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Camera Settings

Lesson 3 from: Getting Started in Music Photography with Red Bull Photographer Todd Owyoung

Todd Owyoung

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Lesson Info

3. Camera Settings

Lesson Info

Camera Settings

For me, live music photography can be hugely technical. There are a lot of elements because lighting is not in your control. There are performances and stage elements that are not in your control, and so you have to know your camera inside and out. You have to know your settings and be able to react quickly to these things that happen because you might just have a fraction of a second, when the light comes up, the moment happens in front of your camera, to capture it because otherwise you're gonna have, again, a blind frame. You're gonna miss it. And so knowing your camera settings is hugely important. For exposure mode, I always shoot in manual 100% of the time. And that's simply to keep total control over the scene at all times. I control my shutter speed and my aperture, and my ISO and know exactly the exposure I'm going to get. Because with live music photography, a lot of times, you're shooting into bright lighting and the contrast ratio between the stage lights and the deep shado...

ws may be really extreme and could easily fool your camera meter. So by shooting in manual exposure, you're going to be able to retain control and kind of have that human factor and the power to override what your camera might want to do otherwise, because it's kind of an unconventional scene. In terms of the Metering Mode, I do keep my camera set on the matrix metering or evaluative. I don't really look at the meters so much as I look at the live histogram with my cameras now. Again, the meter can easily be fooled, so that's simply what I keep it on. Some people like to maybe use spot metering and maybe meter for a piece of clothing might be appropriate, or even the face of a singer and kind of dial the EV up or down based on that. But, again, I don't really look at the metering mode, but it's simply what I keep my camera on. It might be useful as a reference if there's a scene that comes up that you do trust the metering mode and you use it as a reference. In terms of White Balance, I pretty much set my camera on auto white balance 100% of the time. With live music, because there's so many things that are changing... One, the camera gets it close enough most of the time. And then two, if it's a little bit off, I'd rather put my energy into nailing focus, composition, timing, then tweaking white balance to get it a little closer, and then in post, dial up the kelvin a little bit, up or down, adjust the tints. You know cameras these days are so good that the auto white balance, even for difficult lighting like LED lighting or stage lighting, for live music, it's good enough that you're gonna get ball park. In terms of the AF Mode on the DSLR, like the Nikon D850, I'll use a 3D tracking mode. And on the Z7 mirrorless, I'm using dynamic AF. And this is simply a preference. On the DSLR, its easier for me to kind of use that spot and then when the subject moves let the AF track and then still keep my framing the way I want it to. With the Z7, I use the dynamic area mode. And it basically, you'll be able to pick the spot, and then it uses the AF sensors around that central spot to kind of, keep tracking the subject if it moves slightly off of it. And with live music, because you're dealing with subjects that are moving around the frame a tremendous amount potentially, being able to autofocus easily and fluidly is a huge, huge boon. In terms of Release Mode, I use continuous or burst mode 100% of the time. The rationale for that is simply that if I need to take multiple frames in a row, I can do that by laying down on the button. If I don't, I can even sort of one press, and still shoot a single frame. So for me there's no reason not to shoot in continuous mode. Worse case is you might shoot on occasion, one or two extra frames. For me, it doesn't really happen that often. It just takes a little light touch and kind of knowing your shutter, kind of the weight actuation. But I shoot in continuous 100% of the time just to have that option of when I need to shoot a sequence, and there's kind of shooting for key moments and trying to capture a key moment, I'll shoot a couple frames and then it just give me the option. So always shooting in continuous mode is huge benefit for me for shooting live music. With AF-ON setup, with a DSLR I use back button focus. And it's using the AF-ON button on the back of the camera with my phone to activate focus. That allows you to separate focus from the actual shutter release. The benefit of that, for example, is you can focus and recompose really easily and not be limited by having the camera achieve focus before actually releasing the shutter. With mirrorless, again, I'm using shutter release, simply because with the huge AF area that I use on my Z7 for example, I can pretty much focus on any area that I want and I don't have to focus and recompose. And so there's really no reason to separate the two in terms of shutter release and the AF activation. In terms of ISO, I'm using pretty much 6400 as a top end and at the low end, ISO 1600. Live music photography is really a high ISO game. You're really not going to be shooting lower than the 1600 or unless it's a music festival during daylight hours. But you kind of have to be able to get used to shooting at high ISO and find comfort in using these ranges that you might not normally use for conventional photography. People might shy away from using high ISO because of