Very simple key to great live band lighting that I wish bands and venues would use

This isn’t a post about what a photographer can do to create good lighting for a live show; it’s actually directed at the lighting the bands—and I am talking in the context of local bands/venues—themselves are using. Photographers shooting live acts may be unwilling or even not allowed to implement their own off-camera lighting depending on the band or venue, but what I’ve noticed for years and have been endlessly frustrated by is the tendency for lighting rigs to go all mono on the color scheme. Namely, the front lights washing the band are the same as the backlights. This makes everything onstage feel incredibly flat and distant, with no “pop”. Don’t get me started on the “classic” all-red scene. Just don’t. I’m grinding me teeth right now just writing this sentence thinking about it. God, that’s the worst. Okay, I’m calming down right now. Moving on…

I’m going to post some photos from an event I shot this past week with some fantastic lighting. What want you to pay attention to is not the rig itself or how obviously expensive it is, but pay attention to the COLOR SCHEME:

See how the singer, washed with white, pops out from the multi-colored background.
Same effect and result with the guitar player.
And another example. I’ll address the light rig shortly.
By this point you should be seeing how the white front wash helps the performers pop out on stage.
Just a couple more examples…
And this example shows a simple two color scheme; the performers are washed with white from the front while the background is all blue. See how even here they pop.


And heres an example from the same show when they went all mono:

Example of all-mono color scheme. Yes, the screen in the back is cool, but notice how the band disappears on stage.

Yes, it’s still cool in this instance, but notice how flat the band is and how they disappear and blend into the stage. I’m refraining from showing other examples from other shows because I don’t want to call anyone out specifically.

And now, before you all burst out in indignation about how expensive and unrealistic that kind of lighting rig is—okay, okay, stop,—quiet—let me finish, yes, I get that’s an expensive—shut up, I’m not finished—wait, just let me—I know, I’m not suggesting you have to get a rig like this—my god will you let me FINISH!…okay…what I’m telling you to do is to pay attention to is the COLOR scheme lighting the band members from the front, and how the background is lit in a completely different color. See how that allows the band members to “pop”, and generally see how much more flattering the white light washing the band members is on the performers themselves. They don’t just disappear on stage. I’ve set up and run light rigs for bands before; I know each light can be set to its own separate channel that can be programmed separately from the other lights on stage. And anybody with even the most basic lighting rig can do it. Just set your front lights to wash the performers with white, and the back lights can be your reds, blues, greens, mix, etc etc. Add some fog and you really begin to get a sense of depth. (And yes, there are some songs or parts of songs where it will make sense to go all mono…but just for those brief seconds.) It really is pretty simple and will make the band members look great.

And finally, here are a couple of examples from some local gigs I shot a few years ago, just to demonstrate that you can do it on a small scale. Now, this is a case where I set up an off camera flash to light the band from the front with white, but the same can be done with a light rig:

Lit from the front in white, the musician pops out.
Ditto. Note how the singer pops out against the colored background.



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