Capturing the best shot

We all love great photos! And getting the best photos of your subject can be made easier if a little thought gets put into the photos. We keep going on about how preparation and knowledge is key but that's because it's true. 

Our subject here is a guitarist at a thrash metal concert I shot a while back and I'm going to go through my thought process to get the photo.

If you've ever been to a thrash metal concert, you'll know it's all about fast guitar playing, head banging and whipping the hair around like crazy. So there's a choice to be made, and it's either a fast shutter to fully freeze the action, or slow it down to show movement and possibly blur the photo. So which to choose...?

For the photo below, I wanted to show the energy and action, but not to have much blur (not always an easy feat). So what am I looking for when capturing this? And how to go about it? 


Guitarist photo portrait

The first thing I'm looking for is subject isolation. There is a whole 5 piece band on a small stage and plenty of crowd around me. A wide lens will show way too much background for my liking, as would shooting in landscape / horizontal format. So now we have our photo orientation sorted, it will be portrait / vertical format.  

Secondly, I'm looking to get the whole guitar in the shot without cropping off the head. This means shooting with enough space around him incase he moves or turns. Without the guitarist throwing his hand in the air, there would be a lot of space above his head that I wouldn't like. So I kept patient and waited for the perfect moment to shoot. Sometimes it takes a while but it's worth the wait.

With our subject isolated, the orientation and crop figured out, I'm looking at the lights. Colours mainly. Red lights are horrible for our cameras! They look good to our eyes but they kill exposures and the ability to retain details. The best way to shoot in red light is to underexpose and recover in post. Colourful lights are the most interesting and desirable to me. Also, I don't want too much in the way of flare. It can be used to creative effect, but it will reduce contrast greatly. 

Finally I'm looking at capturing action and movement. The hair getting whipped around and hands going crazy over the guitar can be easy to blur or freeze depending on what we're after. I wanted a mix of both, so I slowed my shutter down to around 1/100th to get some sharpness and blur to the hair, but keeping the face frozen. I had to shoot a lot of photos to get this one though. Plenty of them were fully blurred but we only need one.

Now it's time to shoot! There is a fair amount of patience and wizardry that is involved in this, but when it all comes together, the photos rock!