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Advice for shooting concert pictures in a small club.
Hello,.

I will be bringing my camera (an Olympus Evolt E-510 with standard 2 lens kit) to a small club of capacity 200. I don't know what the lighting situation will be, but I hope the stage lighting is pretty simple or does not change much. I will not shoot flash so as not to bother anyone and will increase the ISO as needed. I have image stabilization so I can use that. Are there any other things I can do to take good concert pix in a low light situation with a hand held camera? Any advice would be appreciated..

I may get a chance to shoot at another club before this concert so I can experiment with any advice..

I will be shooting RAW and will try to set the white balance by shooting a white sheet of paper..

Any tips on trying something arty? I wouldn't mind adjusting shutter speed to get a little creative blur..

Thanks,Gottlieb..

Comments (22)

Gottlieb13 wrote:.

Hello,.

I will be bringing my camera (an Olympus Evolt E-510 with standard 2lens kit) to a small club of capacity 200. I don't know what thelighting situation will be, but I hope the stage lighting is prettysimple or does not change much. I will not shoot flash so as not tobother anyone and will increase the ISO as needed. I have imagestabilization so I can use that. Are there any other things I can doto take good concert pix in a low light situation with a hand heldcamera? Any advice would be appreciated..

I may get a chance to shoot at another club before this concert so Ican experiment with any advice..

I will be shooting RAW and will try to set the white balance byshooting a white sheet of paper..

Any tips on trying something arty? I wouldn't mind adjusting shutterspeed to get a little creative blur..

Thanks,Gottlieb.

Hi.

Its not the size of the club that matters but what the lighting is like..

You will need (unless very well lit) at LEAST iso 800. Most of my band pics are 1600 then 800 or 3200 rarely 400. if the lighting is not static there is not much point doing wb from a white paper...just set for tungsten or what ever you are comfortable with and will be fine. You will probably need to open up as well....though sometimes f4 or even 5.6 is ok. Try not to get right in front of the singer with the microphone in their face...stand a little to the side. For full band shots stand at the corner to fit them all in..

Stabilisation will not help (except to get the background sharper while the subject movement is blurred) unless the performers are not moving much..

Experiment with various speeds to get a little movement blur of guitarists hands and drummers sticks..

Do not forget to get earplugs and have fun..

Some of my gallerieshttp://www.fasterlouder.com.au/people/nobodyatall#pubPortfolio.

Neil..

Comment #1

Yep, shoot RAW, so white balance should not be a problem..

Your main issue will be the speed of the lens(es) you use - i.e. how wide the maximum aperture is to get enough light in the camera..

You really want at least f/2 or preferably f/1.8 or f/1.4 for this, somewhere from say 12 to 50mm I would think..

Not sure of the Olympus range but Nikon and Canon both do a good cheap 50mm f/1.8..

I took these in a pub (my boss on bass...), no stage lighting but fairly dark, so ISO 720, f/1.8, 1/250. Not a good vantage point, and 35mm would have been better than 50mm..

Obviously dial the ISO up to 800 or above to get a reasonable shutter speed..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Alex..

Comment #2

Dear Neil,.

Thanks for all the advice. I hope to "practice" a couple days before the concert at a reggae dance club shooting the mc's and dj on stage to see how my camera works. I don't have the fastest of lenses (I think F3.5 on my smaller kit lens is the largest aperture) but will push it to it's largest setting..

I took a quick look at your pictures on your website and was impressed. By the way, I'm shooting an Australian band by the name of the Lucksmiths if you are familiar with them. It will be in Los Angeles..

All the best,Gottlieb.

Neil holmes wrote:.

Its not the size of the club that matters but what the lighting is like..

You will need (unless very well lit) at LEAST iso 800. Most of myband pics are 1600 then 800 or 3200 rarely 400. if the lighting isnot static there is not much point doing wb from a white paper...justset for tungsten or what ever you are comfortable with and will befine. You will probably need to open up as well....though sometimesf4 or even 5.6 is ok. Try not to get right in front of the singerwith the microphone in their face...stand a little to the side. Forfull band shots stand at the corner to fit them all in..

Stabilisation will not help (except to get the background sharperwhile the subject movement is blurred) unless the performers are notmoving much.Experiment with various speeds to get a little movement blur ofguitarists hands and drummers sticks..

Do not forget to get earplugs and have fun..

Some of my gallerieshttp://www.fasterlouder.com.au/people/nobodyatall#pubPortfolio.

