How To Photograph Rock Concerts - The Basics

How To Photograph Rock Concerts – The Basics

Copyright Anirudh Koul

Photo by Anirudh Koul

Live concert photography can be an exciting, yet, nerve-racking time.  The lights, the stage, the crowd….there are so many things out of your control as a photographer but that needn’t stop you from obtaining great results with a few hints to help get you started!

Introduce Yourself

This should be your first step in shooting a concert and getting the best results.  If you do not already know the artist personally, put in the effort to introduce yourself.  It can be email, phone call or one of those old fashioned “snail mail” letters.  Whichever route, get to the point quickly and let them know who you are and why you’ll be shooting the concert.  The second point will be the most important.  As artists themselves, musicians typically have a keen eye on their image and copyright as they are two of the biggest factors in doing what they do (as well as obviously turning out great music).  If you’re wanting to shoot for your own private portfolio, say so.  If you’re looking to sell images taken at their concert, you’ll need to be prepared to discuss things a bit more in depth.  But if you’re simply looking to have some fun and try a new style of photography and if the musician is more approachable, simply offering use of select concert photos to them may create a win-win situation.

The same can be said with building your portfolio.  In the beginning it may be necessary to work ‘on spec’, meaning you only get paid if they see something they like and purchase the rights to certain photos.  This is fine when you’re starting out trying to make some money at concert photography as you are being paid in experience (PIE) and also paying your dues to build a portfolio and reputation.  Later, with a passel of quality work to show off, it’s easier to negotiate a fee to artists more willing to pay for photos.

No matter your motivation for shooting a concert, having a chance to say, “Hi” to the artist(s) can help make your job during the concert easier.  It can also help open doors of opportunity such as when you have to…

Scout The Concert Venue

Copyright Anirudh Koul

Photo by Anirudh Koul

If you get a chance before the concert, scope out the location first to get an idea of how the seating is setup.  If this is a small concert in a bar or small hall, which it will likely be if you’re just starting out, plan a trip the day or hours before the concert to take a look at how the venue will be situated.  Will it be standing room only?  If there’s seating, will you have enough room to maneuver between seats to get the angles you want?  Also as important, is there a place to store your unused gear while shooting?  Check to see if there are multiple locations to shoot from.  A concert shot from just the front row, center, won’t convey the feel as well as one shot from in front, behind and amongst the crowd.

Bring Your Fastest Lens

Once again, depending on the venue, a flash may be of little use.  Even if you’re close enough to use a flash effectively to light the performer(s) it can be distracting if there is not a light show included with the concert.  It is better to trust to a fast lens to help capture the action.  One of the my favorite lenses for concerts is a 70-200mm f/2.8 and while I don’t get my hands on one very often, it far exceeds my normal kick around 28-300mm f/3.5.  While it might not seem like a large difference, the 70-200mm allows for a slightly slower ISO, helping to reduce image noise (explained later on).  It also allows for more close up action and quicker focusing.  Remember, the lighting can be all over the place during a concert and a faster lens will allow for better focusing due to more light coming through the aperture.

If you don’t own a particularly fast lens, there are many places online where one can be rented.  DPS has a post entitled Where To Rent A Lens Online, written by yours truly, to help you along.  Also check your local phonebook as it may be cheaper to acquire a lens in-town.

Switch To Manual Mode

Copyright Anirudh Koul

Photo by Anirudh Koul

Switching to Manual Mode can be a daunting task the first couple of times you try it, but it does help.  The problem with an automatic setting is the high contrast varied lighting can produce.  For instance, the image at right is from a larger concert for the Backstreet Boys.  While most of the frame is black, shooting in automatic exposure mode would likely produce blown out lights and artist (little guy on the right side, well exposed) to help compensate.  Setting the camera on Manual Mode will allow for greater control especially when lighting changes quickly.  Which leads us right into the next tip!

