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Thread: Shooting live music

  1. #1
    RichB's Avatar
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    Shooting live music

    I was at a concert on Friday and thought I'd try taking some photos but I found it suprisingly difficult, how do I do better?

    I was mostly using a EF 50mm 1.8 lens on my 550d but a few with the kit 17-55mm lens for wide angle.

    These pictures are pretty typical of the group, trying to get good sharpness in the face of the main subject seems nigh on impossible. I messed around with trying higher F stops for depth of field and faster shutter speeds as I didn't know if it was motion blur and kept pushing the ISO up to pretty much the limit of usefulness but still couldn't get it right. I was starting to think that it might be a focus accuracy issue so I tried manual focusing with zoomed in live view but it's really tricky. Am I just expecting too much from the equipment?

    I only have experimenting shots as I was unexpectedly unable to stay for the act I went to see.

    Shooting live music
    EF 50mm F3.5 1/50 Av@ev -1 and ISO 6400

    Shooting live music
    EF 50mm F1.8 1/320 Av@ev -1 and ISO 6400 (to see if motion blur is the issue, aperture presumable too large)

    Shooting live music
    EF 50mm F2 1/60 Av@ev -1/3 and ISO 3200

    Shooting live music
    EF-S 17-55@21mm F3.5(Wide Open) 1/30 Av@ev-1 and ISO 6400

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting live music

    Bryan Peterson says "To the surprise of many amateur shooters out there, 1/500s is often all it takes to get those action-stopping shots. You really don't need anything faster than that to get that shot of the base-runner slamming into the catcher at home plate or the long jumper spraying sand on landing."

    That being laid out as a starting point, add a base setting of ISO 100, and the aperture of your choosing (depends on what your shooting intentions are) and you practice till you get it right. The first thing you want is a good exposure. I keep a handy settings guide in my pocket and for low-light shooting-subject well lit stage or sports arena-1/8 sec, ISO400 and I can use that as a starting point.
    Additional discussions on the subject can be found in the middle of the thread linked below.

    The Funk Band

  3. #3
    RichB's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting live music

    Having read that and looking at my photos I think lesson one is that I can expose a stop less than I thought which is useful to know but I'm still struggling to work out how I can get things sharper, I think my aim of a 1/50th shutter speed (without IS but carefully supported) isn't unreasonable and I will switch to shutter priority next time which seems more sensible. Maybe I'll try up to 1/100th.

    Ultimately I think the first photo from the series above is probably the closest to the settings I should have used but probably at ev -2 especially since that image has -1/4 stop exposure adjustment in camera raw and it's fine at -1 adjustment I think.

    That doesn't solve what I think might be a focusing issue though, which I haven't really met before as I've never shot so wide open without control of subject movement. Would focusing using AI Servo improve things? I don't think I'll try manual focusing again.

    I suspect perhaps trying to reframe after focusing might be to blame but it's a bit tricky with only 9 points of AF, presumably it's worth just cropping afterwards even with the noise issues?

  4. #4

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    Re: Shooting live music

    Just my first thoughts, Richard.

    Shooting darkish action shots without flash is fraught with potential problems. And as you mentioned, lowering the shutter speed risks subject blur even if you manage to avoid camera shake, and excessive Iso noise.

    However, putting these issues to one side.

    #1 appears to need a slight anti clockwise rotation but is otherwise good.

    #2 has too much 'wasted' dark area at the bottom. Just dark, and noisy, legs. I suspect that cropping to a 5 x 4 ratio, approx, would concentrate more on the important bits and 'lift' the overall scene.

    #3 is basically fine but something seems not quite perfect. Possibly the central character is lacking in face sharpness? Or the light is a little too bright on him?

    #4 I think, attempts to show too much of the overall scene and fails to have a clear point of attention.

  5. #5
    RichB's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting live music

    Geoff, I certainly agree that none of these are great in composition, I was messing around (being as unobtrusive as possible) trying to work out the best settings to use for when the act I went to see came on so I wasn't so concerned. Sadly due to factors outside my control I had to leave before she came on and I have none of the photos I wanted, that said I didn't get it right so I wasn't going to get the photos I wanted anyway.

    The problem fundamentally is that the faces are blurred no matter what I did but I did use one-shot focus and reframe, mostly from the centre AF point (the only cross AF point, hoping for AF speed and accuracy). Even at F3.5 or so I'm guessing that with the shallow DOF the subject moved out of focus as I reframed and the reframing itself didn't help, I'm suprised I didn't get a single sharp shot from luck though.

    Is there anything I'm just fundamentally missing?

  6. #6
    RichB's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting live music

    Here's a colour one that I was relatively happy with:
    Shooting live music

  7. #7

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    Re: Shooting live music

    Possibly, Richard, with the poor light, was the auto focus able to successfully focus where you intended? But as you said, reframing might have been the problem.

    Possibly a case for manual focus. But I prefer to be using a tripod for that because I find handheld manual focusing to be tricky.

  8. #8
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting live music

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    Possibly, Richard, with the poor light, was the auto focus able to successfully focus where you intended? But as you said, reframing might have been the problem.

    Possibly a case for manual focus. But I prefer to be using a tripod for that because I find handheld manual focusing to be tricky.
    Alsoyou want some elevation above the crowd; I've had quite a few scenes disrupted by moving heads.

  9. #9
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    Re: Shooting live music

    What type of metering did you use I always use spot metering.

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