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To take colorful and exciting digital photos of rock concerts, you need to be properly equipped and learn the tips in Part 1 and Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article. Part 1explains how to set your exposure for the tricky lighting conditions of a rock show. Part 2 presents compositional tips.
See all the compositional elements.
The individual performers are just a few of the many photographic elements on stage. Look for the shapes, lines and patterns created by those performers, their instruments and the lights. You may have to change your position and angle to the stage to see those elements, but they are there, if you know where to look. Don’t always think of the lighting as your enemy. By finding new shooting angles, a light may suddenly become an important element, creating a sidelight on a performer or a silhouette effect of the guitarist shredding a riff.
Be aware of foreground clutter.
It’s not unusual to discover a number of pieces of equipment between you and the performers. Microphones, stands, monitors, amplifiers and cables can ruin a shot or make it more difficult to shoot the digital photo you had imagined. This is another reason why you must change your position often during a rock concert. Microphones can block a singer’s face or cast a shadow across it. If you want to highlight the drummer in a series of pictures, then position yourself to the back and side of the stage. From the front, the drummer is typically lost behind stacks of drums and cymbals. In fact, you’ll quickly discover that shooting from directly in front of the stage is almost always a bad angle; in fact, it’s no angle at all! Most of the best positions are at angles to the performance.
Look for the background clutter.
The foreground clutter is typically much more obvious than the elements in the background of the digital photos you want to shoot. Keep an eye on the background elements, especially those that are “backstage” elements, such as stairways, scaffolding and roadies and other people standing in the wings. If the background lights don’t overwhelm the exposure of your subject, then they are an excellent background. You can also select an exposure setting that makes the background go black, especially if the background is offstage. A fast lens will allow you do that too. Being able to shoot at a wider aperture will make the depth of field shallow. The background will become so blurred that any elements will be indistinguishable. For example, a 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens, a 50mm f/1.4 lens and a 17-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
If this is a paying photo gig, then you must find that balance between taking the digital pictures that will make your client happy and keeping the audience happy whenever you must position yourself near or among audience members. This is another reason why preparation is so important. You don’t want to block anyone’s view unless it’s absolutely necessary; and ask him or her first.
A flash unit is not permitted at many concerts; and you would only become a distraction if you started popping it in the faces of the performers. In addition, the light of a flash would actually give your photos a strange cast, as the flash’s light is a different color than the stage lighting. Read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography—Understanding the Temperature of Color and How It Affects Your Pictures, for more information.
Other professional courtesies you should observe include turning off the auto-focus assist beam and viewfinder preview. You can easily look at the preview occasionally, so it doesn’t bother the audience. Another good tip is to develop a custom settings profile if your camera has that feature. Instead of searching through menus, you can simply push a few buttons.
Interact with the band.
During the performance, try to catch the eye of one or more performers. When you capture that special digital photo you badly wanted, give him or her a smile or a nod of the head, thanking the performer. Don’t be surprised if he or she takes a new position that makes it easier for you to take even better pictures.
Digital photography of a rock concert is an exciting experience and an excellent learning opportunity, whether you’re a pro or amateur. Review the tips in this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article regularly, so you are always improving your results.
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