Watching a live gig is an amazing experience, you can see the talent of the musicians, enjoy their music, appreciate the work that goes into creating the set and the lighting that makes the ambience of the event so special. The skill for the photographer as an event like this is to be in the right location to get the shots, to work with the lighting and to shot images understanding high ISO, back lighting, positioning and more… as you cant use flash photography in those situations.
Recently I got to photograph a band in a studio environment, I had ideas to use gel lighting to create an atmospheric background and was hoping to create some unique looks but it was impossible…
The studio lights were already set up with 2×600 lights in softboxes at the front fired by a trigger and 2 lights permanently on on that back wall. I did not have access to the trigger and I wanted to create shots showing the movement of the band, with the shallow depth of field look I like – this was at ISO100, F5.6, .5sec shutter speed with on camera flash rear sync – I mastered the movement but there the bright water background ruins the atmosphere that I associate with a band shot.
I had a very short window of time with the triggers for the studio lights, ISO125, F6.3, 1/130sec – to get the detail I wanted I had to blow out the background as I had no control over the angle of the light.
This is the drummer with the studio lights… the shadows fall in the wrong place for my shot, there is a real lack of eye contact and I got the impression he was uncomfortable being photographed.
I experimented by placing coloured gel over my camera lens to try and add colour and mood to the images… this colour add’s something different – but you can see how messy the background is with paper rolls on the wall and this is not really the look I wanted to achieve, the colour was too strong.
Moving the gels to the camera flash, I was hoping to be able to add a blue tinge to the shot … the blue is picked up very slightly but the back lights and studio lights being used by other photographers totally overpower my shot.
With the back lights turned off, I was able to get a more dramatic shot – here my flash was off camera – and positioned so that the shadow of the mike is totally in the wrong pace, but it is the only shot I managed with this lighting as the band then stopped for a break and the studio was filled with leaves for an arty shot.
This is the band leaning against the back wall, it was taken with High ISO and no flash, just let by the very bright lights within the studio. The grain add’s something to the image, but it is a shame that the amp is the main feature of the shot and not the drum kit.
This shoot really highlighted to me how I now want to be in control of my lighting, I want to be able to use lights and modifiers that I am familiar with, that are in a space that works for me, that the background is appropriate and that without control of these elements it is impossible to create shots from preconceived ideas.