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Photography Question 
Hannah Y

Troubles with Shooting a Concert

I have recently shot a concert using a Canon EOS 3000 N camera and a Kodak ultra film. The result was terrible. Because the singer and his band were constantly moving and I wasn't allowed to use a flash, the photos came out to be very blurry! Someone suggested that I buy a digital camera because it will provide great shots even if I don't use a flash. Please advise. Also, I am not very familiar with professional terms so could anyone please explain to me what I can do using the simplest terms and words?


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9/11/2003 8:11:17 AM

Tim Devick   I'm not sure a digital camera will solve your problem. If you're using a relatively high speed film as it is, I don't see how switching to digital is going to work any better.

You need a faster shutter speed in order to capture the singer without blurring. When the subject is moving, you need for the shutter to stay open for a very short time. You have a couple of choices: go with a faster film still, like maybe an ISO 1600 film. The picture will be more grainy than if you had shot with a slower film, but that's the trade-off with faster film. Your Kodak Ultra is ASA 400 film, I think, and that's too slow for night club photography. Something like Fuji's ASA 1600 film might work better.

The way camera lenses work is you have a shutter speed (the shutter lets light into the lens when you press the button to take the picture) and you have an aperature. Aperature defines how wide the shutter opens to let in light. These two things control how might light gets to your film. Your camera has built-in light meter in it that helps decide how wide to open the aperature and how long to leave the shutter open in order to capture the picture. For pictures like what you're talking about, you want the shutter to stay open for a short period of time and you want the aperature of the lens to open as wide as possible. With a fast shutter speed, the singer won't move very far while the shutter is open and so won't be blurred in the picture, as long as the aperature can open wide enough to let in enough light.

If you're using a telephoto or zoom lens for your picture, you might want to switch to a "regular" (non-zoom, non-telephoto) lens. The "regular" lens will likely have the ability to let in more light at its widest aperature than the telephoto or zoom lens.

With your camera, you can also trick it into thinking that your ASA 1600 film is really ASA 3200 by loading your ASA 1600 film normally but setting the film speed manually to ASA 3200.

The faster film, the "wider" aperature lens, and "tricking" the camera into thinking its using ASA 3200 film should make a big difference.

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9/11/2003 3:22:56 PM

Jim Miotke
BetterPhoto Member
Owner,, Inc.
  I agree with Tim - a digital camera will not necessarily solve your problem. It may give you an easy way to switch to a higher ISO equivalent - and that, as Tim points out, can be the best trick for you.

The biggest advantage that a digital camera will provide you, however, is the ability to see a thumbnail version of your image immediately after shooting. This will often tell you whether your technique is working or not.

This is how I got the feedback I needed when shooting a recent concert. To see the pics and read my thoughts on the subject, check out my article on concert photography - Getting Great Concert Photos.

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9/16/2003 11:51:36 PM

Sreedevi Swaminathan   I've been shooting a lot of bands, and my favorite films for this are Fuji NPZ 800 which I push 2 stops (rate at 3200) and the Kodak PMZ Pro 1000 Which I rate normally. With the Fuji, the saturation is excellent, and the grain is so fine- I honestly made 11x14 prints off an enlarger from the 35mm negs. and didn't see any grain at all! It's very push friendly. The Kodak has only very slightly noticeable grain, and what's nice is that the colors come out beautifully, but with less saturation than the Fuji- of course, I also don't push it, but I still like how it records color in more subdued, club-type settings.

Just for clarification, when you push a film, you set the camera ASA so it's reading a faster speed than what your actual film's speed is. You meter through the lens just as usual. And when you get the film processed, you would have them develop it a little longer. Usually 30s. extra for each speed higher you set your camera at. So, with the 800 film, the next steps are 1600, 3200- two steps. So tell them to push it +2 and they'll know what to do.

You're still going to get a little blur without a flash, though, because you'll never be able to shoot 1/1000s. but as long as you're still, you get great detail in the movement of the band members. Also, I use a purely manual camera for this- I haven't completely learned digital, but I have been trying, and one thing that bothers me is that the shutter never starts opening the second I depress the release- there's usually a fraction of a second of lag, and it takes a while of getting into the rhythm of it before you stop inadvertently moving slightly- for me at least.

