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Photography of Musicians

April 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Photography of Musicians:

1. Strobes (or Flash) vs. Available Light:

During a performance, flash is typically avoided due to its distracting effect. Occasionally off camera flash on a light stand on stage is allowed, but don’t overwhelm the stage lights. Use  Spot metering mode on the main musician’s face which should be in the light since the background is best left dark. Using aperture priority, an aperture of F/4-5.6 is a good starting point, but you may need a wide open aperture of F/2.8 with a fast lens. This will limit the DOF (depth of field), but keeping the performers in one plane will help. Usually a high enough ISO to allow a reasonable shutter speed should be quite doable if you have a fairly current low noise hi ISO camera. If not possible, seize the effect of motion or learn to anticipate pauses and shoot then. In the studio, I shoot with 4 to 5 strobes and always in Manual mode with F/8-11 typically and 1/125, with an ISO 200 (to 400). I meter the foreground and background with a hand held light meter and adjust the lights accordingly. If using a white background, overexpose it by one to one ½ stops. If black, keep light off the background for pure black.

2. On Location: During an indoor performance, learn to keep quiet and keep a low profile. Look for simplicity and avoid distracting elements in the frame as much as possible. Keep to the side to separate the musicians from their microphone. Try to show the interaction among the musicians. Capture the musicians enjoying themselves; their “music face”. SugarTones__ 05_SugarTones__ 05_

3. Prepare: Creativity is a must and look for a theme or storytelling quality. Plan ahead with some possible scenarios. Listen to your client regarding what their needs and ideas are. Props are important and may be instruments, microphones or items of clothing such as jackets or hats. Push the limits for possible poses. Keep in mind the style of their music and the instruments they use. Meet with them in advance and review some possibilities. Note their hair color since if dark haired against a black background they will benefit from hair light. Have at least a dark and a white background with possible gels to add color. Prepare as much as you can in advance. I test some lighting scenarios on myself the day of the shoot. SugarTones__ 42_SugarTones__ 42_

4. Clothing: Solid colors without logos or patterns are the best. At least two changes of clothing – one relaxed and one more formal with choice of dark and light outfits. Dark or black clothing against a dark background is slimming. Keep tones and styles similar if shooting 2 or more people. Avoid sleeveless tops except for the young – long sleeve is best. Avoid lots of jewelry. Simple casual clothes such as jeans and a white or black T shirt are timeless.

5. Expressions:  Look for facial expressions and posture. Vary the positions and have some looking at the camera, some looking away, some looking at each other.  With or without their instruments. Some contemplative, some smiling. With and without singing and or playing. Make it a two way conversation.

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