Get Spot On

Copyright Kevin Klöcker

Photo by Kevin Klöcker

If you’re interested in capturing the lead singer and band members during a concert, you’re going to want to choose spot mode for your metering.  Most concerts have a large amount of darkness to them and using evaluative, or full frame, metering will attempt to compensate for all that black, often over exposing the main subject.  Especially when they are lit with a spotlight.  To get around this anomaly, switch to Spot Metering early on and get a good reading off the lead singer.  If you’ve made contact with the band and venue management as described earlier, you should be able to gain access to a sound and lighting check before the concert.  Having this opportunity can save a lot of time during the concert in adjusting your camera.

Once you have the metering set for a spotlight situation, it will be fairly easy to adjust the shutter speed to compensate for slightly darker settings (such as shots of the drummer, who often don’t share the spotlight).  A quick review once in a while will let you know if your settings are working.  Once you have set your shutter speed and aperture, the metering becomes less and less important as you get a feel for the effect of different colored lights on stage as well as intensity.

Watch The ISO

ISO can be your friend in shooting a concert if you are without a flash.  But it will take some testing to see how much noise you are willing to withstand.  As you know, playing around with ISO will have a direct impact on your shutter speed (most concerts are shot with a shallow depth of field to bring in as much light as possible) and it’s important to match your shutter speed to the action.  If it’s a fast moving rock concert, a shutter speed of 1/60th or more will be needed to prevent excessive blur.  If it is a sit down type of affair, you may be able to get by with speeds a full stop slower.

Copyright Peter Carey

Photo by Peter West Carey

While grain can be an issue if you’re forced to push the ISO much above 400, it can be used to an advantage.  Using filtering or actions found in your favorite photo editing software to change your image to black and white (see this DPS article for more information) can be a solution to high grain.  The shot to the right from a recent concert with singer/songwriter Alyse Black was shot at ISO 3200 as the lighting and zoom contributed to a dark scene.  With too much noise for my liking, taking the image black and white turned the noise into grain I found acceptable given the artist’s style.


Concert photography can be a fun and exiting experience.  The basics of covering a concert for the first time including getting to know the artist, doing a bit of preplanning to know what the environment will look and feel like, picking your fastest lens(es), switching to both Spot Metering and Manual Mode to have the most control of exposure and keeping an eye on ISO so you are aware of noise in your photos.

In my next post I’ll include some more advanced techniques for getting the most creative results at a concert. 

Update You can read this next post at How to Photograph Rock Concerts – Beyond the Basics.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • sean rayford June 1, 2012 06:40 am

    Spot metering is a must.

  • Elaina Wilcox April 26, 2011 07:54 am

    Hello, I am a fan of your work and I thought you would be the perfect person to ask this question. I am a freelance photog in Los Angeles. I am living here again after a long stay in Austin Tx. While in Austin I became hooked to music photography, and I am trying to break int the music photography scene here in La. My question for you is - who is the best person to contact for permission to photograph a band during a live show(based upon if you don't know the band personally) I am wanting to shoot a band called the daylights and would like to contact someone connected to them for permission. And in general, who would you recommend contacting when I want to shoot a band that is playing a club with strict photog. rules? Any help is much appreciated.
    Elaina Wilcox

  • Shusta April 13, 2011 12:40 pm

    Thank You Thank you to all commentators !...

  • Patrik Haasz June 7, 2010 10:11 pm

  • Patrik Haasz June 7, 2010 10:11 pm

    I got backstage on o local rock concert and found this (for me) great angel to shoot from.

  • Patrik Haasz May 26, 2010 07:18 pm

    Hi here are some pictures i took from a outdoor sommer concert in Sweden.

  • Sime May 12, 2010 11:17 pm


    Sure, why not... If it's out doors and well lit - - maybe bump up your iso a bit, use the widest aperture (f number) and try to get your shutter speed up to at least the equiv of your focal length...

