If you’ve seen the Colerkings photos and are wondering how I achieved the effects without using Adobe Photoshop or any other photo-manipulating software, then read on!
To photograph bands, you need to consider the stage lighting. This is usually in the form of spotlighting and is pinpointed onto the band members. The lighting colour is frequently changing not only in colour but also colour temperature too. It is harsh yielding strong shadows. The remainder of your view will be unlit. In order to get maximum light in your image, you need to push the boundaries of your equipment, i.e. find out first what it can do then take your gear to the absolute limits.
So what am I talking about? There are 3 settings that control the exposure: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. All have a secondary function which are controlling depth-of-field (dof) this is how much of your image is in focus; how much movement there is in the image; and the quality of the image respectively.
In order to capture a bright scene with plenty of detail of the band, I am using lenses with a maximum wide aperture of f1.4, f2.8 or f4. This allows the greatest amount of light and records the greatest amount of detail across the image. However, it reduces the amount that’s in focus too but, used to your advantage, you can draw attention to a particular feature. Secondly, freezing the action with a relatively short shutter speed of 1/focal length (= 1/200sec for a 200mm lens) will capture the action preventing camera-shake. Thirdly, allowing the ISO to float and give a the correct exposure allows you to set the other two controls. The higher the ISO, the more noise in the image but in band photography to some degree, noise = atmosphere and I like this.
I have used a shutter speed much longer than I would normally choose, i.e. anywhere between 1/20sec and 1/2sec. This gives what is known as Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). To add a second effect and because I’m using a zoom lens, I will turn the zoom lens during the exposure or deliberately move the camera whilst taking the image. So here you get camera movement! Sometimes it fails miserably by cutting heads, limbs or instruments off, etc and sometimes it works. It’ll give you the light trails as you turn the zoom barrel. Different effects are achieved zooming from wide to tele and vice versa.
The third effect that I have added is to use my speedlite (flashgun) attached to the camera. If you don’t have one, a pop-up may suffice. You do need to make the follows adjustments to your flash though: Set the power down to a low output as you don’t wan’t the image to be dominated by the flash light – it is only a fill light. Set the flash to ‘Rear Curtain Sync’ or ‘2nd Curtain Sync’. This is the icing on the cake as it will fire the flash at the end of the exposure thus freezing the movement at the end of the exposure making the movement look natural.
By using a combination of all of the above, you can achieve some great effects but for rock band photography, I like the effect this gives. I also prefer to do this effect in camera rather than using Photoshop to save time spent behind the computer. I appreciate that it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it invites atmosphere into the photo that was present during the gig!
Other settings on your camera that you might want to consider are:
- White Balance: I use Auto White Balance (AWB) and adjust the colour temperature post production especially when the lighting can change from cold blue to a very warm orange. The Canon AWB feature is very accurate.
- Spot Metering v Evaluative/Matrix Metering: Should you spot meter off the musician’s face or meter the whole scene? I use the latter as again, I find the Canon metering system very accurate.
- Shutter Priority v Aperture Priority v Manual Mode: I need to control the depth of field so need to set the aperture. I also want to set the time the shutter curtain is open so the only mode I use is Manual. The pictogram modes don’t offer the control needed to obtain these results.
As I said initially, this type of photography may not be to everyone’s cup of tea but if it floats your boat, I hope this helps you be a little more creative with your photography. If you like what you see, why don’t you have a go? You only need a DSLR with a manually driven zoom lens and a speedlite/flashgun set on low power/rear curtain sync. You can practice on just about anything at home preferably in a darkened room. You will find that there’s a lot of images that didn’t quite work. Don’t worry because with plenty of practise you just need to shoot, study the results, revise your settings, repeat and have fun!
If you’ve been successful with your attempts, feel free to share your successes. If you’re struggling and need more assistance, feel free to contact me.
Alternatively, you could learn far more about advanced photography on one of my many different Workshops.
© Jeremy Malley-Smith LRPS DPAGB BPE2* | firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 (0) 7540 163136