5 Reasons to Consider Concert Photography with a Wide Open Aperture (and the Secret to Perfecting it)

Concert photography is arguably one of the most adrenaline-filled niches you can engage in as an image maker. Musicians, magazines, fans, and record labels alike turn to skilled concert photographers to tell a story for the momentous performance. For most music photographers (due to venue constraints) there is less than ten minutes to capture enough great images to populate a full gallery. Partner this with tumultuous circumstances such as sporadic lighting and an excitable audience and you have effectively created a photographic situation that is unlike any other.

As such, shooting with a very wide open aperture might appear to be too daunting of a task! There are common misunderstandings of how to use and work with a wide open aperture! If your inner aesthete drools over soft, dreamy photographs and creamy bokeh, then you better get ready to play with some low, low, low numbers. We are here to tell you how to photograph concerts at f/1.2, f/1.4, and f/1.8!

Wide aperture concert photography tips

Why Use an Ultra Wide Aperture?

Here are 5 reasons you may want to consider shooting concert photography with a wide open aperture.

1. Aesthetic and Style

To preface, a lot of the quality and final image look is based on the type of lens used. In the past several years, photography fans are gravitating towards the shallow depth of field aesthetic. If you’re in the business of producing commercial music photography (like myself), you’re going to want to keep following the trends and adapting to what is sought after in the industry.

Aesthetic and Style with Wide Aperture Concert Photography

An added bonus is being able to niche yourself a bit in an industry that has a lot of competition, many photographers are wary of shooting fast paced events with a wide aperture due to potential focusing issues. If you can master this art, you have something that will separate you from others.


2. Low Light Capability

Low light concert photography with wide aperture

Unless you’re shooting a big name at an amphitheater, a lot of smaller venues will have very poor lighting. You’ll need to use equipment that will illuminate the frame with whatever limited lighting is available. In these low light scenarios you need a lens with a wide enough aperture to let in more light. Using a lens that goes down to f/1.2, for example, is a great way to let enough light in and make the frame bright. Remember, the aperture is the hole the light passes through in your lens. The wider the aperture, the more light that enters the camera.


3. Shallow Depth of Field

Shoot concert photography with shallow depth of field

The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. Shallow depth of field is great for live concerts because the stage can be rather cluttered compositionally. From instruments to cables, background props, and other band members, there can be a lot going on in the frame at once. Only having one subject in focus with the rest blending into a creamy bokeh makes for a much more visually pleasing and simplified image. With the depth-of-field being so shallow, whatever troubles you about the background can easily melt into a beautiful creamy bokeh.


4. Detail Shots

Capture detail in your concert photography with wide aperture

On the topic of shallow depth of field, if you are photographing for an instrument company, an aperture of f/1.8 will likely become your best friend. This is because photographs taken with a large aperture allow all of the focus to lie on the subject, and the background ceases to remain a distraction. Many instrument companies love to have their products captured in a natural usable setting, such as musicians at a live show.A shallow depth of field will keep the interest solely on your single subject.


5. Sharpness

How to achieve sharpness in your concert photography with wide aperture

Due to technological constraints, lenses that open their aperture below f/2.8 are fixed millimeter lenses (they do not zoom). As a general rule, fixed millimeter lenses tend to be sharper than lenses with a range.


Let’s Talk About the Elephant in the Room: Focusing with a Wide Open Aperture

Right where all of the benefits of an f-stop of 1.2 start to break down is the focusing. The wider the aperture and the shallower the depth of field, the more difficult it can be to focus on what you want. Pair that with a live show in which the lighting is a bit of a mess, and the subjects move spontaneously in various directions, and it sounds like the perfect recipe for a photographer migraine. However, focusing with a wider aperture doesn’t have to be so difficult- it’s just a different thought process.

The Concept of Sharpness

Sharp concert photography through composition

Really, the focus stems from a desire to have an image that is sharp. But what is sharpness? Sharpness is an interesting concept. How sharp a subject appears is a matter of two things: the focus the camera captures and the amount of contrast on your subject. The term “sharpness” is, in fact, an illusion. You see, for an image to be considered sharp, it needs to have contrast. If the there is little contrast in the image, the subject will not look three-dimensional regardless of whether the focus is perfect or not. Biologically, the way that our eyes work, our vision naturally detects edges to register sharpness, and shadows and highlights in order to record the depth in a subject. This is a very important concept to understand when answering the question of how to make images look sharp. When editing your concert photography images, be attentive to the shadows and highlights. And add contrast to define your subject.


