6 Tips for Budding Live Concert Photographers

6 Tips for Budding Live Concert Photographers


Being a concert photographer can be very exciting. Imagine yourself standing 6 feet away in front of your beloved idol and taking portraits of them. Not only do you have the ability to shoot one image but can take hundreds of pictures that you can carry home. As a passionate music lover this seems to be heaven and indeed this is a close description how it can feel.


  • But how do you start to become a concert photographer?
  • What equipment do you need?
  • How do you get the shot?

In this short tutorial I will write about my experience of being a concert photographer – I hope it will improve your skills in this exciting field of photography.


1. Getting started! Prepare yourself to become a concert photographer

What is the best way to start? The easiest way to build your career is to begin in small clubs. In these venues it’s more likely that you can enter with your camera equipment without any special press accreditation. Therefore this is the perfect playground for you to change your camera settings and getting used to be in front of a stage. Why not ask some friends who play in a band and offer them your skills next time? For sure they would be more than happy to have pictures of their next concert.

But all beginnings are difficult and so is concert photography.

The problem in these small venues is in the lack of stage light! Most of the concerts I was starting with had only a blue and a red spotlight on stage. Beside the fact that the musicians look like creatures from another galaxy the light is so low that you hardly get sharp pictures when not using proper equipment.

What is the solution for this dilemma?


2. Buy a fast cheap prime lens, now!

Talking about lenses for concert photography always ends up with the same conclusion: use fast lenses! Most of the time the stage light is very low so your only chance to get sharp images is to use a fast lens.

As a beginner I would recommend the cheap 50mm 1.8, because of its ability to shoot in low light at its lowest aperture setting. This lens saved me a couple of times when the light technician seemed to sleep and the stage was almost pitch black. For small stages a 50mm lens is a good compromise to get a head shot of the lead singer and a full length shot of the drummer (depending how big the stage actually is).

How to get rid of the red creature from another galaxy-look? Convert your pictures into black and white and the musicians will look way more natural again.


3. What was this noise all about?

One important setting on your camera is the ISO value. A good setting for your camera’s ISO value is crucial for concert photography. Most of the time you’ll find yourself dialing your ISO setting up to 1600 or higher to get a decent shutter speed.

You may be thinking: “What?! I am using a lens with an aperture of 1.8 and an ISO setting of 1600 and I still not get the shot I want?”

Unfortunately the answer is: Yes, at least most of the time.

Using such high ISO settings at a digital SLRs with a crop sensor will generate a lot of noise. Therefore I recommend to use noise reduction software in your post processing workflow. Or, even better (but more expensive): Buy a full frame camera.


4. Which Mode and Settings Should I shoot with?

In my opinion this is an individual preference and you should try what fits to your style. I always shoot in Aperture priority mode and at my lowest aperture setting (e.g 1.8; 2.8, depending on the lens you are using).

Some people also use manual mode, but I feel rather comfortable that my camera sets the right exposure and I don’t have to think about it.

I always use spot metering, because the stage lights are changing rapidly and you’ll never know if the lights will hit the artists face in the next second or not.

Use multi shot mode. Do not only shoot 1 picture but 3 or 4 to have a higher yield of pictures that you can use.

Finally: Always shoot in RAW format. Sure, you’ll need more storage space, but it is absolutely worth it to have the ability to change all the parameter like white balance and exposure afterwards in post processing.


5. What about Shooting in Big venues?

Welcome to the world of rock stardom! Are you ready to get close to your idols? Thousands of screaming people, squeezed in between the trench and the people behind, create a sheer unsurmountable barrier whereas you enter easily from the side of the stage, sipping coke and walk to the stage in front of the security guards.

You realize all the fancy equipment on the stage that you just used to know from videowalls – and then, suddenly the lights go dark. The band enters the stage, some people scream, others faint but you are just anxious and think: “am i dreaming or is this real” Then it hits you again, damn, it’s real and I am better back to reality again and take some great pics!

This is how it feels like standing in front of a big stage (at least this is the case for me).

You’ll think now: “Great, sounds good, I would like to do this, but how? Tell me, tell me, tell me!!!” The answer: You need a press accreditation. “Oh my gosh, what’s this?”

Don’t be afraid, it’s easier than you think. I started to work for a small internet magazine for students. These small magazines and online platforms will give you the opportunity to get to bigger concerts. Maybe you won’t get tickets for Woodstock 2011, but it should be possible for smaller festivals.

Try to get in touch with people, ask other photographers, talk to other students, maybe one of them is running a magazine. Try your luck at a local newspaper.

I am sure, if you really want to become a concert photographer, there are many ways to achieve your goal.

Once you got your press accreditation, the fun begins. You have to go to the press/VIP ticket counter to get your press ticket.

Most likely, depending on the artist, you are allowed to take pictures of the first 3 songs without flash. Not more. These are the rules and everybody has to stick to it. Leonard Cohen allowed just 1 song. Fortunately it was a long one, 6min time, 300 pictures! Exhausted and happy to get a good one for the newspaper!

Face the truth: you’ll delete most of your pictures and end up with just a few really good ones. As Chase Jarvis is saying just take more pictures to get THE shot you are waiting for.


6. I am standing in front of the stage with my 50mm lens. Why do the others have all this big ones (do they try to compensate for anything)?

Ok, this is the deal. Bigger Venues need bigger lenses and mostly high ISO too!

