hall of fame photo sound bites grill

hall of fame photo sound bites grill

The Making of
Sound Bites Grill Hall of Fame Image

I’ve often been asked how I create the art images for the Sound Bites Grill Hall of Fame. Thought I might share the process here from start to finish.

sound bites grill hall of fame imageFinished Hall of Fame image with Gaelle Buswell and her band members

First, I make photos from the show during the live performance. This is a bit easier said than done as performers are moving in and out of the light, have strange expressions when they reach for THAT note, etc. I need to watch and learn as each performer works and then make sure I’ve gotten enough source material on all the band members.

Then it’s time to download all the images and begin the culling process. Lots of images get thrown away on the first pass. Then I’ll go back through to look for the selects. Those are the photos that have the body position, expression and look I am going for in the final art piece.

The individuals are extracted from their photo and placed upon their own layer so effects such as drop shadows and lighting can be applied individually. Then it’s time to start working on combining all the elements of people, texture, drop shadows, color adjustments and more.

animated gif of building art pieceAnimated Gif of the various Layers

 Above is a Gif showing most of the Layers made in Photoshop to give you an idea of how the pieces work together during the build. Below is a screen capture of the Layers Palette in Photoshop.

layers palette for imageLayers Palette of the Gaelle Hall of Fame image

I’m thrilled with the dynamic range of the Lumix Micro 4/3rds camera gear. The camera is Lumix G9 Panasonic’s stills flagship model with the LUMIX G X VARIO LENS, 35-100MM, F2.8 ASPH 

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob


gaelle buswell singer at sound bites grill

gaelle buswell singer at sound bites grill

Sound Bites Grill Entertainer
Gaelle Buswell

Great Show

First I want to say what a great show it was at Sound Bites Grill in Sedona, AZ. I photograph musicians at this venue on a regular basis, and it’s a great space. Gaelle is from France, and she brought her A game with her for the performance. I look forward to a return engagement should it happen to come this way.

gaelle buswell sings at sound bites grill sedonaGaelle Buswell Live on stage at Sound Bites

Photographing a Live Performance

I want to talk to you about capturing images from a live performance. In the studio, you have control of the lighting, posing, and expression of your subject. Not so much when the performers are live on stage. The lighting is what the lighting is, and while it was set for a specific place on stage, the entertainers often are moving in and out of the preset light pattern. Expressions can be all over the place with closed eyes, weird mouth positions, and strange body positions. To get the best captures that are flattering to the subject you need to study the movements of the performer before beginning to photograph. If you do this, you will start to notice what type of body language will happen with certain kinds of songs. When does the performer close their eyes? And better yet when will they be open? Where is the light best? The study will get you more and better images than if you just start firing away.

Processing the Files

Once you have the capture, it’s time to finesse it in post-processing. There are always improvements to be made. Control of the highlight and shadows. Getting the best color for the situation can be a bit of work because of the LED lighting not having a full spectrum. This can give some bizarre color tones on the skin, and even if everything else is excellent, an unflattering skin tone can kill a shot. Many times I will double process an image and combine. One copy is prepared for the background and the other for the skin tones. Using Layer in Photoshop and adding Masks allow complete control.

original image of gaelleOriginal image of Gaelle after ACR Process and before tweaks

You can compare the image above with the photo on the top of this post. You will see with a little dodging and burning along with a tiny bit of cloning there are fewer distractions from the performer. Let me know if you can see what the differences are. There are five.

Black and White

I always process out my images to black and white. One is for my clients use in PR situations. Providing BW images will lead to better quality in print, especially newspapers rather than letting the Paper just do a desaturation. The other reason is viewing a black and white image tells you if your tonal values are on because you are not distracted by the color.

gaelle in black and whiteGaelle in black and white

Camera Gear

As always I am using Lumix Micro 4/3rds camera gear. The camera is Lumix G9 with the LUMIX G X VARIO LENS, 35-100MM, F2.8 ASPH Instead of using the Leica f2.8-4.0 12-60mm when I am shooting in scenes with this much contrast and moving performers I want the speed and control f2.8 of the fixed aperture lens.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob



musician photography

musician photography

Studio Photography of a Harp Musician

I enjoy working with creative people. It’s a blast. Creative folks tend to bring an extra little something to the photo session. I was working with Sedona musician Peter Sterling the other day. He had some specific thoughts on the session we were photographing for some headshots and CD cover art.

Once an idea is put forward, then it’s time to tweak the lighting to create the mood and feeling needed. We started with a high key background then went to a low key background with more dramatic lighting.

One of the first images from the session. * setup described below harpist photoHarpist Peter Sterling

Above and below are unretouched photos on a high key background. Peter was an excellent subject as he made excellent eye contact with the camera and was easy to get relaxed. He made my job pretty easy!

peter sterling harp player photoI liked this one as a different look but wasn’t thrilled with the foot pad and stool. I wanted to crop in but it has a very casual feel, and it keeps growing on me.

photo of peter sterling harp music performerMoved to a black background and worked on a more moody look. Peter asked me to retouch this one, and I like it a lot! ** the setup described below

photo of peter sterling harp music performer black and whiteWhen I do final retouching for artists, I always include a black and white version. This is often way better than sending off a color image and letting the newspaper or magazine do the conversion.