One of the bands I shoot often hate light, and love to play in low-lit, moody clubs and lounges, and really hate the flash, so I've learned how to deal with this situation regularly. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

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9/17/2003 1:26:00 AM

Megan E. Elder   I wouldn't use a digital camera at a concert. We typically use a Nikon D100 in our news room, but at concerts we revert to film because the crazy lights tend to wig out digital cameras. Listen to the other guys... they've got good advice!!!

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9/17/2003 8:03:13 AM


I really appreciate your help!

Best wishes.

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9/23/2003 9:04:38 AM

Michael Kaplan   I like to shoot concerts. You can do what the above people said which is get higher ISO film and/or push your film. It is the same with digital or film that you must use a higher ISO but there is another thing which nobody mentioned and that is a lens with a wider F stop.

For my concert pics (You can see some at my pbase site below) I purchased Canon's wonder lens; the 50mm F1.8. It is only $70 USD and is fantastic for low light. The lens alone will add a couple of stops or more depending on the lens you are currently using.

I completely disagree about not using digital for concerts. I have the Canon 10D and shot the concerts at ISO 400-800. Virtually every pic came out perfectly and there were around 1000 pics taken. There are dancers and singers and movement was captured well with the higher ISO and lens combo.

With the 10D noise is virtually non-existant and being able to review your pics as you go along and see a histogram can be a wonderful aid to knowing how you are doing exposure-wise. You don't need a digital for those pics but it makes it much more useable and fun over film and with having no film use costs you can take hundred of pictures with no extra cost involved.
Michael Kaplan
Canon EOS-10D

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9/24/2003 5:31:46 AM

Buddy Purugganan   The beauty of getting wonderful 'gig photos is the availability of real FAST films ( ISO 800,ISO 1200,etc..) that can really capture those stages with subtle colorful lights and sometimes stage camaraderie. ( Think Angus Young leaping, Gene "KISS" Simmons spitting blood or Ozzy Osbourne throwing pails of water to the crowd) Films by FUJI ( Pro Press) which I truly recommend and have really high ISO numbers. Also the KONICA Centuria are quite good. There are actually PLENTY so its a cinch to get them at professional photo shops.

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9/24/2003 11:22:56 PM

Anand S   Hi Tim and Sreedevi, your responses are very informative. I don't have any experience in shooting concerts for that matter I am a very amateur photographer. I have a question in pushing the film. When we say that we are pushing the film we make the camera think that it is using a faster film which is actually not true. But the camera will calculate the exposure according to the pushed film speed (say ISO 1600 pushed to ISO 3200) which will actually be an under exposure for ISO 1600 say by 2 or 3 stops (because our physical medium still remains the same ISO1600 and the silver bromide coating on the physical medium still remains the same). Instead of pushing the film can't we just under expose it by 2 or 3 stops and achieve ths same results? Also I read in one of the responses that while processing we should mention that the film is pushed then the lab folks will take care of the rest. How does it all happen an elaborate answer will be of great help? Suppose in a single roll I shoot 20 pics with pushed settings and another 16 without pushing(here in India we get rolls of 36 exposures) will the excess processing not affect the other 16 pictures? Please clarify.

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9/27/2003 3:27:32 AM

Tim Devick   Hi Anand,

Let's take your example of pushing ASA 1600 film to 3200.What Hannah wants to accomplish is to shoot at a faster shutter speed than allowed by the film she's using so she can stop or slow down the motion of the performers. If uses 1600 film and can shoot with a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second, she can push this film to 3200 and shoot with a shutter speed of 1/30 of a second. When I'm using Fuji Velvia slide film (ASA 50) on a heavily overcast day, I sometimes will push it a stop so that I can hand-hold shots that should require a tripod, and so I can use higher shutter speeds to stop the movement of the subject when I'm shooting wildflowers yet still retain the depth of field I want. If I shot at the ASA 50 rating on a heavily overcast day, I might be shooting at, say, 1/30 second at f/8 with my 50mm lens. If I push my film a stop, I can shoot at 1/60 of a second at f/8, or I can shoot at 1/30 second at f/11. This gives me shorter shutter speeds or a bit more depth of field. From what I've read, the drawback to pushing film is it can increase contrast and graininess in the film.

