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linearamp Nov 16, 2007 5:24 AM

i have a Fuji s7000 , im wondering how to take best photographs at a concert ...what settings to use etc ,any help or advice will be much appreciated.



JimC Nov 16, 2007 6:56 PM

What kind of concerts do you need to take photos at, and how far away will you be?

A "big name" band with good stage lighting is one thing, and a smaller band in a dimly lit venue can be something else entirely (where you may need to be close enough to use the flash and stay within the flash range with many camera models).

This issue comes up from time to time. So, I'm copying most of the answer from another reply I made not too long ago.

Leave the flash off (you probably won't be close enough for it to do any good, and if you leave it on, that's going to result in underexposed images with many cameras).

I'd suggest setting your White Balance to Incadescent (tungsten) for most concert lighting.

If the stage is not evenly lit (and it probably won't be if you have spotlights on smaller areas of the stage at any given time), that's going to fool your metering system.

For example, in concerts with that type of lighting, I tend to get overxposed photos with my camera, because the large amount of dark space in the frame fools the metering. Some cameras may do the opposite. Whenever there is a big difference between light and dark in a frame, metering systems struggle to figure out what you want to be properly exposed.

Spot metering may not help much either, because if you try to meter on a dark subject, you may get an overexposed image, and if you try to meter on a lighter subject, you may get an underexposed image. If you try to meter on a face, that might work better. But, you'll have differences in skin tones and the metering spot may be larger than you think.

So, in difficult lighting, I tend to use manual exposure. Basically, when the lighting is about average for a subject when overhead lights illuminate them, take some photos and adjust your settings until your images look properly exposed in playback, using the histogram to help out.

You'll want to leave the aperture wide open (smallest available f/stop number) and adjust your shutter speed for best results. A faster shutter speed will give you a darker exposure and a slower shutter speed will give you a brighter exposure for any given aperture and ISO speed.

If you'd prefer not to use manual exposure and/or the lighting is changing a lot, I'd probably go Center Weighted Metering for stage lighting using P (programmed auto) mode. It's going to select the widest available aperture in low light anyway with the flash off. Then, adjust exposure as needed with Exposure Compensation after reviewing some test shots. A +EV setting will give you a brighter exposure and a -EV setting will give you a darker exposure compared to what the camera would normally use.

You'll also want to leave your ISO speed set relatively high. With your camera, you'll probably want to go ISO 400.

Try to shoot when the performers are as motionless as possible. A monopod or tripod can help out with the camera shake part if you have one available if you're shooting at longer focal lengths.

When you increase ISO speed, noise levels will also increase. So, you may want to use software to help later. Look into these (and they have demo/free versions available for personal use): (note that the "Community" edition is free). Here's a direct link to download it:
The stand alone Neat Image trial version is free for personal use.

Take lots of photos. Be patient, prefocus with a half press of the shutter button, and try to take them when movement stops (smoothly press it the rest of the way down then).

fotografo35 Nov 23, 2007 2:05 PM

JimC, that was really detailed and some really wonderful information. I had used ISO 400 on my Fuji S5200 on a Tripod and done many of the things you'd suggested to this other poster (keep the button depressed 1/2 way and wait for performers to stop moving, for example). However, one thing I don't keep straight is the White Balance settings. For whatever reason, I have trouble wrapping my mind around them, mainly because I haven't seen a good explanation (except for yours for the assumed concert lighting) with an example to have a point of reference. My problem was this: they had this goofy lighting, which was like stage lights from the back of the room, with the lights more brightly illuminating the far wall where the small stage was. This caused a kind of yellow cast to come out in my photos, but I was using Average metering, ISO 400, manual exposure, but left the white balance on auto. Is this enough information for you to tell me what White Balance option I should have selected? Also, would you be willing to give a brief explanation of the normal White Balance selections and at least one example of when is best to use each one?

JimC Nov 23, 2007 2:59 PM


....This caused a kind of yellow cast to come out in my photos, but I was using Average metering, ISO 400, manual exposure, but left the white balance on auto.
Same answer as before. ;-) Use Tungsten in most concert lighting. Otherwise, you will have more of a yellow/orange cast than desired.

JimC wrote:

I'd suggest setting your White Balance to Incadescent (tungsten) for most concert lighting.
You've got other presets as well (Flourescent, Cloudy, Sunny, etc.). Many models can also use a Custom White Balance (measuring the temperature of the light you're shooting in from a gray card or white card).

For more about color temperature in different types of lighting, see this page:

RazorsEdge Mar 30, 2008 9:20 PM

I use a Canon 40D and one of two lenses a Sigma 18-50mm F/2.8 EX and a Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM. I shoot at 1600 ISO a lot but I try to keep it around 800. Even at 1600 it is not fast enough even when I use a mono pod. I am shooting local bands in dimly lit stages so with permission of the band I use my 580EX Flash and back it off 2/3rds to a full stop with a diffuser cap on. My problem there is I loose a lot of the feel of the concert because the stage lights get a washed out not the images of the bands but the colored lights are gone and it leaves shadows. Anyone got any suggestions?

JimC Mar 30, 2008 11:43 PM

Get brighter lenses (30mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8, etc.

Go ISO 3200 if you have to.

