Daily Archives January 1, 2020

On stage at Self Help Festival 2018. Thanks to Adam Elmakias for the photo!

The Joy of Live Music Photography

First, thank you to Scott for the opportunity to do another guest post. And thanks to Brad for all the work you do here too. Both of you inspire me daily.

As you can probably guess by the title of this post, I’m a concert photographer, and I think every photographer should try photographing a concert at least once. It is one of the most fun photo environments you will ever encounter. It will also require that you can operate your gear without thought.

Unlike some other areas of photography, where we might position the subject, and control or shape the light, in live music photography you can’t do any of that. The lead singer may be in front of you with the perfect expression, and then gone before you can get focus. He may be in low light as you set exposure, and under bright landing lights by the time you shoot the shot. The lighting director will try to push the limits of what the human eye can see, and since the camera sees much less dynamic range than our eyes, your images may be clipped on both ends of the histogram.

For photographers that are accustomed to having full control, concerts will challenge you at every turn. Like with any type of photography, there is a lot more to concert photography than I can cover here. My hope is to give you a few general tips below, in case you ever try this yourself.

Terror at Self Help Fest 2019. ISO 6400, 70mm, f/2.8, 1/400

My first tip is to ignore the noise. We music photographers live at ISO settings that make some people cry. Just crank the ISO as needed to allow a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action, and a sharp noisy shot is always better than a blurry clean shot. That is not to say you can’t play with motion and blur, just that when needed be sure you can get the shot you want or need.

What is Concert Photography?

The answer to this question is part of the reason I love this genre. At its core, concert photograph is really just Low Light Action Photography, similar to photographing some sporting events. But, it is also event photography, environmental portraiture, and photojournalism.

Rob Halford of Judas Priest. ISO 1600, 140mm, f/2.8, 1/400

Depending on who you are shooting for it could be any one of those, a combination of some, or all of the above.

Getting Started

The most important thing to know about shooting live music is that you can’t just walk into a Foo Fighters concert with a pro camera. Major artists, the ones that play festivals and arenas, want press coverage.

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. ISO 3200, 185mm, f/2.8 1/500

That means you will generally need media credentials to shoot the show. How do get those?

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