Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shooting Performers in Small Venues - The insanity of it all.

Performances on this night provided by: (1.) Jinxemgood, (2.) Scarlet, (3.) TrapKey, (4.) Waiting for Zombies, (5.) Mass Distractors.
********** Shooting Performers in Small Venues - The insanity of it all.
By Keith Birmingham

In July of this (2013) year I embarked on a project that will, hopefully, move me into the photographic specialty of concert performances.  I have started shooting musicians performing at the smaller venues, like the neighborhood bars where open mic nights are held, and were performers play on their way up the ladder. My friend, it is rough work. The beer, the drunks, the stage lights, and even where you shoot from are all working overtime to make your job hard to do. But, my friend, it is a blast.

Why work in the smaller venues? Because, like me, the people that perform at these venues are learning their trade. And, I might add, busting their butts for little and no money. Just like me. And, they all crave attention for their art, just like me. Meanwhile, the beer flows, the bar gets more and more crowed. The noise becomes deafening. The drunks are always looking over your shoulder, or getting in your face, and asking, “Whatcha doin’ der bub?” Meanwhile, your always looking for the next shot, changing camera sitting, checking to see what your histogram is telling you, and getting thirstier.

When I purchased my equipment in 2010 I had little hope of doing anymore than using it for a hobby. My equipment is nice, a Nikon D700, but it is only meant for someone at entry level into the professional ranks.  But, I know the camera well, even though I am very frequently reading the owners manual. I have a smaller camera for backup. Until I relocated to Las Vegas I did not need any better equipment than I have now. Not having the equipment now is a challenge, but I thrive on that challenge.

Before coming to Las Vegas I did own a couple of the high dollar, f/2.8 lenses. They were great for shooting in low light situations, but too heavy to work in the conditions I now work in.  Now, I have a 60mm portrait/macro lense, and a 28-300mm f/3.5 lense. Yes, I have flash units, but I do not even carry them into my music venues. They are distracting to the musicians, and they make the drunks in the crowd even more bothersome. I keep my equipment to a minimum, and I make do with what I have. I just have to remember that the first photo I ever sold was shot with a Kodak instamatic camera.

Know you equipment inside and out. And, read your manual again, and again, and again. Do not expect to get usable photos with settings that you use at home for “no flash” work. Your ISO will seldom be set slower than ISO-3200.  If your f/stop is faster than f/3.5 at 1/200 seconds you have a nice setting. I often have to go all the way up to ISO-6400, and even on up to H2 for an ISO. Even then my f/stop and shutter speed drops to f/5.5 at 1/60 second. So, STAYING SOBER IS A TOP PRIORITY. (Although, there was one time that I lived off of photos taken while drunk for 3 months without ever leaving my apartment comples.) You will need to be able to hold that camera steady.

When I started writing this article I was browsing publications to see what I should be doing for “color corrections” on my bar room photos. I normally “batch edit“, do a minimal of custom editing, and post the photos to my (
web site. What I realized is that the photos you buy off of the rack use photos that normally are not shot in the lighting conditions I shoot in, or the lighting conditions are “color corrected“. If the shot are at live performances the photos are often “color corrected”. And, to me, that takes away from the mood the photo should seek to set.  So, now I will do both to my photos. I plan to batch edit and post to a folder designated for the event, and “custom edit” for a CUSTOM FOLDER.  That way my clients will have a choice.

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