Marmalade Jam Night – Smith’s

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Marmalade Jam Night

In this post I’ll be telling you about my most recent music photography assignment covering the re-launch of the Marmalade Jam Night at Smith’s Cocktail Bar in Hammersmith.  Regular readers of the blog may remember that I covered the Marmalade Jam back in April 2015 at the Oscar Wilde Bar in Regent Street.  Read on to see how I got on at the new venue and check out the previous Marmalade Jam Night post if you missed it.

The Story

Following my night at the Marmalade Jam Night earlier in the year I was excited to receive a Facebook invite to the event relaunch at Smith’s.  The event is free and offers a relaxed evening of entertainment for all involved.  The house band get things going and then other performers are called to the stage to join in.  The event serves many purposes; a proving ground for new performers, practice and networking opportunities for working musicians and a good night out with live music for everyone else.

The Marmalade Jam Night has a new website coming soon, I will update the post when this is live.  Check out the event Facebook page here.

Smith’s Cocktail Bar website.

The Day of the Shoot

Live music in bars is generally performed under challenging lighting conditions.  I have put my trusty 35mm prime to good use in similar circumstances before and have since added a few more low light lenses to my arsenal.  The Marmalade Jam Night was the perfect opportunity to put them to the test.  Flash is often not allowed in music venues so I decided to challenge myself and left it at home.

In my kit bag:

  • Nikon D7100
  • Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX
  • Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
  • Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 VR II
  • 64 GB Sandisk Extreme SDXC Card

I arrived at Smith’s nice and early to get a feel for the venue and to check out the lighting.  The house band were still setting up but I could see they had a few LED stage lights with them which was a plus.  I also noticed a small TV crew setting up in the corner.  I went over to say hi and found out that they were filming a follow up piece on a Rhonda Pownall who featured in the BBC’s “The Choir” in 2006.  They were only going to be filming one performance so I promised to stay out of their way until they were done.

Marmalade Jam Night
Nikon D7100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/125s, ISO 800

Chelsey, the Marmalade Jam Night organiser, had made a great “name in lights” prop for the event so I fired off a few pictures of that whilst the final preparations were made to the performance area.  I could see that the LED lights were being set up on the floor.  One lamp was going to be up lighting the vocalist, a type of lighting which is never very flattering.  Ever held a torch under your chin in the dark to make a spooky face?  The other lamps were aimed at the ceiling and dotted around the performance area.

Rhonda Pownall
Nikon D7100, 180mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 1600
Chelsey Marmalade Jam Night
Nikon D7100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/125s, ISO 1600

Things got underway and I dialled in my settings as the house band did a sound check.  The floor lamps were set to cycle through a range of colours and I found I was getting the best results when they cycled back to white.  The TV crew had set up a small LED light panel off to one side which was helping to give a more even light to the singer.  Rhonda took to the stage and performed the same song twice so that the TV crew could get a few angles.  I kept out of their way but fired off a few shots from the periphery.

“Laying on the floor, much to the amusement of all who looked on.”

I was on the look out for interesting angles and experimented, laying prone on the floor at one point much to the amusement of all who looked on.  There were some candles lit on the tables so I tried to find a shot using these as foreground interest.  This is the best one I came up with but I think there is still room for improvement and ideally I would have found a way to have the candle higher up and on the right hand side of the frame.  The LED lamp is tucked between the two monitor speakers on the floor but you can clearly see the harsh uneven light it was pouring onto Chelsey.

Mikey Christer Marmalade Jam Night
Nikon D7100, 85mm, f/1.8, 1/200s, ISO 1600

The film crew left, taking their light with them and the bar started to get busier.  More musicians started to arrive for the Marmalade Jam Night including Mikey Christer, a singer and guitarist.  Mikey was helped to the stage as he is blind but once he was positioned in front of the mic he had a commanding presence.  Mikey whipped the house band into shape and gave a great performance.

“There were some strong colour casts to my images.”

Marmalade Jam Night
Nikon D7100, 85mm, f/1.8, 1/250s, ISO 1600

With the constantly changing colours of light there were some strong colour casts to my images.  The majority of the time these did not add anything to the image and so I did lots of work in post production to even things out and make them look more natural.  There were a few exceptions to the rule however, in this shot the colours on the singer’s face compliment those on his shirt and also work well with the background.  I really like the overall composition too which makes this one of my favourite shots from the Marmalade Jam Night.

After the Shoot

I edited the Marmalade Jam Night images over the days following the event and posted them in an online gallery for all of the performers to download.  I also did my usual social media thing which resulted in some good publicity for all involved and pushed my Instagram followers over the 100 mark.  Give the less than optimal lighting I also produced a black and white edit of each image so that the performers could choose their preferred version.

“Pushed my Instagram followers over the 100 mark.”

I will be looking to shoot more Marmalade Jam Night events in the near future and also hope to do some work for an online music magazine soon so watch this space for more music photography.  You can see more of my work on Facebook and Instagram, I am always grateful for your support on social media.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share your comments below.

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