Point and shoot badly

Luciano Supervieille I went to the concert of Bajofondo Tango Club in Brugge last Friday. Of course I took my Canon 350D along and shot a lot of pictures. I never use a flash for concert pictures, certainly not since I started using a 50mm f/1.8 and I can grab quite a lot of light with it. I usually use ‘Aperture priority’ mode (with aperture on 1.8, obviously) and use the automatic focus, because I’m not good enough at doing that manually. You sometimes have to wait for the right podium lights to go on, include some light spots in the frame so that your camera uses a shorter shutter but above all, you have to be lucky.

The pictures that came out rather well are in my Flickr Bajofondo Tango Club album.

I did have some fun with a guy in front of me with a ‘point-and-shoot’ camera, it might have been a Canon Ixus or something. He added a twist to the common ‘people-using-a-camera-flash-from-a-distance’ error. He would see a beautiful image in his viewer, push the button and a totally awful grayish picture would show up as a result. For his sake and that of other P&S’ers, here’s two rules for using it in a concert where you’re in the audience.

Rule #1: do not use your camera flash

You have a simple small flash in your camera that might reach as far as 5m maybe, but it is of no use for a podium 20m away. Your camera will think that the subject of your photo will receive a bunch of light from it and choose a faster shutter. The light of your flash will never reach those musicians, but chances are some will fall on members of the audience that are standing nearby, so the only thing that will light up is some bald heads, a fake blonde and a lot of dandruff.

Switch the flash to ‘off’ or use the ‘landscape’ setting! If your camera permits it, set the ISO-setting to as high as 800ISO (if you own a 1000€-plus camera, 1600ISO is safe too, but you shouldn’t be reading this then). This will make the image grainier, but will make the shutter time shorter. If the scene is still too dark and your camera uses shutter times of more than 1/20 sec, try to include more light in the composition. Don’t zoom in too much, it will only make things worse. You can always crop the picture when you’re home.

Remember: when you’re using a small flash at a concert, or even worse, a mobile phone with the built-in flash from 30m away, you look like an utter amateur.

Rule #2: do not hold your finger in front of the flash

This one cracked me up: the guy in front of me held his left index finger right in front of his flash. So most of his pictures were extremely dark, with the odd one that included a completely white fragment of his finger. The only times that this wasn’t the case, was when he took pictures in portrait, turning his camera 90 degrees to the left, which brought his flash even lower and added quite some very bright shoulders to the composition.

So, if your flash photos are way too dark, and your finger feels very warm whenever you take a picture, check where the flash sits on your compact camera and make sure you put no bodily parts in front of it.

Bajofondo Tango Club

4 thoughts on “Point and shoot badly”

  1. I’ve had great fun with that lens. My cheapest and most intensely used… you can get some distortion at 1.8, but it is extremely good at 2.0.
    Good tip about the finger and the flash 😉

  2. Great tips!

    Well, i borrowed my brothers’ 50mm. I’m going to shoot some gigs this weekend and I hope to toy quite a bit with it. Problem with 50mm is that you have to be close enough to your subject. It really is a portrait lens after all. (*duh*) Anyhow, it’s still a must have I’d reckon.

    On the other hand, my 18-200 f3.5 proved itself quite usefull from the 2nd row front stage yesterday at klinkers festival in Bruges.

  3. You didn’t tell anything about the bigger problem of going to a Bajo Fondo concert and bringing your camera: HOW did you dance? 🙂
    I just can see your camera, hanging from tour shoulder, making a boleo at every change of direction ehehehe or your camera in your bag and you thinking “pls, don’t steal it, pls don’t steal it!” No, it’s too much to overcome! 🙂

    I’ve been at their concert in Milan some years ago, summer 2006 I guess, in an open place, a latin music festival, without my camera since, after a long meditation, I decided to leave it at home.
    Yes, if you wanna know I cried, I remember the bandoneon playing a solo just in front of me under a spotlight for many minutes, a very strong image, and me thinking sadly to my camera at home.
    But when the tango grew stronger, unable to stop (you know how it feels, right?) we start to dance on the unorthodox pavement some kind of fast electro-freestyle-tango, with “normal” people watching astonished. It was really a hell of a fun! But the best was yet to come, and happened when the band invited 4 couples to dance on the stage and I was included 🙂 ehehehehe I was there, dancing with my partner, with bajo fondo playing close to me on the stage and smiling to us… and I was just thanking every divinity out there for the wise decisione to drop my camera at home!!
    What a night! Never repeated something so strong and funny! Oh, yes, I’ve no picture of this but… what the f**k! 😉

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