Neil..

Comment #3

Dear Alex,.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Your pub picture looks very nice indeed..

Unfortunately, my lense aperture will only go to F3.5 or so. But I wanted to ask you about buying lenses for the future. Currently, I can't afford to buy anything now as I just shelled out for the camera with the basic kit lenses, but for the future I imagine the larger the aperture capability the better the lens. Is this so?.

Also, what other quick and general advice can you give me about picking up lenses for the future as far as considerations of quality? Do I need to buy Olympus lenses only or can I purchase lenses from other makers?.

I'm just a beginner and want to shoot all types of subject matter and genre so I'd want good all around lenses first of all. I enjoy shooting people in action; for example I had a GREAT time shooting people salsa dancing outdoors in Santa Monica (near LA). I really got into blur to accent the dancers motion. I don't think I will want as much blur in the concert pix, but I want a little. But if I continue to shoot in clubs, I imagine I will need a good fast lens for low light since flash is not possible..

Sincerely,Gottlieb.

Alex Leach wrote:.

Yep, shoot RAW, so white balance should not be a problem..

Your main issue will be the speed of the lens(es) you use - i.e. howwide the maximum aperture is to get enough light in the camera..

You really want at least f/2 or preferably f/1.8 or f/1.4 for this,somewhere from say 12 to 50mm I would think..

Not sure of the Olympus range but Nikon and Canon both do a goodcheap 50mm f/1.8..

I took these in a pub (my boss on bass...), no stage lighting butfairly dark, so ISO 720, f/1.8, 1/250. Not a good vantage point, and35mm would have been better than 50mm..

Obviously dial the ISO up to 800 or above to get a reasonable shutterspeed..

Alex..

Comment #4

Gottlieb13 wrote:.

Dear Alex,.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Your pub picture looks very niceindeed..

Unfortunately, my lense aperture will only go to F3.5 or so. But Iwanted to ask you about buying lenses for the future. Currently, Ican't afford to buy anything now as I just shelled out for the camerawith the basic kit lenses, but for the future I imagine the largerthe aperture capability the better the lens. Is this so?.

Also, what other quick and general advice can you give me aboutpicking up lenses for the future as far as considerations of quality?Do I need to buy Olympus lenses only or can I purchase lenses fromother makers?.

I'm just a beginner and want to shoot all types of subject matter andgenre so I'd want good all around lenses first of all. I enjoyshooting people in action; for example I had a GREAT time shootingpeople salsa dancing outdoors in Santa Monica (near LA). I reallygot into blur to accent the dancers motion. I don't think I willwant as much blur in the concert pix, but I want a little. But if Icontinue to shoot in clubs, I imagine I will need a good fast lensfor low light since flash is not possible..

Sincerely,Gottlieb.

Not sure about the Olympus range as I'm a Nikon man, but the Olympus SLR forum should be great for that. Sadly I don't think they do a cheap fast lens. What lenses are in the 2 lens kit?.

For the club, if a tripod is not possible, maybe a monopod or even putting the camera on a table may be a solution to avoid camera shake. I did a similar shot to my one above but at 1/30 to give a bit of blur to the drumstick:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #5

Alex Leach wrote:.

Not sure about the Olympus range as I'm a Nikon man, but the OlympusSLR forum should be great for that. Sadly I don't think they do acheap fast lens. What lenses are in the 2 lens kit?.

For the club, if a tripod is not possible, maybe a monopod or evenputting the camera on a table may be a solution to avoid camerashake. I did a similar shot to my one above but at 1/30 to give abit of blur to the drumstick:.

Dear Alex,.

The kit lenses are as follows: 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 Zuiko Lenses. If Olympus doesn't do a cheap fast lens, are there other makers that have such lenses..

In choosing my camera, it was between the Olympus e-510 and the Nikon 40Dx. I went Olympus because of the sensor cleaning system and the built in image stabilization. This is only for my use as a beginner. At the rate camera technology now evolves, I may switch to Nikon in the future for a better camera and more choices in lenses. For the moment, while I learn the technical side of photography, it will be Olympus..

Sincerely,Gottlieb..

Comment #6

I use the Olympus 50mm f2 and Sigma 30mm f1.4 for gig shots, the larger aperture gives a significant advantage over the kit lenses. The Oly is *very* sharp and while focusing can be a little slow it generally spot on for accuracy. The Sigma is much faster to focus but accuracy can drop off in low light. Focusing will be one of your biggest challenges in low light. Practice finding what the AF 'likes' to lock onto..

