How to Photograph Bands in Bars – Equipment

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A guest post by Music Photographer Rick Bennett.

Bass player lit with off camera flash

Some of my favorite photography subjects are musicians while they are performing. They tend to be having fun, they like the attention, and they’re challenging to capture well because of their environments. Capturing musicians in the wild can be tough and very rewarding.

Digital Photography School recently published 6 Tips for Budding Live Concert Photographers. One of the tips was to start out shooting friends’ bands in small clubs. I’m going to expand on that suggestion by writing a three part series on photographing bands in bars. In the first part, I’ll deal with equipment choices. In the second part, I’ll deal with set-up just prior to the performance. In the last, I’ll discuss shooting techniques.

The most obvious part of the equipment you’ll need is a camera, and your choice of camera can really make or break your final images. It should probably go without saying that a dSLR is almost certainly required, but there are some high end compacts that could fit the bill. At a minimum, the camera should either have a hot shoe or replaceable lenses. If the lenses aren’t replaceable, look for very fast built-in glass. It also needs the ability save images in RAW format since the color balance will likely be completely crazy from any stage lights. If you’re not familiar with RAW processing, its easy enough to convert your images to black and white, and those look cool too. Finally, your camera needs to give you the ability to choose your focus point and easily manually focus. Like I said, most standard dSLRs fit all of these requirements.

One consideration that’s more difficult to determine is low noise at high ISO. Don’t be fooled by the specs on the box: 1600 ISO on a Nikon D5000 is not the same as 1600 ISO on an Olympus E-620. For example, in one review the noise in a D5000 JPG at 3200 ISO is about the same as the noise in an E-620 JPG at 800 ISO. That’s a two stop difference that can change a 1/30s blurry shot into a usable 1/120s. Check the available reviews to make sure you’re getting a camera with the best high ISO performance in your price range. High quality at high ISO means you’ll be able to boost the ISO close to the max, meaning faster shutter speeds to help stop motion when using ambient light.

Next, you have a choice when starting out: either use off-camera flash or use fast (f/2.8 or better) lenses. At the low end the price is about the same: a decent manual flash + triggers + mounts can be just under $200 while a “Nifty Fifty” or the Jive Thirty Five are also under $200. As with everything photography, the prices only go up. The choice of off-camera flash vs. fast glass is a tough one. Flash can work in most situations but there are some venues where placement of a remote flash can be very challenging or even prohibited. Conversely, an f/1.8 50mm or 35mm lens captures a lot of light but the short focal length means you’ll be right in the performers’ faces, and some bars (at least in my town) don’t even bother to light the performance area. I started with off-camera flash, then acquired the Jive Thirty Five, and I’ve used them both during performances to capture different moods.

Ambient lighting, 1/30s f/3.2

The ideal lens is a bigger zoom: 70-200mm f/2.8. Its almost as fast as an f/1.8 but it allows you to back away from the performers a bit (or shoot a stage that you can’t access). But even that lens doesn’t solve all the lighting problems in a bar and I’ve found I still like to use off-camera flash for many bar stages. If you can’t afford an f/2.8 zoom, then any other zoom will do if you’re willing to use off camera flash. In most bars a 5.6 300mm lens won’t be able to shoot at less than 3200 ISO at 1/30s. That means a lot of motion blur and camera shake if you don’t use flash.

Off-camera flash used at the Chicago House of Blues

To go with flash, you probably will start with a lower cost full manual flash like the workhorse classic Vivitar 285HV. It gives you decent range of manual power settings, and a tilt-zoom head. My one complaint about the 285HV is that it doesn’t have a swivel head. In a bar with awkward mounting conditions, a swivel head can go a long way. So look for a flash that has manual power settings down to 1/32 and a zoom-tilt-swivel head. Some in this class have a built in optical slave, which might seem like a good way to save some money on the triggers, but it will likely just kill your batteries-the slaved flash will go off every time some other fan of the band takes a picture. Manual triggers (i.e. those that don’t support TTL metering) can be had for less than $50.

