Saving the Concert Shot With B&W

Have you ever shot a concert and found that the shot you really like is contaminated with funky colors?  This happens quite often when there is a light show going on as the band plays.  Sometimes the lights are overpowering and you get some funky, oversaturated colors.  Don’t worry, all is not lost.  Here’s the big secret to fixing that concert shot with the funky colors, just make it a black & white.  That’s right, in just one click, you can convert your shot into something that is classic and timeless.  If you want to get really fancy you can add some other effects as well.  Here’s a few moves in Lightroom that I like to do for my concert shots.

*All of the processing mentioned here was done in LR3 beta 2 but most all of it could have just as easily been done in LR2.

Let’s take a look at this picture I shot of Tony from Big Electric Cat, the band that plays the After Hours party at Photoshop World.

It’s not bad but some of the lights shining on his head are pretty vivid and his shirt is looking a little funky as well.  It’s not the white balance but the different colored lights from the stage that are making it hard to adjust.  So the first thing I am going to do with this shot is to make it a black and white by simply clicking on B&W in the HSL/Color/B&W development panel.  This will remove the color from the image and apply a default B&W adjustment to the image.

I don’t really use the adjustment sliders in the B&W panel unless I am trying to lighten or darken something that is a specific color in the original image. From here I move to the Tone Curve adjustment and adjust the contrast levels of the image using the tone curve. I prefer to use the sliders but that’s just my preference.

Next on the list is a little LR3 creativity.  There’s a new panel in LR3 called Effects and it is the new home of the Post-Crop Vignette along with a new adjustment called Grain.  I like to make adjustments with both of these for this type of shot.  First I add a heavy vignette and adjust the feather to soften it a bit.  I also increased the Highlights slider to 100% to keep the lights and such from getting darkened too much around the edges. Then I added grain to the image to give it that classic black and white look, like I was shooting with Tri-X.

I could certainly stop there but just for fun I decided to add a split tone effect to bring a little color back into the image.  I chose a cool tone but you can certainly play with the hue slider and find just the right look for your images.

So here’s the final image after just a little more adjustment of the exposure slider and adding just a bit of Clarity.  I think that it is a much more dramatic image than the original and has a very classic look to it.  So don’t forget, whenever you are shooting a concert and the lighting is kind of messing things up, just convert to a B&W and presto, classic concert image.

* Make sure that you click on the images to see them full-size

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  • http://williambeem.com William Beem

    Just like Scott & Alan told us in the concert pre-con. One of the issues they discussed was red light on a musician. No one looks good in red light, but a quick conversion to B&W makes it work (if you have a good image, otherwise).

  • Michael Preston

    Good stuff, Jeff….Thanks!

  • http://www.kentoneyphoto.com Ken Toney

    Jeff, I wished i just knew how to get the windows from Lightroom in the photos like you did. Can you e-mail me with instructions?

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