More On Available Light


by William Lulow

Recently, I made some more concert shots of performers on stage. These were small venues without the benefit of good stage lighting. I’ve found, as I wrote in another article, that you can push the ISO ratings of various digital cameras quite a bit and still get acceptable results. Some of the images I made last week were shot at ISO 1600 or 2000. There is some loss of sharpness and there is an increase in the “noise.” I have found that the best way to make these images is to put everything the camera does on “manual,” so that you are making all the decisions as to aperture and shutter speed yourself. If you try to shoot on “Automatic” or “Program,” you will find that the camera tries to adjust for the low light level and sometimes focuses on the lightest object in the scene. In addition, the “Program” setting will often pop up the built-in flash, which you definitely want to avoid.

As I have said, I use an old Pentax Spotmeter to measure light levels on exactly what I want exposed perfectly. The meter has a 1-degree “spot” that measures the amount of reflected light. This meter is just about an indispensable tool for doing concert-type stage shots. It will measure the difference between red and blue light as well. The newer, digital models are about $2,000 these days and they are used for movies as well.  It is a very handy tool.


A couple of these shots were made at f/1.8, 1/200th of a second, ISO 2000. They were able to stand a fairly decent enlargement, with some noise, but acceptable, certainly for the web and probably for publication as well.


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