Music Concert Lighting

This post is not actually for the photographers, it’s for all the lighting techs and lighting techs in training (hopefully a few lecturers will read it also). Especially for the techs at small venues.

Before I go on to the post proper, I need to explain that I totally understand the job of the lighting is to produce a show for the gig goers, the fans, the audience. There is a reason the large bands tour with huge lighting rigs and show; it is to provoke and enhance the atmosphere, to elevate beyond just a person or band standing on a stage performing. I know that. This is beyond doubt.

However before an act reaches the levels where they can afford to go on tour with their own crew and rig, the venue technician is usually the person responsible for how the act looks on stage and as that person you should have a few other considerations.

The acts you are dealing with are normally trying to establish themselves, they want or need reviews, be they on websites, bloggers, or in local or even national press, they need to get thier name out there. When it comes to reviews, pictures help, great images can grab attention, they can promote a review from a lesser spot to a more prominent one, a reader may stop and read a review based on the image.

Anyone involved in gigs knows the rules “first 3 and out, no flash”.

So put basically, if there are photographers or videographers in the house you have 3 songs to make your act look great. After the first 3 you can do everything to build the atmosphere but the first 3, why not help the artist?

(Ok I know there are artists that don’t like photographers or who want to be in the dark, to them, I refer to the paragraph above)

So how can you help?

  • Turn the lights on! Pitch black does not really help!
  • LED colour washes look really bad on camera!
  • Add a bit of white to the front, even if you have heavy back lighting or colour washes
  • Front/Side lighting works! Flat washes are boring.

What do I mean about the LED colour washes? Well put on that yellow or blue colour wash that seems to be the “flavour of the month” at the moment. Now stand where the artist will be and take a selfie on your phone? How does it look? Let’s just say not flattering! Compared to the filtered incandescent lamps of old, LED lights produce a really intense colour that might look great from the back of the room but from the pit, on camera, it’s probably one of the least flattering looks there is. Modern camera sensors have a real issue dealing with it and it’s tricky to dial out. Adding some white from the front on the artist makes all the difference and the rest of the stage still looks great from the audience.

Backlight Colour Wash – Straight from the camera
Zithulele ‘Jovi’ Zabani Nkosi of BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) photographed during the 40th WOMAD (World of Music arts and Dance)- It takes a LOT of effort to get it like this and its still not flattering
Kae Tempest photographed during the 40th WOMAD (World of Music arts and Dance) – A bit of front light makes ALL the difference!

You might think I’m writing this just to make my life easier in the pit. I am but because I want to produce great flattering photos. I’m not a kid, I’ve been doing this for a while and whilst there are many more experienced photographers shooting with the big names out there, I’ve been doing this in the smallest and largest venues there are for quite a while and the bottom line is, good photos help everyone in the business!

So the next time you light a venue, have a think about those first 3. Any photographers in there? Do your act and the venue that employs you a favour..

Until the next post.

J

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