If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been back to shooting bands in bars recently: Willie Phoenix (again), Fools Crown (again), Phantom 13, Fear the Fallen, and Easter. All of these have been at a local bar (Bethel Road Pub) that I’ve grown to like for their musical selection and their stage lighting. Chuck, the sound and lights guy, makes my photography goals challenging by putting on a light show, but he’s definitely adding to the overall experience in the pub by doing it.
I also like to take pictures of people off-stage as well. I would love to do a series of pool table portraits like the one above, and one I did for Christian in Fools Crown. In fact, it was with those images in mind that I approached a heavily pierced dude who was smoking on the patio. We made some idle chit, and I asked if I could take a picture of him. He didn’t mind if I took a picture of him outside on the patio, but he didn’t want to go inside and put any effort into it–it seems he was feeling too drunk, and didn’t want the burden of trying to look good. So I took a picture of him as he struck an over-exaggerated pose while smoking on the patio. The image was not at all what I had in mind, but that is one hazard of photographing drunk people.
Mr. Pierced-a-lot’s companion (also drunk) made a comment about being just a bit jealous that he was getting all the attention, so I turned my camera on her. As she posed, she turned her face away from the lone light on the patio, which caused nasty shadows to rake across her face. I didn’t even take a picture. “Actually, could you turn your head back over this way?”
And that made the shot. So this would be pro-tip #26 (I think): watch the light as it hits a subjects face. Now that I’m home and writing this post, I wish I had actually taken the first image, just so you could see what a difference that turn made.
After Phantom 13 played, I decided to go out and introduce myself to their drummer, whom I had really enjoyed watching–every other up-beat he had a great grin on his face that would immediately vanish in the passion of the down-beat. He was absolutely enthralled with the music he was performing, and I loved seeing (and attempting to capture) his enjoyment. As we chatted, the other band members joined us on the patio and one of the guitar players pulled out a backwoods style cigar and started smoking it. I liked how he was holding it, how the light (same patio light as above) was hitting his face, and the dramatic “rocker” look he was sporting. So I raised my camera to take a picture, but before I could focus, he started transitioning to the stereo-typical devil-horns and tongue-sticking-out pose common to metal-heads. I didn’t even press the shutter, and asked him to go back to what he was doing–looking off to the side, with the cigar. No devil-horns.
I like this shot much better than (probably) what the other pose would have produced.
And back to the guy at the pool table that leads the post. As he was playing, I asked if he minded if I took his picture. No problem, but he wanted to know what he should do. Just keep doing what you’re doing. So, this makes like pro-tip 53: its ok to tell your subjects what to do if you have an image in mind, but the presence of the camera changes the scene. It might not be exactly the same as if the camera weren’t there, but at least you can reassure people that they need not ape for the camera.