Perfect Focus

Sharp concert photography through perfect focus and wide aperture

In terms of getting your image to actually be sharp (from being in perfect focus), here is the basic concept of how focus works in a camera. When you focus your camera on a subject, it establishes a focal plane. To get your subject in focus, it has to be on the focal plane. Focal planes happen on an x (horizontal) and y (vertical) axis. This means anything along either of those axes will be in focus, and anything not on them will be out of focus. The concern with a wide open aperture is that your focal plane is quite small. As you decrease your aperture number and make the opening wider, the invisible area in front and behind the plane of focus will get smaller and smaller, leaving you with much less wiggle-room. As such, distance from the subject plays a key role in your focus.

When shooting wide open, even the smallest diversion from either of the focal plane axes will cause your subject to be out-of-focus. You cannot take a step forward or back without the need to refocus when shooting at a wide aperture. But by keeping this in mind, you can adjust your photography technique to better accommodate the small focal plane.

Single Point Autofocus

Using single point focus and wide aperture in concert photography

A trick to help make sure that what you want in focus is indeed sharp, is to use single point autofocus. By default, your camera will probably select either the object that’s closest to the camera or what’s in the center of the frame. By using single point autofocus, you tell the camera exactly where to focus, which is extremely helpful with low aperture numbers. Refer to your camera model’s manual to find how to change the focus setting!

The Real Secret

The real secret to wide aperture concert photography

Keeping in mind how the focal plane works, this is the big trick to shooting wide open at a concert: The farther away you are from the subject, the easier it is to get the subject in focus. You can get the subject in focus and still maintain and extremely creamy depth of field.

Whether you’re in a photo pit or just in the main venue floor, your position to begin the concert shoot can significantly affect your success for the rest of the shoot. Keeping in mind that for most general photography passes your time is limited, you need to be ready to jump right into the shoot the very second the music hits your ears. My suggestion is to start on the outer edges of the pit or venue and work your way to the middle. Many concert photographers all flock to the center of the shooting zone, and begin shoving to claim their dead center spot. When you start from the edge, while the other photographers are all congregating and fighting for the center, you have much more room to move freely on the outer edge. This is where you will have an advantage to be able to move a bit further away from your subject in order to expand your plane and get that perfect focus.

Shooting concert photography in wide aperture

Now that you’ve been let in to the secret, go out there and capture some awesome concert shots!

The post 5 Reasons to Consider Concert Photography with a Wide Open Aperture (and the Secret to Perfecting it) appeared first on Digital Photography School.

New Sony sensor specs resemble chips found inside Fujifilm X-T3, Panasonic GH5S, others

Sony has updated its sensor page and shared the details of a number of new image sensors it's made. Sure enough, a few of them bear a striking resemblance to sensors inside other manufacturers cameras.

One sensor in particular, a 26-megapixel backside-illuminated (BSI) APS-C chip nicknamed IMX571, bears an uncanny resemblance to the sensor used inside Fujifilm's X-T3 camera. While Fujifilm hasn't confirmed it's a Sony sensor inside the X-T3, General Manager of Fujifilm UK, Theo Georgiades, did say it wasn't a Samsung sensor used inside the camera, as some believed to be the case, leaving little doubt that it was Sony who manufactured the sensor. The specs listed under this image sensor on Sony's website all but confirm that speculation.

It's also worth noting that there's a good chance we'll see Sony build something around this sensor as well. The a6300 and a6500 both use the same sensor as Fujifilm's X-T2, so it's not a stretch to imagine Sony will be releasing one or two A600-series cameras using the 26-megapixel BSI image sensor found inside the X-T3.

The BSI IMX461 sensor has been in the works for a long time and based on Fujifilm's announcement that it is currently developing a 100-megapixel medium format camera, it's likely this is the sensor that will be inside of it. The sensor has 3.76 micron pixels and features a maximum frame-rate of up to six frames per second.

The IMX299 is a bit harder to hit on the head, but based on it being 11-megapixls, having 4.63 micron pixels, and a 60 frames per second readout, it's almost certainly the sensor found inside the Panasonic GH5S.

Last but not least is the IMX272. This 20-megapixel Four Thirds-type sensor has 3.3 micron pixels and a maximum readout of 60 frames per second. We don't have any reason to believe this is currently in any camera, but it seems like an incredibly capable sensor that could show up in a very high-performing Four Thirds camera in the future.

DPReview TV: Simple techniques for great macro photography

This week Chris and Jordan are joined by renowned macro photographer Don Komarechka, who demonstrates a few simple techniques that can improve your macro photos in a big way.

Want to learn more? Check out some of our other articles about macro photography:

DPReview articles about macro photography

Get new episodes of DPReview TV every week by subscribing to our YouTube channel!

How to Customize and Use the Photoshop Gradient Tool

Despite its straightforward name, the gradient tool is incredibly flexible. You can customize practically every settings, and use it in many different ways.

In this article I’ll show you how to use it to its full potential.

The Gradient tool shares the same toolbar space as the Paint Bucket tool, so you may not see it at first glance. Click and hold the Paint Bucket tool to reveal the fly-out menu, then select the Gradient tool.

