Shooting at Club Neu+ral used to be no problem. That is until I stopped shooting there. I think it’s the low ceiling that makes the space feel smaller. And with smaller spaces come creative solutions to lighting and shooting. The image above shows the placement of the 2 flashes I set up. They are on the extreme left and right of the image. See if you can spot them.
One of the challenges with small spaces is controlling where the light will spill. Zooming the flash helps with this, as well as adding something to block the light (a GoBo). In my case I had the flash zoomed all the way out (to 24mm) as I wanted the weakest amount of power coming out of the flash (for reasons I’ll discuss later). So a GoBo was my only option.
The reason I want to control where the light goes is because I don’t want the background (back side of the stage) to get lit up by the light from the flash. I prefer the back wall of the stage to remain as dark as possible so as not to add distracting elements to my photos when shooting the artist.
To do this I position the flashes (as in the image above) to the extreme left and right of the stage and point them pretty much towards each other. I say “pretty much” because depending on the size of the venue, they may be angled towards the middle of the stage sometimes. My ideal light placement and direction is one that only lights the side of the stage and doesn’t spill any light on the back of the stage. So the light on the left side of the stage only lights up the right side of the stage and the light on the rights side of the stage only lights up the left side of the stage with no element in the background being lit up. However we don’t live in an ideal world, and there are ALWAYS compromises in lighting (more on compromises in a minute).
To start I secured a piece of cardboard (an event postcardlaying around the bar) on the side of the flash with some tape and took a few shots to adjusted it’s position.
You can see the flash on the right side of the image with the white rectangle attached to the flash. That white rectangle is the light blocker (GoBo). It may be a little difficult to see it’s effects, but the back wall of the stage is only lit up to the purple backdrop. You can also see the light falloff on the red portion of the wall in the back.
In this small venue with the ceiling so low, light spill onto the ceiling was also problematic, so I had to improvise a gobo to keep the light off the ceiling as well. In some shots the ceiling was still visible as a light grey patch, thought with some creative cropping managed to keep it out of most shots.
One direction I don’t care about light spill is downwards and towards the crowd. I only care about how the stage gets lit since that’s what I’m photographing.
It’s not usually possible to keep all the light off the back wall of the stage. In fact I don’t think I ever shot a venue where this ideal situation (keeping all light off the back wall of the stage) was implemented. But that’s where I start with the setup every time.
The reason this ideal situation is nearly impossible to achieve is because this lighting produces a dead spot (no light) near the center and back of the stage, due to how the light beams from the two light sources intersect. And if there was nothing there to light, it would be no big deal, but there’s always a drummer, or a keyboard or something there that you’ll want to photograph during the performance.
So I adjust just one of the lights to light that area (which means light spills on the back wall as well).
I already mentioned that both flashes were zoomed to their widest setting (24mm) which was done to keep their light output to a minimum. The flashes also has -3EV exposure compensation set on the flash control panel.
On the camera side, I shot pretty much the entire night at ISO 1600, 1/100 at f2.8.
The ISO1600 is why I try to keep the flash power output to a minimum. It doesn’t take much light to show up on the camera when shooting at the high sensitivity.
The reason I use such a high sensitivity is to be able to capture the dim ambient light of the venue and stage lights that can color the fog (and other features) in interesting ways. The light from the flash is meant more as a highlight on the artist to freeze their motion and give them some definition.