO 3200 on the D700 is at my tolerance limit for noise.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Regards ... Harold
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    Harold, thanks for that info. 2 out of 3 is really good shooting in those conditions.

    I'm still curious if someone shoots at 1/160 at ISO 1600 will it freeze the action better than shooting at 1/160 at ISO 800? I wouldn't think the freezing of action would be any different but maybe it does, referring to my first post.
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    1/160 is 1/160, the lower ISO will give you a lower noise floor but subject motion will be the same.

    If the lighting and lens will allow 1/160 at ISO 800 , then 1/320 at ISO 1600 is the equivalent exposure, and will certainly do a better job of reducing subject motion, at the cost of more noise.

    If ISO 1600 is too noisy for you, the the tradeoff is a slower speed (assuming f-stop remains the same) and more discards due to subject motion.

    You will get some 'hits' at almost any shutter speed above 1/30 but your success rate will rise quickly with increased shutter speed. At 1/500 you will stop almost any stage motion short of real athletics.

    Lens magnification and field of view also greatly affect this, since a persons movement over a given time is a smaller angle of wide shot covering an entire stage than it would be of a close up.

    Regards ... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 197
    edited January 2013
    I've recently started shooting concerts where I work - there's no way I can limit ISO to 1600 because the lighting is sometimes practically non-existant. I'm lucky enough to have a D3s which handles hi-ISO extremely well - my settings are: Auto-ISO : 8000, minimum speed 1/125s and as a general rule I'm wide open at f/2.8 or f/4 (depending on the lens)


    This example was 1/125s f/2.8 ISO 8000


    The Auto-ISO got back down to 4500 for this one (1/125s f/4)

    I try to keep the shutter speed up as there's always movement, particularly from rock groups (!) and as the first shot illustrates, it also allowed to freeze the water splash nicely.

    Edit: I forgot to mention, I can't use a monopod or tripod so everything is hand-held, generally the 70-200 or the 24-120.
    Post edited by [Deleted User] on
  • What I'm about to ask and why I didn't try it out is because when shooting concerts we don't have time to experiment too much, with only the first two songs to shoot in.
    Bit confused here - why do you say you can only shoot during the first two songs?

  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    haroldp......thanks for the excellent explanation!

    darkside....thanks for the examples and excellent explanation! By the way, your band shots are awesome! The bands I shoot only allow pictures taken in the first two songs, sometimes 3 songs. Management at the places I shoot are very strict in enforcing this. That said, I cheat at times and shoot with my 70-200 away from the pit where I can't be noticed easily by the band.

    I've got another band shoot in 3 weeks, I'll drop on down to 1/160 & 1/125 and see how it does with AutoISO. You two have given me the courage to do it.

    Something else I'm going to try, I always shoot just a single shot. I'm thinking if I rip off 2 shots in FPS my 2nd shot might be more steady because I'm not clicking for the shot.

  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 197
    edited January 2013
    @bland Thank you ! When I'm shooting the slower theatrical stuff I only ever take single shots - the noise can be a real problem so I try to keep it to a strict minimum. However, for the rock groups I can make as much noise as I like, and so I'm always on mode 'rafale' (can't remember what that is in English) which basically means I always take 2 or three shots - this is decisive as the guys in the bands often move around a lot which means I can chose the best shot after the event.

    As you asked (!!) so nicely, here's another one...

    Only 5000 ISO (1/125s f/4)
    Post edited by [Deleted User] on
  • I've actually never heard of this 'two song' rule - I'm lucky as we have a small concert venue where I work (doesn't everybody??) and so I basically have total freedom of choice - of course, I let the groups have a few of the images and that generally quietens down any detractors...! In addition I make a point of asking each group first - no one has ever said no, but they pretty much always ask me not to use flash - which I don't use anyway.

    Regarding the spectacles, I offered my services, in return for a few images, to the theatre venue and they were more than happy as they had no one who currently did this - this is why most of the images here have a logo or my name on them - I don't like plastering that sort of thing all over the photographs, but it's the only way to be sure that the people who use the images afterwards actually play the game and put a photographers credit with the published photo.
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    @darkside On my D800 I hardly have any noise at all up to ISO3200 so I'll try that and I also want to try the F/4.
    I really like the DOF in your shots with the F/4 settings, it brings more clarity.

    Unless I'm shooting for the band I too work for shots. My indoor concerts shots are at Casinos and the perks they give me out weigh anything I could have charged.

