Busy Photographer: Shooting Indoor Concerts

Shooting an indoor concert can be difficult. Read on to hear what I have  learned.

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I completely forgot to mention in my previous post that I also shot a concert the same weekend as my first art show. I wanted to mention what it’s like to photograph a live concert. In a nut shell, it is no easy task, but you can usually get some really great shots.

I have photographed several concerts for KVSC-FM now and I always have an enjoyable time. Whether I feel like I’m getting good shots or not, I usually have a low-stress experience because I get to enjoy a concert from right up front or even backstage. As much as I enjoy listening to live music and capturing the performers as they put their heart and soul into their music, shooting an indoor concert is a very difficult gig. Light changes, people/instruments in the way and energetic performers can all contribute to making making it a difficult experience. Below is a list of what to expect when shooting an indoor concert and how to deal with some of the situations.

  1. The light will usually look totally awesome, but it will also be very dark. Thankfully, this is not too much of a problem because most concerts put a spot light or at least more light on the main performers. However, when shooting a concert with no spot light, you might need to give in and boost up your ISO to 1,000 or higher. Shooting in aperture priority may also help in this situation. Basically, the rule with low-lit concerts is to just play around with the settings on your camera. Boosting ISO is a must, but choosing the correct aperture and speed can be difficult because the lights will change quite frequently. I do not recommend shooting with a tripod because of the difficulty in setting it up and making adjustments. Instead, investing in a monopod might be the way to go. I recommend Manfrotto monopods and Bogen heads.
  2. No two concert venues are the same. This really just adds to the excitement in my opinion. The joy of shooting in a new environment and experience the subtle differences across various venues is a lot of fun. The problem however, is you never know what the setup might be like. For example: Will there be a gap between the front row and stage? Will there be seating at all? How high is the stage? Is there a balcony? Each of these differences can usually be overcome by doing what any well-prepared photographer might do: Scout the location before you go. I failed to do this before the last concert I shot and was not allowed backstage. Nazi ushers!
  3. As if the low-light situation is not bad enough, most performers are constantly moving around on stage and making it that much more difficult to get sharp pictures. Again, just have fun and experiment with different settings. Sometimes, you might even get lucky and have an ‘accidental’ shot turn out to be one of your best.
  4. Capturing the right moments can be difficult. Other than having a set list, most small concerts are not really scripted. No need to worry though, just listen to the music, watch the performer’s expressions and be patient. Just let the shots come. In the world of digital photography, you can take as many photos as you want–no more worrying about the high cost of film.
I always have fun shooting performers, whether street performers, concerts or athletes, it is always slightly unpredictable and will have some challenging aspect. Just have fun and use your creativity–get low, watch the background, embrace obstructions–anything that will make someone who wasn’t there really feel like they missed out on something special.

Busy Photographer: Wedding, Art Show & New Online Store

My photos setup at my first art show--the St. Cloud Art Crawl.

The past couple weeks have been rather frustrating as a job seeker, but with my recent developments as a photographer, spirits remain high. Recently, I shot my first wedding with a friend, held my first art show in the St. Cloud Art Crawl and finally opened my Etsy shop so I can sell prints online.

As nervous as I was about shooting my first wedding, it turned out quite well and I couldn’t be happier with the results. With compliments from the bride and mother of the groom, I would call the day a success. Please read more about my experience in my previous post.

I might also call my first art show a success. I was asked via Twitter by Kathrine McDowell to participate alongside her at the Le St. Germain Hotel in the St. Cloud Art Crawl a couple weeks before the event. Of course, this meant I needed to purchase prints, mattes, frames and whole lot more to make it happen.

My prints arrived the day before the Art Crawl and I still needed to purchase mattes. It always seems to be the little things that I forget with these hurried events. The day of, I ran out of tape, I realized I was missing some 5×7 prints from my online order, I forgot to print business cards/brochures and I had to get change an hour before the event started.

Although I started setting up about 30 minutes later than planned, I was ready to go as the first ‘art crawlers’ started to come in. With black and white photos elegantly displayed in black frames and white mattes, my art looked great propped up against a white table cloth.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, black and white photograph. Copyright Eric Wheeler, 2009.
The Colosseum in Rome. Copyright Eric Wheeler, 2009.

As expected, the night was fairly slow and I only sold a few 4×6 matted prints and one small framed black and white of one of my all-time favorite photos. It was nice talking to people as they came in and telling them about how I got some of the shots. As the night began to wind down, I was pleased with how everything went and satisfied I had sold a few items. Then, as I was packing up, a man came over and was really excited as he looked at my large framed photo of The Colosseum in Rome. He told me he wanted to buy it but needed to get some cash from an ATM first. I excitedly told him I would wait for him and when he returned, I handed over my first large framed print–for $100. How exciting to know a 16×20 photo of mine is hanging in someone’s home!

Now with many of my favorite prints through the years already matted, I have taken the next step and opened my own online shop on Etsy. Since I first saw an old friend open her Etsy shop, which eventually turned into a brick-and-mortar store in Enid, Okla., I have wanted to do the same. Well, that is now a reality. Now when someone on my Facebook page tells me they want to buy a print or they would “hang that on their wall,” I can direct them to etsy.com/shop/photographybywheeler. I have not sold anything yet, but I do have 10 matted prints up for sale. Please check out my Etsy shop and if you see something you like, buy it! Or at the very least, help me spread the word.

From Novice Photographer to Wedding Photographer


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I have always had an eye for photography. Since as long as I can remember I have usually carried a camera around with me–often just a point-and-shoot or cell phone camera, but a camera nonetheless. Since my purchase of a Nikon D90 in April of 2009, I have really started to focus more on developing my photography skills.

In the past year or so I started to feel I have the skills to take my passion to the next level. I launched “Photography by Wheeler” on Facebook and got the support from friends and family and eventually started getting offers to do grad announcement shoots, which I gladly did free of charge. However, once I started getting requests for weddings, I was a little hesitant.

What if the shots don’t turn out? What if my memory card fails? What if my batteries die? There are countless ‘what if’ scenarios when it comes to wedding photography. I had basically given up on actively searching for my first client for fear of failure. Fortunately, I have a wonderful girlfriend who didn’t count me out.

When a patient came in to her office and asked if she knew of a wedding photographer, my name came up. I jumped at the chance and everything was basically settled over the phone. Then the nerves kicked in. I decided to call up a good friend, Mike Doyle to hire as my ‘assistant.’ I use single quotes around his title, because he turned out to be more of a ‘rock star photographer colleague’ than merely an assistant. I also ended up purchasing two additional lenses and a second camera (all Nikon of course). This made a huge difference and definitely helped me to get all the shots I wanted.

Though Mike and I have plenty of horror stories about our first time shooting a wedding, we turned out some fantastic photos and are looking to team-up and do more weddings in the future. As Mike said in his blog post, “Doyle & Wheeler Photography” is officially open for business (or should it be “Wheeler & Doyle?” I’m kidding).