Stories on stage: how we photograph concerts

Dressed for action!

Dressed for action!

How did Roxy and I end up with all access Press passes to the annual Sinaia Forever festival? We asked for them! Well, actually we traded for them. It was fundamental capitalism really. We had something the organisers wanted: photography skills, and they had something we wanted: an exposure opportunity; so we traded with each other. Easy.

So with bags packed, passes round our necks and cameras in hands, off we went to Sinaia Forever 2018.

The program was full from 12:30 right up until 23:30. A lot of the activities repeated each day so people didn’t miss anything, but the concerts were a Friday evening exclusive, and featured some popular acts, so let’s discuss how we photographed them.

Purpose

First of all, before you take any photographs it’s imperative to know why you’re taking them, and what their purpose is. Once you know this, literally everything else sorts itself out. Here, the organisers wanted images that captured the atmosphere, and told the story of the festival; so that was our initial goal. We also had a personal goal, and that was to gain some awareness for Prime Photographic and the quality we can produce.

Composition

To achieve our goals, we decided to shoot a range of focal lengths. Wide shots to set the scene and showcase the spectacle, juxtaposed with more intimite close ups which reveal the little expressions and emotions people often miss, or can’t see from the audience, to truly tell the full story unfolding. Like I recommended in my previous post, 4 EASY TECHNIQUES FOR BETTER PHOTOS WITH YOUR PHONE, I always try to capture the angle nobody else has, and being able to stand right in front of the stage and shoot this wide range of photos definitely gave me a great opportunity to do that.

Settings and Exposure

So we used our purpose of telling a story to guide our composition, but when it came to selecting our settings, we also had to be mindful of the light available. The close ups required a focal length of between 200 - 300mm, and we know to avoid camera shake our shutter speed must be at least our focal length, but at 1/320 our ISO had to be 2,000 in order to achieve a decent exposure since our lenses only opened up to f/5.6 at 300mm. We wanted the ISO as low as possible, so we took advantage of VR (Vibration Reduction) built into the lenses and dropped our shutter speed to between 1/125 and 1/160. This allowed us to lower the ISO to 1,000 and produce cleaner images.

Ideally, we would’ve liked f/2.8 lenses for this situation, but 1/125 - 1/160 + VR produced sharp images, f/5.6 was enough to seperate the acts from the lights and the background, and ISO 1,000 on full frame sensors was virtually noise free.

The Audience

As the concert went on, it was only natural that the shots begun to look similar, so we turned our attention to the audience. Shots of the audience aren’t something that we would include in our portfolio as stand alone images, but they’re an immensely powerful when included as part of a collection of images that tell a story like these do. A geniune reaction, and look on a person’s face can tell a story better than almost anything, so it’s important to always be aware of who’s around you, and what they’re doing.

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Final Thoughts

And with some fireworks and foamy stuff, our concert coverage came to an end, but the work didn’t stop. That night we stayed awake until 04:30 editing the images in order to get them up as quickly as possible while interest in the concert was still high. We anticipated sharing amongst the performers’ fans, so because one of our goals was awareness, we did something we don’t usually do and watermarked the images so people could find us.

So, did the images fulfil their purpose? Yes! The organisers loved them and they were shared by hundreds of people. This is only the beginning!

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