Shooting the Band Disciple, Thanks to Twitter

In Episode One of “The Grid” Matt Kloskowski brought up one of our favorite things about Twitter, which is that it’s such an amazing resource when you when need to find….well…anything. If Matt’s heading to a city to teach a seminar, sometime he’ll ask on Twitter if anyone in that city knows a good place to shoot, or a great steakhouse, or whatever, and he gets a dozen responses in minutes, if not seconds.

Last week, I went to Twitter for something similar. My son’s all time favorite band is the Christian Metal band “Disciple” and I surprised him with tickets to their show last week (I actually like Disciple, too, and have some of their songs on my iPod). Then I thought it would be cool to see if I could shoot a portrait of the band before the show, as I would take my son to assist on the shoot (he assisted on my shoot for Fight Factory), and that way he’d get to meet his favorite band in person.

I put out a Tweet asking, “Does anybody have a connection with the band Disciple? I’d like to shoot a portrait before their Florida show.” Well, in short—it worked. Within just a few hours, I was working out the details of the shoot with the band’s tour manager, and he invited me to shoot the concert that night as well. Amazing. I was excited. My son nearly blacked out.

An Unexpected Twist
We got to the shoot early and met with the band’s manager outside their tour bus. As it turned out, he told us we wouldn’t be able to do the portrait shoot after all, because one of the band members was actually on stage at that moment playing with their opening act—he was filling in for their missing guitar player, so the shoot was off. I was OK with it, especially since my son got to meet their Bass Player when we were out at the tour bus, and he was pretty psyched.

Shooting the Show
I still got to the shoot the show, and they gave me full access to go pretty much anywhere. I think the tour manager felt bad about having to cancel the shoot, so he let me shoot the entire show (not just the first three songs, like usual).

Six Lights, but only Five Were Working
It was a pretty challenging shoot, because there were only five lights total on the band, which had me shooing at around 8,000 to 10,000 ISO all night long. Thankfully, my Nikon D3s did an amazing job (but as pro concert photographer Brad Moore warned me—this is what Lightroom’s built-in noise reduction was made for. I had to apply a little on some shots, and it worked brilliantly).

Disciple put on a great show. We got to meet the band afterward, and I got a great shot of my son with the band (can’t show shot of the kids here on the blog. Mom’s rule). and he got a signed shirt and a poster for his room. My son had such a blast (and he knew every song. He has EVERY Disciple album).

Brad to the Rescue
Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the shots I got here. I really felt Brad’s pain when he shoots a band without a big light show. It makes it really challenging, but Brad did give me some pointers on how to set up my camera for shooting concerts, and I have to say, his settings worked really well (He also had me turn on Auto ISO, which is why I wound up at 8,000 ISO most of the night).

There’s also a great feature story in this month’s Photoshop User magazine from pro concert shooter Alan Hess on not just the shooting, but the post processing, so if you’re a NAPP member, make sure you give it a read.

The Power of Twitter
Thanks to Brad for the settings; to Twitter for once again proving the power of social media, and to @chadphillips for the Disciple hook-up in the first place and to everyone who tried to help me make a Disciple connection. It was a day my son will never forget, which is all this dad wanted to give his awesome son. :)

    1. PS, just wanted to expess my like of Deke’s post on Wed, it was awesome and he is fun to watch. I was surprised he didn’t have many more comments than he did, is everyone busy getting ready to travel somewhere? 8-)

  1. I just finished watching my Badgers lose in the Sweet 16, picked up my iPad and found a now post from you! It kind of makes up for Wisconsin’s loss a little. Great photos and great example of using Twitter to the most. What lens did you use?

  2. Scott,
    your son will never forget you doing something like that for him !

    I shot the TopGear presenters in Dublin and brought my 8 and 14 year old along and it’s interesting when the teenager looks you in the eye and says ” i love you dad, your job is so cool ! ”

    I explained to him a few says later not EVERY assignment is that good !


