Christmas concert photography

Last Thursday evening my wife and I attended our granddaughter’s first Christmas concert. We joined what seemed to be a few hundred parents, siblings, and of course other grandparents in a small multipurpose gym. We arrived early because the seating would be limited and as it turned out, it was standing room only. Who knew?

  • Dec. 13, 2010 5:00 p.m.

Last Thursday evening my wife and I attended our granddaughter’s first Christmas concert. We joined what seemed to be a few hundred parents, siblings, and of course other grandparents in a small multipurpose gym. We arrived early because the seating would be limited and as it turned out, it was standing room only. Who knew?

There were many people holding little digicams, and even a few with expensive DSLRs, but they just sat in their chairs talking and waiting, hopeful their cameras would make wonderful photographs of that children’s concert. One parent near us realized she hadn’t charged her batteries in advance. We had chosen centre isle seats near the back, and I like that location because it’s easy to move around from, and I can watch who will be getting in my way and make preparations.

After greeting my son, his wife, and our other granddaughter I began making tests. I walked up and down the centre isle making exposure after exposure so that by the time the concert started I knew my exposure and exactly where to stand for wide and close shots.

There was a well-lit stage for the performers. The audience lights were lowered, and each teacher positioned themselves at centre front isle so they could coach (and coax) the children as they sang.

This was a problem for most relatives that wanted a clear photograph, and as I looked around I observed them photographing each teacher’s back in what would be wide, poorly exposed shots.

Flashes on little digicams only have a reach of approximately 15 feet, and even if the small figures on the stage were visible in the pictures, everything in the foreground would be extremely over exposed.

I did notice a few DSLRs, but they were being used from the back of the audience with long lenses; and no matter how expensive they were the resulting images would be much the same as the digicams with inconsistent exposures and with the back of the teacher.

As the concert began, and before my granddaughter appeared, I stepped into the isle and made some shots; and as I expected, they were not to my satisfaction.

Yes, I could see the whole group with their teacher, back to me, gesturing, but the children were too far away; and although some parents may be interested in their children’s classmates, I selfishly only cared about getting good pictures of my granddaughter.

I moved up closer. My technique for being in front of other people is to select my spot, kneel down out of everyone’s view until I am ready, then I stand up, take my picture, and kneel down again.

With my camera and lens pre-set, I only needed to work around the teacher just to my left in front of me, two or three parents sitting on the floor holding their digicams at arms length above their heads, and the one grandparent kneeling and wildly waving.

The concert was fun and my granddaughter was excellent (in my opinion anyway) and I took lots of pictures of her while she was on stage.

I then downloaded the image files from my camera to my computer when I got home. I edited, re-edited, then edited again for a final selection of nine that I liked, and finally down to four that I really liked.

My opinion is anything but the best is just wasting space, and I never want people to see anything but my best photographs.

As I left the concert I could hear people saying they wished they could have got better photographs. Of course they blamed their equipment or other people, but not themselves.

For photographers the decision should be easy; every photographic opportunity should be thought out and they should always take the time to produce quality images. In this instance they needed to get closer to the front so that their small flashes would work. They should have pre-selected their exposure, their focal length, and their location.

These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at or at 250-371-3069. John Enman operates Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops, and offers professional wedding photography, photographic instruction, and sells an interesting selection of used photographic equipment. Check out his website

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