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Low light music gig pics; advice please

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by tim63, Dec 2, 2015.

  1. tim63

    tim63 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 5, 2015
    Good evening people. I am planning to go and take some pics at a small music gig in a local bar this weekend. Likely to be pretty dark maybe with some stage lights, I don't know for sure. My gear is an EM-10 with Olympus 25 1.8 and 45 1.8. At the moment I only really shoot jpegs but am learning Affinity photo with a view to developing from RAW in the future. I'd be grateful for any tips. Sort of things I'm thinking of are:
    • max ISO
    • spot metering or normal
    • manual or auto focus
    • anything else
    I suppose I'm asking for your experiences and what have you found works well. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    this set of shots
    Live Performance in Ghent

    were shot in a oddly lit dark bar over the space of a couple of years..The venue was conducive to getting really close to the performers... shot variously with GH2, OM5 and OM1, using typically sub f/2 lenses, predominantly 75 and 25/1.4

    My basic routine was

    1) Spot Metering
    2) Auto ISO with a 5000/6400 upper limit, though I have gone to 8000
    3) Single Autofocus triggered by half shutterpress
    4) shoot lots - I would often come back from a 3 hour session with 500 shots... on a good night I might share 30-50 with social media relating to the event. Personally I would share on flickr less than 50% of that
    5) Crop for impact, convert to B/W, work hard but fast on the processing, and dont worry about noise

    here are few of my favourites

    8559670838_61cdac6d0f_b. P3140119 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    6859604150_d76d319dec_b. P1010741 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    8744596088_13504a43bc_b. P5150134 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    8750480222_612925f582_b. P5170112 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    hope this helps

    K
     
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  3. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi,
    The consensus on ISO seems to be that 6400 is usually acceptable if you get the exposure right.
    I normally use center-weighted metering at night, but I'm sure spot would be more accurate for portraits.
    Turn on the histogram and use Exposure Compensation if needed.

    I like to keep the shutter speed high enough to keep the musicians sharp but still show some motion blur on their hands/fingers/drumsticks... somewhere between 1/60-1/100 on the 45mm iirc, but I'll double check later.

    Try AF, but be prepared to MF if it doesn't work. You'll want peaking on, and probably EVF boost.
    Try it in a dark room.

    Barry
     
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  4. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
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  5. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
  6. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Shoot raw and just wind up the ISO. Deal with the noise as best you can later, but don't fret about it - it adds to the character! Golden rule I think is to use a decent shutter speed - motion blur on faces is worse than noise IMHO. The shot below is at 1/20th sec, but is one of maybe 50, the other 49 of which were blurred:

    14183187690_f74723c79e_b.
    Not Debbie Harry! by -Paul Kaye-
     
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  7. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    *Camera support. A tripod is probably out of the question but a monopod with a small ball head should be feasible. Absent that, use your body or nearby objects for support. I have quite a good night shot at an outdoor asado in Argentina where I held the camera body solidly against the corner of a building. If you're sitting, sometimes you can bring your foot up onto the chair and end up being able to support the camera on your knee. Standing, brace yourself against a wall or some other creative perch. My wife is quite used to hearing "Hold still, I need to use your shoulder." You're going to have plenty of blur, but none of it should be due to camera motion.

    *Timing. You will get mostly blurs unless you time your shots to suit the music and your subjects' repetitive motion-- look for the time where a person's head stops moving back, pauses (shoot!), and then starts moving forward. Sometimes blur can be good; for example if you can get the drummer's hands or a guitarist's hands blurred but the person sharp.
     
  8. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Shoot RAW+LN. That way you'll have both jpg and RAW that you can work on when you like.
     
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  9. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I tend to shoot with bracketing enabled set to 2 frames, half a stop or one stop under exposed. This gives me every second frame at a faster shutter speed allowing some variation of ability to freeze motion, a half a stop push is not generally noticable and a 1 stop isn't noticable at web sizes (only large crops will be an issue). Depending on where you are aim for multiples of local power grid frequency (if in America, 1/60th, Australia or much of the world 1/50th) as this will avoid issues surrounding banding or variation in exposure between frames.

    I find the 45mm too long to use and much prefer a wide angle allowing you to get up and close and allowing more into the shot (shots of performers using a longer focal length tend to all look alike, you cannot tell which venue they were taken at).
     
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  10. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Unless it's a very small venue, I find the 45 to be a good option. Great for getting in close for facial expressions.
     
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  11. tim63

    tim63 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 5, 2015
    Thanks for all your replies. Really helpful advice! Think I might have a go with spot metering and the advice on shutter speeds is also really good. This is one of the situations where I'd like a more intelligent Auto ISO system so I can use 'A' but set a minimum (i.e., don't go slower) shutter speed before altering the ISO.

    One question, if I shoot RAW+LN as suggested by speedliner, when I delete all the non-keepers from the camera does it get rid of both files?
     
  12. tim63

    tim63 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 5, 2015
    PS: great pics as well. I'll see if I can get any good enough to post (assuming I go, not 100% sure yet :-( )
     
  13. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    FWIW, I've done a fair share of concert photography and rarely run into a problem with the camera choosing too low a shutter speed. Using A + ISO6400 upper limit w/45 or 75mm lenses.
     
