My guest blogger today is concert & festival photographer Anthony Tran. He’s stepped in to tell you a little about his work and to offer some tips for your own gig photography.
Hi Ant. Please tell Blackcurrant Photography’s readers a little about yourself and the work you do.
I shoot for street press magazine Drum Media in Perth , Sunset Events (who organise such music festivals as Southbound, One Movement, West Coast Blues & Roots), and I’m the resident photographer at The Astor Theatre in Mt Lawley.
In addition to this, my work has been featured in national music publications, Triple J Mag and Mess+Noise as well as international magazines like Alternative Press (US) and Electronic Beats (Germany) and I have been exhibited locally WA Museum for the WAMi Festival’s “Kiss my Camera” competition.
What equipment do you usually take out with you on a shoot?
If you’re ever at a gig, you’ll most likely see me carrying the following kit: Canon EOS 7D, Canon EOS 5D, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L, Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L all in a Crumpler “The Next Venue” bag.
Sometimes I’ll have a 50mm f/1.8 for those super-dim concerts or a Canon 1.4x teleconverter with Manfrotto monopod for those times when artists really don’t want photos to be taken up close! Other times I’ll have a couple of 580EX/EXII Speedlites on me.
For roadtrips, I have a Lowepro Computrekker Plus AW that can carry everything plus chargers and laptop.
What’s the best gig you’ve had the pleasure of photographing?
That’s a hard question! I have been going to gigs for nine years now and shooting for media for six years. Best gig to shoot in recent times would have to be Metallica @ Burswood Dome in October 2010. So far this year, a truly spaced-out experience was had with Sufjan Stevens @ The Regal Theatre in early February.
So how do I manage to get good shots at a concert or live performance? I don’t have all that stuff you just listed!
When shooting at concerts, a high-ISO setting is the only way to go! There is not a lot of light to work with, unless you’re lucky or shooting a high-production show. And, you might be surprised that you don’t necessarily need a digital SLR to start off. Any camera that is capable of doing ISO 800 or more will give you adequate results. Because you’re working with such high ISO, noise (grain) is unavoidable but it should add to the mood.
If you are working with a DSLR, it really helps to have a fast lens – something at least as open as f/2.8, though these lenses are quite pricey! If you’re on a budget, the 50mm f/1.8 is the perfect start for sharp photos in very low-light, usually around $100.
If you can afford a bit more, I would definitely recommend either the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 or the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 for a nice zoom range and around $500. Otherwise, the Canon lenses start from the mid-$1000s! But go for it if you have the dosh, since the clarity with those lenses are spot-on.
Am I going to need a really fast shutter speed?
You want to be aiming to shoot faster than 1/125th of a second for a sharp photo with little motion-blur. But, if you want those clear photos and your aperture is already at its widest, bump up your ISO (film speed). I always say that a clear but grainy photo is better than a blurry, unrecognisable one… though if blur is the effect you’re after then go for it!
What about exposure metering?
Because your shot will be mainly black and dark, you will want to use partial and/or spot metering to measure the light off either a musician’s face or particular highlights on their body. This will help reduce overblown highlights and allow you to get those fast shutter speeds. What can also help is setting an exposure bias of -2/3 to get faster shutter speeds and then bumping up the exposure by 2/3 in post-processing.
That’s pretty much all of the technical skills you need to get some good gig shots! All that’s left is a sharp eye, fast reflexes (you might catch that jump shot!) and plenty of practice. Rock on!
Got any questions for Anthony? You can leave them in the comments. =)