I had the pleasure of going (with my partner Cas) to a club in Montreal called O Patro Vys, where my friend and former student Matt Stern was playing. I had called Matt, who is a singer-songwriter of much talent and growing recognition, and offered to do some publicity stills for him. For me it was practice, and if the photos turned out they would be of some use to him. We had some fun before his show downstairs from the club at Billy Kun, a popular bar whose owners also apparently own O Patro Vys.

Portrait of Matt Stern
The ISO on this was actually fairly low for the light, and I was able to reduce the grain in Adobe Lightroom, as well as to play with the light a bit (see the text below). I'm happy with this shot.
Portrait of Matt Stern
I chose the sepia tone in part because the grain was very heavy and it seemed to work better. I also picked it because there was a red light coming in through the window that was interfering with the composition. Matt seemed to like this one in particular, as he used it in his blog.

Here are a couple of shots from that session, which lasted about 15 minutes. I had to think a bit, as it was quite dark in the club. First, I found the most brightly lit tables, then I moved some candles and such close to him … then I cranked up the ISO (that is, the degree of light-sensitivity of my electronic sensor) to the lowest setting I could get away with.

I wanted shallow depth of field in most of the shots, so I was able to open my aperture right up to let the most light possible into the camera.

The first image was edited a bit more in post, to bring out the light a little more. Essentially I used a graduated light setting to emphasize the band of light on Matt’s face and shirt. The effect was to darken the background, essentially. I like it a lot.

You have to be careful with high ISO values, as the image will become quite grainy, but fortunately this is also something we expect of night and dark-indoors shots. It is a testament to the technology in the Canon 7D that I was able to do this without a flash.

The second photo was not edited much beyond adjusting the colour, though I did reduce the grain just a bit.

Afterwards, I went up for the show and got some great shots of Matt playing. He was also followed by Melina Soochan, a really great Pianist and singer-songwriter who played with a trio. The light on the stage was, of course, brighter than the light in the bar – this made it a lot easier to set the camera. I had a couple of issues with the angles available from the front-left and front-right of the stage, but you do what you must. There was also the matter of the strong magenta/purple lights on the stage. Here are four: one of Matt and three of Melina and her band.

By the way, if you ever manage to get to a Matt Stern show – or a Melina Soochan show! – you’ll have a great time. Check out the web sites (I linked to them in the text) and listen to their music. You won’t be sorry.

I enjoy the way the background just fades to black.
Melina Soocan
For this one I put the camera on a jaunty angle. She seemed to like it, as she used this (and the others I'm putting here) on her website.
Michael Johancsik was great on the sax, but I was too close to get a decent shot of more than the instrument.
jWaTtS percussion
Purple light - whatcha gonna do? This is jWaTtS.