One thing to try if you are using kit lenses in this situation is to use them at their widest focal length to mantain the widest aperture, and do the zooming with your feet. In a typical small club the lighting will probably be less than fantastic and f3.5 will maybe just cut it, f5.6 will be *very* dim....

Shooting RAW should help to get the best out of your photos, especially in regards to high ISO noise, as well as fine tuning exposure and colour balace. Do a white balace preset rather than leaving it up to AUTO WB, it can make some pretty out there decisions under stage lights..

For metering I would recommend spot metering off the performers face as large areas of darkness and bright lights in the frame easily fool ESP and centre weighted metering..

The earplugs advice is good, often the best place to get a clear shot from at a loud concert is right in front of the speakers for the obvious reason.....

Comment #7

Kurt Petersen wrote:.

Just curious, do you have an e-510?.

For metering I would recommend spot metering off the performers faceas large areas of darkness and bright lights in the frame easily foolESP and centre weighted metering..

Would it be better to set the aperture to as wide as possible (with my lenses F3.5) and shoot or let the camera set exposure automatically? If this question is rather daft, please pardon me I'm a beginner so pardon my ignorance. In any case, thanks for all your advice..

By the way, as an Australian, have you heard of the Lucksmiths, the band I plan to shoot?.

Sincerely,Gottlieb..

Comment #8

Yep, E-510 user since June, before that I used an E-300..

You will need to try and keep that aperture as wide as possible with the kit lens so shoot Aperture priority and spot meter or if the lighting is static (no lightshow) you can go for manual and get your exposure dialled in with some test shots. I use the blinking highlights review for adjusting in manual, the histogram will usually be bunched to left because so much of your photo is dark so it's not so useful for this kind of shooting..

I've heard of The Lucksmiths, they get a bit of play on JJJ radio but haven't seen them in concert. Hope you have a good night 8)You can see some of my gig shots herehttp://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/contributors/bomburtThe latest three were with E-510..

Comment #9

At f/3.5, you will need to crank the ISO up as high as you can go.. 1600, 3200 if you have it (I use a different system, don't know the limits of yours).. shoot at f/3.5, as mentioned meter off the performer's face (shooting in Manual mode of course) and take 3 or 4 shot bursts (without flash) ... remember to brace yourself as best you can, as the shutter speeds will likely be long (1/30 or slower.. 1/10 is common).. shoot RAW if you can, as you *will* want to adjust the white balance later!.

Unless the venue is fairly large, you will not need the longer lens.. an ultrawide would be nice if you can get close to the performers... last pub I took some photos in, I only had 24/2.8 on my XT, should have taken the 10-22 (ultrawide) as the space was so tight that I couldn't get the whole band in one shot!.

Cheers,S.**My XT IS Full Frame APS-C/FF of course!*****So is my 5D 35mm/FF**..

Comment #10

Kurt Petersen wrote:.

Yep, E-510 user since June, before that I used an E-300.You will need to try and keep that aperture as wide as possible withthe kit lens so shoot Aperture priority and spot meter or if thelighting is static (no lightshow) you can go for manual and get yourexposure dialled in with some test shots. I use the blinkinghighlights review for adjusting in manual, the histogram will usuallybe bunched to left because so much of your photo is dark so it's notso useful for this kind of shooting..

Dear Kurt,.

Have you ever used the bias exposure setting on your E-510? I just saw the feature on a camera training video and tried it out. As I biased it down(?) my shutter speed went up dramatically. I'm thinking of shooting at F3.5, my lowest setting in Aperture priority mode. Hopefully I could get a reasonable shutter speed for hand held shots then!!!! I might even be able to adjust ISO down a bit to get rid of noise. How does that stand up in theory? How about in practice if you have any experience using it?.

Sincerely,Gottlieb..

Comment #11

ScottyNV wrote:.

At f/3.5, you will need to crank the ISO up as high as you can go..1600, 3200 if you have it (I use a different system, don't know thelimits of yours).. shoot at f/3.5, as mentioned meter off theperformer's face (shooting in Manual mode of course) and take 3 or 4shot bursts (without flash) ... remember to brace yourself as bestyou can, as the shutter speeds will likely be long (1/30 or slower..1/10 is common).. shoot RAW if you can, as you *will* want to adjustthe white balance later!.

