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Photographing a Band - specifically a blues band in a small dark club

shehlashehla Member
edited February 2011 in flash & lighting
Any advice on photographing a band in a small venue? I have been taking both high ISO (no flash) and TTL-BL flash photos...High ISO keeps the atmosphere of the place but I am still at a very low shutter speed and can't get sharp pictures....with flash pictures are sharp the atmosphere is ruined...Any thoughts ?


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited February 2011
    Hi there Shehla!

    Yup .. you're going to love the 85mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.4 that you'll be renting or buying. ;)

    Seriously though, there is no other short-cut here other than taking the ISO higher and using fast optics.
  • I have done a lot of this type of photography. Depending on the venue the stage lights can be enough to give you mood and nice images without flash. But don't be afraid to use some flash. You can also go for some motion blur or mix ambient and flash with a slower shutter speed to get both frozen movement and blue. A tripod can be handy to help and IS lenses would be nice.
  • I use the 50 and 85 1.4's and even the 70-200 2.8. These lenses can be pricey. If your on a budget you cant beat a 50 1.8. They can be had for about $100. Don't be afraid to crank up the ISO. If its really noisy convert it to B&W and play with the exposure, contrast and color settings.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Shehla .. did you end up buying a D700 in the end? I can't recall whether you did, or went with a D300.
  • Neil and others, Thank you so much for all the advice. I am just posting my pictures from The Rhythm Room (in Phoenix AZ) on Flickr. If you wish to look at them and critique....feel free. Neil, I don't want to use your forum to direct people to my Flickr account but if you are Ok with that let me know and I will post the link here. If not...I understand....people can do the search.
    I bought D300s and absolutely love it but am now itching to get one more camera body. Debating between D700, or new D7000 or another D300s. Any recommendation?
  • Shehla,
    I think getting another D300s is probably the best option for you in the short-term, because you can make sure the settings on both cameras are the same. In addition, you don't have to worry about the change in placement of controls from one camera model to the next.

    Getting the D700 is great, but you will have to deal with the different settings and controls and also the DX and FX differences. The D700 is worthwhile if you are getting full frame lenses soon.

    For me, I have one D700 and am saving for another D700 to go with my lenses.
  • Thank you Stephen ! I am thinking I should get a D700 so that I have slightly upgraded camera(full frame) than D300s. You are right about the lens difference but I don't generally change lens on my camera that much.
  • shehla: I recently upgraded from D300 to the D700...amazing camera! That said, I did a lot shooting my friend's band in low light venues. My 50mm f/1.4 was on the camera pretty much all the time. I did shoot at high ISO's, but had to.
  • what if you put the camera on a tripod..use a really low shutter speed...use an off camera flash to freeze the subject..the long shutter will bleed in the ambient. should work fine (in theory).
  • dgv, your proposition that would work, but, it would change the mood of the photograph.
  • use of gels should help blend in the flash color with the ambient color. The mood is spoilt when the flash overpowers the scene. I saw Joe McNally on KelbyTraining doing a similar shot in a small crammed bar environment. He whipped up some real good shots with gelled lights and slow shutter speeds. Otherwise, it will have to be the fast optics route Neil suggested. But then i guess shooting a group at f1.8 might be super tricky wrt focusing. I guess then high ISO is the way to go without flash.
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