Tips for Photographing Live Performers

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This past weekend, Crooked_crow_004-finala friend’s band (Crooked Crow – an excellent ban) was in town and I was able to take a night out to see them live.  I hadn’t planned on shooting any photos that night, but was asked to shoot a couple of shots while the band was on stage.  As a bonus, I got to use my buddy’s camera, a Nikon D90, which isn’t too different than my own, the Nikon D80.  Well, I’ll admit that this was the first time I was shooting a live performance – especially one on a dark stage.  But I learned a lot, and I offer my findings here:

  • Stay Out of the Way – This is a performance, after all.  The audience will get annoyed if you keep getting in the way.  Stick to the edges, and make sure not to obstruct the views of on-lookers.  You don’t want to get in the performer’s way either.
  • Shoot Low and High – Straight-on shots are boring.  Try to get some unique angles by shooting from the floor, or from a balcony or cat-walk (if you have access).
  • Mind the Light Sources – There will be lights on the stage, even some behind the performers.  Be aware of these, but don’t be afraid to use them.  You can get some cool back-light effects, or get some great highlights.  Also be aware of the colors – they may blink on and off, so time your shots.
  • Flash? – Don’t use your flash unless you get permission from the performers.  Even if you do, use it sparingly.  Flashes can be annoying for guests as well.
  • High ISO – shooting a high ISO will allow you to keep that flash under control.  None of the shots on this page used a flash.  On the other hand, I was using that D90 which was shooting quite clear at ISO 1600.  (I was a little jealous of that – the D80 is not as clear at that ISO).
  • RAW – Shooting RAW allows you to pick up more detail.  The drawback is that you’ll need to do some post-processing to push certain ranges just a little more.  But the finished product will be that much better.Crooked_crow_005-final
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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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