They bring the show…. you record the experience.
My love for Metal or any hardcore music started because depending in what state of mind you are, the music speaks to you. It gives you a sense of release or clarity, depending on the internal struggle you are fighting. As a love for all things metal, I love it even more to take the photos, recording how so many people all have one thing in common.
This type of photography is sort of a artistic, documentary based recording and I feel this is not bound to any rules or regulations. Express what you feel and hear through the camera in any way you feel comfortable and artistic. Use composition rules or not, or apply the laws of physics if you want to. For me, there is no right or wrong way.
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I just want to show the viewer this epic event happening in front of me. But taking photos of these events does bring a bag full of challenges. Here are a few tips and tricks to help get the shot.
1. Nothing Stays the Same
No shoot will ever be the same. The venue, lights, your location to the bands, the crazy fans, everything basically changes with every shoot. Even the music changes how you approach the shoot.Make sure you check your surroundings, the venue layout,lights, if you suspect a hectic mosh session, how you easily can get out and capture the crazies going at it. Check camera settings, where lights are situated, protecting your gear in case something happens. Make sure you are set for capturing epic shots.
You can shoot with whatever you want, as long as it does not distract the band from doing there thing.
I use a Nikon D750 with a F1.4 35mm or F1.8 50mm lens, but this also depends on how far you are from the band playing. I had to use as 24-70mm F2.8 zoom lens at one show because the bands were a bit far and on a stage, some instances you will use a 70-200mm F2.8. All depends on your location to the stage.
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We all love auto focus, you point, you focus and shoot. But things are happening too fast in live shows. You can always up you F-stop to get more room for movement in focus from the bands, but then you have to up your ISO. Again, your choice. Learn to manual focus quickly, cause sometimes something epic happens and there is just no light or time for your focus machine to distinguish where to focus.
White balance I keep on sun, but you can change it for a different effect or change it in post. Basic or general settings are in the ranges of F4, 1/160 shutter and of course my favourite 3200 or higher ISO. As a golden rule I do not use flash as it is very distracting to bands playing. These settings can vary, depending on what you want. If you want a bit of movement in your photos, drop the shutter, or frozen, higher up the shutter. This is all you, you decide what works best.
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The last gig I did I broke my own rule. The venue doesn’t have any proper “stage” lighting and even if I bump my ISO to camera limits, I could not get a decent shot. So, I added a speedlight to the camera. Thank the stars the roof was white and maybe a meter above my head. So, I could bounce light of the roof, just giving enough for an good exposure without distracting the band. My speedlight setting was ons 1/128, that is very low power output, the lowest I could go.
If you are shooting in a proper venue with proper stage lighting, you don’t need a flash, but check the lights because they move a lot and change color, but this in return brings out some epic shots if captured on the right moment on the right band member. Also get you some of those noise reducing earplugs. At the beginning you might not think your ears are taking a beating, but after a while it does.
We love to listen to our music full blast but not for long periods and listening to music and screams at full volume might not be the best for your ears over a long period. Protect your gear.
3. The Shots
While the sound testing is going on, I take a few test shots to check the light on the members, the quality of the images and how I can move around without distracting anyone. You are there to record this experience, you are like a ghost, not be known as the irritating photo man spoiling it for everyone.
You checked off you list of pre-shoot prerequisites, you are ready!
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SO the first band kicks off and it is going insane.
I usually let the music guide me, getting a feel for the band playing.
I look for passion, emotion and something epic in what the band is doing.
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You can quickly see when they are enjoying a song or a solo or putting their hearts into the lyrics, this is when the most epic shots are made.
And when stage light falls on them in the intense moment, that makes for the ultimate image.
You also going to have a few and a lot of missed opportunities, out of focus shots, bad lighting, this happens, you can’t capture every epic moment, but try to capture these moments as much as possible.
If you do get a opportunity to movement between the band members for more personal shots, please be really careful, they have a lot of cables and things laying around and I don’t know if I trip something if it could stop the music all together.
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I try as far possible to get the same amount of shots of all the band members, equally the same “in the moment” shots for them. Also don’t keeping shooting till the end. In my opinion you are just wasting space on your memory card. Take your time and make sure you get the epic to ultimate shots and once you have those, relax, enjoy the music and skip a song or 2 and if you feel it, shoot a few more. You are recording a experience, not the whole show from start to finish non stop.
Makes it easier to choose the awesome shots in post and to edit them. Your crowd also makes up a huge part of the event. If the folks are in the mood and jamming with no end in sight, take photos of them going crazy. Take photos of the venue itself, friends posing for a photo, record there contribution to the event as well. They bring a whole other experience to the photos.
If fans want photos with bands, do it and give them you business card where they can get the photos later in the week, more traffic to your site. Be safe, protect your gear and most of all, have fun!
Neil Janeke, full time photographer since beginning 2015. Apart for my love for metal, I get lost in Fine-Art and Conceptual photography and to break the flow, I do figure drawing as well. I feel music plays such a integrate part in our lives we cannot live without soul moving beauty ringing our ears just as much as visual beauty moves our hearts. Someone one day asked me, if you had to choose which sense to live without, would you choose hearing or seeing. How do you choose…. I have been in Web and Systems Development for 7 years, but decided to break the norm and try something new, so photography was my next approach as a occupation. Been loving every moment ever since.