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Thread: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

  1. #1
    Coachella Junkie PlayaDelWes's Avatar
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    Default Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Let's educate one another on how to take the best pictures (possible) with your simple digital camera. And by "Let's educate one another", I mean "I really need your help" and I bet others would appreciate learning at the same time.

    I’m guessing most Coachella attendees show up with your basic digital camera. This thread is where we will learn how to take better pictures at this year’s festival using the settings available on the most common digital cameras. As for me, after years of experimenting and ending up with mediocre-at-best digital photos, I still have more questions than answers.

    Using the vast knowledge of photography talent who frequent these forums, I’d love to solicit advice on how to get the best photos from a number of Coachella scenarios throughout the weekend.

    The camera I will be using is the Canon PowerShot SD880 IS Digital Elph, which has settings that are likely consistent with 90% of those armatures snapping photos each year.


    Setting choices include:

    Image Size: I’ve been told I should always use the largest available (3648X2736)

    Compression Ratio: I’ve also been told I should always use Superfine (vs. Fine or Normal)

    ISO Speed: Choices are Auto, Hi, and 80 1620

    Tone (White Balance): I have no idea when to use Auto vs Day Light, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, or Custom

    Brightness (Exposure Compensation): I’ve experimented with settings from -2 through 2+ and still don’t know the best combinations with the other settings mentioned above. I don’t use a tripod.

    Tone: Beyond getting artsy, is there a reason I should use Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, B/W, Positive Film, Custom Color, etc…?

    Metering Mode: I usually keep it on Evaluative vs Center Weighted Avg or Spot

    There are also some other settings and training wheel modes, but I can’t seem to get the right combination of those to produce any solid results either. As we talk about do’s and don’t’s, please try to reference the above settings as much as possible. Feel free to share what has worked and what hasn’t worked.


    Good and bad examples of typical photo scenarios encountered throughout the weekend would include:


    Daytime in the Gobi or Mojavi: The backlight is overwhelmingly bright relative to the light of the act on stage


    Instead of:



    Nighttime in the Gobi or Mojavi: Lots of movement and unpredictable lightening:



    Nighttime in the Sahara: Same as other tents, just more specialty lighting:



    Main stage (up close vs. far away): Best way to use zoom + other settings?





    Sunsets:




    Art Installations and nighttime light displays:


  2. #2
    MENACING Courtney's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    This is an interesting idea for a thread.

    For image size and compression, I agree with whoever told you to use the highest settings you have. Just make sure you have a big memory card if you want to take a lot of photos.

    Using a higher ISO is good for when things are moving quickly (like a drummer drumming), or for low light conditions (like a nighttime shot). The downside of higher ISOs is that the image will be more grainy or noisy. I mostly use 200 ISO for daytime shots of 1600 ISO for nighttime shows, but a better camera will be able to handle the higher ISOs with less grain than a crap camera. So, test out your settings judiciously and find out what works best for you.

    I don't know much about the white balance settings for your camera, but it doesn't really matter too much because that's something that can be corrected in Photoshop.

    Brightness is a good one to adjust in situations like your sample images for daytime in the Gobi/Mojave. For that sort of thing where your main focal point isn't properly exposed, you are going to want to manually adjust the exposure levels according to need. That's also a situation where you might consider taking the same exact picture at multiple exposure levels to get the different parts of the scene, and then merging the different images together in Photoshop.

    For metering mode, spot metering is quite helpful if you're taking a photo of a single figure or couple of figures that are surrounded by a ton of darkness or are way backlit. In that case, you're probably going to want to spot meter on the face because otherwise your camera might set the exposure levels for the background (which in this case you probably care less about).

    I am interested to hear what other tips people might have.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    my favorite setting for taking pictures is 'right click save'
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    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    The bright daytime background in the Gobi is something I've wrestled with and haven't found a very good solution. If anybody has any bright (and simple) ideas I would love to hear them.
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    Coachella Junkie SoulDischarge's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Good thread. I always have problems taking pictures at shows inside/at night without the flash, which I hate for obvious reasons and is totally impractical anyway unless you're in the front row, and even still it's obnoxious. I figure I can only do so much in low light with the camera I have, but I'm sure I could get slightly better pictures than I currently do with the right knowledge.

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    old school Grant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    The bright daytime background in the Gobi is something I've wrestled with and haven't found a very good solution. If anybody has any bright (and simple) ideas I would love to hear them.
    Isn't there a setting you can use to use the backlight for lighting on most digital cameras? I don't know if it would wash out whatever you were trying to capture in the foreground, though.
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Quote Originally Posted by nbvcide View Post
    my favorite setting for taking pictures is 'right click save'
    even better, "save as" you now have a choice
    Last edited by 1litro; 03-23-2010 at 10:15 AM. Reason: poor spelling
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    Coachella Junkie malcolmjamalawesome's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Great thread. I hope people smarter than I post in here.
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera




    point and shoot with a steady hand
    ISO 100 f 2.8 on auto white balance
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    old school york707's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    The "steady hand" part is the key.
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    old school daxton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Quote Originally Posted by SoulDischarge View Post
    Good thread. I always have problems taking pictures at shows inside/at night without the flash, which I hate for obvious reasons and is totally impractical anyway unless you're in the front row, and even still it's obnoxious. I figure I can only do so much in low light with the camera I have, but I'm sure I could get slightly better pictures than I currently do with the right knowledge.
    Not to mention no flash = blurry pics. Why is that?

