Having spent a great amount of my life working at concerts, I was very excited when my friend and fellow photographer Brian Cathie invited me to join him on a special photoshoot to create portraits that would suggest a live performance of a singer on stage.
Brian organised the props, costume and hired the wonderful model Precious while I managed the lighting. I had a good idea as to what was needed to make the portraits look authentic. So I packed up my unique lights, a smoke machine and my love for off camera lighting.
We headed over to the Kirkintilloch Camera Club, pinned up some black drapes and began setting up the lighting before our model Precious arrived. Concert lighting is generally harsh, made up of colourful lights pointing from different angles and sometimes includes a spotlight. We created the live concert effect by setting up strobes on both sides equipped with colour gels and a small silver beauty dish in the front as the main light.
After a few test shoots to fine tune the position and power of the lighting, we had our model Precious in place and boom! The effect was achieved!
We were very happy with the first results but since the idea was to replicate a concert we decided we needed to incorporate that hazy light atmosphere with light beams that travel through the frame. So we turned on the smoke machine and added an extra light to create a similar effect.
What a difference! The smoke really adds texture and depth into the image while also allowing the blue light to wrap around our subject. The element that really helped to create a feeling to the image was the beams of light coming from the back left. This was the type of effect you would actually see at a concert.
There are a few ways to make this effect; one is by placing objects in front of a light to create shadows in the smoke and another, which is common in concerts, is to focus the light through a lens with a gobo at the back to project images or shapes. This is the technique we used here with a device called “Light Blaster” with a 24mm f1.4 lens attached.
Keeping the same lighting setup but swapping the gel colours and a different outfit gave us this look.
Notice the colour from the left side of the image is gone in this image. This was achieved with Brian standing slightly in front of the light and acting as a flag as he held the light blaster up high behind the model. This added a little splash of colour on the hand that is holding the mic. While this was a happy accident, Brian couldn’t have positioned himself any better and serves as a great example to keep experimenting. You never know what results you’ll achieve.
For the next shot we went back to the blue gels and grabbed a set of modular LED lights to create a star shape behind the mode which worked really well. It’s good to remember that when mixing continuous lighting with flash that your shutter speed effects how bright the continuous lighting will be. It’s not often that I use practical lighting in my shots and it was fun to try something new.
However the real reason for the star shaped light was to use it as a ring light. Although oddly shaped, moving it to the front of the subject provided some lovely soft light on our model Precious.
It made a huge difference and I absolutely love the star shaped catch lights created with the Spekular LED lights. Precious also changed back to the red dress and we moved the light blaster behind her while eliminating the beauty dish as pictured in this ‘behind the scenes’ shot
While the soft star shape light isn’t something you would use at a concert, it works well in a staged set-up with the added smoke and a direct light from behind
These creative lighting techniques helped to achieve a replica concert style portrait but it was the SIGMA sd Quattro H camera plus SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens combination that helped to give the images their full definition.
This combination gives me a focal length of around 135mm after the crop factor which offers a more flattering rendering of our model and provides the impression of shooting from a distance. It did not disappoint and even with shooting at f2.8 the SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens was crazy sharp, rendering the finest detail with wonderful colors produced by the on the Foveon X3 chip.
The SIGMA 18-35mm F1.8 C HSM | Art lens was also used as I had to get closer to the star shaped light to shoot through it and the wider angle lens helped me to a capture a 2/3 body shot (included above in the article) which I wanted in order to create a different style of image.
You can see more images created by SCA Paul Monaghan on one of the following links: