Have you ever been to a concert, performance, or other events in which you snapped a cool photo? Maybe you were there as a photographer, or maybe you just got that perfect moment on your phone! Either way, you want to share it quickly with your family, friends, and maybe even your followers. This tutorial is going to teach you how to quickly edit an image for fast publication, while still on-site!
For this tutorial, I’m going to be using a photo I took at a concert last year. This is a photo of Natalie Prass, a singer-songwriter who opened for the bands Calexico and Iron & Wine during their “Years to Burn” tour.
Indoor concerts, like this one, restrict photographer to only a couple of songs to take photos. The reason for this is that, under the hot stage lights, the performers may not picture as well later into their sets. This means that, especially in between openers and headliners, there is downtime in which a photographer may want to create and share some fast edits.
This is the photo that we are going to be starting with from that concert, unedited:
Some tips on live photo shooting performances
So, one great thing about concerts is how much effort they place into the lighting design. This means that as the photographer, you have a lot less work to do to get a really cool looking image. Now, this isn’t always true, but it is important to pay attention to what lighting is being used and how you can time your photos well.
There are several steps I like to take to edit concert photos on the fly, especially because I will generally be wanting to edit quite a few. If I want to publish the images together, I will want to edit at least five or six of them, which means each edit has to be pretty fast. I also want the images to, generally, feel cohesive, so I try my best to get the first image to the right spot, and then mimic what I did to the first image in the second, third, and so on.
That’s enough talking, let’s get into the different steps that you will want to take. For this tutorial, I will be using Enlight’s Quickshot, as it is the primary phone photo-editing application that I use.
The first step, as always, is going to be to import your image into Quickshot, like this:
Using the Magic Tool
Now, it is time to start messing around with some global adjustments. I dabble a little bit in everything, but here is what I settled on for each of the different adjustments:
The first adjustment I am almost always going to make when under time pressure is the Magic tool. This is basically an auto edit that lets me start at a much cleaner point than the original image.
Basic Global Adjustments
My next step is going to be modifying the light, especially so I can see what details in the shadows the current exposure is missing. After bringing the light up a lot to see these, I will bring it back down to a less aggressive level. This is shown in the image below.
Now, I make a small change to the color temperature. The Magic tool has already basically figured out the white balance for me, so no large deviation is needed. I did lose a lot of the cool tones from the lights, so I wanted to bring those back in, especially in the shadows.
Small Touch-Up Adjustments
Added a little bit more exposure to the image, just to move over the brightness a bit. The image felt like it was way too dark for a singer in the spotlight, so I would rather have it feel more like the light was incredibly bright, rather than a bit washed.
I brought up the shadows a bit further than I would want to if this was my last step, just to get a little bit more light in the areas that aren’t considered blacks for when I boost the contrast. I like working in this fashion, because it lets me control the important parts of the image, such as the shadows, skin tones, and dominant colors. At the same time, with an image like this, I am not too worried about the extremes. The highlights and shadows of this image are essential, but modifications to them won’t make or break this composition.
Lastly, the little bump of contrast mentioned earlier. I really like what this does to the colors, shadows, and highlights, without needing to work through those areas separately. These lighter adjustments pair really well with the magic tool, especially when working on a faster, punchier, and less natural edit.
Check out our manual photography cheat sheet for some quick simple tips!
Using filters to add interest
Now that all my basic adjustments are completed, I feel as though the image is actually starting to look OK. If I was in a real rush to post, I would stop here, and get it out. If, on the other hand, I had a bit more time, I would start adding some other effects. Quickshot makes this really fast and simple.
I like to use film effects for darker indoor concerts, generally. The reason that I like to use these film filters is that they do a lot of the adjustment work that I may have ignored for me. For example, black tones are often a lot nicer and more modern in these filters. This is evident when you compare the image after adjustments to this image:
You can see how much work the filter did for me! While I could certainly achieve this with more time spent on more minor adjustments, the goal of this editing session isn’t as good as possible, it’s as good as possible without spending hours and going crazy! You, too, can do this with the use of the filters. Especially the film ones!
Adding new visual components
Lastly, and this is more of a creative aside, you have the option to add elements and overlays to your images. If you are shooting in a more creative capacity, go ahead with this. If, on the other hand, you are shooting in a more editorial capacity, don’t do this. This editing does not follow the guidelines for what is acceptable in post-processing at most journalistic publications. This is mainly meant for creative use and sharing.
There are two different additions I make to this image. The first one is going to be an overlay that adds a lot of little blips of light, and one bigger flare. The purpose here is two-fold: add more visual interest to the blue/right-hand side of the image, and add some dust-like visuals that compliment the film filter. This is what the image looks like after the application of this overlay:
The second step is going to be the use of an element that is similar to the overlay I just added. The reason for the inclusion of this is to, basically, pump up the effect of the overlay, without having to increase the strength of the overlay. This is not really necessary, but I liked what it added to the image:
And, lastly, here is our final image:
When should you approach concert and performance photography in this manner?
I’m a fan of how this came out. For me, long gone are the days of trying to find somewhere I can plug my SD card into my laptop at an overly occupied concert venue, trying to get some photos out. I love the ability to transfer images to my phone and make several edits like these between sets. I also thoroughly enjoy attending concerts. When attending a concert, I like to take photos and upload them while there, and quick edits from my phone set mine apart. In that situation, this editing approach is a blessing.
This is not the highest level of editing possible, clearly. What this is is a simple technique that can help you create content while at an important event. As a photographer, this also lets you easily post content multiple times: an original piece from the content, while attending. The second release of photos, as a takeaway showcasing your best work.
Have fun shooting live! And have more fun editing live, too!