Marcus Eaton Trio at Nectar 10 Apr 08. Jim on bass, Kevin on drums. Awesome show, over in Fremont. It was an eclectic line up with Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears, followed by Marcus, then Kris Orlowski closing out the night.
A few words about low-light
Shooting musicians in clubs presents some of the most challenging conditions for capturing images. Photography is about capturing light, and in these settings there is no (well, very little) light! Your options: slow your shutter speed (more time lets in more light), open the aperture (let light in through a bigger hole), boost the signal (raise your ISO). Each of these three options comes with its own individual caveats. Slowing your shutter speed too much will result in motion blur, either from you moving while hand-holding the camera, or more likely from the musicians fast hands. The quick rule of 1 / focal length (i.e. 1/50 sec or faster for a focal length of 50-mm) helps, but I’d recommend faster if possible to stop motion: say 1/125 sec.
Available apertures will depend on your lens; faster than F/2.8 is helpful for low light. Prime lenses are much better suited (and they’re available down to F/1.2 [F/1.0 to be technically correct and included lenses no longer in production for Canon EOS]). A good bang-for-the-buck lens that would go a long ways in this environment is the EF 50 MM F/1.8 II… better still is the F/1.4 version.
ISO is the equivalent of ASA, or film speed. In digital photography it is a way to boost your sensor’s sensitivity (more signal = appearance or more captured light). The downside to raising the ISO is that gaining any signal simultaneously results in higher background (i.e. noise). Digital cameras these days are getting better, especially DSLRs. Most CMOS based sensors have very little problems getting up to ISO 1000 and even to 1600, some go 3200 and higher. Be carful, you’ll definitely run into a noise wall at those upper limits where you are introducing more background than true signal and you will lose detail.
The above photos were shot in Manual mode at 1/60-1/80, F/2.8-F/3.2, and ISO 3200. In the end, do what works for you. =]