Music Photography Explained 002

So in part 001 we covered off on why... today we talk about "what with!" It's simple... I would suggest the best combination to start off in music photography is a dSLR camera and "The Fifty" - A 50mm lens.. No zoom, no anti-shake stuff... just a basic fifty mm lens!

gtvone music photographer

Why? Why shouldn't I go straight out and buy "the concert photographer's lens" well, if you're dripping with bling and your mummy and daddy will buy you ANYTHING you want... Can you do two things, get them to buy me the new Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS MkII and then can you make sure you have your priorities straight before you become someone named Peaches... So why? Well, I firmly believe that if you start out with basic kit and work towards a great shot with that basic kit, that you're going to be better at it when you step up to some nicer gear... Or, not nicer, just different...

gtvone music photographer

What do I use and how do I use it?

Well, I use thinkTANK bags - always - you pay a lot for your gear and regardless if you have one camera and lens or multi thousand dollars worth of gear, you need to protect it as best you can! - Yes, it's true, I work for thinkTANK in an advisement capacity as well - but I was a user before I joined the team.

I use Canon cameras, I don't care much for the whole brandist thing - if you want to use Nikon or Pentax or OLympus or Sony... go right ahead! I use the Canon 5DMk2 and a Canon 30D which I plan on swapping out for a new body some time very soon.

I use Canon lenses, that's because I use Canon cameras and wanted to keep it all together - Sigma make some OK lenses, Tamron even pop out one or two OK lenses... and you can get adapters if you want to run a Nikon lens on a Canon body and so on... (but why would you)

- Canon EF L 100-400mm  f/4.5-57 - Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 - Canon EF L 24-70mm f/2.8

Mostly I use the 24-70 at smaller gigs... It's not IS / VR but it is quick at f/2.8 and it's damn sturdy! (And pretty heavy, too!)

I have a Rode VideoMic for when I need to capture some video - It's good that cameras have video and good, high quality HD video - but the on-board microphones usually leave a little to be desired - get yourself a RODE VideoMic or the Rode SVM Stereo Condenser Mic - They're great...

I won't bore you with the little stuff... but make sure you have charged batteries, cleaning cloth / fluid (flying beer makes smudgy lenses!!) and it's sometimes good to have a lanyard and a plastic pocket to hold your pass - otherwise you have to stick it to your shirt and that sucks if you want to collect them! (It's part of the cool bit - your first pass, they're sometimes cool shapes and well worth keeping)

gtvone photographs metallica

So, you've got your gear... What are you going to do with it?

So, you have that camera and you've spoken to your local pub and they've got "The two headed warlock" playing on Friday night!! They've got average light -- Try get in a few days in advance and see what the lighting is like -- and you're going to have to convert all your shots to black&white because the main colour in the pub is GREEN! -- That's not always bad (Unless you're trying to sell, let's talk about that later)

The settings I use a "one shot auto focus" because if you use something like continuous or servo driven auto focus, the singer moves and you get a well focussed shot of a light or a drum or a groupie...#fail! Sure, auto focus, but how the hell do I focus in the dark? Well - if it's that dark that you're not going to be able to focus at all, make sure you're in there a touch early and when they're setting up for the set - if you can - get a feel for how far away the mic that looks like it's for the lead singer is.. focus on it, remember where that focus point is... If all else fails and your camera won't auto focus, get into manual focus and try as you might remember where that lead singers mic "setting" was... and if it turns out to be the bass player's mic - c'est la vie! (I'm a bass player, we rock!)

There's nothing wrong with manual focus, some people say it's "purist" to use it and only ever use it -- good for you. If I was using manual focus, I'd have missed half the shots I've captured because I'm not fast enough to change focus points at the speed at which musicians change facial expressions or positions etc etc... use manual if you like, then try auto focus.

Metering?! What the hell is metering, Simon? short, that's where your camera takes its light reading from... So if you choose an average, you're going to get screwed over because the difference between the singer's face and the black back wall can be many stops... (or lots of distance on your little meter thingy in your display) I almost always try to aim for just under the middle as it's a lot easier to pull up a slightly under exposed photograph than it is to reign in an over exposed nightmare... and remember, if the singer's face is exposed OK, the lights in the background are going to be burning beacons of unfixable white...

exposure meter on a camera image

Spray it? when I started, I was so excited that I pretty much held the button down as I didn't want to miss a thing - that was then! ...I'm more discerning now, I try to get a feel for the music and what the singer / artist / band are doing by about half way through the first track and then pick up on their quirks or individualisms in the next two and a half songs... (You mostly, nine times out of ten, only get three songs... don't argue or you get no songs next time) So, sure, use your camera's "burst mode" but try feel out what's happening, enjoy the music, get in to the music... your shots will sing

What to shoot? If you're shooting for you, shoot whatever the heck you like!! I shoot lots, feet, amps, song lists, drinks, faces, crowd, groups, torsos, hands, guitars... the list goes on and on... HOWEVER... if you're shooting for a publication, get the shot in the bag and then much about! -- A tight portrait, a decent group shot, some full length front person shots, some half length shots and maybe some general band shots - then go arty.

Next post we cover what happens on the day! Your first gig, who do you pick-up your pass from, where do you wait, what should you take, is it scary! etc etc... (Ask a question if you have one - in the comments)


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