You use the Gradient tool to make a smooth transition between multiple colors. And one of the first things you can customize is the colors you want to transition between.

With the Gradient tool active, you’ll see a sample on the left-hand side of the options bar. Clicking the small arrow next to it will reveal the gradient picker that includes a number of preset gradients. And clicking the gear icon to the right of that will bring up the settings menu where you can:

  • load more presets
  • add new presets
  • customize the display window.

If none of the presets suit your needs, you can customize a new gradient by double-clicking the sample to bring up the Gradient Editor window. Here you’ll see a bar with the current gradient, along with a set of sliders you can use to create the gradient you want. The top sliders control the opacity, while the bottom sliders control the color. If you need more colors, simply click on the gradient where you’d like them to go.

As well as choosing the colors, you can also choose the start and end points of your gradient.

Next to the sample you’ll see five icons representing the five different types of gradients you can apply: Linear, Radial, Angle, Reflected and Diamond.

The Linear gradient will gradually transition your colors in a straight line from the start point to the end point.

The Radial gradient radiates out from the start point in the shape of a circle.

The Angle gradient will transition clockwise in the direction of the angle created by the line uniting the start and end points.

The Reflected gradient creates a mirror effect using the start point as the center.

Finally the Diamond gradient radiates out from the start point in the shape of a diamond.

Next to the gradient icons are two dropdown menus. The first lets you set the bending mode (how your gradient will affect whatever’s below it). The second reveals a slider that lets you control the gradient’s opacity.

If you continue towards the right of the option bar you’ll find a set of check-boxes that will finalize your choices. First you have the option to Reverse the colors which is pretty much what you’d expect: it will invert the order of the colors of your gradient. Then you have Dither to make the transition smoother. And finally the transparency box applies the opacity from the gradient, see the difference in this example where the top half has the transparency checked and the bottom half unchecked:

Ok now you know how the gradient tool works and how to customize it, great for graphic work, but how can you apply it to a photo? Let me give you an example to achieve a trendy look on your images.

First choose the photo you want to modify. While there are no right or wrongs here, there are some photos that fit better for this kind of effect than others, for example something that looks vintage, or an artsy portrait.  Now turn it black and white by applying an Adjustment layer clicking on the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Black and White, this way it won’t be a destructive process.

On top of this Adjustment layer you just did, add a New Layer by going to Menu > Layer > New Layer, or by clicking in the New Layer button at the bottom of the panel. And in this one you’ll create your gradient using the Gradient Tool that I explained before by choosing the colors and angles you prefer. Finally set the Blending Mode to screen and your image is ready.

Have fun experimenting with the many many possibilities this offers you!

The post How to Customize and Use the Photoshop Gradient Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Magic Lantern starts work on way to ‘enhance’ Canon EOS R feature-set

An example of the Magic Lantern software running on an EOS DSLR

The group that provides Canon users with programs to expand the feature set of their cameras has begun cracking the new EOS R mirrorless firmware.

Beta firmware from Magic Lantern is said to be in the test stages, and if it follows already existing Magic Lantern software, it will add new display overlays, uncompressed raw video, focus stacking and even the chance to load games on to the camera. Magic Lantern doesn’t replace the firmware already loaded onto the camera by Canon, but is extra software that runs alongside it to add additional features.

Many users will perhaps hope that full-sensor 4K video will be added, though the consequences of the camera using the whole sensor area for extended recording is yet to be discovered.

Andrew Reid from EOSHD shows a video of an experimental firmware probe successfully taking control of the camera system – even if to just show a green screen. This, he says, is good news, as it means the Magic Lantern code ‘was able to execute on the EOS R as normal’ and ‘which demonstrates the possibility to change camera registers and execute code on the main processor.’

Obviously more work is needed, but the first steps of cracking the file format and encryption seems to be underway.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Silhouettes

Silhouettes are a wonderful way to convey drama, mystery, emotion and mood to the viewers of your photos and often stand out in an album because of the combination of their simplicity but also the story that they convey. I love them because they don’t give the viewer of a clear picture of everything but leave part of the image up to their imagination to wonder about.

That’s an excerpt from a post I wrote quite some time ago, but remains one of our more popular posts on how to photograph silhouettes. Your challenge this week is to take a photograph of a silhouette and see if you can create a story that evokes imagination in the viewer. Here’s some tips to get you started:

How to Photograph Silhouettes in 8 Easy Steps

Silhouette Photography Technique

Looking for more inspiration? Check out these great shots:

12 Stunning Silhouette Shots

A Collection of Great Silhouette Photos

Or this post on how to use your silhouettes to tell a story will help you for this week’s challenge:

How to Create Powerful Silhouettes by Telling a Story

Weekly Photography Challenge – Silhouettes

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites – tag them as #DPSSILHOUETTES to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you’re doing so that they can share in the fun.