Dear S.,.

Thanks for all the advice. I was wondering if you have had experience with biasing exposure with your cameras? I replied to Kurt about this because our Oly E-510s allow you to adjust exposure to over or under expose your shots a bit. I tried it and.

My shutter speed went up. This is good since the E-510 only allows ISO up to 1600..

If I did this I might be able to get a decent shutter speed and maybe even dial down ISO to cut down on noise..

Have you done this yourself or heard about anyone doing it? Are there any potential pitfalls?.

Thanks for you advice and time with my beginner's questions,Gottlieb..

Comment #12

Actually, nevermind the below as I just EXPOSED my ignorance. Yeah, I actually.

Shot with bias to underexpose and yes the shutter speed went way up, but the pictures ...surprise, surprise...were all underexposed! I thought I had figured out a way to open up my aperture more with biasing, but I realize I've got to think things through a bit more and think a bit more. Still trying to get a grasp over understanding things..

Sincerely,Gottlieb.

Dear Kurt,.

Have you ever used the bias exposure setting on your E-510? I justsaw the feature on a camera training video and tried it out. As Ibiased it down(?) my shutter speed went up dramatically. I'mthinking of shooting at F3.5, my lowest setting in Aperture prioritymode. Hopefully I could get a reasonable shutter speed for hand heldshots then!!!! I might even be able to adjust ISO down a bit to getrid of noise. How does that stand up in theory? How about inpractice if you have any experience using it?.

Sincerely,Gottlieb..

Comment #13

Dear S,.

I was confused about biasing and actually tried out what I thought was a smart idea. I just got radically underexposed pix and egg all over my face. I will shoot at 3.5, try ISO at 1600 but hope there will be more lighting than anticipated and hold the camera real, real steady..

Pardon my foolishness,Gottlieb.

Dear S.,.

Thanks for all the advice. I was wondering if you have hadexperience with biasing exposure with your cameras? I replied toKurt about this because our Oly E-510s allow you to adjust exposureto over or under expose your shots a bit. I tried it andmy shutter speed went up. This is good since the E-510 only allowsISO up to 1600.If I did this I might be able to get a decent shutter speed and maybeeven dial down ISO to cut down on noise..

Have you done this yourself or heard about anyone doing it? Arethere any potential pitfalls?.

Thanks for you advice and time with my beginner's questions,Gottlieb..

Comment #14

The point about not being dead centre is a particularly good one - not really relevant for you if you're going to be in the photography pit (assuming there is one) but for a general admission show you don't want to be dead centre for photographs if the singer is using a mic stand!..

Comment #15

Well you can bias exposure, but I generally do that to get the exposure correct if the metering is having trouble. I personally wouldn't use it to get a better shutter speed, for that I would suggest manual exposure, set aperture wide open and set the shutter speed to the minimum needed to get a blur free shot. This may as you have seen result in a dark shot, but as you are shooting in RAW you can increase the exposure level in post processing. What you are effectively doing is 'pushing' up the ISO which will increase noise, but better noisy than blurry IMO, you can use software to reduce noise (at the expense of fine detail) but there's not much you can do to fix a blurry shot. For gig shots ideally you would like to be at 1/125 sec or above, but I push it down about as far as 1/40 sec when things are really dim. It takes a steady hand and good timing to avoid blur at slow speeds llike that...

At least The Lucksmiths are a fairly mellow sounding band and probably won't be moving around quite as much as some high energy act..

As Scotty has said, with a maximum f3.5 aperture you will need to set the ISO as high as possible unless you have some *really* good lighting going on. This is just a limitation of the kit lenses unfortunately..

If you have the money, you may consider getting the 50mm f2 Macro. It is a bit expensive but it will give you an extra two stops of light gathering capability (more at the equivalent focal length), as well as opening up the world of macro which is an endless source of photographic enjoyment! It also is an *excellent* portrait lens. It really is a purchase you won't regret and just expands the capability of the camera so much over the kit lenses..

The Sigma 30mm f1.4 is slightly cheaper (at least mine was) but it's a kinda specialised lens, it's advantages over kit lenses being low light and shallow depth of field with no close focus capability. It gives you an extra stop over the 50mm, which means three stops (more at the equivalent focal length) over the kit lens. This is quite a significant advantage, three stops is the difference between 1/125 second and 1/15th second. If you are interested in doing handheld low light photography the Sigma is a great peice of kit. The panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4 is probably even better but at twice the price.....

