Roger Payne explains how to take a colour image and use Lightroom to convert it into a contrasty black & white shot Read More
Explore the world of Fujifilm
Roger Payne explains how to take a colour image and use Lightroom to convert it into a contrasty black & white shot Read More
Shooting live music events is one of the trickiest disciplines in photography. Subjects move a lot, often lighting changes constantly and in general it can be a lot of hard work. With that said, live music events have passion by the bucket load and if you can capture that in a single frame it makes for some exceptional images. It could be a front man working the crowd, the guitarist tearing up a solo or people attending having the time of their lives, whatever it is, the subject matter can never be accused of being dull.
In this blog, I’m going to get a bit technical running you through the kit I use to shoot events and the reasons behind it. Also, we’ll cover what to look for when photographing live music. Enjoy!
Right, let’s jump straight into it by running you through my usual kit for shooting live music and festivals.
I usually take two camera bodies with me. The reason I do this is so I can use two different lenses and change quickly between them. My preference is the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the Fujifilm X-T2 with the battery grip. Overall, the cameras are similar in terms of feature set but the build and handling of each make them serve a different purpose. The battery-gripped X-T2 has several advantages – Firstly, it allows me to shoot all day without needing to change batteries over. Secondly, I can switch to portrait and landscape orientation easily and lastly, the joystick for positioning the AF point is incredibly useful for accurate and quick focusing on specific subjects.
While the X-Pro2 is more than capable of shooting a live music event or festival, I like to keep the X-Pro2 free to shoot images of interesting people. These days I shoot with the X-Pro2 almost exclusively for my street photography, so bringing it to a festival makes a lot of sense for me. I’m taking my ever-faithful street photography setup and just applying it to a slightly different environment. For me, the main benefit is the rangefinder style. Unlike the X-T2, the viewfinder is off-centre and when you point it towards a subject, it doesn’t look like you’re aiming directly at them. This means people are far less likely to close up and act differently. Pointing a huge camera directly at a person usually means they’ll pose for their picture, but my aim is to capture the more candid, natural moments instead.
With a lot of events, you will be firmly planted in what is lovingly referred to as ‘the pit’. This is the area at the front of the stage where you can see the performers and have the opportunity to take shots of them. For this, I will opt for the XF50-140mm lens. Its focal length suits subjects that are quite far away and it also allows me to zoom in enough to get a tight shot should I want to capture that. It’s also very useful for capturing people in the crowd on each others shoulder too.
With the exception of the Fujinon 50-140mm XF lens, I mostly shoot with prime lenses. My kit bag usually comprises of the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4, Fujinon 23mm f/2 and sometimes the Fujinon 90mm f/2 lens too. I like to have the have fast, wide prime lenses, especially in low-light situations. I will alternate between the 16mm and the 23mm often and occasionally draw upon the 90mm when I want to capture close-up portraiture or to shoot a subject I want to isolate from the background.
In general, I use primes as I just love all the characteristics they give. However, there are a couple of zoom lenses which are incredibly sharp and suit shooting events perfectly. Firstly, the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 is a fantastic lens. It’s wide enough for big stage shots, capturing crowds and potential to get very creative too. Another great lens is the XF16-55mm f/2.8 this serves the purpose of all of the primes and it’s a bit more convenient not having to switch out lenses.
Many moons ago I shot club nights and festivals week-in week-out but these days I’m not shooting for a promoter or club, instead I’m shooting for myself. My brief is set by myself so I’m trying to look images that excite me. It’s all about capturing the mood and telling a story of the event.
Here are a few of the key shots to look for when shooting an event.
Capturing musicians in action is quite tricky. If they’re moving fast in low-light in can be incredibly difficult. The important thing to remember though is what the viewer is going to want to see – that’s the musician and possibly some environmental context if it adds to the composition. If the subject is the main focus I prefer to shoot wide open and isolate the subject. If there’s something interesting like a DJ with their decks or a rack of guitars I might stop down the aperture or shoot the scene with a wide angle lens to give a sense of the environment.
If you’re shooting from the stage or in the pit, it’s always worth spinning around and checking out what the crowd are doing. A well timed pyrotechnic or a person on another person’s shoulder makes for an amazing picture. Sometimes I walk along the front row and pick out a group of interesting people.
