Small venues are undoubtedly the best places to see bands playing live up close and personal and stadiums are the worst. For photographers the opposite is often true particularly if available light is your weapon of choice.
Lighting in small venues throws up many problems. Often the lights are poorly positioned, static or dim and pointing anywhere except for the performer’s face. Case in point being this Hallowe’en gig that I photographed in a basement club featuring support band Hot Damn and headlined by The Guns. The lighting is coming from both sides via two banks of LED strips. The lighting scheme cycles from red and blue, green and red – in short all of the colour combinations that a camera hates. It not only makes metering a nightmare it can also make auto-focusing difficult and obliterate detail.
This is where shooting in RAW comes in really handy. I set my camera’s preview to mono so that I can forget about the garish colours. RAW still keeps all of the colour information so that you can deal with it later.
The photographs below were improved in post-production by using a variety of techniques all within Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). One of the first things that you can do is to forget about the awful colour and convert straight to black and white. However, if you want to keep some of the original colour in the images then lowering the vibrance and saturation are the obvious choices.
Sometimes even this isn’t enough. Next I start tweaking the white balance – both temperature and tint. Often to combat such huge pure primary colour casts my white balance settings end up all the way to the left or all the way to the right – a huge shift. It’s amazing how much detail you can bring back.
Even after all this some red-looking photographs may still look a bit red and you just can’t get rid of it. Last resort is to dial in some split toning for the highlights and the shadows. Or of course carry on into Photoshop for more precision work.
Gear: Canon 60D, EF-S 17-55mm
Settings: f2.8, ISO 1600-6400