Commack High School Spring Concert II
Another excellent concert by the 10th grade ensembles! One question I get asked a lot regarding concert photography is, where do you focus? If you're just photographing your child or a single musician/singer there's no question - you focus just as you would when taking a portrait, on the subject's eye closest to you. However, if you're shooting a larger group it becomes a little trickier.
This is where your depth of field (DOF) becomes a major factor. If you have plenty of light, no problem. You can narrow your aperture to create a wide depth of field and everyone will be in focus. Unfortunately, this isn't the case at most indoor concerts. You need to use a very wide aperture to get all the light you can get and, consequently, your depth of field is very shallow. The longer your lens, the further your distance from the subject and the further you zoom in the shallower it becomes. I'm shooting from the back of the auditorium with a 100-400mm lens and a wide open aperture, anywhere from f/4.5 to f/5.6, so my depth of field is measured in inches, not feet.
So, you have to pick one person to focus on. But which one? Well, given that the DOF beyond the subject is always greater than the DOF in front of the subject I try to pick a subject 1/3 in from the closest person. So for example, if the distance from the closest person to the camera to the farthest person is 9 feet I'll pick someone about 3 feet back from the closest person. Assuming I can stop down my aperture a little, that may at least keep the persons immediately in front of and behind my subject in focus.
Next, I'll try to pick out someone who is brightly lit because that's where the viewer's eyes will normally look first when they view the photo. The lighting in high school auditoriums is always spotty so some musicians/singers are lit more brightly than others. These are the candidates for your focus point. And, if your DOF is measured in inches this becomes especially important since no one behind or in front of your subject will be in really sharp focus.
That's about it. Have fun.