If you are looking around professional concert photographers they most likely have a full format sensor camera (yep, because of the high ISO capability) and a 24-70 2.8 or 70-200 2.8 or both – or even an ultrawide angle/fisheye lens.

Sure, you can also try your luck with your 50mm but on big stages you definitely need a telephoto lens. The zoom ability is also crucial in my opinion, because you can not move forward, so you have to compose from your point of view.

Sometimes the artist will permanently move so it’s easier to follow him/her with your lens. For instance, Jamiroquai was jumping around for 10 minutes. The other advantage of this back-breaking lenses is that other photographers will take you more seriously and get afraid that you might take better pictures than them.


I hope I could convince you that being a concert photographer is much fun even though you have to spend a lot of time and money for it. But believe me, if you see your pics after the concert of your favourite band on your LCD display on the back of your camera, the efforts it took are forgotten in a second.


  • start in small venues
  • use a lens with a small aperture (e.g. 50mm 1.8)
  • use high ISO settings
  • try to get in contact with magazines and internet platforms to get your press accreditation
  • save your money for a full frame camera and fast zoom lenses: 24-70mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8, ultrawide/fisheye lens
  • Enjoy your new life as a concert photographer

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Matthias Hombauer is a self-taught music photographer. He has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, but has quickly realized that he wanted to combine his two passions, music and photography, instead. Currently, Matthias is based in Vienna/Austria and  works for national and international music magazines as well as record labels and bands in order to capture the amazing moments during a rock stage performance. Check out his new blog on How to Become a Rockstar Photographer

Some Older Comments

  • Mint October 2, 2013 10:24 pm

    I‘m using my old EOS Canon D500 with zoom lens 18mm - 55mm now, but most of my photos are out of focus or not really clear, may i know what is the problems? I always shoot in a rock zone of the concert, may it possible affect the quality of the photos? And also i feels like the auto focus function of my camera was not function anymore, is it also the reason cause those problems?

  • Matthias August 29, 2013 07:12 am

    My new blog is now online with lots of new concert pics including Iggy and the stooges, RHCP, The Prodigy, Rammstein and a couple of band portraits

    Check it out here: http://blog.matthiashombauer.com/

    Greetins from vienna

  • johan bauwens June 25, 2013 04:44 pm

    @Jay : I wonder what kind of gigs you do if you can use f5.6 (no offence). I only get that kind of aperture at outdoor festivals during day time !

    My typical settings for indoor gigs are : Iso 1600 to 3200 (or even 5000), f 1.8 to 3.2, 1100 to 1/320th of a second, 1 entire stop of underexposure. Spot metering.

  • Matthias Hombauer June 25, 2013 04:02 pm

    Hi Jay!

    Great that made it trough your job using all the informations form this article and comments!

  • Jay June 25, 2013 12:00 am

    Just want a massive thank you to every one that contributed to this article, you've all certainly saved my skin. I was asked to fill in for a local theatrical photographer having done a odd wedding here and there. I agreed to shoot a local Shakespear performance near we're I live, thinking this was a small affair, no pressure!!!!!!!
    I thought the day before I'd introduce my myself to the director, when I arrived I was totally shocked to see a production set the size of a small village, the production was 4hrs long and started at 8pm, I've never photographed in low light without flash, so after I trolled through the Internet for many a hr, reading all sorts of does and don't's. I stumbled over this page, took it as gospel and God delivered, thank you guys

  • James May 7, 2013 06:53 am

    I've been shooting for around 4 years semi pro in the UK and have managed to get a few really decent gigs. Old school fav's Feeder and new school Rudimental.. among others its taken me a long long time to start being taken seriously because of the amount of people wanting to get into this sort of line or work. My advise to anyone would be to have determination and patience.

    You wont get accreditation every time maybe not for a while in fact but know that this is what you want to do and stick with it.

    Also if you do end up shooting, experiment with your Fstops because 1.8F may not get you that great photo. I shoot alot of big crowds and the best shots ive taken have been at F5-F6 due to the amount of light given out from the stage.

    Heres a few of my images to highlight.


  • Chelsea Monroe Studios January 2, 2013 06:23 pm

    Thanks for the heads up, I have been Photographing at small local bars and venues for years, I have aslo been giving the Official Hotel Carolina Title at a Music Festival in South Carolina, I have also Photographed a friends band at Hard Rock Live and I will have the honor of Photographing the first time at House Of Blues Orlando this Friday January 4th for Slippery When Wet a Bon Jovi Tribute Band.

    Please take a look at my photos and tell me how you like them. Thank You!

    [eimg url='http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/75387_450885891639169_407881622_n.jpg' title='75387_450885891639169_407881622_n.jpg']
    [eimg url='http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/420708_294568720604221_1725355338_n.jpg' title='420708_294568720604221_1725355338_n.jpg'][eimg url='http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/482028_384039054990520_1856410551_n.jpg' title='482028_384039054990520_1856410551_n.jpg']

  • Matthias November 30, 2012 11:03 pm

    Hi Craig!
    Getting a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 (as Johan recommends) for your camera is a good investment. Since you are limited with your ISO setting (probably 3200 or 6400) you have to get lenses with a small aperture number e.g. 1.4, 1.8, 2.8 to catch enough light. Only drawback you have a fixed lens and you can not zoom anymore.

    Hope that helps and enjoy shooting


  • johan November 30, 2012 06:32 pm

    The 50 mm f 1.4 or the 35 mm f2 (old version). Not too expensive lenses (+- 300 euro).

