The Art of Pairing Lenses and Lighting

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In the above slide show the first three photos are from the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus show that happened on Thursday, 5/24 at Pop’s.  If you have ever photographed or been at a show at Pop’s you will notice that the lights are great from a crowd aspect but from a photographer stand point it has it’s challenges.  I decided to use a 35mm f/1.8 lens for the night thinking that would get the job done, unfortunatley I noticed a few things:

  • The lighting at Pop’s uses a lot of reds and greens which make it hard to work with in a low light setting
  • The 35mm lens, even all the way open at f/1.8 at an ISO of 3200, still didn’t provide enough light for a good exposure
  • The 35mm seems to struggle to focus in low light settings

This was the forth time I’ve shot at Pop’s and I learn something new every time, which is awesome, but I think next time I will be sticking with my 50mm and waiting until they fire on the white back lighting to snap away instead of trying to compensate as the set changes lighting tones.  If the camera is set right the white back lighting can really make your subject’s silhouette pop, providing some definition amongst the dark background of the stage.

To compare and contrast the last three photos in the slide show are from last nights Twin Atlantic show at Lumiere Place Theatre where the lighting is so good that a f/1.8 aperture lens is almost too much.  I shot with my 50mm f/1.8 but had to set my settings at f/3.5, ISO 3200, and have my shutter speed cranked up to 500.  In photographing this show compared to Red Jumpsuit I made the following observations:

  • When a stage has front lighting, which most clubs don’t have, it provides more even lighting but can at times be harsh against light skin tones
  • ISO 3200 is way too high for this type of lighting
  • Possibly a kit lens with f/3.5-5.6 might have worked better than my standard go to 50mm lens

I’ve had conversations amongst other photographers and many people think I’m crazy for riding the thin line of possibly creating to much noise in my images by always defaulting to an ISO 3200.   Unfortunately the Nikon D3100 doesn’t let you manually dial this in so you are left with ISO 1600 or 3200, after you get past 800.  I have found that the best feature of my Nikon is that I can push the ISO a bit more and still get really good images to work with, which is what has made me a fan of their cameras.

I decided with this post to offer some insight on concert photography from a technical stand point as opposed to writing a blog entry that was more of a review of the shows, also because as you can see from the two slide shows each night I walked away with completely different quality of images.  I welcome anyone to offer some more insights or share their own experiences with photographing in low light situations.

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One thought on “The Art of Pairing Lenses and Lighting

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