Funky Soul – some Tips on Live Band Photography

An email enquiry through – I was asked to shoot some live band shots in an inner City pub. I mentioned to Anthony – one of the guys in the band, as a part-time muso myself I know how hard it is to get good band shots (as I’m usually playing and also our band photographer) and would be keen to do the job.  

A couple of days later the booking was made and gig details provided.  The venue was the Sly Fox Hotel in Enmore on Thursday night – the band “King For A Day” would be on from 8:30PM-10:30PM.  Actually at first I thought the band was called “Underground Bingo” because a search on the web revealed that as the nights listed entertainment event.  


A further search on the Sly Fox says it’s a gay and lesbian bar – OK, this WILL be something different I thought to myself – I had visions of Priscilla Queen of The Desert

Pre preparation:

Like all new photography challenges I like to research to get some best practice tips.   

My most important tip –

  • Get some ear plugs – you’ll be shooting right up the front and often in front of the speaker stack.

  • Camera Ready – before any gig double check all your equipment – lens and cameras checked and cleaned; cards formatted; all batteries charged.  Yes, I was once through a shoot and my spare was completely battery was flat.  

  • Backup – I now take two camera bodies with me for all event shoots – with event gigs (wedding; sports; corporate; band) there’s only one chance to grab the shots and you’re completely stuffed if your camera packs it in mid gig.

  • A good, easy to access, waist camera bag would be great.

The Event

I arrive at the venue at 8PM as the band is setting up and introduce myself.  The room reminds me of the good old Aussie pub stages we had in the 80’s and 90’s.  I use this time to do some test shots to get an idea of exposure.  “Underground Bingo” is the main event – a heavy tattooed, sunnies wearing, terrets afflicted but, often humourous beatboxing bingo caller and a skinny dude in a flash 70’s suit.   The bingo prizes are equally different – a couple of nurf guns, a plant terrarium and an original native indian dinner plate.

While bingo is in full swing we grab some late notice cover shots in the poster spattered alley way behind the pub.  Time is short and I choose a street light as my key light.

M - 2Photo by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia

Technical:

  • I nearly always shoot in Manual mode – I spot meter the available light; shoot some tests and constantly check shots during the gig  – there’s just too many things that can throw out the camera’s auto functions.  Use your viewer and histogram. Remember the “more light to the right” of your histogram contains the most photo data.

  • Dump the flash and shoot high ISO – it’ll add grain but your flash won’t wash out the stage lights.  You can reduce the noise in post production.

  • Also big apertures – more light but a shallower depth of field. I shot most of the following images at ISO 6400 f/2.8 and 1/90 sec.

  • Shoot RAW.  Warning.  I went a bit crazy and shot nearly a thousand images for this gig – that’s a lot of hard disk space.  Are the shots just going onto the web or will prints be made?  

  • Lens – I’ve my trusty f/2.8 17-35mm wide (on a full frame) and my f/4.0 24-105mm portrait lens.  I’d love a good fast prime lens.

We’re back before the first half of bingo ends “33 – tit’s and arse” says Bingo beat box man.  “Bingo!” cries the young hipster and goes straight for the nerf gun prize.


Now time to shoot.