  • Craig Desmarais November 29, 2012 03:18 pm

    I am using a Canon 60D with an 18-135mm lens and shoot in a medium-sized venue frequently with varying light. I am looking into a 50mm lens that would help take better photos in these low and varying light situations. Any recommendations?

  • Matthias October 12, 2012 05:11 pm

    Hi johan!

    I heard the same things about the 5d mII and therefore decided to go along with a nikon D700. However, I know a lot of good concert photographers who are using the 5D Mark II.

    Regarding lenses you are absolutely right. Most of the time I am using the lenses that you suggested. In addition i am using the 85mm 1.4 and a 14mm 2.8

  • johan October 11, 2012 07:40 am

    I sold my 5D Mark II because the autofocus was crap.

    I'd recommend the 24-70 mm f 2.8, 85 mm f1.8 and 50 mm f1.4 for smaller venues and the 70-200 mm f2.8 for large venues or festivals.

    On most occasions f4 won't do the trick.

  • Matthias October 11, 2012 06:10 am

    Hi Jef!
    With a 5D mk2 you are ready to go. I would suggest to try your 50 2.8 since for the f4 the stage light might be to dim. Set your camera to ISO 3200 - 6400, 1/1250 shutter speed and an aperture of 2.8. This should work.

    good luck

  • Jef October 10, 2012 11:24 am

    Hi Matthias
    I using EOS 5D mk2 and 24-105mm f4 lens. Is it enough to get good photos. (me newbie to concert photographer). I already have 50mm f2.8 and 16mm f2.8 lens.

  • sean rayford June 1, 2012 06:38 am

    Definitely get a 50mm f 1.8

    Pay extra attention to exactly what light is falling on your subject's face versus the rest of the frame. If your exposure can't handle the latitude then get in closer to eliminate portions of the frame with difficult exposures.

    And yes... the lights constantly change.

    Also look into using wireless strobes and balancing stage light with your own.

    I've been shooting bands since 1997.

    I shot the following blog post in a small venue with two nikon strobes. pie.

  • Ashley Spesard January 25, 2012 12:38 am

    Thanks for this awesome post. I started shooting the concerts and plays at my school this year for the yearbook. Some of these tips really helped me get some great shots. Thank you for helping me improve my yearbook and my own personal shots!

  • johan bauwens October 22, 2011 02:10 am

    something else : getting an accreditation is not the hardest part !!! The hardest part is taking good pics !!!

    And remember not to disturb the paying visitors !

    And a concert photographer should be there in time so he stands front row (if there is no separate frontstage). Concert pics with the head of the person standing in front of you on it, are crap !

  • johan bauwens October 22, 2011 02:05 am

    Another trick : underexpose until 1 full stop !!!! It can make the difference between pics of 1/50th second (delete) and 1/100th of a second (sharp).

    Also : the light might change quickly at concerts, so one tenth of a second later the light might be better !

  • Matthias Hombauer September 19, 2011 12:54 am

    My blog also contains now light diagrams of my portrait shots

    have a look here:


    greetings from Vienna

  • Julie Bernstein January 14, 2011 06:14 pm

    Jackie - I almost always shoot indoor concerts at ISO 1600, and I set both the shutter speed and aperture manually. I still get plenty of blurry shots too though.

  • Matthias January 14, 2011 04:50 pm

    @Jackie: Hi! Have a look at your shutter speed. If you are using ISO 800 and it is very dark on stage you probably have shutter speeds that are not fast enough to freeze the action. (even when using an aperture of 1.8)

    I normally shoot with ISO 3200-6400, depending on the ligthing on stage

    Hope that helps

    greetings Matthias

  • jackie January 14, 2011 04:18 pm

    ok, so i use the 50mm prime 1.8, iso of 800, auto-focus on al servo, and i still get blurry pics. what am i doing wrong?

  • Prakash Bhoobdasur September 9, 2010 07:02 pm

    Thank-you very much for all the tips. I had emailed DPS some time ago for advise about how to effective photograph the stage shows. I was a bit confused whether or not to do white balance adjustment in post production. The slave lights being sometimes influencing the work.
    These tips and example above are quite interesting. So i would say thank-you very much for the good job.

  • Prajwal August 27, 2010 01:04 am

    @Diana : Thank you ... :)

  • Mike Minick August 26, 2010 10:23 pm

    Good article and lots of great comments too.
    If you are going to do music photography for any lenth of time, you should consider investing in a pair of ear plugs. It is easier to permanently damage your hearing than you think and you can do it without knowing it (what'd you say?)
    Eddy Vortex

  • Matthias August 24, 2010 04:56 am

    New pics are online on my blog from a music festival here in Austria. 3 Days, 1000 pics, awesome bands like Skunk Anansie, Klaxons,..

    First, thank you all again for your kind words and it seems that there are a lot of concert photographers here on the DPS site.

    @Ji?í Vyorálek: fortunately it didn´t happend to me during this festival season, but it´s a good point. It´s always necessary to look after your equipment especially if you are using pro gear. I am always carrying my D700 with 24-70 2.8 and 80-200 2.8 in my crumpler backpack and just take the camera out in front of the stage.

    @Julie Bernstein: another great tip: EARPLUGS!! Please use them, cause it´s definitely not healthy for your ears when not using them and you are standing in front of the stage more often

    @Amit Mittal: you are absolutely right. Use a large aperture (or small f-stop number). Sorry for the mistake.

