Music photography critiques

As with our other critique sections, we aim to take a photo and pull it apart. The idea is to show you guys what the photographer has done correctly and what they've done "wrong". We then give some pointers on how to improve in the future and some possible issues to be aware of. That being said, enjoy this section and tgether we will improve your photography. Instantly.


As this will be the first post on this section I'll use one of my own photos. I'm very self critical too so you'll be able to see the little things that bug me with this photo. This was an awesome rock band I shot earlier this year. The venue wasn't too big, plus there wasn't any barriers so I was amongst the crowd with a 50mm lens on trying not to get trampled. Prime lenses are brilliant for their light weight (generally) and fast apertures. You do give up a little flexibility with them though. If you scroll a tiny bit down the page you'll see the same shot with a few problems areas highlighted. I address the flexibitly thing with issue number 4.

Here's the shot straight out of camera. It's ok. But that's about all. 

Here's the shot straight out of camera. It's ok. But that's about all. 

The same photo as the one above with problem areas highlighted.

The same photo as the one above with problem areas highlighted.

Ok, so now I've highlight a few areas, we can explain through them and give you guys some advice. I've numbered them but it's not exactly the order of importance, so I apologise for the seemingly random order. 

I'll start off with number 3. Number 3 is head room. I have this annoying habit of giving mu subjects too much headroom. I am conscious of it usually. Giving headroom space is good if you're shooting for a magazine so that's probably where it stems from. But it's irritating! Cropping in post is an option but I'd rather keep that to a minimum. I shoot with a 12Mp Nikon D700 so there isn't a tonne of spare pixels available. Besides, the singer is on a rule of thirds power point so I can't really complain. In short, just be aware of how much head space you're giving you subject.

Number 4 ties in with number 3 slightly. I cut the singer off just below the knee cap. I'd have preferred a little more of the leg showing. If I lowered the camera angle slightly, the headroom and lack of leg issues would be solved. Very simple to do and both things that can be fixed on location and in camera.

Now to the biggest eyesore in this photo. Number 2, the mic stand. Like I said above, the venue wasn't too big and there wasn't a pit or anything so I was shooting amongst the crowd. It brought on additional challenges. Getting the mic stand out of the shot could have been done in camera if I turned my body to my left and effectively changed the composition of the photo. Or taken a few steps to my left. But I wouldn't have gotten this composition. However, it's in the photo, so my 2 options are to leave it in, or remove it. I chose to remove it. The reason being is it takes attention away from the singer. The mic stand catches your eye and traps your view into this section of the photo. Luckily, it's a pretty easy and quick fix. I opened this photo into photoshop, created a new layer and grabbed the clonestamp tool. I checked the "sample all layers" box and started to break up the mic stand into easier to work with sections. With 4 or 5 smaller pieces, I selected the patch tool to make quick fixes and used the spot healing brush to tidy everything up. The whole thing took around 2 or 3 minutes. It's such an easy fix and makes a huge difference to the photo.

I haven't highlighted the next edit because it's global adjustments. The photo straight out of camera looks flat. This is expected from a RAW file but it needs fixing. I used a few basic camera raw filter settings. Camera raw wasn't giving me the feel I wanted. I chose to put this photo through ColorEfex Pro 4. Unfortunately I can't remember the exact filters I used, I usually add and remove filters depending on how they make the photo look. As you can tell from the added contrast and slight colour shift, two of the filters were the pro contrast filter and possibly split toning. Regardless, the photo needed the contrast so it got it.

After adding the filters etc, the highlighted number 1 became very apparent. The hands became super vibrant and blown out, meaning there was no detail there at all! I remedied this by using a layer mask on my ColorEfex Pro 4 layer and painting in some removal with a black brush and around 10% opacity. I painted until the detail started to return. The stage lights were catching the singer's hands so I knew that any global adjustment would affect them. 

The last couple of adjustments made were a sharpening pass (not too heavy because I shot at ISO 3200) and a slight dark vignette. 

There we have it. The photo from straight of out camera, our few little edits and the final photo. The main thing I've learnt and really need to keep in mind when shooting events and live music is my composition. I personally need to remember to both shoot with head room for magazines and with little headroom. Shooting them one after the other and shooting a portrait straight after a landscape will give you alot more options in which photo to use. 

Here's the finished photo after our adjustments. Those few little things made a huge difference didn't it!

Here's the finished photo after our adjustments. Those few little things made a huge difference didn't it!