Monday, April 28, 2014

Concert Photography Tip #1 - Know Thy Shutter Speed

The extremely talented John Flanagan and Dani Kerry
Going to Disney’s California Adventure to photograph the Mad T Party band is not only therapeutic experience for me, it’s a perfect way to practice my technique and be entertained all at the same time. I have made several mistakes and missed "the shot" and had a ton of “Light Bulb” moments upon studying my EXIF data.  I figure this would be a perfect opportunity to share both my photos and provide a quick tip to help you improve your concert photography.  So for my first tip: Know thy shutterspeed

In photography and digital photography the shutter speed is the unit of measurement which determines how long shutter remains open as the picture is taken. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the exposure time. The shutter speed and aperture together control the total amount of light reaching the sensor. Shutter speeds are expressed in seconds or fractions of a second. – Excerpt from webopedia

The hilarious Dan Franklin and Mike Hill
For the last year or so, I have been shooting concerts in M or manual mode because I am a control freak.  I originally started shooting in Aperture Priority mode, where you decide which aperture to use and the camera decides the shutter speed and/or ISO to use based on the its internal metering.  For the most part, it works fairly well.  Depending on your camera’s software, it will use a shutter speed that’s around one over the focal length. For most situations I use an equivalent focal length of 150mm and to consistently freeze a fast moving subject 1/150th of a second is not fast enough.  Said SS will work for ballads, but when you have an up-tempo song that calls for dancing or jumping/running around, I find that the minimum shutter speed that consistently gives me the results I like is around 1/250th of a second or faster. 

Now if you don’t feel comfortable shooting strictly in manual mode, I would recommend setting your camera to S-Mode or shutter priority.  In this mode, you select the shutter speed and the camera will decide what aperture and/or ISO to use to properly expose a shot.  Although you will lose control of your depth of field and/or sensor’s sensitivity to light, you have more control over how much motion blur you will introduce to your photograph. Before going strictly manual, I found this setting very helpful so try it out and let me know what you think.  

Taken at 1/500th of a second, ISO 1000, F3.2 (widest aperture at this focal length)

If you ever see me at the Mad T Party, please feel free to say hello. I would love to meet you and would gladly answer any of your questions.  

So say we all,

PS - All shots taken with the Olympus OMD E-M1 with the classic four thirds 50-200mm f2.8-3.5

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