If you want to take it up a notch, you can go TTL (through the lens metering) with your off-camera flash. That is beyond the scope of this article, but it will allow you a better level of creative control from the camera, and it will cost significantly more as well.

When I’ve done off-camera flash in a bar, my preferred light stand is a VAL-voice activated light stand. They range in price, but frequently can be had for the price of a pint or two when you enlist a friend or relative to help you. With a VAL, you can have very focused light on a single performer without blasting the whole stage with light. And it is easy for a VAL to adapt to performers moving around a lot-a clamped flash can’t do that. My preferred VAL is my wife, and we quickly worked out elaborate hand signals so that I could tell her who to point the flash toward: one finger meant the first performer from the left, two fingers meant the second one, and so on. I know its complex, but you can probably figure out your own method of signaling the VAL. If you add a snoot to the flash, which keeps the beam narrowly focused, you can create dramatic lighting on a performer that looks a lot like a spot light.

If a VAL isn’t an option for you, you’ll need a way to secure the flash to something in the bar. You’ll likely need an umbrella swivel, or some other method of converting a hot shoe to a 1/4-20 bolt. Then you can clamp the flash pretty much anywhere. I’ve clamped flashes to pictures, light bars, chair backs, shelves, posts, and drop ceilings (the drop-ceiling scissor clamp is a must here!). If you can, scouting the location will help you know what kind of clamp you’ll need for ideal placement. In some venues, if the crowds are light, I’ve even used standard light stands. A super clamp or modified A-clamp will serve you well here.

In part two, I’ll discuss setting up your gear at the venue.

Rick Bennett has been shooting bands in bars, at festivals, and on big stages for about a year. You can see more of his work on his blog, portfolio, or Flickr stream.

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  • Al

    Great tips! I used a nifty fifty to get some shots of my friend’s band playing a basement gig a few months ago – some of my thoughts and shots are at http://www.learningthelight.com/2010/03/05/my-first-gig-shoot-gregor-and-the-martians/

  • Pretty cool info, i have been shooting musicians for the past 8 years and have worked for such magazines as Rolling Stone and Spin. I put together a FREE ebook for how to Capture Motion at Concerts that you can get right here http://froknowsphoto.com/

    There is a ton of useful info in that book, i hope it helps you capture that moment at a show!!!

    Jared Polin AKA the FRO

  • Scott

    I’ve found it to be more the case that flashes were prohibited. In one venue (The Living Room in NYC) the waitress said the bar’s sound guy hated them.

  • great tips !
    i done some work yesterday with 50 1.4
    here the link to gallery :
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victor-Bezrukov-Photography/84511546193#!/album.php?aid=197411&id=84511546193&ref=mf

  • Thanks for the advice. I might look into getting a VAL.

  • I’m excited for this mini series. The original article was great, and this is a good addition. I must say, though, that I think spending so much time on options for a flash is a bit deceiving. Most clubs (here in NYC at least) will not allow a flash. If it’s a small enough club that they don’t care, a flash is just really disturbing, not just to the musicians, but to the crowd that paid good money to be there. Part of your job as a photographer is be sure you get your shots without angering the fans watching the show. A flash going off frequently during the performance is certainly disruptive. I also think having an off-camera flash somewhere in the club is both difficult to set up inconspicuously and something extra you will need to worry about (getting knocked over, cycling fast enough, etc).

    I think the best advice is to use a fast lens – from the cheap 50mm to the pricey 70-200/2.8 mentioned. Forcing yourself to use available light – no matter how minimal it might be – will make you a better photographer in the long term.

    Once you “graduate” to bigger stages, the lighting will be better and flashes will certainly not be allowed in any case.

    Thanks for the series! Just some thoughts of mine…

  • I recently managed to get my hands on a 70-200 f2.8 so will definitely give it a go. My only issue is having the guts to walk into a bar with the lens equivalent of a bazooka. Its not exactly discrete!

