Composing multiple subjects in a concert photograph can be a quite fun (and sometimes frustrating) game. It’s like a puzzle where the pieces are constantly moving, and you need to lock it down when the pieces are in correct order. The number and complexity of pieces can change, depending of what you’re trying to do.
The starting idea for the photograph above was to photograph the drummer through the frame-within-frame formed by the bass player’s legs. This could have been a portrait-oriented shot where everything else was left outside the frame, but I felt the composition would not have worked that well. Luckily the singer was there to conveniently fill the rest of the landscape-oriented composition.
The problem - at least for me - is that I can’t really concentrate on the ‘correct moment’ for more than one subject at a time. I ‘cannot see’ if the facial expression of the singer is appropriate if I concentrate on the drummer, for instance. The way I approach this is by concentrating on the subject that is harder to get right and just hope that the moment for the secondary subject(s) happens to be okay when I push the shutter release. And of course taking more than just one shot will probably be wise.
In this shot a lot went right that could have gone wrong:
- The facial expressions of both of the subjects is appropriate: with singers you have to often choose your moment.
- The drummer’s stick is in a good position - it’s good to see the act of drumming, so to speak. Sometimes you get drummer shots that look like they’re just sitting there, doing nothing.
- The light is appropriate for all parts of the photograph (although this was helped in post process by using burn/dodge to even out the amounts of light hitting different subjects in the picture).
- Some amount of intuition was needed to compose the photograph and choose the moment - I did not have an unlimited amount of time to think about all of it. The problem with intuition is that it can sometimes be wrong, or you miss something that is distracting in a still image. You simply find out later that the photo just does not work even if it felt right at the time of capture.
Any composition of moving subjects is time sensitive. In this case, when the bass player would move their leg from the front monitor, the opportunity was gone. Well, almost: he repeatedly used this stance during the three songs I was allowed to photograph from the front. I think I actually moved to this position in anticipation for the leg to come up again and frame the drummer.
As a side note, this photograph won’t work well in small sizes. This is somethig that is worth keeping in mind. For instance, if I were to have this published in a book, I’d request a full spread was used.