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    Coachella Junkie Monklish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Quote Originally Posted by daxton View Post
    Not to mention no flash = blurry pics. Why is that?
    With no flash in a low-light environment the aperture needs to be open longer in order to take in enough light to be visible. Longer shutter speed = blur.

    This isn't exactly relevant because I don't use digital cameras, but here's my recommendations for shooting sets in the Mojave or the Gobi and probably other places as well at night.



    This is film so I basically just set the shutter speed to as fast as I could possibly make it that would still make the light indicator needle twitch in the slightest, which still wasn't that fast. I think it was something like 1/60, with an F-stop of 1.8. In general I've found that to be more or less the correct shutter speed for areas around Coachella that don't really have direct light but have slivers of light you want to catch in the foreground and background.

    A lot of my pictures from this set didn't come out at all because I was trying to shoot the stage when IT lit up. This does not work well unless you are really close to the stage. What I've since found more interesting and more enjoyable is waiting for the lights to cast out into the audience, where hopefully they'll catch some of the lens and of the people in front of you so something will actually be in focus and lit well.
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    old school daxton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Thanks. So, there is a shutter speed setting I should be looking for? That's a nice photo, btw.

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    MENACING Courtney's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    I really like that photo.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    excellent thread considering I just gave up on concert pics and just take video now out of frustration.

  16. #16
    Old Gay Guy gaypalmsprings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Sometimes the bass of the music makes it hard to hold the camera real still. When using video mode, the bass sometimes make the sound distorted. But I love the bass anyways. I just use auto-mode with my camera.
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    Coachella Junkie Monklish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Quote Originally Posted by daxton View Post
    Thanks. So, there is a shutter speed setting I should be looking for? That's a nice photo, btw.
    It's really hard to say if your digi would offer that feature, particularly since I don't deal with the fuckers. But I'm relatively sure that only a slightly more professional digital SLR would allow manual shutter speed, if any. Point and shoots definitely won't. Soon enough, Ivankay will burst into this thread overflowing with useful informations and beautiful pictures to help clear things up.
    Quote Originally Posted by Monklish View Post
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  18. #18
    old school daxton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Ugh. I'm just about over digital cameras. I suck at technology anyway.

  19. #19
    Coachella Junkie Monklish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    It has to be said that film is really practically useless at night. Getting a decent shot off is almost impossible. For every half decent or occasionally really awesome shot like that, I have at least 20 that are just utter bullshit. But for shots during the day and at sunset I think getting a cheap film SLR is really a great idea. They barely cost anything especially now I'd imagine, like less than fifty bucks easily, and for 10 bucks of film and a tiny bit of studying you get really beautiful shots. Then keep the digi point and shoot for nighttime and just try to be mindful of the lighting wherever you're shooting. If it's particularly dark you're just not going to get a good shot, no matter what your settings. Here's some more of Coachella in the daytime using film though:



    Chilling in Gobi pre-Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip



    Shimmery gold art from 08



    My Morning Jacket fucking owning everyone
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    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    that MMJ set was really great.
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

  21. #21
    old school york707's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    A lot of point and shoots have a certain level of manual controls when it comes to aperture and shutter speed. It just depends on the model.

    If you are using an auto setting, I have found that ISO on most cheap models is pretty much shit at 800 and higher. Just too much noise. Spot metering works pretty well.

    Here's one I took with my point and shoot that turned out pretty cool:


    Edit: Here are a few more that I like that turned out well with my digital point and shoot.

    Last edited by york707; 03-22-2010 at 07:55 PM.
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    photoslut ivankay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Monklish View Post
    It's really hard to say if your digi would offer that feature, particularly since I don't deal with the fuckers. But I'm relatively sure that only a slightly more professional digital SLR would allow manual shutter speed, if any. Point and shoots definitely won't. Soon enough, Ivankay will burst into this thread overflowing with useful informations and beautiful pictures to help clear things up.
    i hope i can be of some assistance. Shutter speed and your stability are your friends when shooting bands. When it comes to regular point and shoots. If you don't have some kind of manual settings, the closest you'll get is the "action" mode (on Canon's represented by the little running man...potential lawsuit for Tom). Hopefully you have a big card and extra batteries so you can use "burst" a lot. Instead of having the camera take one picture at a time, set it to take continuous shots. Flash should be off. If it is on, no continuous. You can review and edit later (to conserve power, you might want to do this when the night's over). More than likely some of the shots after the first one will make you happy. You still cause some shake in your camera when you press the button, but that will be gone for the proceeding shots (if you are maintaining your stillness...think of it as zen exercise). Problem with using an automatic setting on most p&s's is not being able to adjust the ISO and being a slave to what the camera and sensor are giving you.

    If you can go manual, like Randy said, 1/60 is a great starting point. If you have more light, pump it up and lower that ISO.

    i got to take care of some stuff, but the best thing you can always do is practice. Take your camera out and make lots of mistakes. You will get to know what it does and be faster when using it in a live situation.

    Chris is king when it comes to p&s shooting. Hopefully he will chime in.

  23. #23
    Milkshake suprefan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Hi Mike, hello everyone else. Let me find some stuff, brb.

  24. #24
    Milkshake suprefan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Well for me, Im big on position, period. I know a lot of people arent keen on being up close and whatnot, but if you can do it, good, if not, its not the end of the world. After finally upgrading to a bigger zoom p & s, things have gotten easier, but still a challenge at times. I own the Canon Sx200. Its a pain in the ass btw, but its come through. My smaller cams are a Canon Sd1100is and a Sony DSC T10. I hardly use the Sony anymore, but it has done well when it was my main camera.



    If at all possible, do not use the zoom, less zoom means the likelihood of something being blurry goes down by quite a bit. Especially if you are up close and with a small cam you wanna get your subject to fill the frame. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. If its broad daylight, its not an issue, at night, unless you got great lighting like on main stage or sahara, it gets tricky. But image stabilizer is now a standard feature on all cameras now, so just keep your hand still as best as possible.



    Sunset in 08 with the Sony

    just found the right angle, no exposure compensation, iso on auto.




    Night time last year with the canon sd1100

    drop - 1 on exposure compensation (and actually used a guard rail for stability) no zoom




    Gobi Tent daytime

    Canon sx200, set in program mode, burst to shoot, iso to auto, exposure compensation -0.7 a bit of zoom




    pre sunset last year. no zoom, exp - 0.3 I only took one shot, which is kind of uncommon for me.




    I really dont tweak the settings as much as you would think, my camera has lots of things that could get changed manually, but they arent really needed, if you can judge your lighting well, have a steady had, and an eye for whats going on, youre good.


    This was all timing, period, nothing else. Being able to look for those kinds of things can make huge difference. Like if theres a time when you know its going to go crazy light wise, be ready to take the shot.







    Oh yeah, no flash if you can help it. I really only use flash if there are no lights in some hole in the wall club. Oh and black and white will save you, cause color can just end up washed out to hell in those situations. ISO getting ranked up to hell isnt ideal unless you have a nicer model camera, the newer stuff right now is able to compensate for all the grain and pics turn out better than expected. My Sx200 has a 3200 iso setting, its nice because I can shoot at almost 3 frames a second and catch action very fast, the downside is I lose about 75% of the megapixels I can use.



    3200 iso setting...






    Thats all I can think of for now. Mike probably has some other things to post, he is a low light photo genius.

  25. #25
    Coachella Junkie PlayaDelWes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Great advice all. Just need to digest it. Keep it coming.

  26. #26
    Milkshake suprefan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Oh yeah, turn any ''auto contrast'' settings off, youre telling the camera to do something you might not want it to do.

  27. #27
    Beefy Soft Taco TommyboyUNM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Quote Originally Posted by suprefan View Post
    Oh yeah, turn any ''auto contrast'' settings off, youre telling the camera to do something you might not want it to do.
    I'm pretty camera stupid. Does that include things like red-eye reduction?

    Great thread, by the way.

  28. #28
    MENACING Courtney's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    Chris makes a good point about tripods: to avoid camera shakes in low light long exposure situations, using something like a guard rail to steady your arms can make a great makeshift tripod. If you can, set your camera down and use the timer function so you don't even have to touch it.

  29. #29
    Milkshake suprefan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    It depends, but that comes with using the flash, and as mentioned, dont use the freaking flash, especially if youre a mile away from the stage.


    Quote Originally Posted by Courtney View Post
    Chris makes a good point about tripods: to avoid camera shakes in low light long exposure situations, using something like a guard rail to steady your arms can make a great makeshift tripod. If you can, set your camera down and use the timer function so you don't even have to touch it.
    The timer trick does work well actually.

    Set your camera timer (if possible) to 3 seconds or so.(I think standard is 2 seconds, 5 is too long, people can walk in the way) Youll focus on your subject, hit the button, and the timer begins. Put the camera down, itll take its exposure, and check your results. Pratice it a couple times before hand and see how it looks, then go for what you want.


    Another nigth shot, this time at APW.

    No guard rail, just super steady hand, exp dropped to - 1.3


    Last edited by suprefan; 03-22-2010 at 09:59 PM.

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    Coachella Junkie PlayaDelWes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting the best Coachella photos from your basic digital camera

    So, it's best not to use zoom? When would you use it?

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