    SO if you're using the 75-300 at 200mm -- you want at least 1/200th and, I think at 200mm that lens is perhaps an f/4.5 - 5.7 -- So you're going to want it to be "wide open" at 4.5 if you can... Same theory for the 18-55... 1/20th min at 18mm (1/50th is much better) and.. I think, from memory f/3.5 --- Don't be afraid of bumping your ISO -- Try 400, then 800... if there's enough light, the exposures will be fine, but if it is reeeeally dark, they could / will get a bit grainy...

    If you get stuck - email me if you like... simon at gtvone dot com


  • mario May 12, 2010 06:56 pm

    I'm just start with photography and tonight i' going to shoot a live band on stage in open air.
    i was wondering how can i get the pin sharp picture with my canon rebel xt i have two lenses 18-55mm and 75-300 which one should i use, and what camera setting ? thanks[eimg url='' title='photo.php?pid=203168&l=84fc47a76e&id=100000589603488']

  • Fábián Gábor October 19, 2009 09:17 pm

    I started concert photography about a half a year and this article really helped me out to know some basic rules. Since then I enjoy it so much that it became one of my favorite styles of photography. Thank you!

  • Raveendra Holla N August 24, 2009 04:19 am

    Here is my shots

  • allen May 14, 2009 06:45 pm

    a good article but i don't think it is easy for the photographer to act as you say , here is my album and any advice is welcome from you !

  • Andrew Cook May 1, 2009 10:54 am

    Forget the flash YEAHman. You will never be able to capture the mood of the show with a flash becasue it will wash out the lighting. Not to mention that 99% of the artists dislike haveing the flash going off in there faces when they are performing, it is very distracting for them. Bump the IOS to 1600 or even 3200 if you have to, and also don't be afraid to convert to B/W in prost production. I have never had any problems bringing my gear to a club, just need to learn to protect it with your body and watch out for flying beer.:-) On a side note i was just hired by Backstreets magazing to shoot the entire Bruce Sprinsteen show in Toronto May 7th, not just the normal 3 songs, the entire show. Man am I excited. Look for those images on my site next weekend.

  • YEAHmanh May 1, 2009 08:58 am

    I shot a small show last week using a Canon XSi with an 85mm 1.8 lens at 400 and 800 ISO. The results were ok but I was disappointed I didn't get a lot more pictures that were sharp.

    Tonight, I'm shooting a show and will have the same camera and lens but am also adding a 24-70mm 2.8L as well as a 580EX flash to the mix. I think the best advice I got from this article was to shoot in Manual and not Aperture priority. I'll do that and we'll see what comes of it.

    Here are the photos from last week's show if anyone cares to see:

  • biz May 1, 2009 07:09 am

    Great tips! It can help, but bringing in the good camera to the concert can be trouble. Otherwise, with mobile phone camera I was not able to have even a decent photos. :-(

  • Andrew Cook March 13, 2009 04:37 am

    Some very good tips and tricks listed here. I have no tricks but a couple tips of things I have learned over the last few years shooting mostly clubs up until a year ago when I started mostly shooting an arena. My personal choice of three must have lenses if you have the budget and are shooting Canon, 70-200 2.8 non-IS, 16-35 2.8, and a 50 1.4. Now these lenses are not cheap, but if you have the budget they can make all the differance in the world between trashing 75% of what you shoot and keeping 90% of what you shoot. The 50 1.4 and the 16-35 2.8 are perfect for the clubs and the 70-200 only if it is a bigger club or are looking to get just facial shots. In arena mode loose the 50 1.4 as you will never use it. The last thing I will point out is, if your just getting into this concert photography is to shoot loys of frames until you figure out what works betst at different settings. If you shoot at the same clubs you can be pretty confident things will remian the same from one band to the next and with experiance be able to predict what settings will work. At the arena level things change dramtically from one act to another. Feel free to check out my site and see how over fours years I have progressed at Last point is get to know the managment of where you are shooting, they can be your best friend or worst enemy. If it helps offer them low res copies of pictures to get a little more freedom to move around in areas that spectators are not permitted. Also the bouncers, once you get to know them will on occaision assit in getting through the crowds and actually moviing people away from the sides of the stage to allow you to shoot. This dosent happen every where but it happens for me after being at the same clubs for the past 4 years so it takes time, and nothing comes without hard work and respecting the club workers. Good luck to all just getting into this and most of all have fun and have respect for the workers that get in the way.

