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Old Aug 3, 2009, 7:59 AM   #1
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Default Flash photography at a gig - HELP!!!

I'm off to a gig on Friday and the band have given me permission to take some photos. Now my problems are these:

1) I never did buy a fast 50mm so am stuck with the kit lens;
2) I am useless with flash photography (despite reading Sarah Joyce's threads).

So what I am wondering is - does anyone have any tips?

I have no idea of whether I'll be allowed on stage, or just at the front, or just somewhere in the crowd (in which case I'll not bother); might even get a chance to visit the band backstage Also, having never been to this venue I have no idea of layout. All I can make a reasonable guess about is that in order to get a sharp photo, I'll almost certainly need to use flash.

I have the GX-10 plus the SAMSUNG SEF-36PZF (guide no 36), which the equivalent of the Pentax AF 360FGZ.

In an ideal world there'll be enough light but from experience I doubt that'll be the case. So, as I said - I'm looking for tips.

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Old Aug 3, 2009, 9:14 AM   #2
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A couple tips. First, the bad may have given you permission, but you'll want to be sure the venue is on board. Especially if you're using a flash. If they're not aware I would expect an usher/bouncer to appear in very short order after you start snapping away.

Even if you're allowed, it's going to be a distinct challenge. Flash photography is not very conducive to band work. You lose the ambiance and feel of the performance especially if it's not a deep stage and your flash is blasting the background behind the band rather than the natural light fall-off from the spotlights used.

I would also encourage you to find out from the band/venue BEFOREHAND where you will be allowed to shoot from. The band isn't likely to want to deal with it the night of the performance (especially if you're really a stranger to them). If nothing else you need to find out how you are supposed to coordinate things the night of the shoot.

Now, assuming all ends up well and you get things coordinated and you get a good position to shoot from here's my suggestion for settings:
1. Put camera in manual Exposure.
2. Set aperture for desired dof (kit lens so probably 5.6)
3. Now it's decision time. Setting ISO and shutter speed will control how much ambient light is in the exposure. Set a high ISO (like 800) and a slow shutter speed - 1/60 or so and you'll let in more ambient light so parts of the image where your flash doesn't reach will be more illuminated. Use a lower ISO (400) and higher shutter (1/200) and the parts of your image where the flash doesn't reach will be dark. For a short stage, where you're shooting head on I wouldn't recommend the low ISO / high shutter approach because your flash will still illuminate the back of the stage and it will completely overpower the natural lighting and produce a very flat look. But with a deeper stage or from the side if theres a lot of space on the opposite side of your subject from your shooting position (i.e. if you're stage left and there's a lot of space on stage rigt) then using these settings if you're relatively close can result in better isolation of the performer. The key is having enough space 'behind' the subject for the light from the flash to fall off. The farther away you are and the closer the background is the less possible this type of shot is (in other words the camera determines you're 30 feet away so it needs a lot of flash output and there's a wall 15' 'behind' your subject - chances are the flash output is still going to reach that wall.

So, with flash you want to be close so you get that light fall-off. Hope that makes sense.

But again, the biggest key to your success will be you doing some coordination BEFORE the shoot to ensure the venue won't have a problem with you shooting or using flash and doing the prep work to identify your shooting position ahead of time or at least identify who/how you are going to coordinate the night of the shoot.

Good luck and have fun.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 12:02 PM   #3
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Watch this video made by a pentaxian on another board. There are two parts to the video.

There are a lot of tips that he offers. Even though his tips are for bar or night club shooting, it is universal in any night life situation with very low or bad lighting.

You may need more than 1/60 sec to capture the ambient light. It just depends on how much light is out there. I would do some test shots to see where it is at. Sometime I even use 1 or 2 sec exposure.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 3:06 PM   #4
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Don't have much to add after John's post for the small experience I've got.
And most of that experience was without permission.

I did find the lighting on the band being enough to get descent shot's. I've gone easily to 1/30s at iso200 with descent results. Because most are without permission they are taken with my (small ) Panasonic fz5

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Old Aug 3, 2009, 7:36 PM   #5
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Hi Keith,

Not that I can offer any advice, but here are a few of my photos from my cousin's outdoor night concert a few weeks ago. http://www.pbase.com/nhmom/mikes_concert You should be able to see from the data below the pics what my settings were. I had only taken the Tamron 70-300, Pentax 18-55 and 50mm/1.4.

Needless to say, it was difficult to get good shots. Between the low light, constant movement and rain we had, I wasn't real successful. It wasn't until nearly the end of hte concert that we realized our "VIP aftershow" passes meant we could go backstage during the whole show. The park rangers kept telling us it meant we could only go back after the show. But, we have the memories of our night.

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Old Aug 4, 2009, 9:01 AM   #6
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You can adjust the flash strength to get a more natural look.
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Old Aug 4, 2009, 11:49 AM   #7
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You may also wish to shoot in RAW so that you can adjust the white balance during post processing to get a natural look to the images especially in blending the ambient light with the subject.
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Old Aug 4, 2009, 3:09 PM   #8
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Thanks folks

Must admit I am definitely veering back towards not using flash, shoot as wide open as I can (a fairly horrible f5.6 - if only I'd bought a 50mm f1.4; thats an additional 4 stops! OK so DoF is probably wafer thin but still, 4 stops) then boost the ISO and fix the noise later - I always shoot RAW+JPG nowadays. Obviously I have to accept that a lot of shots will be rubbish. On the plus side the lighting will be much better. I guess I'll just have to ask the band to stand still!!!

Will still take the flash, just in case ...

Oh and thanks JohnG for reminding me to talk to the venue. They actually do have a "no cameras" rule but they said that as the band has said OK, they are also OK. It's nice to be "official"

Again thanks to everyone who responded. Some interesting stuff. Of course, now all I have to do is to work out how to make the damn flash, flash. just in case ...

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