extra grain or noise, but in my view, I think that if the worst thing someone says about your photo is that it's a little grainy, there's a little noise, it means you've done everything else right. You nailed the composition. You nailed the timing. You nailed the moment. In terms of Auto ISO, I leave this off. Again, because I'm kind of a control freak. I like to shoot in manual mode. I like having complete control over the scene and the exposure. Using Auto ISO, I think it can be a benefit but I like having that complete control. I can always spin the dial, adjust the ISO up or down, adjust my shutter speed as needed, if I need to kind of adjust for a quickly changing scene. But as a rule, I generally don't use Auto ISO at all. For Shutter Speeds, I think this is kind of a personal preference. For me, in a smaller venue, I might try to stick with one, two hundredth of a second in order to freeze slow motion. Overall I really do like freezing motion and not introducing motion blur when I can, just because I kind of aim for that technical level of execution. But it's kind of up to you as a photographer, what you want to do. I think there's certainly photographers who embrace motion blur and kind of, a little bit more motion in their photos. Certainly a slower shutter speed can introduce aspects that do really support, kind of the emotion and kind of expression of live music. But for me, for small venues, I like one, two hundredth of a second or faster. For larger venues and kind of, higher production values, I like to use one, five hundredth. Again, 'cause it's gonna help you freeze motion a little more and just ensure a little bit of crispness. For drummers specifically, I like to shoot at one eight hundredth of a second or faster. You can shoot at one, one thousandth of a second, even better or even higher is gonna help freeze those drumsticks and particularly the tip of the drumstick. As a general rule, if you're shooting drummers close up, like on stage, and the apparent view of the drumstick is larger, the angle at which they're moving appears larger, you're gonna want to shoot at a higher shutter speed, just because it appears larger in the frame, you're gonna see a little bit more motion as opposed to if they're at the back of the stage and less prominent. In terms of Aperture, I shoot wide open almost exclusively. I use F2.8 lenses for my main kit. Even when I'm shooting with primes, if it's a one eight, one four prime, I'm generally shooting wide open. Even though the depth of feel will be very shallow at a prime, if I'm using it in the first place, it means that there's low light and I really need all the light I can get. I don't usually have the luxury of stopping down. So I'm shooting wide open almost 100% of the time. In music photography, if I have the light to play with and kind of a little to use, I will always shoot in a lower ISO or more often, shoot at a higher shutter speed, as opposed to stopping down. Because, I think with a F/2.8 lens, you're usually going to be able to nail focus. You don't need more depth of field. And with pro lenses, they're gonna be fast enough, they're gonna be sharp enough at F/2. that you're not really gaining a huge amount of sharpness a third of a stop down. Even one stop down, I'll take double the shutter speed. File Format, this is a pretty basic format... Raw. Raw 100% of the time. With live music photography, when you can't control all of the elements, and you're shooting in manual mode and all these challenges of lighting, shooting in raw will let you save and kind of finesse an image. Let's say you miss by half a stop, a third of a stop, adjusting exposure you're going to be able to retain the most quality shooting raw, and give the most flexibility too in terms of adjusting white balance and just getting the highest quality image out of your files. Here's one specific to live music photography. The AF Assist Light that you might not necessarily think to turn off. A lot of cameras have may have an AF Assist light, that basically turns on. It's a little LED light that illuminates a subject. And for live music photography, you always want to turn this off because you are shooting in the dark. Your subjects are dimly lit, and the last thing you'll want is to be annoying your performer by having a light shining in their face. So just a little tip, turn your AF Assist Light off.

Ratings and Reviews

Alexandra U

I highly reccomend this class for any one who would like to get started or dip their toes in the concert photography scene. This class has many useful tips and trick for any level of photographer, not just beginners. I have been in the music scene for over 10 years and I was able to gather so much information in every chapter. Watching this video boosted up my confidence as a photographer because it validated that I am already succeeding in my concert career. Thank you for this amazing stream. It sparked my creative soul once again.

Kris Comer

Wow, this was awesome! I have been a concert photographer for almost 3 years now and I still learned some great tips! I loved that he covered different ideas for promo shots which is one of my weaknesses. Any beginner should definitely check out this course! It is straight and to the point with all of the most important steps.

Mark Balmer

This is a really great course! I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in this type of photography. It is presented in an easy to understand way. Todd gives clear and informative tips and shows how to set up lights, poses etc! I found it very helpful, and will definitely put what i've learned to work. Thanks, Mark

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