Continuing in the series I started about Concert Photography, I thought I’d share some thoughts about shooting the solo singer guitarist performer specifically.
Pete Stein: a solo singer-songwriter from Knoxville, TN
Using Stage Lights Instead of Flash
In line with my previous advice, I tried to shoot as much as I could without firing a flash. Letting the stage lights illuminate the singer created a pleasant variety of moods. In these examples, it’s clear when the gels were in their various states of green, red and blue. On the white-lit shot, I fired a gridded flash to isolate the subject from the background.
Born in the USA
Well, the stage backdrop made for some interesting shots. The oversized American flag gave it a Ryan Adams / Toby Keith feel, which kind-of works with the denim working-man aesthetic Pete has. The Gibson J-2oo (one of my favorite strumming guitars of all time) also adds a nice visual touch to the photo. It may be petty, but only serious musicians will fork over $3,000 for a guitar that nice.
Even so, the flag is such a dominating icon that I didn’t want it in every picture. That’s why I took the profile shots as well. I really enjoy the way the retro neon signs light up the backdrop with a subtle fuzziness from the shallow depth of field. It’s got a dive-y low rent kind of charm that appeals to me.
As far as camera settings, I started with auto-exposure to see how it could handle the low light. Turns out, the camera wasn’t as fast as the auto setting thought. I ended up in Aperture Priority set to 1.7 in my 50mm Minolta prime lens. I started with a shutter speed of 1″ and stepped it up, one shot at a time, until I got to 1/30. The setting ended up being great. Auto-focus had no problems with the setting so I let it do it’s thing.