    @MSunflower: The easierst way to get a press accrediation would be to join a small internet magazine.This was the way how i managed to get a press ticket. Most likely you ask the people there if you can take pictures of a band you like and they´ll try to get an accreditaion for you and a spot on the guest list. After the show I normally send them the best 10 pictures which will be then published online with your name on it. Normally you have to leave the pit after 3 songs, but then you can enjoy the concert for yourself. The Leoanrd Cohen shot is great!

    @Richie: you are right! It´s not allowed to use flash in bigger venues. I mentioned it in my post, but maybe I didn´t stress it out enough. Thanks for your comment.

    @Sime: That´s probably the most important point. Enjoy the concert and your pics will be much better both in quality and also in the "feeling" of your pictures. I have the impression that I got the best pictures from bands I really love. By the way, I shot The Prodigy twice and these were the loudest concerts that I have ever heard. Truly insane!! ;)

    @Adrian: great one with using your cameras “Auto Exposure Lock-Hold”. Actually I am always doing this. For composition: take care not to cut fingers, guitars,....otherwise take a lot of pictures to get the right shot. You can also have a look at live performances of the band (e.g. youtube) to know how the artists behave on stage.
    I really like tight shots with the 70-200mm but this depends on personal preferences

    @bobk: thanks for sharing your cocnert wisdom ;)

    Have fun

    greetings from Vienna

  • Matthias August 24, 2010 04:55 am

    New pics are online on my blog from music festival here in Austria. 3 Days, 1000 pics, awesome bands like Skunk Anansie, Klaxons,..

    First, thank you all again for your kind words and it seems that there are a lot of concert photographers here on the DPS site.

    @Ji?í Vyorálek: fortunately it didn´t happend to me during this festival season, but it´s a good point. It´s always necessary to look after your equipment especially if you are using pro gear. I am always carrying my D700 with 24-70 2.8 and 80-200 2.8 in my crumpler backpack and just take the camera out in front of the stage.

    @Julie Bernstein: another great tip: EARPLUGS!! Please use them, cause it´s definitely not healthy for your ears when not using them and you are standing in front of the stage more often

    @Amit Mittal: you are absolutely right. Use a large aperture (or small f-stop number). Sorry for the mistake.

    @MSunflower: The easierst way to get a press accrediation would be to join a small internet magazine.This was the way how i managed to get a press ticket. Most likely you ask the people there if you can take pictures of a band you like and they´ll try to get an accreditaion for you and a spot on the guest list. After the show I normally send them the best 10 pictures which will be then published online with your name on it. Normally you have to leave the pit after 3 songs, but then you can enjoy the concert for yourself. The Leoanrd Cohen shot is great!

    @Richie: you are right! It´s not allowed to use flash in bigger venues. I mentioned it in my post, but maybe I didn´t stress it out enough. Thanks for your comment.

    @Sime: That´s probably the most important point. Enjoy the concert and your pics will be much better both in quality and also in the "feeling" of your pictures. I have the impression that I got the best pictures from bands I really love. By the way, I shot The Prodigy twice and these were the loudest concerts that I have ever heard. Truly insane!! ;)

    @Adrian: great one with using your cameras “Auto Exposure Lock-Hold”. Actually I am always doing this. For composition: take care not to cut fingers, guitars,....otherwise take a lot of pictures to get the right shot. You can also have a look at live performances of the band (e.g. youtube) to know how the artists behave on stage.
    I really like tight shots with the 70-200mm but this depends on personal preferences

    Have fun

    greetings from Vienna

    @bobk: thanks for sharing your cocnert wisdom ;)

  • BobK August 24, 2010 12:04 am

    Shooting live performances is a challenge to say the least. Some of largest challenges comes with all the various lighting conditions, the black back drop curtains (which always confuses your camera's metering), and the movement of subjects (most of my performances are dance routines). I use manual mode to get the best pix as I can lock in settings to get the best exposures for these conditions. Any other auto mode usually gets confused due to the wide variation of lighting conditions on stage. It is best to take an exposure reading on the face of the performer using spot or center weighted settings otherwise you typically will get a blown out exposure of the face as all the other surrounding usually are darker and will confuse the camera's metering. Then I lock in this setting along with a shutter speed of about 200. If the lighting changes (which it often does between the various performances) then adjust the aperture up or down to compensate for the change. If you want to have motion (blur) in some of the pix then lower the shutter speed down to about 100 or even less depending on how much blur you want.

    Usually you cannot get close enough to the stage to do your work so a good telephoto lens is a must. I use a Nikon 70 - 200 mm F2.8 lens which along with a high ISO setting (1500 or above) which works out well. The graininess is not objectionable at the higher ISO speeds until you get above 3200 or you enlarge up the pix many times. Using this setup I can stand about half way back in the performance center and easily track the action on stage. Then I blow up/crop the shots in my photo editor to get the final picture. I have had many pictures published in local magazines using this setup and the results are great.

    Color balance is another variable due to the constant lighting changes. However, most of this you can correct for in a photo editor. I use Nikon's Capture NX2 as it is easier to use than the other editors and so far it has handled all the editing requirements that I have had.

    If you can take several shots during rehearsels and record the settings for the various lighting changes that will occur during the performance. This will help you to make your camera adjustments before the next scene/act occurs and you won't have to guess or fumble with trying to get the correct settings during the live performance. If you wait you may miss some of the great shots so be prepared. If you can't attend a rehearsel then usually before the performance begins someone will be on stage that you can use to capture your settings. This will be a starting point but remember each scene/act will have different conditions.

