How to Edit Live Music Photos

After sharing with you my black and white techniquesI thought I'd keep spreading the Xmas cheer with a little insight into how to edit live music photos, or at the very least how to edit them like I do. Which is an awesome way. So there's no reason you wouldn't want to do it this way. 

Step one: Take a sexy photo.

So there's The 1975s at Electric Picnic, being all photogenic and whathaveyou. You've taken this awesome photo and people you find attractive are flinging their delicates at you in appreciate of your sheer brilliance and sudden increase in attractiveness. This happens to me all the time. 

Anyway, this is the file as it was on the back of my camera. You'll notice it's lacking a lot of contrast and that's a problem you'll get with shows where there's a lot of dry ice/smoke machines. It's not a major issue, and because we've shot Raw, we've loads of information in the image to work with. So let's move toStep Two:

Open up in Camera Raw

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All dials are set to zero and we can get started on editing. Before we touch anything, we should ask ourselves, what do we want from this photo? Clearly we want to give it a kick, make it more contrasty. But we don't want to lose much detail in the blacks, I mean his jacket is pretty dark as is and I don't know about you, but I hate pure white in images. So contrasty, within a range. I reckon I need to brighten the image up as a whole too. The colours are okay, I don't really think making live music images cool/cold works in any way, so I'm happy with that as it stands. So let's move to Step Three

Fix That Exposure

What?! You didn't get it right in camera? Oh my God, you're such a failure.
And so on, on every photo forum on the internet. Listen, I don't care what you do in the privacy of your own photo pit or editing suite. It's your own business. But just make sure you're the exposure right at the end.

I mean, you're shooting in a dark room, your camera's set to Manual (or at least it should be) and the lights are changing faster than a strobe machine being operated by someone with a twitch. Chances are not every shot's gonna be spot on exposure-wise. Not the end of the world. Here we gave a generous bump to the exposure dial, and things are already looking much better. 

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On to Step Four

Make the Blacks Black. 

Seriously, if you take one thing away from this tutorial, it's that almost ANY gig shot can be made better with more black. Go mad. See what works, it'll vary depending on the image, but be generous with it. You can go too far, sure, but a nice big dollop of black is always welcomed. 

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By now, you've done most of the ground work for a great image, things that should be done 99% of the time. I recommend pulling the Clarity up ever-so slightly (somewhere below 7, anyway) and a wee touch of Contrast for good measure. I'd also up the White and Highlights a smidgen too. I always find that it's Shadows that are a personal taste call. 

Shadows basically fill in the areas that are already darkish with some more shading, or they will add light to them and open them up a bit. For example, with more shading to the shadows to the images you get this:

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Whereas making the shadows brighter will give you this:

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I rather the former, so I'll push the shadows down to dark. Here's what the final Camera Raw image looks like with all the changes I've made. You can click it to see it larger: 

With the image open in Photoshop I'll make some tiny changes. I'll clone out that small lens flare just behind our man in the frame (the small white line), and I'll colour correct that odd orange triangle down the bottom right of the frame too. I'll sharpen it with a Smart Sharpen set to about 13 or so. I'll also crop it, so that the microphone stand's arm bit is out of the frame. 

Dodging and Burning would be something that most photos need doing to them too. I keep it relatively simple here, Burning the shadows at the extremities and Doging the highlights in his hair.

And that's it. 

In about 10 minutes we've gone from this

To this:

If you're particularly handy with Photoshop, you could even set up a batch process of the basic edits at the start for your images and save even more time on this editing technique.

There's tonnes more you can do, from playing with layers, to cloning in new pieces to the scene. But this'll set you up nicely for whatever you need. It's a perfect start, and if you're happy you could even end it here!

But, by now you're probably too covered in sexy people to be reading a computer. However, after your sexy escapades, be sure to let me know if you liked what you read in the comments below and check out the Facebook Page here.