    I still haven't copyrighted my pictures because the media uses them and they don't want them copyrighted but they always give me credits below the photos. That said, I am considering copyrighting some of my pictures that the media isn't using because I have had problems with people using them without my permission.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 197
    edited January 2013
    I used both the D3s and the D800 on the shoot for the band featured here - both bodies set to Auto ISO with a max of 8000 (identical settings) and I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the noise on the D800.

    In some ways this is a little unfair I suppose - the D3s handles it so well I just assumed the D800 would do as well...I guess I'll just set it a bit lower - 3200 sounds ok. I have another rock concert on Friday so I'll try to take similar shots using both bodies and both 70-200 zooms (Bloody hell, starting to sound like Ren Kockwell...)


    This was with the D800 1/60s f/4 ISO 8063
    Post edited by [Deleted User] on
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    Nice 1/60 shot Darkslide.
    Here's a 1/80 shot I did last year by accident. Somehow my D800 shifted from M mode to P mode, it did the same thing last month when I was shooting a band. I don't think it was a camera era, just pushed the wrong button unknowingly.

    D800 / NIKKOR24-70 2.8 ~ FL 25mm f/8 1/80 ISO/3200
  • What's wrong with that? I would probably have lightened it up a bit in post, and cropped it slightly higher and to the left...


    But then that's just me !
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    I wasn't complaining,I was actually shocked it came out so well.
    I like the way you lightened it up, one of my faults is making pictures too dark.
  • Cropping it a bit shifts the focal point to the guitarist - if anything, you could actually selectively darken the drummer to enhance the guitarist even more - but I quite like it as it is.

    If you use Lightroom try increasing the exposure value to lighten the image up slightly more than you'd like, then increasing the 'black' slider to bring it back down a bit (darken it). Works a treat!
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    With all the big FX guns I'd like to show a less big DX :) it's not impossible to get them. Concerts are often brighter illuminated than theatres.

  • This is true - it depends the venue however - some have more lights (or better lighting directors!) than others.

    Your shot looks fine to me - and frankly it's nothing to do with sensor size...!
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    When shooting a venue with low light I will attempt to catch the image at the point which is where the subject is reversing direction...i.e., when moving back and forth. And, I will shoot 5-8 FPS sometimes and use the one, hopefully, that is sharp.
    Msmoto, mod
  • @bland

    I feel I should add that working 'wide open' allows you to really enhance the presence of the subject - assuming you've got the focus right (on the eyes every time) the subject will leap out of the background. Stopping down obviously increases your chances that you'll get something in focus if the subject moves, but the downside is that the background becomes more and more detailed which often pollutes the final image.

    Of course if you've got Photoshop CS6 you can shoot at f/16 all the time and use the program to make everything out-of-focus with a single click (so they say) - personally I prefer to think I actually tried to get the shot the way I wanted it in-camera!!

    Stopping down also increases the time the shutter is open...and movement, vibration etc. will tend to soften everything.
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    Thanks darkslide. I'd say, sensor size does matter, but if you stay within the dynamic borders each sensor can do some nice things - even at 6400 ISO. The hard thing is not to overexpose, but also get the important shadows (and leave the others in complete fat black).

  • blandbland Posts: 811Member

    Can't thank you enough, you've provided so much valuable information today, as others have on here today.

    I, as many others have search for this info for many years and in one day here it is, priceless!
  • LoomyzLoomyz Posts: 1Member
    The best setup i'd found for my D800 in concert photography is auto-iso, manuel mode and i start with f28 and speed around 1/200s, than it's easy to adjust speed and aperture if needed. According to the light, you can easily shoots at 1/160s but i prefer to play safe and keep it around 1/250 and iso under 3200.

    iso 1000, f3.2 1/250

    iso 1000, f2.8 1/200
  • It's easy for you (I'm joking) you're shooting in places where there's loads of light - I often don't have this luxury so I'm obliged to crank up the ISO.

    Great shot of JBJ - from about 20 years ago judging by the hair...!
  • SkintBritSkintBrit Posts: 79Member
    Wow, superb shots people. I'm very impressed.
    D3s's D700 F100 / Trinity 2.8 Zooms & 1.4 Primes / 105 micro. SB900s with Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 / Mini TT1s. Camranger remote control system.
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    edited January 2013
    Awesome shots, everyone! I really like the smooth flow you captured in last picture, Loomyz.
    Post edited by bland on
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    Great shot! Thanks for sharing.
Sign In or Register to comment.