    As always shoot away. I normally take about 400 or more shots for an hour long performance. Then in the digital darkroom I carefully scan each photo for good pictures. Usually this takes cropping and blowing up of areas of photos to get the desired photo. Otherwise you will get point-and-shoot camera results. Also, some performaners just take better and more interesting photos than others. Check out the entire cast and focus more on these performers to get great pictures. Good luck as this is no piece of cake in getting good pictures.

  • Mark Winburn August 23, 2010 12:59 pm

    I recently started photographing my sons band and your tips were very helpful. My early attempts were not so good but after playing with the ISO and aperture, and a bit of post processing to reduce noise and enhance detail, I'm starting to get some good shots. Even better, the band is using some on my shots...


  • Diana August 23, 2010 04:31 am

    Hi, I am glad to read this tutorial, I actually suggested a tutorial on concert photography and looking forward to reading more of these!
    During concerts I also like to shoot details of instruments or artists hands..
    Concert photography is actually my biggest passions, you can check out my work here: http://fotoconcerte.blogspot.com and leave an opinion.
    MSunflower : I love the shop of Leonard Cohen.
    Prajwal: i like photo no 4, very delicate!
    Good luck all with your next shots! [eimg url='http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_sp4s5mafAaI/S-6j80-b_LI/AAAAAAAABbA/-FsKGT7TfeI/s1600/10.bmp' title='10.bmp'][eimg url='http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_sp4s5mafAaI/S-6kTYY7DxI/AAAAAAAABbw/7SjRNSKhGmU/s1600/22.bmp' title='22.bmp'][eimg url='http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_sp4s5mafAaI/S6-ZvAX0LwI/AAAAAAAAA1A/zA4jrYD6RJs/s1600/6.bmp' title='6.bmp'][eimg url='http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_sp4s5mafAaI/Sx_hBtc_wjI/AAAAAAAAAXA/7sUYA_aviKQ/s1600-h/blog8.jpg' title='blog8.jpg'][eimg url='http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_sp4s5mafAaI/Sw2mOox2KBI/AAAAAAAAALo/p8FSYONBl9Y/s1600/blog30.jpg' title='blog30.jpg'][eimg url='http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_sp4s5mafAaI/Sw1MH1KKJFI/AAAAAAAAAG4/L0RJlHAFBdU/s1600/blog15.jpg' title='blog15.jpg'][eimg url='http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_sp4s5mafAaI/Sw1A9lSRPvI/AAAAAAAAAFg/3S2kNpgFbDE/s1600/nb10.jpg' title='nb10.jpg']

  • Victor Martinez August 22, 2010 03:22 pm

    Concert Photography when i had the most fun as a photographer i scan some old photos 35mm film. My camera back than was a Canon A2 body , Canon EOS 1n body with 85mm 1.8 lens and 50mm. 1.8 lens. and for film fuji 800 push to iso 1000.

  • phoe August 22, 2010 02:50 pm

    Great ideas and tips from everyone here.
    About a year ago I had the pleasure of watching my favorite band perform, Fleetwood Mac. What a fantastic concert and I was able to get some shots for a lifetime of enjoyment. I hope everyone gets a chance in their life to enjoy what we photo buffs love doing, getting great shots of their favorite artists also.
    keep on clicking

  • Lily August 21, 2010 07:50 pm

    Solid tips! I started shooting concerts two years ago, as well as a major Jazz & Blues festival overseas - and I absolutely LOVE concert photography. I agree with everything you said above, that's been my experience. Here is my concert set on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilylily/sets/72157623297908872/
    Now that I'm back in my city I just need to approach newspapers and magazines for accreditation.

  • Rich August 21, 2010 06:53 pm

    As a wedding photographer I appriciate the value of a fast lens, therefore I have already invested in a 24-70mm & 70-200mm f/2.8. I do however struggle to capture the high quality first dance shots, and always need to use flash.

    I'm assuming this is typically because the ambient/stage lighting for a first dnce is nowhere as good as the lighting for a concert? Am I right?

    I guess one more question would be, how do you get into these concerts (big or small), and get such a great spot - a spot that paying gig-goers would pay a fortune for?

    Cheers, and thanks for a great article.

  • In_sleep August 21, 2010 11:06 am

    I have suffered the red light of death in beginners concert photography (I'm still a beginner!) and I know how difficult it is to get a good shot!!! Great article! really enjoyed all the tips you've given here

    Check out my attempts at capturing a band during the deadly red lights ;)


  • mcguireuk August 21, 2010 06:46 am

    Heres a shot I took a couple of months back. I was really impressed with as it was almost completely black in the room. :)

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/18207466@N02/4910822751/' title='P7106460' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4138/4910822751_578444a98b_o.jpg']

  • Prajwal August 21, 2010 01:48 am

    nice tips. All I use a 50mm 1.8 .. :) ... you can find some of my concert photos here ... http://www.nepgig.tumblr.com/ ... and guess what, in my place, we can even go to the back of the stage .. fun ... haha

  • Steve August 21, 2010 12:56 am

    You really nailed the early part of the path. For a hobby, I shoot a lot of folk singers so it is possible to get close and blast away without a lot of fuss. I shoot in RAW with a D40x at about ISO 800 - that is where I start to object to the noise. I use an old 105mm f2.5 manual lens for my closeups. I meter by leaving the histogram mode on for the display of the last shot. That way I don't worry about bright lights or dark backgrounds confusing the meter (and with the old lenses I have no metering anyway).

