Shot in the Dark: How to Photograph School Holiday Concerts

You're making memories here, folks.

Shot in the Dark: How to Photograph School Holiday Concerts

Kids Christmas concert

The school holiday concert; love it or hate it, we all experience it and every year there's a room full of parents, grandparents, and friends who are trying to capture the cuteness in a photo.

Speaking Of Holiday Concerts: Aren't We All Guilty Of This?

My guess is, though, that most of their pictures don't turn out as well as they planned.

Here's the reality: the lighting at most school concerts is dismal and you are usually too far from the stage to get a great shot. Crappy lighting and too great a distance creates a set of circumstances that most cameras just can't cope with.

If you have a point and shoot camera, your flash is going to illuminate (at most) the 10 feet in front of you. The result? You'll take a great shot of the backs of other parents' heads. If your point and shoot has a great zoom on it, chances are that it doesn't have a low aperture, such as f2.8. Add no flash and a smaller lens opening, and you've set yourself up for a shutter speed that's too slow to keep the image in focus. (Even if it was on a tripod, your subject is going to be moving, so you're going to get motion blur.) Raising your ISO may not even help to compensate for the shutter speed.

Photography 101: What The Heck Is ISO And Why You Need To Know

If you have a dSLR, you might have a slightly better chance (unless you're prepared to be THAT parent with the giant camera and the speedlight flash who walks right up to the stage to take the shot).

Still willing to try? Then follow these guidelines:

  • Turn off your flash. It's not going to help. (If you have a big external flash, I'm just going to assume you know how to use it. You're not the person I'm talking about here, though if you're in the back of the room, it's not going to help you.)
  • Crank up your ISO. Take it as high as you can go. A noisy picture is better than no picture at all.
  • Set your Aperture to the lowest number possible. We need to get as much light in as possible. 
  • Try to keep your shutter speed above 1/125. This is really the slowest you can go to avoid motion blur of the kids.

If there's space between you and the stage, follow the concert etiquette for parents: move up to that space just before it's your kids' turn to be on and stay low. If you need to stand up or kneel to get your shot, DO IT QUICKLY and get out of the way. 

Another option would be to use your camera to take a video - cameras are more forgiving in low light on the video setting. There are also editing programs that let you capture a still photo from a video, so you may have more success that way.

While we all love capturing these milestones, remember that you could always choose to just sit back, focus on your kid, and really enjoy the show. There will be other moments to photograph.

Happy shooting!

Image Source: Flickr


Amateur To Pro: Great Gift Gadgets For Photography Lovers

Find the perfect gift for the photographer in your life - of any age or ability

Amateur To Pro: Great Gift Gadgets For Photography Lovers

Are you all set to begin your holiday shopping, but stuck on what to get the photographer in your life? Don't panic!  This gift guide is for you!

I’ve compiled suggestions for all levels of photographers to help solve your shopping challenges. Hint: Feel free to leave this post (or last year’s guide) strategically open on your computer if you’re the photographer and you think your family needs a nudge.

The most flexible tripod ever and other great gifts for photographers 

For Anyone:

  • Backup storage. I said this last year, and I’m going to say it every year: please, please, please back up all of your photos. Now. Immediately. Bookmark this post, back your photos up, and then come back. My personal view is if the photograph doesn’t exist in 3 accessible places (main computer, external hard drive and the cloud or somewhere else that’s not in your home), it isn’t backed up. In fact, does it even exist? Give the photographer in your life the gift of an external hard drive. Photo file sizes are getting larger and storage is getting cheaper, so I would try to buy at least one terabyte (1TB) of space. At the time of writing, had 855 options for 1TB external drives.
  • Coffee table books. I’d be thrilled to find Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found or National Geographic's Stunning Photographs wrapped up with my name on them. (I'm leaving this post open for my family.)

For the Mobile Enthusiast:

  • Tired of taking your gloves off in the cold to take a picture with your phone? Then include these Ten-Digit-Touchscreen Gloves on your wish list. 
  • Think "in the box" with this foldable studio and let them take their iPhone photography to the next level.

For the Point-and Shoot Photographer:

For the DSLR Photographer:

  • Consider a gift certificate for a photography course. With over 30 locations in Canada, check out Henry’s School of Imaging. Not close to their centres? Then buy a one year membership for your photographer to Kelby One Training
  • A camera bag. Click here for a list of my 5 favourite bags, in all sizes and configurations.
  • A wifi SD card (assuming that fits in their camera) to wirelessly send photos from their camera to their smartphone or tablet. These are great if you're travelling or away from your primary computer and want to share photos.

Happy shopping, everyone! You're sure to enjoy the smiles when your special photographer opens his or her gift!

Photos by Photojojo