  3. Scott,

    Some great shots and more importantly, what a special time for you and your son. I’m sure it will be one of those moments that will be cherished for many years to come. With regard to the images, can you be more specific about Brad’s suggestions (other than auto ISO, what f-stop, focus settings, shutterspeed, etc.). I often run into the same situation (an assignment to shoot a performance at a venue without big lighting rigs) and struggle with getting crisp, sharp images. Any advice would be much appreciated.



    1. Hey Paul,

      I’ll jump in since you’re asking about the settings I use :)

      – Spot Metering
      – Auto White Balance
      – RAW
      – Single Point Focus
      – Continuous Focus
      – Continuous High Speed Shooting
      – Aperture Priority, always at lowest possible setting, usually f/2.8
      – Auto ISO, minimum shutter 1/200, maximum ISO depends on camera… D700/D3 = 6400, D3s = 10,000

      I know plenty of other concert photographers who swear by Manual Priority so they can control their shutter and aperture, then set their ISO according to the brightness of the lights. This is definitely the way to get more consistent results because I do tend to get a variety of exposures using Aperture Priority. But I like the variety, and it can result in some really cool happy accidents from time to time! And shooting in RAW gives me lots of room to adjust exposure and even white balance in post if I need to.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Brad, on Apature setting do you use a minus exposure compensation? I shoot manual bu on A mode it would be too light. Just wondering.

      2. Thanks Brad, I wishe I would of read the comments before I went out to the local bar and shot my friends band last night. I didnt get very good images but I think starting off with these settings will help out alot next time. Im guessing that the lighting didnt help me at all because they only had one bar with 4 colored Led stage lights to light the stage.

        I have some images here if you want to check them out.

    2. Thought I would jump in here for a minute since I am one of those photographers who like to shoot manual mode and why I think Scott made the right decision to shoot with Brads suggested settings this time.

      If you pick one of the shooting modes that gives your camera control of the exposure, shutter speed priority, aperture priority or program auto mode, the camera uses the information from the built in light meter to adjust the exposure every single time you press the shutter release button.

      This means that the changing lights can change the exposure and lights coming at the cameras sensor can cause you to underexpose while dark stages will tend to make the camera overexpose. Shoot in manual mode and you get to control this.

      The reason that it was a good idea for Scott to shoot with the settings he did was:

      1) a really important shoot. Not many times do you get to do something that cool for your kids.
      2) Didn’t want to leave without a shot and the settings from Brad do work,
      3) doesn’t have a lot of practice shooting live concerts.. way more experience playing them.

      The more shows you shoot, the easier it becomes to shoot in manual mode and adjust the exposure settings yourself.

      1. Alan, I agree with you 100% for Scott buy Brad said it was his settings OR he is giving someone not experienced at concert shooting a starting point. I believe once a photographer gets real comfortable with his/her camera the should shoot manual at least 80% of the time, exception being to every rule.

        My only problem with apature priority in a concert setting is the shutter speed dropping too slow to get a “sharp crisp photo” as Paul indecated.

  4. Scott:

    Is there nothing that you don’t do well? A few pointers from Brad on low-light concert photography, and away you go! Glad to read the entire story above and how you had one of those “bonding” times with your son. Special times like these are never forgotten…I’ve had some with my sons!

    Thanks for all the info, tips, tricks and laughs at your seminar in Boston yesterday! I learned quite a bit and I’m eager to try out some of the techniques you demonstrated. Something tells me that the History Brush tip will be one of my most used!! :D And the Lastolite EzyBalance grey card that I won is very cool and kick butt!

    Also, thanks for letting me know that you’ll be teaching a condensed version of this at PSW. I’m changing my schedule for Wednesday and I think I’m going to catch the class taught by Dave Cross instead. I’ll see a couple of your other classes.

    Have a great weekend!