  • I’ve been shooting a friend’s band, The BooHoo Ramblers, using available light and a 50mm/f1.8 for a few years now. Here are some of my favorite shots:

    http://www.allisonlange.com/photography/gig_photography/

    Please let me know what you think!

  • Flash is one of those things as you get into larger shows that you will not want to use. When shooting backstage with huge bands or small bands I am there to capture the moment as it is with the natural light.

    The key to better concert photography is using the right glass. It is all about the glass sure you can spend a ton of money on really great lenses like the 70-200 2.8 on nikons and canon’s end but dont forget about the nikon 35 1.8 and canon 50 1.8

    I touch on all of this on http://www.FroKnowsPhoto.com as well as give away a FREE ebook on capturing motion in low light situations.

    If you need help let me know,

    Jared Polin AKA the FRO

  • Thanks for the comments guys. And I totally agree about flash in big venues–no way no how. It generally isn’t allowed, nor is it generally practical. Fortunately the lighting tends to be sufficient enough to use fast glass. But fast glass (even 1.8–I don’t have anything faster) doesn’t help if the bar doesn’t have adequate lighting on the stage. I’ve shot in several bars where nothing more than the light from neon bar signs was hitting the performers.

    As for the annoyance factor, I queried a number of musicians and fans when I first started out, and was told it wasn’t obtrusive at all. In fact, for musicians, it was much better than the average fan who popped a flash right in their faces. That being said, I do try to be considerate, and not make it like a strobe light. I switch frequently (if lighting permits) between ambient and flash.

  • Don’t rule out point and shoots:

    http://www.davehodgkinson.com/blog/2010/08/canon-s90-to-shoot-a-gig/

    That said, a D300 at ISO1600 and a 50mm f/1.8 or a 70/80-200 f/2.8 will rule it.

    Also, flash sucks.

    And bars are exactly the place to walk in with big hardware. No-one cares. It’s only places with barriers and security who get precious about it.

  • Killian

    I love to shoot musicians in their element, but flash? Really? I have never been in a venue when flash was acceptable to use, and I would never disrespect a performer by using one. It’s distracting and blinding not just to them but to your fellow fans.

  • Hi Killian, I’ve never met a musician that even noticed the use of flash when it was used (I’m not a fan personally, you can see my stuff here – http://gtvone.com/gallery ) sometimes in smaller venues it is a neccesary evil and the difference between that muso having a semi-decent pic and a black, noisy mess… –Sime

  • Sime, have you seen some of the noisy messes from the old days that now pass as classics? 🙂

  • Killian

    I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, Sime. =)

    The venues I’ve frequented, and the performers I’d had the privilege to shoot have always said, “No problem, so long as you don’t use a flash.”

  • FWIW, I’ve shot thousands of photos of bands in bars and other low-light venues, and I never use flash. I tried it a few times when I was first getting started, and it almost always ruined the shot, not to mention annoyed the audience if not the performers. (As an audience member, I’ve found being in line with a flash going off, especially a high-powered external one, to be blinding.)

    I shoot with a Canon 5D Mk II, nearly always at 1600 ISO and full manual. I’ve gotten decent shots at shutter speeds slower than 1/30. I rely on my primes: 50 1/4 and 85 1/8, both of which I also used with my Canon 40D before I upgraded. The 5D is superior for low-light performance at high ISOs owing to its larger sensor size, but the 40D (and I assume 50D and 7D as well) are also highly-capable of great shots without flash.

  • There’s a lot of good, sound advice in the article and comments, though some of it sounds conflicting. It’s not, it’s personal choice and the venue. It’s best to check the venue’s policy, they’ll kick you out quicker than the band’s will. If you make them, the bands, look good, they usually don’t care about flash. Sometimes it is a necessary evil. These types of shows/event are what I’m mostly shooting right. I use a Canon Xti at 1600 ISO with a 50mm f1.8 or a 35-80 f2.8, both are serving me well.
    You can look at my stuff here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/b8ddyh8lly/sets/
    Comments there would be welcome.

  • I’m a concert photographer here in sweden and I’ve never ever used a flash. The standard is that we can photograph the 3 first songs and that flash is forbidden.

    That goes for both big venues (20.000) and small ones (200)..

    Another big thing about flashes is that if you skip it, you will capture the lights that the audience saw it. But if you use flash, the photos will be something other.

  • just forget the flash, before you are thrown out (either by the artists or by the audience or by the other photographers)…
    keep the flash for backstage promo pics or for the rehearsal (where it does not disturbs others and capturing the mood is not required…)
    invest in your gear and you will not look amateur with your flash, like the fans with compact cameras/mobile phones…

  • I’ve been photographing my husband’s band and many other blues performances in the Bay Area recently, and have been posting the results on Flickr as a way to track my progress: http://bit.ly/9fJJ18

    I’ve been working exclusively without flash, and while that’s challenging, I think it’s really the way to go. The images that I can capture are far more natural – and therefore more impressive – when it works right.

    I just recently got the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and am loving it for low light settings, although it does require me to get pretty close. (Fortunately I’m usually dealing with bands where the musicians know who I am and they humor me. 🙂

    For example, compare the results of trying to shoot in a dark pub with multi-colored lighting on and around the stage with my zoom lens: http://bit.ly/ckQKCw

    And the same venue (a week later) captured with the wider aperture setting as I was trying out my new 50mm lens: http://bit.ly/a5IrHX

    I was much happier with the way it handled the lighting, and it was much easier to get the RAW files corrected for white balance & exposure afterward. In fact, I think the Lightroom “Auto Tone” setting was able to handle the latter set fairly easily and I spent much less time in post-processing — always a plus! 😀

  • Interesting stuff. I’m no pro, just a hobbyist, but I also play in a band and have to side on the no flash side of things.
    Just personal preference. Here’s some samples of stuff I’ve captured lately in very low low light.
    I used a D90 with a 70-200 2.8 VR for some of them and a 50mm fixed 1.8 for some.
    Shot them in RAW so I could make adjustments post. Some turned out ok, some are just plain grainy. But that’s ok.

    I all cases I talk to the band first and ask if it’s ok to shoot. They’re usually very ok with it.

    Cheers!

    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Perpetrators-Color/13506085_JFDke#983824705_MBGJ7
    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Perpetrators/13495945_fzk8T#983010066_Y4zSZ
    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Byran-Lee-Power-Blues-Band/13427693_SvxVj#977209679_9Ye9g
    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Sleddogs/12551580_he96p#900737356_HFr2X

  • George Norkus

    Wonderful series!

    I’ve been photographing bands in bars and outdoor concerts for some time now. Being a former drummer, I really enjoyed hearing you mention to be sure you photograph the drummer! Their very hard to get and can be extreamly worth doing.

    Here is Dave Piotrowski of the “Alan Turner and The Steel Horse Band” playing at Toby Keith’s “I love this Bar and Grill” in Michigan.

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=1002678595&aid=2053997#!/photo.php?pid=31120914&id=1002678595&ref=fbx_album

  • Hi Rick!
    thank you so much for your three articles.
    Yesterday I went out for my first band shots and read your articles in advance.
    They helped me quite a lot in choosing shutter speed vs. iso.

    I also posted my my experiences made.

  • I love all the comments on this article. But the one comment that I haven’t found is how do you get all this great photography noticed? Here’s a couple of great tips from a cool asset for photographers. Learn how to take the photos here at Digital Photography School and then learn how to get them seen from http://www.Photoshelter.com with these useful tips

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/9790138

  • Ross

    Gonna go with Sime here, As a semi-pro musician with hundreds of gigs at loads of venues behind me, I can’t name one time a flash pissed me off. Whatever it takes for something memorable. And as an amateur photog, Sime’s work, to me, seems quite a few steps up from the rest here.

