Jump to content
Welcome To Our Community!

Discuss, share & explore photography, video, vlogging and making the most of your gear.

My favorite three lenses for shooting in small live music clubs: 14, 24, 85


Recommended Posts

I was trained as a photojournalist, but if you ask people who considers themselves that title, they will tell you little of what they do is actually photojournalism.

Pure “PJ,” as we call it, involves a photographer entering into a situation and simply documenting what they see.  There are no media wranglers, art directors, public information officers, or social media directors telling you where you can go, stand, or shoot.

Could contain: Adult, Male, Man, Person, Guitarist, Music, Musical Instrument, Musician, Performer, Face

Could contain: Pants, Person, Photography, Portrait, Sitting, Jeans, Adult, Male, Man, Jacket

As a freelance photographer since 1992, I take all kinds of assignments for portrait work, corporate, industrial, convention—all kinds of photography with tons of strings attached.  You take assignments that pay well and some that don’t for cash flow purposes.

Last week, I got a call from the mothership of PJ.  It was an assignment for a magazine published by a university to actually do PJ for an evening at a small bar in KY.

I knew it would be dark as it was a music venue that caters to the blues.  It’s a neighborhood place, open only on Monday nights, and the patrons’ ages spanned 20-80.  All the gamut of people and backgrounds were there to enjoy the gift of music from the star of the show, an older black retired carpenter named TeeDee.

Before going up there, I knew it would be a small place jammed with people there to enjoy live music.  I couldn’t bring a ton of gear.  Any lighting I would have brought it would have ruined the ambiance of the club, so I brought one camera and just three lenses.

Could contain: Urban, Adult, Male, Man, Person, Guitar, Female, Woman, Guitarist, LightingI

I am a huge fan of the Sony A1 and I own two of them.  This is my only camera for shooting sports with its 30 fps and 50mp files.  But I wasn’t shooting sports, so I selected my silver A7CII instead with no regrets.  It’s tiny, and with the new grip they made for it, it feels just like the A1 in my hands.

The three lenses I chose from wide to tele were the 14mm f/1.8GM, the 24mm f/1.4GM, and the 85mm f/1.8.  I needed to capture the whole scene at some point that night.  We called these openers back in the day when photo essays spanned multiple pages with a single image covering all of two pages (double trucks).  I hoped that the 14GM would’t be too wide as I knew I’d have to get really close to the action to make that focal length work.

The 24mm f/1.4GM was a lock in my mind from the very start when I was still talking to the editor about the gig.  It’s small, lightweight, fast, but it’s main attribute is that it’s really sharp without much distortion.

Could contain: Urban, Adult, Male, Man, Person, Lighting, Night Life, Face, Chair, Furniture

Last, the 85mm was an easy choice.  I knew my camera and three lenses were going to be on my body the entire night, so the 85 was an easy choice because, like the 24GM, it’s small, lightweight, and deadly sharp.

I got there early at 6pm when the doors opened.  Part of my assignment was to shoot a portrait of three people for the story, but only two where there that night.  I used the first hour to just get to know TeeDee, listen to some of his stories, and take the place in.  At 7pm, I pulled out a small Westcott FJ80II flash, and 24” beauty dish, and a compact light stand and shot a few images of TeeDee in his club.  Next, I shot the woman who works the door as she was also mentioned in the story.  Here, I just set up the light so she would be lit while she worked, making change for people and having them sign in.  After that, I stowed the lighting gear, and got ready to shoot the music when it started.

Shooting live music is really fun when you can move around and kind of have the run of the place, but I was careful not to block peoples’ view for more than a few seconds at a time.  I worked in front and below the stage, from the sides, and even on the stage when TeeDee took off into the crowd playing his guitar.  It was the most fun I’ve had on an assignment since shooting my last football game last season.

Could contain: Person, Lighting, Face, Happy, Head, Smile, Urban, Coat, Jacket, Solo PerformanceThe

A7CII really came through for me.  I shot the whole thing in Sony’s HEIF format, or .HIF, which is a selection you can pick instead of .jpg.  This allowed the camera to make tiny little files off the 33mp sensor that have more dynamic range than jpgs at the highest quality setting.  It’s almost like shooting a RAW file without all the hassle and using so much RAM.  Shooting .HIF gave me beautiful colors and deeper blacks even as the images held tonality and detail in the extreme highlights.  If you haven’t tried shooting HEIF files, you rally should.

At about 10pm and after shooting them playing for two straight hours, I snuck out the door to drive the three hours home to Knoxville, happy, and elated for my good fortune to have a real “PJ” assignment.

Edited by pm-r
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Trending Content

  • Featured Products

  • Topics

  • Create New...