Friday, December 6, 2013

Indoor Concert Photography--Game On!

One of the more flattering requests I’ve received was one recently from my own son whose band was preparing for a show at a local joint.  The request wasn’t just to attend, which was certainly the invitation, but it was with the additional request to bring my camera and take pictures.  In fact, my son said his band members had requested that I bring my camera…flattering, for sure.

No, they don’t follow my blog, nor my photostream, nor my website gallery—they don’t really know what my photography looks like, but they do know I take pictures because I’ve taken pictures of them before when they’ve been practicing around the house They were confident they’d get better pictures than what their friends had been shooting on the cell phone cameras at other their other performances—and that confidence hooked me.

You’d think I’d been given the assignment to shoot the Beatles, or maybe someone a bit more contemporary, but still famous, as I was nervous and excited about the challenge of meeting the expectations the band now placed into my hands.  I’d never been to the venue before, so I had my son describe how it was set up, and in particular, what my range of motion would be and what proximities I’d have to the band, the audience, the mixer, etc…   Folks, I’m sorry to say this was the limit and extent of my venue planning.  Sure, on a “real” assignment, I’d go down there, test angles, test lighting, etc…but hey, this was for fun, so cutting corners seemed reasonable!

I made several decisions ahead of time regarding gear.  First of all, I was not going to take a flash.  I like existing light photography, and I didn’t want to be drawing attention to myself with a flash going off every 2 seconds.  Second, I was going to take a single lens, my 18-200mm.  Lazy choice, maybe, but I knew that it would give me the full range of coverage that I anticipated I would want, plus I didn’t want to be fooling around with carrying extra gear and changing lenses—I was going into an unknown situation and wanted to minimize the variables.  The only drawback to this decision was that the 18-200 is not particularly fast, having a range of 3.5-5.6.  My plan to make up for this lack of speed of course was to crank up the ISO, the third leg of the exposure triangle.  I was willing to accept the grain that comes along with a high ISO in exchange for reasonably sharp images that a faster shutter speed would allow me to capture.  As they say, I’d rather have a grainy image than a blurry one. 

So my plan was set.  And you know what?  My plan worked as far as I was concerned, and based on the feedback I received from the band members (my ultimate “client” for the shoot), I’d say a resounding success.  I also learned a great deal about how I’d approach my next indoor concert assignment.  And this learning is what I would say is basic about any photo shoot you might plan if going to somewhere new.  Number one, find out as much as you can about the physical nature of where you’re going, whether that’s inside or outside.  Obviously if it’s a travel destination, you won’t be able to go there ahead of time, but you can research what others have done, and prepare yourself that way.  In terms of more local venues, if it’s important to get the images right, then go there ahead of time and scout things out.

Second, if you have the luxury of bringing more gear than you might need, either because you can carry it on you with a strap or bag, or if you can store it in a room or vehicles nearby, then do so.  Circumstance can change, and having the right gear with you gives you the change to adjust on the fly.  Gear back at home does you no good if you can’t get at it.

And lastly, if you’re doing the shoot for a “client” (as I was sort of), talk to them in detail, in advance to get a sense of what they envision as an end product.  They may not know angles, composition, or other technical aspects of what you do, but they will be able to convey the feelings, or end-use of the imagery that you’ll be creating.  This information will be invaluable to you while you’re in the middle of the creative process during your shoot.

My final take-away from this experience was feeling the exhilaration that comes from the challenge of putting oneself in a situation that’s not your norm.  It offered, or forced, a different kind of thinking, planning, and visualizing that invigorated my photography.

The full collection of images from this concert can be viewed on my website gallery at

And if you have comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you at

1 comment:

  1. The band wants you to take more photos of them!!! :)