Live shoot with Graeme Reece

Graeme Reece plays live in Chester. Cheshire musician photographer

Graeme Reece live Chester performance

Today we’re off to a live gig, I thought you’d like to come along. Graeme Reece, a vocalist and guitarist based in mid Wales, approached me to come along to his gig in Chester, to capture some live action images for his promotional material.

It’s very helpful, when photographing a performer, that you get as familiar with their performance as you can. When it’s a big celebrity or band that shouldn’t be too difficult but that’s not always the case, sometimes they’re not as easy to study. You can get as much from them as they may have, You Tube video, music tracks, that kind of thing, if possible it’s a big bonus to go to see one of their performances, this way you get tuned into how they perform at a live event. In the case of Graeme Reece, I’m really quite familiar with his performances, he’s my Cousin you see.

If you’re shooting in a similar kind of location, in this case it was a regular pub called The Bears Paw, it will most likely be an evening of wide open apertures and an ISO setting of plenty. Most of the shots I took were at 1000 ISO and higher, I also have some pretty fast glass but shooting a moving subject at f1.2 isn’t going to result in many sharp images, unless you’re Alan Hess perhaps. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Alan but he has to be one of the best out there and he has written excellent books on the subject.


Live performance Graeme Reece Cheshire performing arts photographe


One of the bonuses to the smaller gig is… 1 You’re often the only shooter at the venue.. 2 You can get close in on the action for some interesting view points. Against you… 1 There’s no spectacular lighting rig making it look like it does on the tele. That’s the biggest drawback from my point of view, it’s also a plus. The challenge can be greater, especially when the three light, chandelier lighting rig is reflected in the polished body of an electric guitar.  Remember, I’m a story teller and it’s all part of that story.

The moment you click

Once you’ve learnt a little about the performance you can watch for and pre-empt a key moment to make the picture. In this case knowing the song will really help you when you’re looking for the most emotion, the guitar face or the top note. Don’t just rapid fire, hold your focus and wait for the moment, you’ll feel it instinctively after a while.

Graeme Reece plays live in Chester. Cheshire musician photographer


Track your focus

The other technique I will often use when shooting a performance is back button focus and Servo Auto Focus. This means I have a button at the back of my camera which is my focus button, rather than partially holding down the shutter button. My buddy and Canon expert, Brian Worley, has written an article on just how to set up back button focus with Canon, on his blog. On many DSLR’s it’s an option to program a button to do this in your custom settings, check your manual. Servo AF is when your Autofocus is continually tracking whatever you’re pointing it at, attempting to keep a moving subject in focus all the time it moves about.

It works well if you have the subject framed up and you’re waiting for the right moment to click. You will find your focus completely misses some of the time, it’s just a camera, it doesn’t know what it’s pointing at, no matter how clever it may be. With practice you get more in focus rubbish and eventually you produce halfway decent images.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Once you download your files, ready for editing, you’ll probably see evidence of all the stuff mentioned above. The Adobe Lightroom Noise slider is very effective. For this shoot I’ve felt black and white with a twist seemed to work best. Weird colour casting, ISO noise, an uninspiring location, all blends in a more pleasing way with B&W. The shots that have some colour are simply cross processed B&W’s, a warm tone to the highlights and a cool tone to the shadows.

Cheshire musician photographer, Graeme Reece live in Chester


Cheshire commercial performer photography. Graeme Reece live Chester


Graeme Reece live performance shoot with Cheshire performance photographer


In closing I recommend going to find an artist who’s work interests you, ask them if you can take some photos of their performance. Perhaps start with street performers, there’s always someone who’s willing to work with you. One more thing, no matter where I’m required to shoot a performance, the audience is king. Try to stay out of the way but move around, it’s often quite difficult, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Thanks for the visit, I really appreciate it and if you have any questions or comments, you can add them below.

See you next time


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