  • Rick, thank you for the post, but I have to say that in my opinion flash is a NO-NO – its distracting and doesnt do anything good for creating a mood and conveying the feeling of a performance. Just use a fast lens, high ISO and slower shutter speed. Ofcourse, the Strobist will probably say its OK to use flash… 😉

    Cheers!

Some Older Comments

  • Serge August 8, 2013 01:27 am

    Rick, thank you for the post, but I have to say that in my opinion flash is a NO-NO - its distracting and doesnt do anything good for creating a mood and conveying the feeling of a performance. Just use a fast lens, high ISO and slower shutter speed. Ofcourse, the Strobist will probably say its OK to use flash... ;)

    Cheers!

  • Ross September 24, 2011 06:31 am

    Gonna go with Sime here, As a semi-pro musician with hundreds of gigs at loads of venues behind me, I can't name one time a flash pissed me off. Whatever it takes for something memorable. And as an amateur photog, Sime's work, to me, seems quite a few steps up from the rest here.

  • Dennis Lankes October 6, 2010 01:44 pm

    I love all the comments on this article. But the one comment that I haven't found is how do you get all this great photography noticed? Here's a couple of great tips from a cool asset for photographers. Learn how to take the photos here at Digital Photography School and then learn how to get them seen from http://www.Photoshelter.com with these useful tips

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/9790138

  • Christoph September 18, 2010 08:11 pm

    Hi Rick!
    thank you so much for your three articles.
    Yesterday I went out for my first band shots and read your articles in advance.
    They helped me quite a lot in choosing shutter speed vs. iso.

    I also posted my my experiences made.

  • George Norkus August 27, 2010 02:01 pm

    Wonderful series!

    I've been photographing bands in bars and outdoor concerts for some time now. Being a former drummer, I really enjoyed hearing you mention to be sure you photograph the drummer! Their very hard to get and can be extreamly worth doing.

    Here is Dave Piotrowski of the "Alan Turner and The Steel Horse Band" playing at Toby Keith's "I love this Bar and Grill" in Michigan.

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=1002678595&aid=2053997#!/photo.php?pid=31120914&id=1002678595&ref=fbx_album

  • moe peters August 27, 2010 12:49 pm

    Interesting stuff. I'm no pro, just a hobbyist, but I also play in a band and have to side on the no flash side of things.
    Just personal preference. Here's some samples of stuff I've captured lately in very low low light.
    I used a D90 with a 70-200 2.8 VR for some of them and a 50mm fixed 1.8 for some.
    Shot them in RAW so I could make adjustments post. Some turned out ok, some are just plain grainy. But that's ok.

    I all cases I talk to the band first and ask if it's ok to shoot. They're usually very ok with it.

    Cheers!

    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Perpetrators-Color/13506085_JFDke#983824705_MBGJ7
    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Perpetrators/13495945_fzk8T#983010066_Y4zSZ
    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Byran-Lee-Power-Blues-Band/13427693_SvxVj#977209679_9Ye9g
    http://jaam.smugmug.com/Music/Sleddogs/12551580_he96p#900737356_HFr2X

  • Rachel Kumar August 27, 2010 04:23 am

    I've been photographing my husband's band and many other blues performances in the Bay Area recently, and have been posting the results on Flickr as a way to track my progress: http://bit.ly/9fJJ18

    I've been working exclusively without flash, and while that's challenging, I think it's really the way to go. The images that I can capture are far more natural - and therefore more impressive - when it works right.