    Some random advice that everyone should know from any candid shooting: in general, tight shots are more dramatic. A few wide angle can set the venue, but the best ones are from the guitar to the top of the head or closer. Also, beware of the deadly 'mic in the face'. It looks good when things are moving but almost never in a photo. Either move to the side (performers stay turned slightly left or right, especially with an instrument) or wait until they end the verse - they step back half a step.

    When you are first starting out, I think it is also good to share your shots with the artists. Send them some prints with your name and email on the back. They are happy to give you credit if they find a use for them. If nothing else, you will stick in their mind. The same with the venue or festival promoters. Sure, you want to make money but first they have to know who you are. I suspect the pros just gave me the dirty look but I'm talking about small performers at small venues here - not Eric Clapton.

  • Matthias August 20, 2010 10:26 pm

    Thank you so much for your comments! I appreciate it!

    This is actually my first tutorial and I am really happy that it seems to be valuable to most of you.

    Since I am rather busy this weekend shooting another music festival here in Austria (with Skunk Anansie, White Lies, Gogol Bordello, Delphic, Klaxons, LCD Soundsystem, 30 seconds to mars,...) I´ll comment on your posts the next couple of days.

    Looking forward for some fruitful discussions on this exciting topic

    greetings from Vienna

  • Nice images Lovelyn August 20, 2010 08:39 pm

    Thanks for the info here. Really helps!

  • Abdurrahman Antakyali August 20, 2010 08:20 pm

    A project about Turkish Amateur Rock Bands:

  • al tuttle August 20, 2010 07:48 pm

    being a musician myself...and loving also to photograph other artists onstage...you bring up some very good points. lighting is nearly always unpredictable, being obsequious is best for everyone..(I really don't care too much for photographers who try to get between me and the audience). no flash....it irritates everyone. my best tip is be creative..... we've all seen the iconic images..try for something different...like going to the back of a venue and getting a different perspective...with a longer lens to flatten the image. maybe get shots when they aren't leaping off the speakers. Lets face it.... most working artists have already gotten headshots, or whole band location shots... get creative. here are some ideas... http://www.flickr.com/photos/al-ien/3976861940/in/set-72157620976280865/

    most of all have fun.... after all, they are....

  • Phil August 20, 2010 07:27 pm

    Excellent post for new photographers.

    I just purchased a 50mm f/1.8 lens for this purpose. I was quite close to the stage at this point but I did get some awesome shots

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/itakethepics/4897303942/' title='Polar Bear Club - 14th August 2010 @ London Garage' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4100/4897303942_3047e20bc8.jpg']

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/itakethepics/4897307148/' title='Polar Bear Club - 14th August 2010 @ London Garage' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4119/4897307148_de36c038df.jpg']

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/itakethepics/4897303234/' title='Polar Bear Club - 14th August 2010 @ London Garage' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4100/4897303234_d3c88a560b.jpg']

  • Chris Biele August 20, 2010 07:09 pm

    Well timed article as I've been doing a few concerts lately. I have another one tonight at Jaime "Afro" Archer's concert. Can't wait to get that massive Afro surrounded by a searing backlight!


  • Phil August 20, 2010 07:03 pm

    Excellent post for new photographers.

    I just purchased a 50mm f/1.8 lens for this purpose. I was quite close to the stage at this point but I did get some awesome shots.

  • Stuart Little August 20, 2010 06:09 pm

    Excellent guest post and some really excellent concert shots. I have tweeted this for ya!

  • Steve August 20, 2010 05:47 pm

    A nice, dark, undistracting background can be a big help too...




  • rockchique August 20, 2010 04:52 pm

    Great post by Mathias. I've been shooting concerts for about 3 years and have been fortunate enough to photograph (and meet) some of my childhood idols. Combining my love of music with photography is a dream come true and every show I shoot is always a huge thrill and privilege. I don't know why but I always get nervous before each concert but once I'm in the pit, I'm ready to roll! The anticipation, the crowd, the rush, I love it all.

    I've tried shooting on Aperture priority but find that, more often than not, the shutter speed is too low despite my 1600 ISO. I shot on Shutter priority for a while but also found too many shots didn't turn out right. Now, I shoot in Manual mode and get much better results. I'm also shooting more using prime lenses as I've found I lose a lot of time composing shots with my zooms and I find the primes focus a lot faster in low or horrendous coloured light. However, in large venues, the 70-200 2.8 is a must and the fisheye is also a favourite.

    You can find me on www.myspace.com/sydneygirl65 and http://rockclub40.ning.com. All images are mine.


    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/rockclub40/4909789678/' title='alice c' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4098/4909789678_7c1bbcd776.jpg']

  • acongsb August 20, 2010 04:16 pm

    Yeah i feel it. yesterday i come to my favorite music concert, my problem just i have camera standard with standard lens also, but i try with hight iso , its so help me to catch a good moment from my idol

    This articles really good for improve my skill

    Thanks by the way

  • David August 20, 2010 03:18 pm

    Checking out your blog, I really like what I saw and I'm hearing what your saying.