The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Silhouettes appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Take Better Photos of Festivals and Celebrations

Mitchell K is not only a brilliant photographer, but also creates the most engaging videos of his travels. This one is no exception, and whilst a little longer than the videos we normally share, it’s an engaging, informative and inspiring lesson from Mitchell on how to get better photos at festivals and celebrations.

The video was filmed in a few locations in Peru. I’ll share parts of my adventure. You’ll even see how I almost killed myself driving over a high mountain pass at night. The main focus, though – is on the travel photography tips and advice. When you finish watching this video, you’ll have a much better idea about photographing festivals, celebrations and gatherings of people. It is almost 30 minutes long, but, I do really believe that it’s worth your time.
– Mitchell Kanashkevich

Mitchell has authored 3 great books for dPS – if you love his style, grab this quick offer to get 50% off these titles. Just use the code MITCHELLK50 (expires 31 October 2018):

Transcending Travel


Captivating Color

Natural Light

You can also check out more free tips on the blog:

Photographing Festivals and Events – Tips for Travel Photographers

Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Festivals

20 Tips for Photographing Historical Reenactments and Festivals

The post How to Take Better Photos of Festivals and Celebrations appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Google Pixel 3 XL sample gallery

The Pixel 3 represents another step forward in computational photography for Google's smartphone line. Introducing features like super-resolution digital zoom, a synthetic fill-flash effect and learning-based Portrait Mode improvements are just a few ways that the company is making the most of a single main camera. We've just started testing the Pixel 3 XL, but in the meantime take a look at some sample images.

We've included some Raw conversions and made Raws available for download where possible; however, please note that Raw support appears to be preliminary. Default conversions are very flat and require significant post-processing. We expect this to be remedied soon with proper profiles.

845 Half a Terabyte

Aubrey has a tip regarding Digital Asset Management, Rafael wants to shoot flat architectural drawings and wonders what camera and lens to use and ONE of the cameras that were announced at Photokina peaks Chris’ interest: the Zeiss ZX1.

Photo by Brittany Gaiser



Photo Tours with Chris Marquardt
» Aug 2018: Ireland — Giant's Causeway
» Sep 2018: Norway — Lofoten Fantastic Fjords
» Oct 2018: Morocco
» Feb 2019: Arctic: Fantastic Fjords Tour 1
» Feb 2019: Arctic: Fantastic Fjords Tour 2
» Jun 2019: Silk Road Kyrgyztan
» Oct 2019: Romaina Fall Colors
» Feb 2020: Lake Baikal, Siberia
» Sep 2020: Ireland, The Wild Atlantic Way
» all photo tours

The post 845 Half a Terabyte appeared first on PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM THE TOP FLOOR.

Canon EOS R teardown: Roger Cicala takes a look inside Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless

Lensrentals.com, 2018

It's been less than two weeks since the Canon EOS R started shipping and already Roger Cicala, founder of Lens Rentals, has taken one apart in incredible detail to see what's inside.

Per his usual routine for gear teardowns, Cicala makes notes of various features and components found inside the camera along the way.

Lensrentals.com, 2018

The EOS R teardown started with the removal of the adhesive grip tape from around the body of the camera to better see where all of the screws are. From there, the Cicala stripped the EOS R of its various elements piece by piece from the outside in.

While Cicala called it 'a rather a boring disassembly," the resulting photos and look inside the camera are anything but. Canon appears to have done a solid job across the board considering the price point and feature set of the camera, but there's certainly room for improvements.

Lensrentals.com, 2018

The buttons on the camera are thoroughly protected with weather-sealing gaskets, but the body itself is only water-resistant by tightly overlapping two pieces of the seams of the polycarbonate frame. In Cicala's own words, "that means, I think, that it will be fine in a misty rain for a while, but don’t get it saturated and don’t set it somewhere wet."

Lensrentals.com, 2018

Cicala also notes that "it’s not very crowded inside [the EOS R]," meaning there's plenty of room to pack in more features and tech inside if Canon decides to do so. He specifically mentions that much of the extra space he noticed between the circuit board and image sensor is where the in-body stabilization (IBIS) is seen inside the Sony A7R III he took apart. But don't hold your breath for seeing IBIS in future EOS R cameras. Cicala adds "Canon has been very clear that they think lens stabilization is superior."

Lensrentals.com, 2018

Overall, Cicala says the EOS R appears to follow most of the design and engineering elements of past Canon DSLR cameras. "It was rather a boring disassembly, really, about what we should expect for Canon doing a Canon 6D Mark II quality mirrorless camera [...] It’s neatly laid out and nicely engineered inside."

Lensrentals.com, 2018

To see more photos and more thorough insights from Cicala, head on over to the full Canon EOS R teardown. Cicala notes that a similar dissection of Nikon's Z7 is complete and will be written up as soon as he can get around to it.

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