Live Music Photography & An Important Realization

It's been a few days since I've posted a new blog post.  I had a super-busy weekend, shooting for a couple of different things and subsequently editing a few hundred photos.  Honestly, I was "photographied out" after this weekend.  So I took a break for a little bit.

But now, here's a big behind-the-scenes type of post all about the live music photos I took last Friday for Zealous Bellus.

First, the photos:

I reached out to Zealous Bellus on Facebook, because I wanted to help out a local band by providing them with some free publicity, while also seeing what I was made of.  It's one of my personal goals to get into concert photography, and I gotta start practicing sometime, right?

How did they come out?

Am I pleased with the images I got?  Generally, yes.  They are mostly good action shots, the contrast is nice, the colors are nice.  The composition of most of them is just alright.  I wasn't floored by anything I produced, but I wasn't so disappointed that I didn't want to give them to the band.

Honestly, they could have been a lot better, if you ask me.

This was a very difficult situation photography-wise.  There were a lot of things that I could have done without, and which I think hurt the quality of the images.  I'm not trying to make excuses, because I fully acknowledge that the photos could be better.  Well, maybe they are excuses.. Either way, they made things more difficult than I would have liked.


  • Lighting: The lighting at this venue (Bull Feeney's) is terrible.  Just absolutely atrocious.  I mean, I knew it wasn't going to be good (all music venues have relatively bad lighting), but I had no idea how bad it would actually be.  It's a really good thing that Zealous Bellus brought a few auxiliary lights with them - if it hadn't been for those, I'm not sure I would have gotten anything usable.  You can see in some of the wider pictures that the only lighting in that room is little lights hanging from the ceiling and a few on the walls.  It's perfectly suited for a bar/restaurant (which, it is).
  • The Setup: The "stage" at Bull Feeney's is about 6 inches high, with a railing around it.  There's very little room for the band, let alone all their gear/mic stands/etc.  It's cramped.  And there are a lot of things in the way, when trying to take photos.  I'm sure you'll see plenty of that in the images.  Nothing you can really do about that, just have to make it work.
  • People: Feeney's is, first and foremost, a bar.  And people go to bars to listen to live music and get down.  This is an obvious issue for shooting.  I showed up early, trying to beat the crowd, and that worked pretty well.  I got about a solid hour of shooting in before people really started dancing like they meant it.  And that meant that it was time for me and my fairly expensive gear to head home.
  • My Gear: It's true, the photographer makes the images, not the camera.  But when your camera is a 5-year-old, crop-sensor, entry-level DLSR, there's only so much a photographer can do.  I had to push the ISO beyond the Canon Rebel T2i's limits, and it shows.  The images are very noisy (grainy).  I wouldn't be comfortable having anyone view them at any higher resolution than you see here, because the grain is so distracting.  I wanted to freeze the motion of the band - which I did - but in order to have a fast enough shutter speed, you really have to crank up the ISO, even with fast lenses.  I have fast enough lenses, but my camera body is just not up to snuff.

The Realization

I always thought that the Rebel T2i was "good enough" for a hobbyist like myself.  I'm trying to take small (sometimes, really small) steps toward being more than a hobbyist.  I've recently realized that my camera is going to prevent me from doing that.  In fact, it already is.

They say that you know it's time to upgrade your body when it starts holding you back.  That means your skills are better than your camera allows them to be.  You've "outgrown" your camera.  I know what I need to do to improve the quality of my images, but my camera simply doesn't allow me to do those things.  I have good quality lenses.  I have the knowledge and the skills to make better images.  I just don't have the camera I need.  I think it's definitely about time for a significant upgrade...

Maybe I'm just trying to justify it :)  But it's going to happen, sooner or later.  I did hear that there may be a new Canon 7D Mark II coming out soon.  Hmm....

Now What?

Well, the band has their photos.  I hope that they like them.  I would be glad to shoot a local band (or any band, really) for free, just because I enjoy it, and I need the practice.  However, I would probably stay away from Bull Feeney's, unless I know that the band has plenty of additional lighting that they bring.  It's just not an environment that's conducive to photography of any kind, really.  If I'm going to continue doing concert photography (I would like to), I'm really going to need to get a new camera body - one that can handle low-light situations a little better.  I'm sure it's not tough to beat the T2i in that category. 

Until then, I'll just have to do my best with what I have.  Keep practicing and challenging myself.  Maybe I'll have to hold off on the concert photography thing for a little while, or maybe I just need to shoot at venues with better lighting.  Either way, I have to just keep shooting.

Just Keep Shooting