  14. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Yes, as long as you don't have Raw Protect enabled.

    Barry
     
  15. tim63

    tim63 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 5, 2015
    Thanks to all who gave advice, I did end up going to the gig and had a great time and learnt a lot.

    Firstly (and I already knew this from playing drums in a band myself), ALWAYS wear ear protection if you're photographing a rock gig. I did and my ears are fine today. Trying to get decent photos means you often end up very close to amps and PA speakers which will definitely damage your hearing otherwise.

    From the photographic point of view a lot of lessons were learnt:
    1. Spot metering gave by far the best results. I did the first set with centre weighted but changed to spot for the second and the pics were noticeably better.
    2. Prior to this I'd always shot just jpegs but decided to do RAW+LN this time as advised by speedliner. The band had some LED stage lights which were on a sound chase setting so they flashed and changed colour in time to the music. I set the camera to multiple shots (low speed) and took about 3 frames each time but often one of the three was white light but the others could be red or blue. The jpegs for the ones with a coloured wash often looked really smeary BUT the corresponding RAW files often looked much better- a revelation for me.
    3. In a pub setting like this I at first felt quite self conscious with my camera and mixing it with a crowd of people out for a good time. In fact, I found that once I'd sort of established my place near the band nobody really bothered me at all.
    4. The guitarist with the beret is a good mate of mine and he'd asked before the night if they were OK with me coming along at all. After introducing myself I checked with them about any ground rules, what they would not want me to do, where not to stand etc. In fact they said I had free rein as they were looking to get some gig pics for their website. Anyway, always worth getting the consent of your subjects, no different in this setting.
    5. Take plenty, it doesn't cost any more and you've got more chance of keepers. Probably preaching to the converted I realise!
    Anyway, I've posted a few samples below to show you what I managed to get, not perfect by any means but I'm pretty pleased for a first attempt. Unfortunately I can't find any way to find the RAW files when searching thumbnails on my Macbook so these are all jpegs. Any constructive criticism gratefully received. Thanks once again for all the advice.
    PC040152.JPG PC040333.JPG PC040372.JPG PC040359. PC040410.JPG PC040395.JPG PC040388.JPG PC040288.JPG PC040246.JPG PC040391.JPG
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
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  16. tim63

    tim63 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 5, 2015
    Actually, thinking about it further I've learnt a few other things...
    • Most of the best shots were with my 45 but I did want some wider shots than the 25 would allow so I took a few with my 14-42 EZ kit lens. The low light definitely exposed its limitations (I find it great for bright conditions with high contrast) so I NEED a 12-40! Who doesn't?! And maybe a 12/15 prime.
    • I think I'd try C-AF next time as quite a few were out of focus as is inevitable with a moving target and wide apertures and maybe that'd work better.
    • Music is rhythmic and chart music especially has verses and choruses (I know, stay with me!) and this means that the performers actions and postures also follow a pattern. The lead singer (chubbier fella) was easier to shoot because after a while I noticed he was quite he was quite predictable; he'd stand still at the mic and look out to the audience when singing but then look down at his guitar when not singing. Once I'd spotted this it made it easier to plan shots. My mate with the beret was much harder to catch as he was either looking away or rocking around and also the lights weren't brilliantly positioned for illuminating him. Worth looking for patterns and working with them; if you miss a shot one verse it's more than likely the you'll have another chance in a minute or so.
    • Drummer photos are harder to get as they're usually at the back; could have done with a longer lens. I'd have done some close up stuff on stage but there was just so little room at that venue.
    • The 45 and 25 are great lenses and my EM10 is a belting good camera.

    Most important lesson (for the benefit of Mrs Tim63), I need a12-40!
     
  17. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi, the 12-40mm is a great lens, but it's about 1.3 stops slower than the f1.8 primes; that would more than double ISO or halve shutter speeds.

    The Oly 17mm f1.8 is great in low light, with excellent, fast AF, and is a lot cheaper than the 15mm.
    The 14mm has a slower aperture.

    There are ways to get f2.0 zooms, but they'd mostly be MF except on an E-M1, and are large and heavy.

    Barry
     
  18. tim63

    tim63 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 5, 2015
    Yep, I realise the 12-40 is slower than my primes but from what I can see it's superb even at 2.8 and most of the time I was using my primes slightly stopped down to 2.2/2.5. Thanks for the tip on the 17, Barry. I don't want an f2.0 zoom for the reasons you've given.
     
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  19. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Its too easy to get seduced into thinking you always need the fastest lens, sometimes you just have to work with what you have.

    This was the 50-200 on the E-M1 @ 100mm , f/3.2, 1/125 ISO 4000

    Minimal lighting, outdoor gig at night

    20795228313_e8aba6e747_b. P9130148 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    Same gig, same lens but at 200mm and f3.5

    20795226663_567e9bf4b3_b. P9130133 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    21228463438_f1e6ffbd36_b. P9130078 - Version 2 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    K
     
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  20. tim63

    tim63 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 5, 2015
    Thanks Kevin. I agree re max aperture comments but it's the critical sharpness of the EZ lens that makes me want to upgrade. IBS obviously is a great help if you catch the subject at a relatively static moment. Great shots by the way.