    I just recently got the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and am loving it for low light settings, although it does require me to get pretty close. (Fortunately I'm usually dealing with bands where the musicians know who I am and they humor me. :)

    For example, compare the results of trying to shoot in a dark pub with multi-colored lighting on and around the stage with my zoom lens: http://bit.ly/ckQKCw

    And the same venue (a week later) captured with the wider aperture setting as I was trying out my new 50mm lens: http://bit.ly/a5IrHX

    I was much happier with the way it handled the lighting, and it was much easier to get the RAW files corrected for white balance & exposure afterward. In fact, I think the Lightroom "Auto Tone" setting was able to handle the latter set fairly easily and I spent much less time in post-processing -- always a plus! :-D

  • Richie August 26, 2010 04:43 am

    just forget the flash, before you are thrown out (either by the artists or by the audience or by the other photographers)...
    keep the flash for backstage promo pics or for the rehearsal (where it does not disturbs others and capturing the mood is not required...)
    invest in your gear and you will not look amateur with your flash, like the fans with compact cameras/mobile phones...

  • Oskar Allerby August 25, 2010 07:37 pm

    I'm a concert photographer here in sweden and I've never ever used a flash. The standard is that we can photograph the 3 first songs and that flash is forbidden.

    That goes for both big venues (20.000) and small ones (200)..

    Another big thing about flashes is that if you skip it, you will capture the lights that the audience saw it. But if you use flash, the photos will be something other.

  • Kevin August 25, 2010 06:11 pm

    There's a lot of good, sound advice in the article and comments, though some of it sounds conflicting. It's not, it's personal choice and the venue. It's best to check the venue's policy, they'll kick you out quicker than the band's will. If you make them, the bands, look good, they usually don't care about flash. Sometimes it is a necessary evil. These types of shows/event are what I'm mostly shooting right. I use a Canon Xti at 1600 ISO with a 50mm f1.8 or a 35-80 f2.8, both are serving me well.
    You can look at my stuff here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/b8ddyh8lly/sets/
    Comments there would be welcome.

  • Julie Bernstein August 25, 2010 08:55 am

    FWIW, I've shot thousands of photos of bands in bars and other low-light venues, and I never use flash. I tried it a few times when I was first getting started, and it almost always ruined the shot, not to mention annoyed the audience if not the performers. (As an audience member, I've found being in line with a flash going off, especially a high-powered external one, to be blinding.)

    I shoot with a Canon 5D Mk II, nearly always at 1600 ISO and full manual. I've gotten decent shots at shutter speeds slower than 1/30. I rely on my primes: 50 1/4 and 85 1/8, both of which I also used with my Canon 40D before I upgraded. The 5D is superior for low-light performance at high ISOs owing to its larger sensor size, but the 40D (and I assume 50D and 7D as well) are also highly-capable of great shots without flash.

  • Killian August 25, 2010 12:42 am

    I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree, Sime. =)

    The venues I've frequented, and the performers I'd had the privilege to shoot have always said, "No problem, so long as you don't use a flash."

  • Dave Hodgkinson August 24, 2010 11:11 pm

    Sime, have you seen some of the noisy messes from the old days that now pass as classics? :)

  • Sime August 24, 2010 11:07 pm

    Hi Killian, I've never met a musician that even noticed the use of flash when it was used (I'm not a fan personally, you can see my stuff here - http://gtvone.com/gallery ) sometimes in smaller venues it is a neccesary evil and the difference between that muso having a semi-decent pic and a black, noisy mess... --Sime

  • Killian August 24, 2010 11:00 pm

    I love to shoot musicians in their element, but flash? Really? I have never been in a venue when flash was acceptable to use, and I would never disrespect a performer by using one. It's distracting and blinding not just to them but to your fellow fans.

  • Dave Hodgkinson August 24, 2010 10:10 pm

    Don't rule out point and shoots:

    http://www.davehodgkinson.com/blog/2010/08/canon-s90-to-shoot-a-gig/

    That said, a D300 at ISO1600 and a 50mm f/1.8 or a 70/80-200 f/2.8 will rule it.

    Also, flash sucks.

    And bars are exactly the place to walk in with big hardware. No-one cares. It's only places with barriers and security who get precious about it.