Comment #16

We all have to learn somewhere, and that is why you posted the Q in the beginners forum, right?!.

There is no 'stupid' question.. 'ignorant' perhaps, but only when the information is clearly available to one, and ignored.. (not the situation in this case!)..

If shutter speed is a real issue, as mentioned above, try to keep above 1/40 or so, 1/125 is as close to ideal as you could possibly expect... and if you accept the added noise in the photo, you *can* underexpose by a stop and then brighten by a stop in post-processing, but this practise is not recommended unless you *really* need to get the shot at any cost..

Cheers,S.**My XT IS Full Frame APS-C/FF of course!*****So is my 5D 35mm/FF**..

Comment #17

Dear Kurt,.

Thanks again for all the info. I will probably buy a faster lens tomorrow for my camera. I went to shoot at a dance club and could not do anything without blur even at ISO 1600. So what did I do, I set the shutter speed to between 1 and 4 seconds and waved the camera around making blurry shots. They are interesting if not juvenile. Some are purely abstract.

I've got a lot of editing and then processing to do, but I will post to this group with a link should I get them on the net. They came out kind of arty. But for the lucksmiths, I simply need afaster lens to do the job..

Sincerely,Gottlieb..

Comment #18

Dear S,.

Thanks for the reply. I tried shooting with my kit lens and it did not work for straight photography. I'm buying a faster lens tomorrow. Thanks for all the patience and information as I now know better what I need. I'm glad I could test out the lens at a reggae club before going to the concert on Friday. Still I set my.

Shutter speed up to several seconds and did some arty blur shots with the colored lights. Sometimes, you can even make out the performers and it looks kind of dystopic or apocalyptic..

Sincerely,Gottlieb.

ScottyNV wrote:.

We all have to learn somewhere, and that is why you posted the Q inthe beginners forum, right?!.

There is no 'stupid' question.. 'ignorant' perhaps, but only when theinformation is clearly available to one, and ignored.. (not thesituation in this case!)..

If shutter speed is a real issue, as mentioned above, try to keepabove 1/40 or so, 1/125 is as close to ideal as you could possiblyexpect... and if you accept the added noise in the photo, you *can*underexpose by a stop and then brighten by a stop in post-processing,but this practise is not recommended unless you *really* need to getthe shot at any cost..

Cheers,S.**My XT IS Full Frame APS-C/FF of course!*****So is my 5D 35mm/FF**..

Comment #19

Well good luck with your purchase 8) Another thing to consider when choosing between competing lenses is to set your kit lenses to the appropriate focal lengths to see what field of view you get with your choices. Think about how close you will be to the performers and how much you will be able to fit into the frame. Even better is to take your camera down the shop and ask to try and compare the lenses..

The Oly 50mm is considerable smaller & lighter than the Sigma 30mm, but I do think the Sigma on the front of the E 510 looks very buisnesslike 8) Not that asthetics should have any bearing on your decision when buying a tool of course.....

Comment #20

Dear Kurt, S, and everyone,.

Take a look at these when handed lemons make lemonade pictures I shot. I did get the 50MM f2 Olympus lens for the lucksmiths and hope to have better luck tomorrow..

Sincerely,Gottliebhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/gottlieb13/.

Gottlieb13 wrote:.

Dear Kurt,.

Thanks again for all the info. I will probably buy a faster lenstomorrow for my camera. I went to shoot at a dance club and couldnot do anything without blur even at ISO 1600. So what did I do, Iset the shutter speed to between 1 and 4 seconds and waved the cameraaround making blurry shots. They are interesting if not juvenile.Some are purely abstract. But some I got people on stage at thereggae club ( the MC and the dj) with blurred lights.

They came out kind ofarty. But for the lucksmiths, I simply need afaster lens to do the job..

Sincerely,Gottlieb..

Comment #21

For myself, the light painting by motion blur/long shutter doesn't appeal, but now you have some experience!.

I know it feels good to show your stuff, but even as a beginner, one should strive to show only your best work...

Keep at it, you will improve!.

IMO, you would have captured much more, and objectively as well as subjectively, "better" photos, with fast prime lenses.. f/2.8 would be the slowest you would want to look at, f/1.4 is where the real action is...

Cheers,S.**My XT IS Full Frame APS-C/FF of course!*****So is my 5D 35mm/FF**..

Comment #22

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