Category: Ultimate Photography

What is ISO?

In traditional (film) photography ISO (or ASA) was the indication of how sensitive a film was to light. It was measured in numbers (you’ve probably seen them on films – 100, 200, 400, 800 etc). The lower the number the lower the sensitivity of the film and the finer the grain in the shots you’re taking.

In Digital Photography ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain.

Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds. For example an indoor sports event when you want to freeze the action in lower light. However the higher the ISO you choose the noisier shots you will get. I’ll illustrate this below with two enlargements of shots that I just took – the one on the left is taken at 100 ISO and the one of the right at 3200 ISO (click to enlarge to see the full effect).


(you can see larger sized images of both shots here for the 100 ISO and here for the 3200 ISO)

100 ISO is generally accepted as ‘normal’ and will give you lovely crisp shots (little noise/grain).

Most people tend to keep their digital cameras in ‘Auto Mode’ where the camera selects the appropriate ISO setting depending upon the conditions you’re shooting in (it will try to keep it as low as possible) but most cameras also give you the opportunity to select your own ISO also.

When you do override your camera and choose a specific ISO you’ll notice that it impacts the aperture and shutter speed needed for a well exposed shot. For example – if you bumped your ISO up from 100 to 400 you’ll notice that you can shoot at higher shutter speeds and/or smaller apertures.

Questions to Ask When Choosing ISO

When choosing the ISO setting I generally ask myself the following four questions:

  1. Light – Is the subject well lit?
  2. Grain – Do I want a grainy shot or one without noise?
  3. Tripod – Am I using a tripod?
  4. Moving Subject – Is my subject moving or stationary?

If there is plenty of light, I want little grain, I’m using a tripod and my subject is stationary I will generally use a pretty low ISO rating.

If it’s dark, I purposely want grain, I don’t have a tripod and/or my subject is moving I might consider increasing the ISO as it will enable me to shoot with a faster shutter speed and still expose the shot well.

Of course the trade off of this increase in ISO will be noisier shots.

Situations where you might need to push ISO to higher settings include:

  • Indoor Sports Events – where your subject is moving fast yet you may have limited light available.
  • Concerts – also low in light and often ‘no-flash’ zones
  • Art Galleries, Churches etc- many galleries have rules against using a flash and of course being indoors are not well lit.
  • Birthday Parties – blowing out the candles in a dark room can give you a nice moody shot which would be ruined by a bright flash. Increasing the ISO can help capture the scene.

ISO is an important aspect of digital photography to have an understanding of if you want to gain more control of your digital camera. Experiment with different settings and how they impact your images today – particularly learn more about Aperture and Shutter Speed which with ISO are a part of theExposure Triangle.

Press passes allow journalists to access high profile and controlled areas. Some passes will grant the holder access to exclusive events, and even highly secure ones, like a White House press conference.


  1. Prepare your credentials. In order to get a press pass you’re going to need credentials, records that you work for a media outlet. If you don’t actually work for a media outlet, but have your own small-time news outlet or television channel, feel free to bring documentation showing that. An ID produced by either your news paper or broadcasting outlet may be helpful as well.

  2. Make contact with the press office for an event you’re trying to cover. Try to contact them as early as possible. Let them know who you are and who you work for. Often a press office will go by the name, public affairs office, or public relations. You may need to sell them on why they want your outlet at an event, and how you would provide them with positive coverage. Accessing a crime scene or other emergency event can be extra tricky. At events like this, the emergency responders may have a public relations expert with them. Try to make contact with them and explain what you are after. If they do not, and refuse you access, try to convince them to call in a public relations person.

  3. Ask about getting a press pass. Some pre-planned events will issue badges to certified members of the media. In these situations, the issuing authority can be pretty tough on credentials. Keep pushing why you are there, to cover the story. Try to convince them it would be a good idea to give you a badge.