  5. Scott, great pictures, especially at ISO 8,000! I have to admit, I haven’t shot a concert with that bad of lighting before. I shot one at our church once, and used ISO 1600 on a Canon 50D, with the 70-200 f/2.8 IS, and a few with the 16-35 f/2.8.

    Just a question though, (and it’s not from experience), is there a reason you didn’t try and use primes? All of your shots were taken with f/2.8 zooms, which of course, is the obvious choice when using zooms, but if you had primes in the same focal lengths, perhaps shooting at f/1.8 or 2.0 would have allowed you to lower the ISO or increase shutter speed.

    I just recently got some primes, and have used them when I thought lighting was going to be a problem, but right now, my fastest primes are a 50mm f/1.4 and an 85mm f/1.8.

    My only thought as to why not to use primes, is that it would be hard to get the “once in a lifetime” shot, if you needed to zoom in on a guitar or something else.

    I also love that band, have a couple of their albums as well. Your son is going to love that memory for sure.

    1. Hey Jason – I’ll answer on Scott’s behalf since he asked me what gear I would use if I were shooting the show and went with that :)

      Primes are great for sure, especially with low-light situations like concerts! I prefer zooms because in most concert situations, you have a very limited field of forward and backward movement in the pit or crowd. If I’m using a prime and need a wider/closer shot, I’m pretty much out of luck. Most of the newest cameras are much better with high ISO noise than just a generation or two ago, so I don’t mind losing a stop of light if it means better framing to capture the moment. Plus with Lightroom 3’s killer noise reduction, I’m not too worried about getting some noise in my shots. And, lastly, the noise on Nikon’s newest cameras is much closer to the grain you would get with film than digital noise, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a little!

      Hope that helps!

      1. Brad, great response, thank you. I just moved up to the 7D from the 50D, and can already see a difference in it’s high ISO performance. I know that the 50D was struggling at 3200 ISO, in some cases, I would end up with some horrible digital noise, but it is generally pretty good at 1600.

        I had thought about the limited movement allowed at a concert such as that, after I had posted my comment. Luckily, I was able to move about pretty freely at the church concert, but at a sold out concert, with seats and pit, I could see it being difficult to frame shots with primes.

        They just need to make faster zooms!

  6. Scott,

    These shots rock man! I love the first and 3rd images especially. Yeah Lightroom 3/camera raw does a great job of noise reduction. Glad I never had to buy any plugins in the past. Now that I”m shooting with higher ISO’s Lightroom 3/camera raw has really worked out great

  7. Scott, that is awesome. Its great to see someone get such a wonderful blessing, especially when it blesses your children. It is a great thing to be able to take something you love and have it open doors for your family to be blessed.

  8. Great story Scott. The father / son story behind the pictures is powerful stuff!

    I’ve never heard of that band….but I will be checking into them, thanks!

  9. Wow, amazing story Scott! Your son is a lucky guy, it’s cool to meet your favorite band… Especially when you find out your dad is cool enough to arrange something like that!

    PS: The backflip picture is AWESOME!! :D

  10. What timing! I just went to a concert Thursday night(with my son), and asked at the door If I could shoot( a Christian artist, Shawn McDonald) and they let me, which was awesome!, anyhow, that day the new issue Photoshop user shows up(I didn’t see it until I got home that night), with the awesome article, and Your post Scott, also Brad mentioning his settings. I am pleasantly surprised my settings were near what Brad Suggested. And as usual, Scott your images rocked! Well Done!

  11. On the power of Twitter, Joe McNally and David Hobby encountered an emergency on arrival at the venue in Houston today – the AV screens from the venue were too small. They Tweeted for an AV rental assist and had 2 x 12′ x 9′ screens installed in time for the show to go ahead as planned!

    Oh, and ‘The Flash Bus’ tour is fantastic, if you still have a chance to check it out, I highly recommend you do!

  12. That band is great, props to your son for liking some awesome music. There’s a ton of really good christian metal I’d recommend him. I played guitar in a band when I was a teenager that got to play with a lot of florida based christian bands.

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