Interesting people and music events go hand in hand. The crowd shots are always good, but I love to get into the crowd and capture the people having fun. Essentially, I take a street photography approach to this. I want people to be relaxed and natural around me, so before I start taking any pictures I walk around in the crowd, blending in and just enjoy myself. Once you’re in there amongst everyone you can begin to capture what you see in front of you which will be a unique perspective.
You simply can’t stage atmosphere – It’s either there or it’s not. The shots that I find myself looking at time and time again are the ones that tell the story of what the festival was like. It’s all about capturing the moment and the soul of the event. Now, there’s no hard and fast way to capture this kind of scene but if it sounds good, the crowd are noisy or the hairs are standing up on your arms, shoot what makes you smile!
By Dan Taylor
It’s not every day that you get the chance to photograph a person who is directly involved in creating a product that has changed the world. And it’s even rarer to have this person’s undivided attention for a few minutes just before getting mic’d up to take the stage.So, when I first got word that I’d have exactly this opportunity to photograph Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in Manchester, England, at Business Rocks, I knew I had to be prepared and have everything ready to go the minute he came out of the green room. Striving for absolute image perfection, my choice of gear was clear: The Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF56mmF1.2 R.
While I’m generally a fan of the SLR body format, e.g. my X-T1, utilizing the new technology and features in the rangefinder format X-Pro2 was too good to pass up. And when combined with the XF56mmF1.2 R (in this case at F8) the results are razor sharp, crystal clear, and absolutely stunning. I’d even venture to say that the XF56mm is the best headshot lens I’ve ever used.
Knowing that I had very little time with Steve, I had prepared my lighting setup in advance, and fired off a few quick test images with a colleague. Given that our time together was to be quite short, I knew that simplicity would be key. Building on this simplicity, I found a plain white wall between the green room and stage and used a slow(er) shutter speed to capture the ambient lighting to help illuminate the background.
Initially, I had a black background setup, but decided at the last minute to go with white. With the black background I could use a fast shutter speed, as ambient light wasn’t needed or wanted. However, with the introduction of the white background, I did want to capture the ambient light generated by the speedlights. At f/8, a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second was just right.
For my headshot with The Woz, I used 1 key and 1 fill triggered via a wireless transceiver in an off axis clamshell lighting setup. The key light is diffused inside a Lastolite Umbrella Box, and the fill light diffused via a standard umbrella.
Depending on the look you’re trying to create, the fill light might not even be necessary. In this case, I’ve used it to fill and soften the shadows the key light would be casting.When shooting with speedlights and any FUJIFILM X Series camera, one crucial menu option you want to turn off is the Preview Exp./WB in Manual Mode. If this option is on, you’ll be presented with things exactly the way the sensor sees things, normally a good thing, but here, without compensating for the light the speedlights are going to generate.
Right. Settings set, lights lit, The Woz ready to go. Let’s make some magic!
I generally turn to humor to get the ball rolling, and always have a joke or two ready. I’ve got a few really, really bad one liners that are just so horrible, there’s really no choice but not to laugh at them, and so far, they haven’t let me down. With The Woz, I actually had to resort to joke number two, as he gave me the punch line to joke number one before I could even finish the sentence. Ever the prankster. All in all, I’d estimate that Steve and I did 4 shots together in a time period totaling less than a minute. And even though our time together was short, The Woz has been one of my favorite sessions yet. Not only is he an iconic figure, but a true gentleman, as for when I sent him the images we did together, he replied within minutes, stating, “It was great to watch you work. I love seeing great technical skills of all kinds.”
Thank YOU Steve for a great collaboration!
For me, when it comes to quality, portability, and forward thinking, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is the camera that always makes it in my bag.
I’ve been interested in photography since I was young. I always had a fascination with images and imagery and would love to be able to draw, but I just couldn’t do it so photography became my outlet for getting images onto the page. Developing a style is something I’ve written about in the past and I think it is a trap I think a lot of people fall into, myself included, whereby we try hard to develop a particular style that we think will make us stand out. The problem is that whilst you’re trying to develop that style you end up jumping from one thing to the other with no real direction. I’ve found that by just doing what I like my own natural preference for shooting comes out in the end, which then organically becomes your “style”.
I sometimes like to use the lighting equipment as an element in a shot, even deliberately put it into the shot and work with it. I’ve had a number of criticisms for it online, but it’s what I like to do and eventually has become a part of my style. I don’t really care what others think if I like the image myself.
