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Photographing Crowds at Concerts

The Maine (Explored #104)

It’s not just the band on stage that make for interesting subjects at concerts; the crowd can lend itself for painting a vivid picture of the event too. However the trouble with concerts is the lack of available light, so here are a few suggestions to make the best out of the situation to help you capture the throng of revellers.

N*E*R*D 8

Push the ISO

Concerts are typically shrouded in darkness with intermittent lighting, but because of their busy nature they are no place for a tripod, so you’ll have little choice but to ramp up the ISO.  Before you attend the concert take a series of shots of the same low-light scene at different ISOs, you’ll then be able to gauge at what point noise becomes too distracting. Then when you attend the concert be sure not to go too far above this sensitivity. For the best results, team your camera with a fast lens to capture the action at a wider aperture.

Underoath @ Koko, London 2010

Forget the Flash

Although the crowd’s attention will probably be focused on the stage, it’s best not to use a flash otherwise you could give away your intention of capturing candids of the audience which will affect the results achieved, but you may also temporary blind someone stood in close proximity. Instead use the stage’s lighting for illumination and ambience. You can even achieve some striking silhouette shots in this way, particularly if coloured lights are being used. Simply use spot metering, reading from the stage to throw the audience into darkness, shoot towards the stage, catching revellers with their hands stretched high in celebration.

Do You Realize?

Use what’s Available

Pay attention to the lighting choreography and use your knowledge of the band’s music to judge when the crowd will be illuminated. It may take a few verses to notice a pattern emerging between the lighting and music, so expose when your subjects are well lit, de-press to focus on the burst of light and fire at the next opportunity. If the beams of light are short-lived or your camera has a noticeable shutter lag pre-empt the opportunity by firing a second or so before the light falls on the crowd.

Parkpop 2009 - The girls in the crowd

If all else fails…

If after the concert you feel you pushed the ISO too high to get sharp shots and returned home to find your frames riddled with noise, then run it through a noise reduction program like Noise Ninja or even try getting creative by converting it to black and white for film-inspired feel.

Skrillex, Rialto Theater, Tucson AZ

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Natalie Denton (nee Johnson)
Natalie Denton (nee Johnson)

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

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