Getting the Shot
Sometimes you have to wait, it is never planned ahead of time. Then it happens, and you capture it forever! People, instruments, objects on stage and even the glow of stage lights create shapes and lines in the frame. The beautiful lines of a guitar, for example, generally look better from some angles than others, as do the combined lines of the guitar and its player. Work with the stage lights – move around and use them to rim light, sidelight or silhouette your subject. If there’s a background light flaring into your lens, see if you can make the flare work. But the most important factor to a good shot is proper exposure. A modern DSLR has a dynamic range of about 13 stops. Most stage lighting goes beyond that range, so you make decisions. I tend to shoot for the highlights, meaning that I don’t want to blow out the brightest areas. Let the dark area go black, and you can pull out some details the shadows in post. Fast lenses allow you to shoot higher shutter speeds. Don’t be afraid to go higher ISO, you can de-noise in post. Much better to get a sharp action shot with grain than a blurry shot at a lower ISO setting. Now that you’ve got your exposure sorted, watch the performers. No, I mean really watch the performers. How do they move on the stage? Where are their favorite places to stand? What are their idiosyncrasies? Facial expressions? Favorite postures? Signature moves? How do they express emotion? It doesn’t take a long – just watch for a while once a band has hit its stride and you’ll begin to see that each performer has little habitual movements, facial expressions, individual quirks, that are unique. Identifying these is key to capturing the individuality and expressiveness of a singer or player.