Take lots of photos and try to time them so that you catch the band members when they're relatively still (longer notes, etc.).

Or, use a flash. ;-)

If you're shooting at higher ISO speeds with a flash, leaving the aperture wide open, dragging the shutter as much as practical, you should be able to get a lot of ambient light into the image, too.

What kind of shutter speeds are you getting without a flash? Are you sure they're not overexposed, using slower shutter speeds than needed?

Depending on the metering system, that's very common when you have a lot of darker areas on a stage.

If they're a bit overexposed with hot spots in brighter areas, I'd try to dial in the exposure manually and see if you can get more shots closer to being properly exposed that way, with a bit faster shutter speeds (realizing that the lighting won't be just right for all of them).

Take lots of photos and try to time them when they're still. But, you're probably going to need brighter lenses if the lighting is dim. Around here in some of the dimmer restaurant bar areas that have live music from time to time when we eat dinner, I usually need to use ISO 3200 at f/2, just to get my shutter speeds up to between 1/20 and 1/40 second.

RazorsEdge Mar 31, 2008 5:20 AM

I get about 1/5s maybe 1/15 most of the time longer. So I use a 800 ISO and a fixed 1/250s on my flash then back it off 2/3rd to keep from blowing the highlights out. If I don't use a fixed 1/250s I get blurred shots. I hate the flash it takes away from the concerts feel. I try to wait until they are in a moment where they are not moving so much but many times the best shots are when the drummer sees me and looks my way or the guitar player is play emotional lead breaks. I do take lots of picks like 400 or more but the best ones are the 1st set when most people are not dancing or at in front of the stage. I have my eye on a Canon F/1.4 lens I think I will get it before the next gig.


JimC Mar 31, 2008 9:50 AM

RazorsEdge wrote:

I get about 1/5s maybe 1/15 most of the time longer. So I use a 800 ISO and a fixed 1/250s on my flash then back it off 2/3rd to keep from blowing the highlights out. If I don't use a fixed 1/250s I get blurred shots.
You shouldn't need quite that much difference between ambient light exposure (getting 1/5 to 1/15 second) and the shutter speed needed for the flash to freeze the action, unless you're overexposing the slower shots without a flash. I'd back it off a stop to 1/125 second to let in more ambient light. That would still give you 3 or 4 stops difference from where you're exposing ambient alone now.

If you don't have enough ambient light exposure in the image to expose your subjects, the flash itself will freeze the action (because the flash burst on most flash models is going to vary in length from about 1/1000 to 1/10000 second, depending on the flash power used (which is just varying the burst length). So, since the subject is only exposed during the very short flash burst, the flash freezes the action. Only when you get more ambient light in the image will you start seeing more blur and ghosts.

But, I'd probably expose as much as possible for ambient anyway, even if that does mean using shutter speeds slow enough to get a bit of blur from ambient light exposure. IOW, compromise between light balance and shutter speed in difficult conditions. You can't expect to get all blur free shots if you try to expose more for ambient.

You may also want to try using an orange diffuser on the flash, so there isn't as much difference in the lighting temperature between the flash and stage lighting, making it easier to tweak your white balance settings to where you want them.

You can get a cheap "knock off" diffuser with an Orange Dome for under $20 from this reputable Hong Kong based vendor:

Or, just search Ebay for Lambency and you'll find more.

RazorsEdge Apr 1, 2008 10:22 AM

Thanks for the advice I am ordering the orange dome and a EF 50mm F1.4 lens it should be here before my next shoot I will let you know how it turns out. I am working with the flash settings you suggested as well.



JimC Apr 1, 2008 10:52 AM

That lens should help. Keep in mind that Depth of Field is going to be pretty shallow, and you may want to stop it down a tad from wide open for a bit better sharpness and DOF.

I'd take lots of photos both ways (with and without a flash). As for flash settings, you'll have more ambient light using wider apertures.

So, keep that in mind (you'll probably need faster shutter speeds to freeze action using a flash if you use wider apertures at high ISO speeds, because you'd pull in more ambient light). You may want to dial back the aperture and/or ISO speed to tune settings with the new lens for the light balance you want.

RazorsEdge Apr 1, 2008 12:12 PM

OK thanks I will remember that, I am going to simulate the lighting tonight in my studio. That way I can be better prepared for Saturday night when it really counts. I really appreciate all your help.


BobbyNiel Oct 6, 2008 6:38 AM

[align=left]One of the things you don't usually have to worry about when taking photos at a concert is the lighting:cool:. It is usually sufficient for obtaing well-lit and exposed photos. That is good news because use of a flash, even if permitted, is generally not effective for photographing concert scenes. Try to find out in advance what type of lighting is used in the concert hall. Adjust the white balance setting accordingly and take some test shots before the show begins. Make sure to also check the camera sensitivity settings and how responsive the camera will auto focus in the light.

Set your camera to center-weighted or matrix metering for most shots. If a subject has a spot-light on it, switch to spot metering mode. When using a spot meter, lock exposure and focus on or near the brightest area of the subject, then recompose before taking the shot.If necessary, increase the sensitivity of the camera by using a higher ISO number, such as 200 or 400. The downside is that you increase noise in photos, which can result in a reduction of photo detail and clarity. Fortunately, it can often be reduced with noise reduction software.[/align]

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