  • Book August 20, 2010 01:46 pm

    Excellent advice! Much like just about any type of photography, the proper handling of your files in post is critical. You can make a good image in to something truly exceptional and unique. Remember once you get there (to the big stage) there is usually at least 1 that loves the camera & if the camera feels the same way....
    Fire away! Just remember, drummers need some love too... [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/randybookout/2474630246/' title='Ringers-sxsw2008-(17)' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2320/2474630246_f023158460.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/randybookout/2470410047/' title='RingerS-RED7' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3266/2470410047_c1121b2800.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/randybookout/2625397211/' title='stp4' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3194/2625397211_af261093ca.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/randybookout/4908920697/' title='Aerosmith' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4076/4908920697_a5bd9dc405_z.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/randybookout/4909518158/' title='Aerosmith' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4138/4909518158_91a4362cc8_z.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/randybookout/4908920533/' title='Metallica at Stubbs' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4120/4908920533_cc82ec5c88.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/randybookout/4909518026/' title='slipknot' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4119/4909518026_86b94ede98.jpg']

  • Adrian August 20, 2010 01:43 pm

    I've shot quite a few concerts before (only small stuff). While I knew all the tips you listed, what I'd really love to hear is: any tips on composing great concert shots? Or is it all about being prepared and ready for "the moment"?

    Another tip of my own: Use your cameras "Auto Exposure Lock-Hold". I will meter off somewhere that will give me the exposure I want (usually part of the performers face), and then train my camera at my artist, waiting for the perfect moment. If you take a test shot at the exposure you're using, you won't end up capturing an awesome shot, but then stuffing up the metering because you metered the wrong area.

    Here's a few photos from a conference. Not quite the same, but a similar idea:


  • Ben Grandmougin August 20, 2010 11:31 am

    I followed similar guidelines at a small venue several months ago and enjoyed shooting the concert. Additionally, I was careful about simplifying background which can be challenging. Turned out to be lots of fun and I went back several weeks later. Shot with D90 and 85 1.8

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigmalaw1914/4909170334/' title='Zing Experience' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4078/4909170334_57d88f265e.jpg']
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigmalaw1914/4909170856/' title='Boukman Eksperyans' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4139/4909170856_9d7482edf7.jpg']
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigmalaw1914/4908575455/' title='Zing Experience' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4080/4908575455_7495c92482.jpg']
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigmalaw1914/4909226432/' title='' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4143/4909226432_ff0f78a848.jpg']

  • Lovelyn August 20, 2010 10:21 am

    Tanks for the great tips. Too bad I didn't read this a few days ago. I took some pictures at a jam session and really could've used the advice. I'm no professional, but I love photographing concerts and want to start doing it more. Here are the pictures I took the other night.

  • Sime August 20, 2010 07:55 am

    Good article. I've shot a few bands and have actually used flash once - but if I need to use flash I don't usually like the photos... (Richie)

    One thing you missed out.... ENJOY IT.... If you're standing 6' from your fave artist because you've followed Matthias... get the shot in the bag - wide, close, full length, whole band and then take a second to appreciate where you are man... it's a rush!... My first gig at Wembley - blew me away!! The energy from the Crowd, The Prodigy on stage... it was insane!

    Enjoy it, it's an amazing ride...

    some of my stuff here... http://gtvone.com/gallery

    Sime -- dPS Community Manager

  • Pille August 20, 2010 07:21 am

    I really agree that concert photos can be really difficult.

    The most number of failed shots I've got have been when trying to shoot flamenco dancers in a black box theatre. The light is usually yellow or red spotlights sometimes in full brightness, sometimes quite dim. But in addition to bad light, dark room and sitting quite far away, the most troublesome is the fact that the dancers move very quickly. In addition of being yellow and glowing the dancers turn out to be blurry because of movement or have blank white globs as faces or part of the costume because the details were eaten by the light. Horror! It helps a lot if I know the dance myself and can predict the more static moments when the dancers are fixed into a pose for a moment or move really slow.

    An example:

    I'm a real beginner and have a cheap compact digicam that doesn't even know what RAW is not to mention has the option of changing lenses. I'm still weighing pros and cons of different low end EOS like digicams and accessories because it seems like a good (at least better than current) camera equipment will help me. But being a total amateur it still seems to cost so much that it's not easy to decide which is the right one. All I want is to get at least a few good shots when my friends are dancing :)

    Thanks for your tips!

  • John.B August 20, 2010 05:31 am

    IS / VR lenses can be a huge help if you have to shoot handheld in low light.

  • Jason Collin Photography August 20, 2010 04:46 am

    Great list of many tips for concert photography....a 50mm f/1.8 will indeed serve you well....an 85mm f/1.4 would also be great, though much more expensive than the 50mm. For a concert you can expect to shoot at at least ISO 800 most of the times, and if your camera can produce good images at ISOs of 1600+ all the better.

    I photographed The Commodores 2009 New Year's Eve performance:


    The stage was very small and I could get right up close to them even with just a 50mm.

  • Richie August 20, 2010 03:40 am

    I do agree with all of the point fully, BUT you should emphasize a bit more: NO FLASH! AT ALL!!!
    with flash you disturb the artist, the crowd behind/around you (they paid a lot to see the artist and not your flash...) and all your fellow photographers (they are also working there like you...)!
    if you do not respect others you hardly get respected (and invited next time...) by others! and do not be surprised if somebody warns you...
    for me a (concert) photographer with a flash is simply an amateur...
    if you want to be (and also look...) professional, then invest in your gear!

