Photographing Paula Cole In Concert

by William Lulow

As you can tell by now, I love photographing musicians. A photographer’s reactions to music, obviously have to be recorded in expressions, stage presence, attitudes and light! So, those are the things I’m always looking for whenever I photograph musicians in concert.

Paula Cole is a world-renowned singer/songwriter. She has played and sung with the best and probably is also best known for her performances while touring with Peter Gabriel’s “Secret World.”

Again, most of these images were made with an 85mm f/1.8  or a 135mm f/2 lens. Settings were ISO 2000-2500, f/4 – f/5.6 at 1/100th of a second. This shutter speed is sufficient to stop most action most of the time.  I usually have freedom to shoot from wherever I like in this venue. Many of these photos were taken from right down in front of the stage or to one side. Shooting performers takes special concentration because it’s easy to get caught up in the music and forget to press the shutter. I try to watch the performance while looking through the viewfinder. This helps me pay close attention to facial expressions and body language.  The more one knows about the performers and music itself, the better the images will be.

The Towne Crier Cafe is a small enough and intimate venue which allows for complete freedom of movement for the shooter. I could sometimes get within four or five feet of the performer and other times, shooting with a longer lens from a further distance allowed for more interesting compositions. This venue also doesn’t use many bright stage lights, so you are forced to bump up your ISO numbers. I’ve found that ISO numbers of around 2000 can still yield very sharp enlargements. I am able to make 11×14-inch prints of most of these concert shots with very little loss of sharpness. When I used to shoot these concerts with film, I would always push-process my Kodak TRI-X film to about ISO 800 or even 1600 and develop them in extra fine-grain developers. We used to refer to the results as “sharpness in grain,” which meant that expressions, instruments and microphones were sharp, but the film was still grainy. Today’s digital camera sensors are far more sensitive to light than even the best film, push-processed.

Each of these images made great, large prints: