Concert Photography: A Study of White Balance





I really love going to concerts. Besides the fact that I’m a musician and I’m completely obsessed with music, I love the raw energy I feel from a rock concert. Anything can happen, and usually, it does.

However, sometimes the elements that attract me most to concerts, are the things that are hardest for me to capture in photography. For example, many bands use dramatic lighting, where the entire stage is saturated with red or blue lighting. I tend to get blown out colors in my photos, like someone dropped blue or red ink all over the image. The saturation is out of control. Post processing has usually mitigated the damage, but I haven’t always been able to get the clarity that I look for in my photography.

Up until recently, I’ve always set my WHITE BALANCE to auto because I never knew what kind of lighting I was going to get. For the most part my images came out well, or, I was able to correct the color balance in post. However, at the Red & Adelita’s Way concert at the Marquee theater this summer, I noticed my photos were not coming out the way I wanted. I ran into some issues with the white balance. Most of the time I was taking photos, the stage was flooded with either all red or all green lights. Naturally, it’s going to make the skin look a little less than realistic, however, I also found that I was losing clarity.

At the Theory of a Deadman concert, a very talented photographer named Melina gave me advice on getting clearer, better images. Her suggestion was to set the white balance according to the color of the lights. For example, if there were blue and purple lights, I would set the temperature to around 7,200K. Likewise, if the stage was flooded with red, orange, and yellow, I’d change the WB to somewhere around 3200K. It was definitely an adjustment because I hadn’t had a chance to set up the WB presets, so I was changing everything manually during the show. Yet, it was worthy endeavor. My photographs had more clarity and detail.

I’m always grateful to photographers sharing their knowledge and I thank Melina for this awesome advice.

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