  4. Once you have the badge, keep it. Some photographers keep all the little press badges they get for several reasons. Two of the major ones include the badges acting as trophies for the photographer, and serving as a visual indication that you are an experienced journalist. You may find that you can get preferential access to major events on old badges alone.

  5. Make your own badge. If you are representing your own media outlet, say a blog or independent paper, you may consider producing your own badge. Try to make it look as professional as possible. Include your outlet’s logo and name, and be sure to include photo identification and your name. This will make your badge look more legitimate, and help your little outlet reach places it wouldn’t normally be able to.

Working as a music freelance photojournalist can be very rewarding and a great way to develop skills in demanding situations. This simple 15 step guide aims to give you an insight into the world or music photography, both for promo portrait shots and in a live setting.

Step 1 – Finding a Band

There are always bands looking for photographers for promo shots, so all you have to do is make sure they find you! It’s pretty much a given that a band has a MySpace page or website, hopefully with contact details, which will enable you to offer your services. You can either search for bands in your locality or artists that take your fancy and would be interesting to work with. It’s great to work with young bands as they’ll be excited by the prospect of a photo shoot and want to do something exciting. On the other hand, bands with a higher status will be able to showcase your work to a larger audience.

band photography tips


Step 2 – Organisation and Payment

Once you’ve got the job, ensure that you communicate with your clients. Bands aren’t always great at maintaining correspondence, so try to organise the time, date and location well in advance.

It is also important to organise payment at this point. The majority of smaller bands won’t have a lot of cash to spend and if you’re just starting out, it is hard to charge significant amounts. At the least, ensure they cover your costs. Once you’ve built up a positive reputation, you may feel more confident in charging the bands you work with, especially if you’re trying to make a living from it!

band photography tips


Step 3 – What Is the Shoot For?

Artists will always need photos for general use on the web and press articles, but there can be a specific need for photographs – possibly a record insert or a particular magazine article. If this is the case, it is important to ensure you know exactly what the requirements are. If the shot is for a specific magazine it may need to be a certain shape or size on the page, or if it’s the cover, there may need to be space for the magazine name across the top. It is also important to know if there are any requests from the bands management or PR company. You don’t want to be spending time on a shoot, just to find out that it’s not what the people in charge wanted!

band photography tips


Step 4 – Develop a Theme

Depending on the purpose of the shoot, you will need to develop a theme. When communicating with the band, put forward some suggestions of concepts and ask them to think about the type of images they’d like. Some bands prefer rather standard (and possibly cliched) shots of themselves wearing their favourite clothes in an industrial estate, but try to be more imaginative and try something new. Props and costumes can work well and often the lighting and location offer a significant amount of interest. Try to create something unique that will mean both you and your clients will get noticed.

band photography tips

Step 5 – Find a Location

Location is all-important when working with an artist. For shots that require clean backgrounds and a sole focus there is always the studio option, but it is far more interesting to find a location that will help to enforce the band’s image and style. Once again, ask the band whether they have any ideas of accessible places which they think might work, but be sure to think up a few of your own options.

Make sure you listen to the artist’s music so you can get a feel for what might be suitable. For bands that operate within cities, it can be good to epitomise this by finding an urban location that supports their image. Artists with a more refined edge might like to use an old country manor for example, but wherever you end up choosing, ensure that you have access so you don’t end up trespassing. If you know that the location you’ve chosen is private land, it’s always best to ask the landowner before you start trooping bands and camera equipment around!

band photography tips

Step 6 – Capture Personality

After you’ve got everyone together, found your location and decided your concept, it’s time to actually start taking some photos! There’s a lot to think about on the day, so try to make as many decisions as possible before getting the camera out. Once at your location, select a few hotspots that you’d like to use, places that will work best for you and the image.