  • Rick Bennett August 24, 2010 12:14 pm

    Thanks for the comments guys. And I totally agree about flash in big venues--no way no how. It generally isn't allowed, nor is it generally practical. Fortunately the lighting tends to be sufficient enough to use fast glass. But fast glass (even 1.8--I don't have anything faster) doesn't help if the bar doesn't have adequate lighting on the stage. I've shot in several bars where nothing more than the light from neon bar signs was hitting the performers.

    As for the annoyance factor, I queried a number of musicians and fans when I first started out, and was told it wasn't obtrusive at all. In fact, for musicians, it was much better than the average fan who popped a flash right in their faces. That being said, I do try to be considerate, and not make it like a strobe light. I switch frequently (if lighting permits) between ambient and flash.

  • Jared Polin August 24, 2010 10:42 am

    Flash is one of those things as you get into larger shows that you will not want to use. When shooting backstage with huge bands or small bands I am there to capture the moment as it is with the natural light.

    The key to better concert photography is using the right glass. It is all about the glass sure you can spend a ton of money on really great lenses like the 70-200 2.8 on nikons and canon's end but dont forget about the nikon 35 1.8 and canon 50 1.8

    I touch on all of this on www.FroKnowsPhoto.com as well as give away a FREE ebook on capturing motion in low light situations.

    If you need help let me know,

    Jared Polin AKA the FRO

  • Allison August 24, 2010 06:24 am

    I've been shooting a friend's band, The BooHoo Ramblers, using available light and a 50mm/f1.8 for a few years now. Here are some of my favorite shots:

    http://www.allisonlange.com/photography/gig_photography/

    Please let me know what you think!

  • Alex August 24, 2010 05:00 am

    I recently managed to get my hands on a 70-200 f2.8 so will definitely give it a go. My only issue is having the guts to walk into a bar with the lens equivalent of a bazooka. Its not exactly discrete!

  • Adam August 24, 2010 03:59 am

    I'm excited for this mini series. The original article was great, and this is a good addition. I must say, though, that I think spending so much time on options for a flash is a bit deceiving. Most clubs (here in NYC at least) will not allow a flash. If it's a small enough club that they don't care, a flash is just really disturbing, not just to the musicians, but to the crowd that paid good money to be there. Part of your job as a photographer is be sure you get your shots without angering the fans watching the show. A flash going off frequently during the performance is certainly disruptive. I also think having an off-camera flash somewhere in the club is both difficult to set up inconspicuously and something extra you will need to worry about (getting knocked over, cycling fast enough, etc).

    I think the best advice is to use a fast lens - from the cheap 50mm to the pricey 70-200/2.8 mentioned. Forcing yourself to use available light - no matter how minimal it might be - will make you a better photographer in the long term.

    Once you "graduate" to bigger stages, the lighting will be better and flashes will certainly not be allowed in any case.

    Thanks for the series! Just some thoughts of mine...

  • Online Printing Services August 24, 2010 03:26 am

    Thanks for the advice. I might look into getting a VAL.

  • Victor Bezrukov August 24, 2010 02:13 am

    great tips !
    i done some work yesterday with 50 1.4
    here the link to gallery :
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victor-Bezrukov-Photography/84511546193#!/album.php?aid=197411&id=84511546193&ref=mf

  • Scott August 24, 2010 01:50 am

    I've found it to be more the case that flashes were prohibited. In one venue (The Living Room in NYC) the waitress said the bar's sound guy hated them.

  • Jared Polin August 24, 2010 01:18 am

    Pretty cool info, i have been shooting musicians for the past 8 years and have worked for such magazines as Rolling Stone and Spin. I put together a FREE ebook for how to Capture Motion at Concerts that you can get right here http://froknowsphoto.com/

    There is a ton of useful info in that book, i hope it helps you capture that moment at a show!!!

    Jared Polin AKA the FRO

  • Al August 24, 2010 01:03 am

    Great tips! I used a nifty fifty to get some shots of my friend's band playing a basement gig a few months ago - some of my thoughts and shots are at http://www.learningthelight.com/2010/03/05/my-first-gig-shoot-gregor-and-the-martians/

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