  • chris brown March 12, 2009 02:50 am

    Reds, blues and purples may be challenging for the photographer, but they are pretty much vital for most rock and roll/jazz/folk music shows. Likewise amber, pink, lavender and turqoiuze. If you take out all of these you are left with the lovely options of yellow, green and white. Traditionally Rock and Roll bands don't like green so that's down to yellow and white. The lights are there for the purpose of making a dynamic and varied show; which is why almost all of the rig is upstage of the performers.
    Other than superstars and the very young, most bands won't be very interested in pics and most tour managers will have neither time nor inclination nto deal with photographers, but you can get on by talking to the LD - lighting designer - about setting up a lighting state or two at soundcheck. A good move here is not to say somethiong like 'oooh those red lights are horrid' - remeber that as a photographer yopu are (generally) only bat the show on sufferance anyway - it is a different matter if you are there by invitaion or contracted in to do a shoot - in which case, talk mto the lighting designer about what you need.

  • Ian Seddon March 9, 2009 12:42 am

    Another important thing to remember, when you're front of stage right next to the PA stacks you'll want some professional ear protection, I use "ALPINE MUSIC SAFE PRO - PROFESSIONAL DJ EAR PLUGS - MR226585"

  • Shane March 7, 2009 02:28 pm

    First of all, paul, I have met many famous musicians while shooting their shows, including Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Chris Ledoux, Chubby Checkers, Tracy Lawrence, etc....
    Secondly, by contracting with the venue or sponsor (state fair, club, etc.) you can get unlimited access to these shows. Another lighting option, if it is a preset stage where bands come and go, if you are contracted to shoot by the venue they will allow you to mount a couple 1000 ws strobes on radio slaves to light the stage. Then before the show you get meter readings from different points on the stage and adjust your aperature accordingly.
    The key here is you are not going to get the "professional" shots from a tenth row seat with a cheap lens. I shoot from below the stage, on the stage, and of course back a ways with a 400mm f2.8 for the great eye level shots. You need to be the "official" photographer to get these shots. But with the right equipment and knowhow, you can get a good shot or two from your seats. You can't control what happpens on stage (lighting, etc) so you just need to work around it.
    The good shots take a lot of work, sometimes weeks of phone calls, bids, meeting and greeting, freebie jobs, etc to pay your dues and land the gig, but afterall, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

  • Justin March 7, 2009 01:16 pm

    Totally agree with Paul with his "reality check" comment. With all 5 of his I shoot gigs very often. Thanks for the tips on spot metering though....oh, and hearing you on the ear plugs thing.....

  • Nige March 7, 2009 04:19 am

    I've got quite a lot of good shots (maybe not professional) using my Fuji Finepix F10.
    Here's some of them,

  • Mark Greenmantle March 6, 2009 12:49 pm

    Nice intro to gig shooting =)
    I have to applaud the advice to introduce yourselves to the band but, first find their manager (if they have one), get to know their publicist or manager and ask them if they have specific needs, of if they have pet peevs about certain types of shots. One international artist I shot for let me know several days in advance that I'd need to shoot from a balcony 15meters from the stage to get the angles he wanted as all he had of his gig shots till then were basically short shots up his nose and under his chin. It's not flattering. If I hadn't been in contact with the band and manager first I would never have known and would not now be used as their tour photographer every time they land in Australia.

    If you are hiring equipment, the Nikon D3 and the Canon 5DmkII are your best options for low noise at high ISO. I shoot a D3 for concerts and if it's standard concert lighting, I usually do not shoot at less than ISO 3200. I often shoot them at ISO 4000 - ISO 6400 to keep up with dimly lit stages and fast moving metal or punk gigs.

