Photographing black metal concerts with crazy and dark lighting conditions

Oct 3, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Photographing black metal concerts with crazy and dark lighting conditions

Oct 3, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Photographing concerts is not an easy task, especially indoor concerts. Often, you’ve got get dim lighting conditions. The lights you do have illuminating your scene are often extremes of one colour or another. They oversaturate your shot, you lose a lot of detail and information, especially in highlights and skintones, and your camera’s meter often just can’t handle it.

So, what can you do? In this video from concert photographer J. Salmeron at MetalBlastTV, we find out how our cameras react to different types of light, the challenges faced shooting concerts, and how to overcome some of them. It also explains why we see so many concert photographs shot in black and white.

YouTube video

The thing you have to remember about concerts is that they’re not lit for photographers. They’re lit for the best viewing experience for the fans who are forking over their hard earned cash to see them perform. There’s nothing you can do about it, it’s just the way it is. You just have to learn to live with it.

It is a pretty long video (19 minutes), combining hotshoe-mounted GoPro footage and final processed stills. The GoPro mounted above his Canon 5D Mark III also highlights how the concert appears to the fans.

  • 2:13 – Black metal vs big name concerts
  • 3:40 – The biggest difficulty – Red light
  • 4:29 – First band (Tsjuder) introduction
  • 6:57 – Second band (Marduk) introduction
  • 8:43 – Third band (1349) introduction – with pyrotechnics!
  • 12:07 – Post-processing with Lightroom

Using a GoPro on the hotshoe has always fascinated me. It takes behind the scenes videos to a new level. You’re actually getting an idea of the scene the photographer saw. Watching it side-by-side with the final photographs, shows you the scene the photographer saw. It also shows you exactly what they chose to keep in the shot, and what they chose to crop outside of the frame.

It’s impressive to see just how much information a raw file retains. There’s a lot more contrast, tone, colour and detail than one may initially expect looking at the camera’s LCD.

I think I’ll stick to concerts as a viewer, though, and leave the camera at home, but the techniques are fascinating. As is the mindset of a concert photographer.

Do you photograph concerts? What are your biggest lighting challenges? How do you overcome them? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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6 responses to “Photographing black metal concerts with crazy and dark lighting conditions”

  1. Rory Avatar
    Rory

    My most favorite genre to shoot.

  2. Henry Rodgers Avatar
    Henry Rodgers

    I’ve done some concert work. Maybe my favorite shot. ”
    I agree with pretty much everything that was said but I think the most valuable tool is to find a good spot, (even if you have to stand there for an hour or 2) and to be patient and not spray away.

  3. Ana Fraus Avatar
    Ana Fraus

    Photo shooting at shows as a fan is a challenge…especially with death metal bands cuz you got fans moshing and crowd surfing that you gotta be aware of what’s going on as well as taking that perfect shot..

  4. cbenci Avatar
    cbenci

    m/

    Really enjoyed this video.

  5. Sada Avatar
    Sada

    Article was fun :D but please dont do B&W its soo lame and dozen of photographer do BW for concerts cause they cannot grade well the pictures.

    Biggest problem is with cheap chinese led lightings … with very low CRI and bad AC-s that has slow refreshing speed so if you do a 7-10 fps image sequence more then 1/200s shutter speed it has a chance theywill out of sync :D different dim parts of the refreshing cycle because the bad AC-s has only 60-100hz refresh speed….

  6. Joepet Macariola Avatar
    Joepet Macariola

    Well, this is really great. I’m having fun and enjoying in doing this with my own. But how about preset to make it more easier and looks more marvelous.