Taking good shots at concert halls and other venues is often quite tricky because the lighting situation is constantly changing. One minute the stage is bathed in bright white spotlights and the very next minute it could be pitch black with hardly any lighting at all. And to make it even more difficult, some of the performers love to wander all over the stage and rarely stand still. Of course, all of this can make for a fabulous concert, but it can be a little difficult to capture on camera. So, here are some practical tips regarding shooting techniques and camera settings you should use while taking low light concert photographs.
Practice shooting in the dark
To capture great concert shots, you will generally have to be able to operate your digital camera in the dark. You may not have much light at all to see what you’re doing, so, it’s a good idea to practice doing this by touch and knowing exactly where your settings are located and how to change them.
Check your camera settings
After taking concert shots, it’s a good idea to remember what specific settings you used the most for speed, aperture, and ISO. Before leaving home the next time, it’s a good idea to adjust your camera to these settings. They may not be exactly right when you reach the next venue, but it’s a good place to start.
You may need to fine-tune these settings, but you shouldn’t be far off with them. In addition, make sure your batteries are fully charged and you have enough memory space. It’s recommended to have extras of both with you.
Optimal camera settings for low light concerts
ISO and aperture: For most concert halls, you start out with your ISO at 1600 with the aperture open to F2.8 and a speed of about 1/160th of a second. When you get to the venue, you can take some test shots before the show begins or during the opening act.
Take a few shots and check the LCD on your digital camera to see how they look. If they’re too dark you will have to adjust your settings until you get the right combination. The first thing you should adjust is the ISO setting and see how high you can push it without the photos showing too much noise (graininess).
Switching between manual and auto mode: Most expert concert photographers shoot in the manual mode, but experimenting in auto mode is a good idea because if the images are turning out how you’d like them to, there may be no need to make any adjustments.
Metering mode: Your metering mode is generally the best at spot metering as it will allow you to get the desired exposure on a performer’s face. The white balance setting is usually best if it’s set to auto.
Raw mode: If you have the option, it’s recommended that you shoot in the RAW mode. The files may be quite a bit bigger, but it will provide you with more flexibility RAW when you’re post processing your photos. If you shoot in the JPEG mode, the camera will automatically compress the files and this can impact the color rendition of them.
It may take a bit of practice to get excellent concert shots, but that’s the great thing about digital photography. You can take as many photos as you like and learn by trial and error.