    The note about using flash is really important people, nearly every band will hate use of flash while they are on stage. For starters, you're usually below their height and the flash is unappealling at low angles and more importantly, they're usually looking from a brightly lit stage into a dark crowd. Camera flash is very distracting and rude if it hasn't been previously arranged with the band.

    On that note, I'm off to shoot a gig.

  • adam March 6, 2009 12:18 pm

    You forgot something very important... press access. What you stated might work with artist that are not in the mainstream, but most major signed artist you have to work with the press folks.. It's not just that easy walking up talking to someone and getting in... A relationship is very important with the smaller venues, but major artist all have PR people representing them... and the venue does not have much control of approval (if you are not the venue guy or gal).

  • paul March 6, 2009 10:25 am

    OK now the reality check...
    1 You`ll never get to speak to a major artist
    2 you will almost certainly deal through layers of their management and miss management as there are tour managers, artist mangers label mangers PR,'s PA's and promoters
    3 They will tell you where you are shooting from Pit or Sound desk or back of the arena (in which case make sure you own a fast 400mm)
    4 you will be lucky to get a pass for a major artist if you are shooting for "fun" or your portfolio, pit spaces can be limited and the music industry want their artists in print. Pro freelances don't always get a pass.
    5 You almost certainly will not get to check out the venue first as once the stage is set up the arena effectively is controlled by the artists tour management. which means only the appropriate pass carriers get in and out.

    How do I know.... I shoot this stuff for my living!

  • bytesnbarks March 6, 2009 10:07 am

    Here are some of the photos I took at TSO ....
    the first two photos in this artical look like they are TSO also :)
    I am not really sure how to put a link in here or if it will work, I am new here and to all of this :)

  • Jack March 6, 2009 08:33 am

    I think the information you have share dis fantastic, but I'm wondering if you can shed some light on how to actually get a camera into a concert? I'm a developing ametuer photographer and a huge music fan, but most venues or promoters don't allow cameras beyond the little point and shoots, or the camera feature on cell phones. Any advise you have would be appreciated.

  • Ilya Chigirev March 5, 2009 07:39 am

    I've only ever had one experience shooting a concert and it was simultaneously the most amazing and frustrating thing i have every done.
    I went to go shoot a George Clinton concert at a small local venue near me. I had never shot anything like that before so i brought one D200 and with a 70-200mm and a 24-70mm lens. but i used the 70-200 just about the entire time. I was right up against the curtain of the stage so i spent most of my time on shots of the individual member of the band and was unfortunately unable to get and stage shots (which is a shame because the lighting was amazing).
    after spending the entirety of the opening acts acclimating myself to the constant changing of lights, brightness and position i finally started to get the hang of it. One thing i wish i had done was shoot in RAW because a lot of good shots were over exposed, and because of the extremely bight colored lights I lost all the detail.

    It was nice to shoot a small venue my first time, i think its a lot less intimidating when you are starting out, and much more leeway with the people there.

    My favorite:

  • C. Diane March 4, 2009 03:15 am

    ahh try this one... hopefully it works...

  • C. Diane March 4, 2009 03:14 am

    Here is mine photo that I took at the concert. I couldnt remember the name of the band but got some great shot of them.
    Here mine link..

  • Rockangel March 3, 2009 08:30 pm

    I am just an amateur in this area of photography and am still learning. Here are some of the most important things I have learned about this genre of photography.
    Learn to shoot from different perspectives, up the nostril shots can seem exciting at first but can become boring.
    Practise your skills in gentle local venues with friendly bands. The more professional the venue and artist become the more hostile the situation becomes. Your skills need to be instintive BEFORE you venture out into serious stuff.
    Showing the performer in relation to their audience is an important shot and interaction is even better.
    Protect your ears at all costs. If you intend to really specialise in this area, invest in bespoke ear protection. Don't wait until the damage is done!
    Consider risks to your equipment from over zealous mosh pits, drunken fans and electro-magnetic interference from speaker units. These can all be a danger to your equipment, are you insured? The first sign of a problem is poor AF functionality. Huge banks of speakers can disrupt silent wave motors in your equipment. Beware!
    If you are using spot metering for exposure calculation, meter from a mid tone otherwise you will suffer exposure error.
    Shoot RAW and handle colour temperature problems on computer.
    I always carry a small torch around my neck in order to change settings on the hoof.
    Pay attention to the quality and speed of your compact flash card. I use 8GB fast write cards.
    Have a look at this Myspace site.

