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Thread: Taking pictures at gigs!

  1. #1
    Senior Member Vibrant Sounds's Avatar
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    Default Taking pictures at gigs!

    I posted the following suggestions to someone requesting help (on another forum) with taking pictures at gigs and how to get reasonable results of both lighting and dancers. i then remembered that I had offerred to do similar on this forum. If anyone wants a further explanation or additional help, please feel free to ask, as it seems a lot easier to me to actually do it than it did to write it all out. I may also have not explained the relationships between certain parts as well as I could as they are second nature to me and I do not really know to what level I am aiming this at.

    One of the main things that occurred to me though, is to do this properly, you would need to have a backup DJ/roadie as it would not be so easy to concentrate on both things at once and pull of a good performance with both.

    Here goes then:


    If you want really good pictures with a good balance of lighting and flash then you really need a camera with full manual control, you also need a decent off-camera flashgun (or one that will swivel/tilt) that has a range of power settings that can then be balanced to give a result comparable with the ambient light. An automatic camera with on camera flash cannot do this easily regardless of how many pixels, or even whether it is digital or film.

    Firstly, you need to do some test shots to establish the best EV (exposure value) for your ambient (disco) lighting. That will then give you a range of shutter speed/aperture combinations for that value i.e. 1/15 @ f8, 1/30 @ f5.6, 1/60 @ f4, 1/125 @ f2.8 all of those have the same EV.

    Next choose a setting that you think will give you a good balance between some motion and depth of field (depth of field 'dof' is the range of the subject that will seem to be sharp in front and behind of the point of focus, typically 1/3 in front and 2/3 behind). The depth of field range also reduces with proximity so it is important to choose an area to focus on that is towards the middle/rear of your subject matter (subjects close to you may well be blurred anyway as the relationship of speed to distance is similar to that of dof as, as the subject becomes closer to you, you need a higher shutter speed to freeze the movement). The dof is controlled by the aperture value (f2.8 has a little depth of field, f16 would have very much more for the same lens and distance to subject matter). The larger the f number the smaller the aperture, the less light it lets through and the greater the dof.

    We will use as an example 1/30 sec shutter speed with an aperture of f5.6. We will focus on an area about 10ft away which should for a 50mm lens (standard on a 35mm SLR) give us a depth of field between 7ft and 16ft (as we move away from these distances the subjects will become less sharp).

    Now comes the tricky part.

    We now need to set the flash to give us a burst of light for an aperture setting of between f8 and f11 (yes I know this is between two and four times less light than we really need) so as to give us a slight fill light and to freeze the movement of the dancers (flash durations are typically 1/500 sec to 1/10.000 sec so will stop pretty much all movement), but allow a little bit of blurring on the closest dancers to give some sense of atmosphere. Next, we have to aim the flash head at either, a white wall, the ceiling or bounce it off of a bit of card or mini umbrella type device (this is so as to diffuse the flash burst to prevent white-out and harsh shadows forming) but whilst keeping the flashguns sensor pointed at the subject matter (really need an off camera flashgun or one with a swing & pivot head for this).

    Up to now I have only offered some suggestions to get you to the starting point, from this point on, you then get into the trial and error mode. Take some shots, see how they come out, adjust settings to suit.
    Each venue will be different as they will be bigger, smaller, lit differently, decorated differently and so on.

    Best cameras for doing this are either digital SLRs (preferably) or the digital hybrids, they are really the only cameras that will allow full manual override along with using off camera flash and let you instantly see your results to enable adjustments to be made as required.

    Oh, and if you have only got a automatic camera with an on camera flash, stick some bits of white tissue paper over the flash lens (try one bit first then two or more) this will soften the flash and help reduce the white-out from the subjects closer to you, won't be great, but will help a lot.

    Good luck, I'm looking forward to seeing the results.

  2. #2
    Admin Shaun's Avatar
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    Excellent information, Eddie. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

  3. #3
    Banned Have a disco's Avatar
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    Have to agree with most of the things said here well done mate

    Flash should be OFF at all times unless you have other lighting to deal with Mobile disco shots of customers

    Please be reminded you have to ask permission to use all photo's for any promotional purposes off the disco hirer

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    MDD Founder Solitaire Events Ltd's Avatar
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    Thanks Eddie, much appreciated. I have stuck the thread for future reference.

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    Banned Have a disco's Avatar
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    could we move the thread to technical advice please ??? rather than clogging up this section?????

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    MDD Founder Solitaire Events Ltd's Avatar
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    Of course I forgot you ran the forum...

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    Will DJ for sausage rolls Larry B Entertainment's Avatar
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    thats those admin wannabes for you lol
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    Moderator Spirits High's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Have a disco View Post
    Please be reminded you have to ask permission to use all photo's for any promotional purposes off the disco hirer

    Get round this one by putting it in your T&C's like I have

    • During the event there is a strong likelihood that photos and or videos will be taken for publicity purposes on our website. If you do not wish for photos to be published you must inform us in writing at least 7 days before the event.

    No complaints so far!
    Professional DJ & Event services inc Led & Starlight dancefloors, Venue uplighting

    Spirits High Entertainments
    Derbyshire Wedding DJ - Wedding Uplighting, Dancefloors and Professional Wedding DJs


  9. #9
    Senior Member thex-faders's Avatar
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    Default Taking Pictures

    We found doing a Year 7 & 8 school disco a long time ago some schools would have to send a letter out to all parents before any pictures were even taken, let alone be put ona website or published because of some childrens protection act as they are under 16. Another legal issue to consider, dont publish pictures of children without some form of permission from an adult.

    Took the flash off for this picture while the laser was going, thought it loooked pretty cool:
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    ATR The X-Faders | Mobile DJ's in Essex
    Billericay & Surrounding Areas
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    I've only had a digital camera for a year or two and have not taken many pics at gigs, but there is one thing I've learned through trial & error.

    If you take pics with the flash on, it wipes out your lighting effects & completely kills the atmosphere...

    ...but If you take pics with the flash off, they come out too dark.

    I've discovered the answer is to take pics with the flash off, and to then lighten them afterwards with some software. That way they are light enough to see, but you don't lose any of the atmosphere.

    Job done!


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