Talk To Steve – Shooting Shows And Events


What kit I use and other key tips….


My choice of kit…

Nikon D5 (maybe the Sony A9 will take over at the top!)

Nikon 70-200 2.8 (E) slightly sharper, faster with better close focus and focus buttons on the barrel.

Nikon TC14E mk3 40% more focal length for just 1 f-stop (100mm-280mm Equivalent)

Sony XQD Cards & Lexar Workflow XQD Reader 



Basic Settings

I usually shoot 14Bit Raw and convert after but most shoot jpeg! (I typically shoot 1200 Raws in a 16min show and edit and process them in minutes after the show – Often the Finale image is requested within 10mins of the show lights going out)

Shutter speed: at least 1/320sec higher if enough light

Aperture: Try not to shoot wide open the extra sharpness and depth of field in stopping down to f4-5.6 will help a lot.

ISO: Start at 800 ISO but I’ve shot shows at 10,000 ISO!

White Balance: When shooting Raw this isn’t an issue if Jpeg starts with 3200K (most likely) but some guys in the pit do a preset manual WB setting by shooting someone in a white shirt just as the show lights come up.


AF Settings

This is a big subject and there is no ideal set of settings for all circumstances. But over time, I learnt a few things that helped with catwalk (and other moving subjects).

AF-C Priority selection: I usually use Focus and release

Release – Will fire camera whether in focus or not

Focus and release – Priority is given to focus for the first shot in the series (will still shoot the rest even if focus has drifted off)

Release and focus – Photos can be taken even if not in focus, the continuous frame rate will slow for improved focus.

Focus – Photos can only be taken if the camera has confirmed focus – many ‘good enough’ shots will be missed in this mode!

If AF-C is selected the camera will continue to adjust focus until the shutter is released.

Focus tracking with lock-on: Depends on if you have models crossing each other’s path.

Blocked shot AF response – Choose the length of time before the camera refocuses from 1 (Quick), 2, 3, 4, and 5 (Delayed). The higher the value, the slower the response and less likely you are to lose focus on your original subject. The lower the value, the quicker the response and the easier it is to shift focus to objects crossing your field of view.

Subject MotionChoose how the camera tracks subjects in motion. Choose Steady for subjects approaching the camera at a steady

pace, like speed skaters or race cars on a track, Erratic for hockey players and other subjects prone to sudden stops and starts.

3D Tracking Watch Area: This decides how the camera tracks subjects that leave the selected focus point and selects new focus points. Wide is better for fast moving objects.

A number of focus points:  Select whether 55 points or 15 points are available to choose from.

AF-ON: Choose (AF‑ON Only) to split the functions of the AF‑ON and shutter-release buttons so that the former is used for focus while the latter is used only to release the shutter.

Group Focus: Groups a number of focus points around the selected point and thus makes one bigger focus point! Very useful

Dynamic Area: 25P will use 24 points around the selected point to help out if the subject moves outside of the initial focus point.

3D Tracking – Uses Brightness/Contrast/ Distance information, but more importantly, it uses Colour also, which is great for tracking items that have to stay a different colour from the background. Added to this you can use face detect! In 3D tracking, a single AF point will follow the subject around the frame – very useful for erratic movement.

Note: You will need to play with all the above to find what works for you and what environment.


The Shot

There’s no one ideal shot but the key (full-length) one to nail is when the model has her/his front foot down and the back foot just about to leave the ground – this makes for best posture.

Generally, I use the Back button focus and shoot small bursts (this helps as the clothes will move during the split second the model is in the correct position) – With the D5 the buffer is hardly ever an issue, even in 14bit Raw (183 shots and 5 secs to clear completely)

After you have got the full-length, keep following the model down the catwalk to pick up details such as bags, sunglasses and shoes (be mindful of change in light levels from halfway down the catwalk, to that on the turn closest to the pit)


Other Tips

  1. Get in early, take your gaffer tape and Sharpie and markup your spot

     2)  Take a small step (you never know who is in front of you)



     3) Make friends with those around you in the pit, space is at a premium and if someone gives you a couple of inches it can really help during the show. You might gain useful information like the colour temperature of the show lights before the event starts….

4)  Keep a spare memory card in your pocket – you never know!


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