If you set your camera to push your film, you have to expose the entire roll at the same ASA rating. I haven't heard of any labs that will process part of your film one way and part of it another way. When you push your film in the camera and you tell the lab to push the film in developing they process it in such a way as to make up for your "incorrect" exposure. I don't know what happens in the lab, exactly, although I think I've read that in this case they increase the developing time of the film. Maybe someone more knowledgeable on lab work can explain the details of the lab part of pushing film to us.

You don't generally have to push negative film, since negative filmn usually has enough lattitude that you can over or under expose the film and still get good prints. You only need to worry about pushing film if you're shooting slides, since slide film has very little lattitude on exposure - if you're off by a half a stop either way, the slide comes out looking bad.

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9/27/2003 12:58:39 PM

Sreedevi  Kashi   Hi Anand,
Actually, in B&W photography, pushing film is not only used to enable you to use a faster shutter speed, but is also used to increase contrast- so if you decided to shoot outdoors at a park you were visiting, and you knew the scene would look better if it weren't so hazy (I imagine if you're in Delhi or Mumbai you come across that a lot) then you may decide to push your film. In color you would increase saturation, thereby increasing contrast. See, when you rate the film higher, you do end up underexposing it. Doing that will make the blacks very black, and any highlights will be dimmer, but anything that's very hot will still be bright. So in a sense you increase the contrast a touch, but by processing it the extra time, you're allowing the image to saturate itself further which helps to bring out detail in your highlights, and in areas where there would have been more midtones. So basically what they do at the lab is process the film in the developer a little bit longer than the normal time. For color film it would be 30sec. extra for each add'l stop. For B&W I think it depends, although I usually do 1min. extra for each stop. So to use color as an example, I said above that I like to use Fuji NPZ 800 rated at 3200. So I'll rate it at 3200- which is better so I can keep shooting with my needle in the middle and not have to think about something extra- and then I'll go and process it. Color negative film is generally processed in the developer for 3:15- color is so precise that you must have your times and temperatures be exact. Since I rated my film two stops higher. I'm going to add on a minute making my development time 4:15. The bleach, wash, fix, and stabilizer times will all remain the same as they normally are.

You can also pull film, which does the opposite- it decreases contrast. Your highlights are already bright. So if you rate your film at a slower ISO than your overexposing it. That will get your shadows lighter, making the transition between Dmax and Dmin (basically your highest white and darkest black) much smaller, much less of a difference. Processing for less time allows you to keep the softness and shape of the image without revealing the loss of detail in your highlights from overexposing it. I don't know too many uses for pulling for normal situations, but I do know when cross processing- that is shooting slide and processing it as a negative- that you get a very nice, soft, nostalgic look to your photos (think those images from the 60's and 70's).

Color film regardless of whether it's negative or positive is very unforgiving. I think people tend to forget that it is color, and you're very particular about what color your colors are you'll find that getting the right exposure on color negatives will give you the real color of the image. When your exposure is off, you have to compensate a lot and you don't get the proper separation between your color tones, even when you do get overall color corrected. I guess it depends on how much you care about something like that.

With slide film if you're off, then you can't even try to compensate afterwards, because the slide is for the most part the print. If you were to make an actual print from a slide, meaning making an R print- you would find that it's never exactly quite as accurate and eye catching as a C-print (from a neg.) However, most people just use the slides as the image for all work they do anyway, and if you get the exposure correct that's generally a great image.

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9/27/2003 8:20:51 PM

Anand S   Hi Tim and Sreedevi a big thanks to you. May be sometime I will try them and let you know the results.

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9/27/2003 11:21:10 PM

Anand S   Hi Tim and Sreedevi a big thanks to you. May be sometime I will try them and let you know the results. BTW Sreedevi I live in Bangalore (Garden City now turning to silicon valley of India). I basically hail from Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

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9/27/2003 11:22:31 PM

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