Don’t be afraid to take charge and tell your subjects what you’d like them to do. The composition of the shot is vital, try to organise your band members into interesting shapes. The chances are they’ll create a natural formation, but it’s good to make sure that if there is a front man or leader that it’s decided with the band whether or not he/she will take centre stage. Remember that a band consists of as many personalities as it does members and if you can, aim to capture each of those within the shot.

band photography tips

Step 7 – Be Creative With Lighting

Each shot will have it’s own lighting requirements, but when you’re shooting, consider it a multiple portrait shoot, so you should aim to have enough light to see each subject’s face and features. This will depend a lot upon location and time of day, but almost regardless of that, it is good to have a flash with you to highlight faces. Try to u advantage se the light sources available, be it through a window or direct sunlight, to your. Experiment with different angles and get your subjects to move about to see what works best. There are always ways to be creative with lighting, particularly when working with a particular concept or theme.

band photography tips


Step 8 – Picking the Best Shots

Choosing the final shots is always difficult, as there are often many to choose from and a huge range of post-production possibilities. The best shots are usually the strongest compositionally. Look for the shot with that extra sparkle, for example, a special connection with the eyes of the subject. However, it’s essential to remember that it’s a joint decision between yourself and the artist. They are employing you and although you may have a considerably better photographic understanding, bands often know what they want. Choose a good selection of shots to propose to the artists and work together to pick the best ones.

band photography tips


Step 9 – Live Performance Photography

Live photography of musicians are a completely different practice. There are far more constraints on what you can do, and how you can use your camera. For small-scale shows, the lights are often quite primitive and you won’t have much space to work in. Bands might specifically ask you to photograph them at a show, or you could just head down to your local venue and take some shots. You can then offer the band your contact details and a website to view and buy/download images.

For large scale shows you’ll need a photo pass (usually obtained by newspapers, magazines and websites), which allows you between the stage for a pre-determined number of songs (usually the first three). You may not have much time to get your work done. Make sure you go prepared – you’ll need a zoom lens and sometimes even a small stool will help, so you’re not breaking your back to get the shot you want.

band photography tips


Step 10 – Be Familiar With the Music

Every band and artist is different and although you can apply many of the same photographic principals, the way a band plays and moves on stage will coincide with the music they are making. It helps to familiarise yourself with the music so you know what to expect on the day. Some bands will just stand still, others will leap around for the whole evening. You want your shots to capture the essence of the music visually, by freezing the artists and mood of the show all in one frame.

band photography tips


Step 11 – Focus on the Front Man

There are many ways to make your shots interesting and it helps to have a few ideas up your sleeve before you start shooting. Find a good vantage point, from which you’ll be able to see the key members of the band. Try to focus on one band member at a time, the most important being the front man/woman. They often act as the face of the band, the person that the public will recognise, so ensure you have a an interesting angle to shoot them from!

band photography tips


Step 12 – Embrace Coloured Lighting

At large shows, flash is not permitted, so you’ve got to do your best with the lighting available. There are usually vast amounts of coloured lights above the stage, so take them into account when positioning yourself, they often work well when trying to silhouette band members. The variety of lighting isn’t something you can necessarily plan for so don’t be afraid to experiment.

band photography tips


Step 13 – Consider Settings in Advance

The biggest challenge for photographers at live music events is darkness. Lighting is very specific, leaving large areas of darkness on the stage, and the way to combat this is by using the ISO and shutter speeds effectively. To let as much light in as possible, push up the ISO, decrease the shutter speed and open up the aperture. Shooting in RAW helps, but by no means is it a get-out clause for taking underexposed shots on the day. The best thing I can suggest is to know your settings before you start. If you’ve only got 3 songs, you can’t afford to be spending too much time playing with settings.

band photography tips


Step 14 – Pick the Moment

It’s really important to learn to shoot instinctively. You have to be patient, ensure that your camera is ready, and track your subject. Wait for the perfect moment and then take your shot. It’s such a horrible feeling to take a shot and then have to wait for your camera whilst watching the front man pull off his best move. You always have the option of continuous mode, but be careful – this is no substitute for your instinct and knowing when to press the button!

band photography tips


Step 15 – Get Credited

Whether it be in print or online, make sure that the right person knows that you took that shot! It’s a great way to make a name for yourself, and you can even ask whether than can put your web address as well as your name. The most important thing is to enjoy it. It’s a great feeling to photograph your favourite bands, but remember, you’ve got a job to do. You can start singing along when you’ve got your shots!

band photography tips

in this post Tom Di Maggio Photography shares 11 tips for taking band promotional photography.


