Jan
29

I want to photograph live bands. What lens should I buy?

I have a digital canon rebel xt.

I shoot live gigs solely with a 50mm f/1.4 unless it's a bigger venue with decent lighting. For the sake of saving yourself $300 you can buy a 50mm f/1.8. It's a great lens, it very cheap (you can pick one up for less than $100) and the quality will match any L zooms lens if you're using an XT. Just be prepared to do your framing with your feet…

If you're just starting out you're going to be shooting very dark venues with crap lighting, and you'll spend a lot of time shooting 1/90 @ f/1.8, ISO 1600. Any f/2.8 lens just won't give you enough light - you'll be forced to use a shutter speed of 1/30 or lower, and all subject movement will be blurred.

A tripod/monopod won't work as your subjects are moving (and the crowd will hate you), so you can't slow the shutter speed down too much (and ignore anyone telling you that you need an IS lens - it's useless for gigs unless your focal length is getting near 200mm).

Your images will be noisy - either use the reduce noise (under filters) in Photoshop, Noise Ninja, or some very selective burning of highlights. Don't go crazy with the noise reduction - you will lose detail.

90% of the images below were shot with a 50mm f/1.4 - a few were with a 70-200mm f/2.8, but only when light allowed it.

http://www.shotintheblack.com/Jalbums/Gigs/index.html

The alternative is to use flash - which nearly always looks bad. If you have to, fire a remote speedlight with a cheap set or eBay triggers (gaff it to a wall when no-one's looking) and you can get some nice side-lit shots. Use a cheap speedlight as someone is going to either knock it off or steal it at some point.

Hope this helps!

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3 responses for this post

  1. Dr. Sam Says:

    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Canon-Lenses/
    See "Recommendations" on this page and read about selecting a focal length, maximum aperture and indoor sports. It's not the same as concert photography, but it's a start.

    You will want to widest aperture you can get. In most zooms, this is f/2.8.

    It depends on how far back you are, but you will need a zoom with suitable range for your distance. If you are in clubs where you can get close, look into the 17-55 f/2.8 lens. Canon Zoom Super Wide Angle EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Autofocus Lens. It's not an "L" lens, but it seems popular. I just read in PopPhoto (November 2007) that the only reason this is not designated an "L" lens is because it will not work with the full format sensors.
    http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/reviews/ef-s_17-55.html
    http://www.popphoto.com/inpopularphotography/4617/current-issue-november-2007.html
    References :

  2. Kevin H Says:

    I shoot live gigs solely with a 50mm f/1.4 unless it's a bigger venue with decent lighting. For the sake of saving yourself $300 you can buy a 50mm f/1.8. It's a great lens, it very cheap (you can pick one up for less than $100) and the quality will match any L zooms lens if you're using an XT. Just be prepared to do your framing with your feet…

    If you're just starting out you're going to be shooting very dark venues with crap lighting, and you'll spend a lot of time shooting 1/90 @ f/1.8, ISO 1600. Any f/2.8 lens just won't give you enough light - you'll be forced to use a shutter speed of 1/30 or lower, and all subject movement will be blurred.

    A tripod/monopod won't work as your subjects are moving (and the crowd will hate you), so you can't slow the shutter speed down too much (and ignore anyone telling you that you need an IS lens - it's useless for gigs unless your focal length is getting near 200mm).

    Your images will be noisy - either use the reduce noise (under filters) in Photoshop, Noise Ninja, or some very selective burning of highlights. Don't go crazy with the noise reduction - you will lose detail.

    90% of the images below were shot with a 50mm f/1.4 - a few were with a 70-200mm f/2.8, but only when light allowed it.

    http://www.shotintheblack.com/Jalbums/Gigs/index.html

    The alternative is to use flash - which nearly always looks bad. If you have to, fire a remote speedlight with a cheap set or eBay triggers (gaff it to a wall when no-one's looking) and you can get some nice side-lit shots. Use a cheap speedlight as someone is going to either knock it off or steal it at some point.

    Hope this helps!
    References :

  3. linzzzz Says:

    The requirement is that your lens has a super wide aperture.
    f2.8 would serve you well.

    If you shoot from the crowd, you'll want something which zooms at least 80mm.

    If you're in the front or the photo pit, 50mm will be good.

    Just make sure you find a fast, sharp lens with a wide aperture.
    References :

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