View Full Version : Shooting in the dark at concerts

Tony Finnerty
07-17-2006, 01:19 AM
Sometimes photographing concerts is like shooting in the dark. I've learned that the image sensor in the E-1 can be run electronically as high as ISO 800. ISO 1600 and 3200 ("ISO Boost") deliberately underexposes by 1 or 2 stops, then compensates in-camera JPGs by stretching the histogram. Therefore, I go to ISO higher than 800 only if there is too little light at wide-open f-stop, even at slow shutter speeds. That means I throw out a lot of motion blurred shots.

Last June 30, I photographed Michael Franti in a benefit concert in Grass Valley, California, for Inner Circle, which helps inmates of Folsom Prison cope with personal problems and prepare for re-entering society. Almost all of my shots were too blurred to use. This photo was shot at ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/25 sec, 200 mm on a tripod, and required substantial "Fix Motion Blur" using Focus Magic plugin for Photoshop CS2:


Those pinpoint highlights in Franti's eyes are double highlights in the original ORF file, but they made it easier to figure out the direction and amount of motion blurring. I did no noise reduction to avoid even more softening of the photo. Exposure and brightness were tweaked in ACR, but the only other post-processing was moderate sharpening using "Fix Out Of Focus" blur with Focus Magic plugin.

07-17-2006, 07:31 AM
I pm'd you also. It would be great to see the before and after shots of him. I think it's a great shot done under very difficult conditions. I've also been using focus magic for many shots and am very happy with the results.

07-17-2006, 07:58 PM
The eyes look like they're in good focus. Good job! Looks like he was moving because of the blurry hair.


Tony Finnerty
07-19-2006, 03:10 PM
Hi Ann,

Franti certain was moving. I was able to minimize motion blurring of his face, but he was tilting his head so the top moved one way and the bottom the opposite direction. Focus Magic works uniformly on the entire image to reduce motion blurring, so his hair remained a bit blurred when I sharpened his face.

When stage lighting is dim or the performer moves out of a spotlight, with ISO already cranked up to the max (short of ISO Boost) and the lens wide open, shutter speeds get too long for sharp images and my percentage of technically acceptable shots goes way down.

This image was a major salvage job because I liked his expression and pose, looking slightly over his shoulder, enough to make the effort. The majority of my photos of Franti were too blurred to salvage.

For concert photography, I can really use better high-ISO performance in the upcoming E-x so I can crank up ISO to allow faster shutter speed. Image stabilization can reduce camera shake, but it can't help with motion blurring. I lust after the f/2 zooms because, at the expense of less depth of field, it will allow me to increase shutter speed. I'll have to sell a lot of photos before I can afford those lenses, though.