Knowing your gear and how to achieve a correct exposure is the basis for every picture you take, no matter what kind of photography we are talking about. When it comes to band promotional photography, it is but a small part of the equation.

There’s a lot of factors that you need to take into consideration in order to get the pictures that you want. 80% of the work is done during the preparation of the shoot. The better the preparation the smoother everything will work out on the day of the shoot. The following tips are not about what gear to use, or what settings are better suited, but rather about organization and how to use the available time in a most effective way as to get the best possible pictures and still have fun during the process.


1. Meet the band and get a feeling for their music. Ideally get them to let you shoot one of their performances and meet them after they’ve seen your pictures. Use this meeting to identify the style of pictures they want to go for and what they will be using the pictures for. You’ll have to consider space in the composition for text or other things if the pictures are being used on the web or as a cd cover.

2. Location scouting is very important, but very time consuming as well. Don’t be afraid to ask the band if they have a location in mind, ask your friends and family as well. You never know. I often use bars, restaurants or even concert venues for the photo sessions. Just make sure you always ask for permission.


3. Once you found the location take some snapshots, preferably at the same time of the day as the shoot will take place and from as many angles as you can. You will have to use these in order to prepare the lighting setup for the shoot. It is very important that you know which pictures that you want to take and thus where you are going to put your strobes before you arrive at the location on the day of the shoot. There probably won’t be enough time to improvise and it will look as though you’re not really sure about what you’re doing, the band will become insecure and it will have an impact on the end result.

4. Small but important details are the clothes worn by the band members. Try to get them to match the location and the style of the shoot. In some situation you might want to go the absolute opposite way, but it has to fit the purpose.


5. Make a list of pictures that you’d like to have at the end of the session. Be realistic here, there’s no point in trying to fit 10 different sets into 60 minutes. You’d rather have a few sets that are well executed and some time left for improvisation than hurrying through your sets and missing some important issues with the lighting or positioning of the band.

6. Once everything is sorted out in terms of photo sets meet the band again and explain in detail what will happen on the day of the shoot. The more they know what they’ll have to do the less explanation you’ll have to do on site, which will leave you more time for the actual picture taking.

7. If you are on a strict time schedule (because of the location or the band) make sure you meet a bit before the starting time. You can use the time to make last minute adjustments, but try to avoid big changes at that time, it could get out of hands very quickly. You have to find the right balance between being flexible and being strict enough to follow the list of pictures you want to take.


8. When you are shooting, always be on the lookout for nice opportunities between the sets, if the group is small enough you might get some keepers from these shots. A second shooter would come in handy here.

9. It’s not a must but usually having some people there to help you with the coordination for the shoot. If you only have an hour you’ll need every minute to make the most out of it. Again if you’re tight on budget ask friends and family. Don’t forget to thank them in an appropriate way ;)

10. The next two are not really about the photo session itself, but I feel it’s important that I share my point of view on these topics. It’s about the never ending argument: to photoshop or not. For me the post processing is a part of the creative aspect of photography, usually I know precisely how the finished product should look like and more often than not this includes post processing. That doesn’t mean that every picture should be heavily post processed. It should be used in a creative way and not to correct mistakes that could have been prevented in-camera.


11. Make sure that you only show a very strict selection to the band. Select your best 10 pictures and show them. There’s no point in showing 60 pictures, they will be surprised by the amount of pictures and this will affect their perception of your work. That being said there’s no harm in sending them a DVD or CD with the other 60 pictures at a later point in time.

