Useful Photography Tip #120: Underexpose Musicians With Bright Lights on Them

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X Pro 1 review images mxpx (14 of 22)ISO 6400

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When you’re shooting concerts in large venues or even bars, chances are that the lighting on the musicians will be bright–way too bright for aperture priority. If you pay attention to your camera’s metering system, it will often look at the contrast in the scene and blow out much of the highlights.

Due to changes in modern sensor technology, we all know that it is much easier to lift details from the shadows than it is to pull them from the highlights. So in order to get a better exposed image, we strongly recommend underexposing the scene by at least a stop. This way, you’ll get the details on the musician and anything in the shadows can be pushed in post-production.

To get started, choose an ISO setting that you’re comfortable with and make sure that your shutter speed is at least the equivalent of your field of view to keep in line with the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds. Then select an aperture that you’re comfortable working with and keep in mind that your musician may be moving around. Then try to underexpose the scene by a stop. By doing this, you may either be able to capture faster motion, get more of a scene in focus, and also have better files to edit in the post-production phase. And all you need to do is just underexpose musicians.

Just remember that not everything needs to be an HDR–so as long as your primary subject is exposed correctly you shouldn’t have too much of an issue.

Keep this in mind the next time you do concert photography.