Initially I was looking for a complement to my Nikon dSLR that I could carry around every day, mainly for pictures of family when the Nikon would just get in the way. I went through series of mirrorless cameras until I picked up the X100, which instantly had me hooked. I purchased the X-Pro1 as soon as it came out, it came with me on jobs, and I soon realised that I wasn’t using my dSLR any more and sold all my dSLR gear. Since then I find using mirrorless, and the Fujifilm X-Series in particular, a much more natural way to shoot. It made me slow down and think before I took an image, it means I shoot far fewer frames, but keep many more of them. I actually find it quite an awkward experience going back to shooting with a dSLR if I ever pick one up these days. Live preview, and in particular an instant image preview without having to take your eye from the viewfinder makes for a much smoother shooting experience.
Shoot what you enjoy. For me photography is a passion, if I was forced to shoot things I didn’t like just to earn money I would no longer want to do it. I’d rather be a part-time photographer and enjoy what I did than be full-time and moan about it. If I ever became a full-time photographer I’d have to specialise in a field that I wanted to shoot in and work hard until I was well known enough to only shoot those types of images.
Photography for me is a never ending journey of improvement, if you’re not improving then you’ll get left behind. I see shots I took even just a year ago and find them difficult to look at as I find so many elements in them that I know I could have done better if I shot them now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because if I ever get to the point that I’m comfortable then I’m pretty sure I would soon get bored.
The people who inspire me have changed over the years, and it very much depends on what type of thing I’m doing, there are far too many to mention. My real passion is environmental portraiture, initially that was in a reportage style, but I tend to prefer to set things up now and shoot with portable studio flash or speedlights. My current inspiration comes from a variety of photographers who really understand and know how to control light, Tim Wallace, Damien Lovegrove and others, but there are many amazing images shot by amateurs. You only have to look through Flickr or 500px to see images that in many cases are better than a great number of full-time professionals.
Although it can be hard, I try not to simply copy what others are doing, but use their work as inspiration for my own.
Never underestimate the strength that a good model can bring to a shoot. The model is so often forgotten in favour of the photographer, but a good model can bring at least as much to the image as a photographer, especially if you are inexperienced at shooting people. I often bounce ideas off a model before a shoot and it can very much become a collaborative work.
I’m a strong believer in educating yourself. I spend a lot of time looking at images, reading and learning about photography. Workshops, reading and watching videos online have proven to be the most useful things I’ve done. Before you go out and buy something that you think will help you improve, learn to use what you have and then you will understand better why you need that new camera or lens rather than buying it thinking it will improve your photography. I’m good with the technical, but struggle with the artistic side of things. Zack Arias told me a couple of years ago to set myself small projects and run with that for a while, shooting only lines, circles, or only things that a red, then only red lines, etc. It does help.
Take as little with you as possible when you do shoot. For personal projects I rarely take more than one camera and one lens with me. Not only will you be thankful by the end of the day that you didn’t carry around a bag full of gear, but you will have spent more time taking photographs because you’re not concerned with which camera or lens combination to choose as you have no choice! That lack of choice also forces you to sometimes think outside of the box and get a more interesting shot than you otherwise would not have taken. The landscape below was shot with a 75mm equivalent lens. Not a traditional Lake District landscape shot, but personally I feel it is more interesting.
Finally, you don’t need to show off every image you take. When starting out and you don’t have a lot to show off it is tempting, and I used to post up a huge gallery of images from a shoot just to get stuff out there, you’ll regret that later! These days I may only even put one single image from a shoot into my portfolio. It only takes one great image to capture the imagination of a client, a whole page will just confuse them. Sometimes I may not even post up anything from a shoot at all, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something from doing it. If I’m making up a gallery from a shoot I try to limit it to the best 5-6 images.
Not long ago I realised that many of the images in my portfolio were old and out of date, often without much cohesion. I’ve been working hard on personal projects aimed at refreshing my portfolio over the past year or so, deleting and weeding out the old and replacing them with new images. I’m getting there, but there are a few more ideas I have before it is at the point I’m aiming for, so I’ll be busy planning and shooting those. Planning a shoot is one of the most important aspects for me and I often use Pinterest boards to pull an idea together.
Once that is done it’s going to be about getting my updated portfolio of images out there and in front of people who can offer me more paid work. I’m also planning another series of workshops around the country based on using the Fujifilm X-Series cameras with off-camera flash for on-location shooting.
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