Canon’s New Camera Sensor Shoots in Virtual Darkness

The below camera test from Canon showcases the astounding capabilities of its upcoming 35mm CMOS sensor, which is shooting fireflies and their surrounding flora in virtual darkness (less than 0.01 lux).

Watch below.

Just a blast from the past…do you know how to dark shoot?

Come on back for a update on good dark shooting skills.


What do Wedding Photographers Really Do?

It comes up a lot. Usually when I’m standing in the buffet line for dinner, or when there’s a slow time during the day when I’m not taking pictures.

“So you’re the photographer?”

“Yessir, I am, and I absolutely love it.”

“Well I don’t doubt it. You’re doing a great job out there. It must be great to work only one day a week!”

I hear similar stories from other wedding photographers. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions regarding what wedding photographers actually do all week. It’s perfectly understandable, after all, the only time most people see us working is at the wedding. So I thought it would be interesting to survey wedding photographers and discover what they really do besides take pictures every weekend. Hopefully it will help clear up some misconceptions and give some insight into what goes on behind the scenes after we leave the reception.

About 50 wedding photographers responded so it’s a fairly good sample size, and I’d be surprised if a larger response would yield a much different result.

The Perception

How some people think wedding photographers spend their time (and how some photographers WISHED they could spend their time):


The Reality

How wedding photographers REALLY spend their time:


We clearly spend more time in front of our computers than behind our cameras, which is a sign of these digital times.

Photographers, does that sound about right? If you think we’re way off or if we missed anything, let us know in the comments.


Here are some exerpts from some of the responses that were sent back from the survey:


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Wedding Memories

Lindsey and Chris will have a lot to remember from their wedding. It was a wonderful fun filled event with friends and family.

Rain caused the wedding to have to move into a very small living room instead of being in a back yard. The rain was so heavy on Tuesday that there was no way to utilize the rain at all during the wedding.

The home is beautiful, but no one was prepared an hour before the ceremony to move inside. I found myself woefully lacking in what I needed to shoot in the light that the living room provided.

The wedding photos will be traditional black and white due to lighting, and the photos are much prettier and elegant in B&W vs. color.

The bride was very happy with this shot…I am glad.

Do not think I went unprepared, that isn’t the case. Since I am not rich, I rent lenses for events and the lenses were rented planning on a wide and long backyard overlooking the city. The lenses would not work in the house, so I had to improvise. This was frustrating however, the shots did work and many are beautiful!

Thank you Lindsey and Chris.

Rainy Day Wedding

Does rain ruin a wedding?

No, not necessarily. Get creative! White umbrellas, colored rain boots…you can come up with something fantastic…it is only a wedding dress! It can be cleaned.

Don’t let rain bring you down when preparing for a wedding shoot.

The cake may melt, but people will not! Use the atmosphere and the rain to your advantage…rain sleeves for your camera come in two packs for about $9. Find ways to make the rain fun for you and for your couple!

Your attitude about the rain may make the bride feel better and perk her up. Weddings are supposed to be fun, sunny events, but mother nature does not always agree!

Look at photos from rainy day weddings and make your bride’s a very special day!

Wedding Photography

Shooting weddings can be tricky. My number one tip is to communicate with the bride and the groom. This serves me well. Without that communication your shooting can be all over the place.

You are not expected to know who everyone is, so find out! Take the time to make your couple happy. Remember, your style is your style, but in editing you can make allowances for what the bride and the groom are interested in.

I shoot many weddings that are B&W only. Many people like that classic look. Sepia is also popular. What does your couple want?

Always pay attention to small details and shoot everything you can think of. You will not always know when the table clothe on the cake table was the brides Great Grandmas.

Have fun at your wedding shoot, remember that day isn’t about you, and stay as invisible as possible. You are the help, not a guest. How would you want a photographer to act at your event?

Well, that is all I have for today. Hope some of it makes sense…

Oh, spend time looking at other wedding photographers work. Find ideas and styles that compliment your style…then create some art and memories!