* White seamless backdrop with a Fiilex 360ex Variable LED light with 24×36 inch softbox as main light (camera right) Camera left another light with a smaller softbox used as fill.

** Black seamless backdrop and lights as above but adjusted for more drama. A 5-inch Fiilex Fresnel attachment was added to another light for the background

Images were captured with the Panasonic Lumix G9 and the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 lens and processed in Adobe Photoshop

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob


sound bites grill – richardson

sound bites grill – richardson

Walt Richardson & Friends at Sound Bites Grill Sedona

What a great show! Walt is known for his reggae music, but he is so much more. He’s a legendary songwriter with a big heart, and it shows during his performance. His friends are entertaining and talented musicians. There’s a reason Walt is in the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Walt’s own words say it best, “I am a Soul, Living out my life as a Songwriting, Storytelling, and performing Musician.”

Learn more about Walter Richardson & Friends.

Walt Richards & friends band - bob coates PhotographyArt with signatures for the Wall of Fame

If you have followed my work you know I photograph the musicians live while they are performing for marketing of future performances. In addition, I create an image for the ‘ Sound Bites Grill ‘Wall of fame’. These art pieces are created with each individual member of the band recorded and then extracted from the image and rebuilt. It’s a great challenge to render each performer and band in a slightly different style. Here in a nod to the reggae, the red and green lighting pattern was utilized in the spot lights. The singer-songwriter and personality of Walt was highlighted by picking an expression with that little smile and wide open eyes.

walt richardson & friends photo art by bob coatesNon-logoed version of the art.

Most of the images were captured with the Lumic GX85 and a 35-100mm G Vario lens.

bob coates photography photo walt richardson & friends bandImage of the full band for future marketing and appearances at Sound Bites

bob coates photography sound bites grill photoBack-stage view at SBG.

walter richardson at sound bites grill by bob coates photography

Walter Richardson black and white photo.

When I am creating the marketing photos I always make the conversion to black and white as well as a color version. There is more to creating a dynamic black and white image for printing than just desaturating the image to monotone. You need to control the contrast and the highlight and shadows properly to make a solid photo.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

live entertainment photography anthony mazella 2

live entertainment photography anthony mazella 2

Live Entertainment Photography – Anthony Mazzella Black & White

Many times if I want to check that I have a good solid image capture I convert to black and white to see how the tones do without the distraction of color. The fact that I produce advertising and marketing images for Sound Bites Grill makes me check that even more often as many of the images I create will end up in a newspaper in black and white.

I recently photographed the Legends of Guitar show at Sound Bites featuring Anthony. You can check the color images in my previous post. Here are the black and white versions.

anthony mazzella guitatist by bob coates photographyThis image still carries the blues feeling. I remember working hard to get Anthony in a spot where there was a separation light on his hat.

anthony mazzella guitatist by bob coates photographyShows the full line of instruments telling the story of the show.

anthony mazzella guitatist by bob coates photographyA little smoke machine action gives extra depth and dimension.

bob coates photography photograph of anthony mazzella guitatist Here’s one that needs the distraction of color. The hot spot of the light is too distracting in this image in black and white.

Check the color versions in the other post to get the most from this post. Images made with the Lumix GX85. The fact they removed the anti-alias filter give a better ‘grain pattern’ in my opinion. Makes for sharper images. And the five-axis image stabilization makes for better handhold ability in the low light.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob




live entertainment photography

live entertainment photography

Live Entertainment Photography – Anthony Mazzella

I’ve been working capturing the performers at Sound Bites Grill in Sedona for about four years. I still enjoy the challenge of making images in this environment.

anthony mazzella guitarist by bob coates photographyAnthony Mazzella on guitar – Image captured with LumixGX85

The latest entertainer to make the Wall of Fame is Anthony Mazzella. Even though Anthony is on the Wall already from a previous performance Sound Bites felt that the stage show Anthony has developed with his salute to Legends of Guitar should have its own special image.

legends of guitar show photo by bob coates photographyFull stage with Anthony and his ‘babies’ all ready to play.

Playing multiple guitars in a variety of styles, along with looping music from other instruments makes this a really great show.

anthony mazzella guitarist by bob coates photographyLED lighting and a smoke machine add a lot of ambiance to the stage.

I’ve been pleased how the Lumix camera gear can handle the contrast range in this difficult shooting scenario. In the earlier cameras, I had to work a lot harder to have detail in the shadows and not loose the pure color of the LED lights. Now, with new processing engines and five-axis image stabilization, I’m able to get more detail across the entire range. Can you say happy?

anthony mazzella guitarist by bob coates Mazzella Playing the blues during his performance.

Monday I’ll share the black and white conversions of these images.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob