Off-camera flash at Live Music events

April 07, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

During my years shooting nightlife for my blog Unreal360.com I was occasionally hired to photograph DJ and live music events for other companies. One of these companies, RealMusic Events, hired me to photograph their DJ events. They consistently booked their shows at two Austin venues: Kingdom Nightclub and Republic Live (RIP!).

Kingdom's capacity was probably somewhere around 100-125 people. Republic Live was much bigger; I believe the official capacity was between 400-500. Both clubs did have lighting, but it wasn't anything spectacular. To attempt to capture compelling, emotional moments from the DJs with the given lighting was challenging at best. To remedy this I decided to create my own lighting with remote strobes placed on surrounding stage equipment. All of the below shots were between the years 2013-2014

Here was my equipment setup:

1. Nikon D300
2. Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 - this was the lens that I used for the majority of the photographs that you will see in this article.
3. Sigma 30mm f1.4
4. Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art
5. Nikon SB-900
6. Nikon SB-800
7. Yongnuo 560 III (2)
8. Yongnuo 603 receivers
9. Kupo Superclamps

I clamped the Yongnuo 560 IIIs stage left and stage right and, depending on the club and how far away I had to place them, would set their power levels between 1/128th and 1/32nd. At Kingdom nightclub they were always set to 1/128th because the DJ equipment and all supporting stage equipment was fixed. At Republic, the power levels varied because I had to make changes based off the DJ equipment and or how far the DJ table was situated away from the front of the stage.

At Kingdom I would also clamp my SB-800 on some piping that ran along the wall behind the DJ. If I remember correctly I set the power levels on it between 1/128th and 1/64th.

Finally, I occasionally used my SB-900 on-camera as the main fill light, with the surrounding lights acting as accent, or "kicker," lights.

All lights had no modifiers, except for the occasional bounce-flash from my SB-900. If I could go back I would have used grids on all my lights due control them better. Even with the lights zoomed at ~135mm the spill is pretty uncontrollable.

OCF can really add drama to any photograph, and live music photography is no exception. If you want a great way to learn your trade, try it out! Here are some photos from 2013-2014 that show the kind of lighting you can pull off with OCF.

 


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