Back in June I went to see Red Elvises performing in a small pub in San Diego. The lighting was very uncooperative to say the least. Having taken a few hundred noisy pictures I decided to fool around with the flash. Well, naturally, only idiots use flash photography during concerts. I just love seeing people with pocket cameras flashing away from the mezzanine some 50 meters away from the stage. The only thing that gets the additional illumination from the flash is the head of a person in the next row. Even if you get to the stage and shoot up close, the flash will make the pictures flat and boring.
There is however a non-boring way to shoot with the flash. The following technique makes the pictures look entertaining and even artistic.
Here is what you need to do:
1. Switch the flash to manual mode (no E-TTL) and reduce the output power to 1/2 or 1/3. You may have to adjust it later based on how the shots turn out.
2. Set the camera to Shutter Priority mode (usually marked as S or Tv on the mode dial) and choose the exposure of 0.5 seconds.
3. Use a zoom lens, like 70-200mm F2.8 (a solid choice for any concert photography).
4. Zoom out completely, press the shutter button and immediately zoom in all the way, while the exposition is taking place.
What just happened? The flash captured the scene immediately, but the slow exposure continued to keep the sensor open for another half a second, overlaying the fuzzy image of the moving objects, your shaking hands and the "tunnel" effect of the changing zoom.
If you zoom in fast enough, there will be enough time to develop a large ghostly face that looks particularly eerie.
You can try even slower shutter speeds, like 1 second, if you can hold the camera really steady. Too much fuzziness and motion in the picture will not look as cool.
This method works best in dimly lit environments. If the stage is flooded with light, the long exposure will almost certainly lead to an overexposure and blown highlights. Play around with the exposure length and the power of the flash until you get the desired effect.
And go see Red Elvises in concert!
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