Photography Workshop: Best Practises for Shooting Evening Events
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As a photographer there may arise that important event that entails great photographs in a dimly lit environment, and often you may find this is the hardest type of atmosphere to capture.
A standard SLR does have its advantages over a digital SLR or bridge camera for photography in these conditions (such as more control over a minutia of settings), however it is the bridge camera that is primarily used by the average photographer these days. Although you may have less control of the overall settings when using a bridge camera, this can in some ways work in your favor when taking these difficult to capture shots.
The first main advantage when using a digital camera is, of course, the ability to take shot after shot without wasting film, and with the cost of high capacity memory cards these days you can shoot almost infinitely (especially if you take time to delete the unsuccessful shots between sessions).
The auto focus has also progressed in leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, with infrared focus assist being readily available on most mid-range bridge models.
The auto focus assist beam can be an invaluable tool in evening photography, particularly in events such as music concerts and dance events, where the subject is constantly moving making manual focus almost impossible due to time constraints.
Using Digital Over SLR
Most digital cameras also now come equipped with a number of helpful settings especially for capturing images in low light, with increased ISO sensitivity and digital films speeds up to and beyond 12800. These high ISO settings will allow you to capture even the darkest of subjects, however what you gain in speed, you will ultimately pay for in image quality.
Taking a shot using such a high ISO will result in grainy and noisy images, and although this can be fixed to some degree with post processing, its probably not the best idea for capturing solid and strong photographs with great usability.
The first and foremost important tool for evening event photography is the good old tripod. You can eliminate almost all camera shake and blur that usually occurs in these sessions with the use of a tripod, meaning you can use a lower ISO for more professional and clear night photography. However, a tripod is often just too bulky to utilize in certain situations, such as at a concert. If you’re deep in the crowd in front of the stage, you may find that a tripod is a definite no-no; there is nowhere to set it up and the writhing crowds will defeat the purpose of using it in the first place.
Almost all digital cameras now come with an automatic black and white setting, and you may find that if you have to use a high ISO to capture the image, black and white photographs will serve you well. Removing the color from the image also removes any signs of over saturation or over compensation when using a flash. This will result in moody yet stylized shots perfect again for dimly lit indoor musical concerts and the like.
When Using Flash Seems Obvious
It would seem that when discussing the daunting task of photography in low light settings, the obvious thing to do would be to increase the light available using flash, however this is a double edged sword. When faced with a concert setting, it all depends upon the stage lighting already equipped at the venue.
If you’re at a larger concert and lucky enough to be close to the stage, you may find that the strong technical lighting will be enough to assist you with your shots. However, smaller, indoor venues may only use basic stage lighting, and this point you may want to consider using flash.
If using a high ISO it is advised that you keep away from using the flash, it will definitely expose the main subject of your photograph, but it will leave all background detail underexposed, totally taking away any ambience and atmosphere from your shots.
Yet you maybe inclined to lower the camera speed, and go for a slow sync flash; this will give you incredibly stylized action shots of the artists on stage. Although this style may not fit well with family events (such as wedding dances) it may really lend itself to vibrant and lively rock events.
Experience and Practice is Key
The venue will have constantly changing light sources, the subject will most likely be on the move and with these changes comes a different photographic opportunity and setting almost every second.
Overall, the skill of evening event photography is a skill you must learn through experience over time, as well as getting to know the limits and capabilities of your gear like the back of your hand. Joining in a photography workshop [like this one for example] with your specific camera can help this process along. Practice almost definitely makes perfect with this line of photography, and you should take every opportunity to hone your eye for the perfect dimly lit image until you know light source types and your camera’s capabilities innately.