  • MSunflower August 20, 2010 03:34 am

    This was a very informative article and I really enjoyed it. I love going to concerts but I take risks by photographing from my seat and have often had bouncers take exception to this. (It never ceases to amaze me how when you have a small point and shoot they couldn't care less and even volunteer to TAKE A SHOT OF YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS FOR YOU!!! but as soon as they see a larger black camera you are the antichrist himself. HYPOCRITES! Ugh) I want to stop taking risks but my heart just drops at the thought of not capturing the memories of these legends who I've adored for years...so maybe I should try and get into concert photography instead?

    Anyway I have a question about press accreditation: What is your next step once you have it? No actually, my confusion starts before that...can you go into more detail about what it is in the first place, how you get it, how you then get a concert job (like do you choose or suggest which ones to go to and does the paper have to put your name on the door?), and what/how much your newspaper/magazine expects you to hand in at the end of it? Like do you have to shoot in RAW as well, do you get to see the rest of the concert or do you leave altogether after the first songs etc? Sorry, too many questions! Here look at some photos as consolation :P


    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/3235438192/' title='DSCF8066LN' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3350/3235438192_27025bdbc0.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/2636796668/' title='DSCF9822expUMcrp2N' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3131/2636796668_84aa188126_z.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/2130001846/' title='DSCF0710' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2062/2130001846_e28ae05b04.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/440498277/' title='DSCF9578' url='http://farm1.static.flickr.com/204/440498277_d6dc2db825.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/440506906/' title='DSCF9411' url='http://farm1.static.flickr.com/204/440506906_e2bf25bbe9.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/4727247393/' title='IMG_0802' url='http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1255/4727247393_2e15b244dc.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/4016213777/' title='DSCF1926' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2595/4016213777_1ed049a9bd.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/4266717288/' title='The Reverend Al Green!!' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4053/4266717288_022d3439c2.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudedsunny/4288126422/' title='NewsomScreenCap25' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2718/4288126422_f796f5814c.jpg']

  • Amit Mittal August 20, 2010 02:35 am

    It is very interesting article, indeed. If only it had come 3-4 weeks ago. Any way, thanks for listing the things I always had in the back of my mind but for some reason didn't implement.

    I have some pictures, from a few concerts I have attended, uploaded to my Flickr stream. If you get the chance, please have a look. Any (and all) constructive criticism is welcome.

    Please do consider that the pictures are not from the pit; I have never been in one; never had a press/put pass. They are from among the crowd. Also, I use an all purpose lens -- Tamron 18-270mm 3.5-6.3/f. It gives me the reach and because most of the stages are well-lit, I could get away with the small aperture. Of course, acts with little light are out of the question with this lens.

    PS: In the summary, second point is listed as "use a lens with a small aperture". I am pretty sure you meant to say "with a large aperture" or "with a small f-stop number".

  • Julie Bernstein August 20, 2010 02:20 am

    Good tips. The majority of my portfolio consists of concert photos, mostly in small clubs with some larger venues. I have a full-frame Canon 5D Mk II and rely heavily on my 50 1/4 and 85 1/8 primes, but do use my 24-70/2.8 when I need to get full-stage shots. I always shoot in full manual, and nearly always at ISO 1600.

    Some tips of my own:

    - Always bring earplugs! Your continued ability to hear will thank you.

    - Use the effect from the stage lights to good advantage. Blue or purple light washing over the performer can look amazing.

    - When the stage lighting is not aesthetically pleasing, instead of converting to B/W, trying playing around with the white balance settings in post (you did shoot in RAW, right?). I use Lightroom and am able to achieve realistic skin tones under a variety of lighting just by choosing a good neutral gray reference point.

    [eimg url='http://funcrunchphoto.com/sites/funcrunchphoto.com/files/images/bblive4-montage.jpg' title='bblive4-montage.jpg']

  • Laura Haines August 20, 2010 01:18 am

    I love doing concert photography and would love to get my press accreditation. I've been blessed to follow a couple of artists who, at most venues, allow cameras of all kinds. The rush of adrenaline in capturing that amazing shot cannot be matched. LOVE.IT.

  • IYF August 20, 2010 01:05 am

    Awesome Bro, You have given me alot of pointers

  • Margot August 20, 2010 01:04 am

    Perfect timing as I have to shoot 23 different shows over the next 18 days. Outdoor venues, so I will be dealing with daylight to nighttime/stage light transitions, with a wide variety of lighting styles. Going to be a challenge, but I am up for it.

  • Scott August 20, 2010 12:57 am

    Great post. I actually tried this last weekend for the first time, outdoor venue with a local 50s/60s cover band, and used both 50mm and a 200 zoom.



  • Ji?í Vyorálek August 20, 2010 12:40 am

    Great article for beginners! I also take photos at concerts for several years (since 2004) and I think that the article was all essential terms. Perhaps only: "Be very careful in your gears". I know more people, and I also experienced that, especially at big summer festivals where the crowd of people, someone with a bit of carelessness of the stolen gears. Once again, be careful!

  • Matt August 20, 2010 12:36 am

    Good point about converting pictures with odd colours due to stage lighting to black and white. It's worth reading about how to convert a colour photo into black and white since the method that one uses can dramatically change the nature of the result.

    For example, if the performer was standing under a red spotlight, then creating a B&W image by filtering for red in post-processing would create different (better?) results than filtering for green or blue. The link posted above has a good demonstration of this.

  • Norbert (NPX-Photo.com) August 20, 2010 12:11 am

    Nice to read, that we all over the world have the same major problem: to less available light :-) Anyway: with the Nikon D300 good pictures with less noise are possible and I think the next generation of Nikons (D800?) will be improved again.

    Best regards from Germany