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Low light/back lit concert photography

edited March 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
Salutations! I've had my Nikon D3200 for almost a year and I'm still trying to learn all the functions and lenses that are best for my subject photos! I primarily take live concert shots of bands where the lighting is very poor and back lit most of the time. No flash is allowed in the pit due to blinding the musicians on stage. I see MANY Cannon cameras in the pit and although I know I do not have the best professional grade camera, if I can understand these settings I can take just as good of a shot as those guys. My questions are:

Are there different types of cameras for different types of photography or is it more of a Chevy versus Ford kinda thing?

I recently purchased a Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 lens that takes the place of the stock lens (Nikon 18-55mm 1:35-5.6) that came with the camera, plus adds the range that I need. Most concerts will only allow 3 songs length of time in the pit so I am forced to finish the evening in with the crowd. Was this the best choice for my situation?

The subjects I am trying to capture are in almost constant movement with alternating light patterns. Mostly dark with spurts of intense light. How do I capture a fast moving subject in such poor lighting without sacrificing the clarity of my photo?

I'm not doing horribly but I can do a lot better if I could only understand better the blend of settings needed.

My work can be found through my website (as an example of my work) at the top of the page is my Flickr and Tumblr links. Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated.


  • edited March 2015
    The Tamron is a good general purpose lens, but not really fast enough for this kind of work. You really need something like an f/2.8 or faster.
    To overcome the backlighting start by using spot metering and spot focus on the band members.
    To set a useable shutter speed, be prepared to use a high ISO setting. Although higher ISO produces more noise, in these kind of situations it is better to try to get the shot and deal with the noise in post processing especially if you shoot in RAW.
    I also tend to use continuous shooting and rattle off a few at a time, this increases your chances of getting a good shot. The beauty of digital is being able to delete what you don't need.
  • edited March 2015
    Given the limitation of equipment and the difficult venue, I think you're doing pretty well. As mentioned above, the things that can help are faster lenses and quieter high ISO performance. Every generation of camera seems to add a bit of high ISO performance, and full frames will generally do better than DX format.

    If you shoot Raw files, you can do some noise reduction in post processing. Various programs can do this, including the free Nikon Capture NX-D.

    If you're in fairly small venues, a fast 50 millimeter prime lens might well help. You'll have some limitations in framing, but you'll have considerable advantage in lens speed, and it's likely to focus faster and more accurately.
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