    Go to the pics and have a look at some of my attempts. I have a very long way to go I'm afraid, but I am learning quickly!
    Most importantly it's great fun!


  • Jeremy March 3, 2009 06:16 pm

    If you're just shooting a friend's performance at a little club or a smaller scale venue than the arena this seems to focus on, you can get buy with less. Those cheap prime lenses are really fast and can give you some great low-light shots. Also I think that rock photos are one of the places where grain can look alright, as shown in that example. It can give it a nitty-grittier feel, and make it seem a little closer to reality.

  • Sime March 3, 2009 02:25 pm

    Hey fox... I shoot with multiple lenses (depending upon how quickly I can change them) at gigs, take for example, a recent shoot I had with Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate - Yes, he's still playing) I took most of the shots with my 100-400mm lens, it has an aperture of 4.5 to 5.6 and, at an ISO of around 400 I got some great results (If I do say so myself) I swapped it out for song two to my 24-70 f2.8 and took some more shots, dropping the ISO to 200 and (using spot metering) had some good results with it, too. Then, for the last song and a little bit of creative'ness (I know, it's not a word!) I popped on my 50... it's an f1.4 lens and gives great results. Now, this was all at a concert with a seated crowd, no pit (Tanya, not all gigs are standard setup) where I had to kneel in front of the stage, up on my haunches to get the shots, but had to stay out of the way of the screaming crowd. Lots of light, easy to shoot. Now, when I shoot at the pub where it all started for me, I pretty much don't ever go above my f1.4 or, at the outside the f2.8 as the light is really REALLY bad... A nasty mix of reds and purples and not very much of it. So, I find it really depends on your venue.

    Regarding focus, sure, you can get some false positives with flashing lights and sometimes you won't get focus lock at all, but when I shoot, I usually find that I either don't have enough light for a deep depth of field (higher f number) to "sort of" focus where the singer is and shoot, but that I might have enough light to focus on the mic (if it's on stand) and work around there until I get a good sharp shot. In the brighter venues, with the big lighting rigs, I've never had auto-focus trouble.

    One thing I have learned, lighting people (I was one, once) don't like photographers coming up and asking for "less red" or "more white" ...I witnessed this first hand (not me, someone shooting at the same gig) and, if it's a larger show and they're using a more modern desk, chances are the lights are pre-programmed and they'll hate you for wanting them changed.

    here's a shot from a recent shoot... I've included the exif below.

    Errol Brown

    Exposure: 0.01 sec (1/100)
    Aperture: f/4.5
    Focal Length: 100 mm
    Exposure: 0.00
    ISO Speed: 500
    Exposure Bias: 0 EV
    Flash: Off

  • Seattle Photographer March 3, 2009 12:33 pm

    A really good intro to the subject of concert shooting. It is the same basics for shooting jazz as well as rock. I shoot jazz regularly for and post them on my blog
    The only thing I would add is how great it is shooting with the new Canon 5D Mk II at ISO up to 6400. '
    My favorite lens for this kinfd of work is the Canon 200mm f 1.8. Check out the link above for renting on if you have a concert coming up that you want to shoot.
    In jazz they like to keep the lights down real low for the mood, but with this combo of lens and high ISO it is no problem.

  • Fox March 3, 2009 10:17 am

    I recently posted a question in the forum on this very subject but for a small pub venue and was told a 50mm or 100mm prime lens with a 1.4 or 1.8 aperture would be better than a large zoom. Other sites I have visited agree with this. I guess it depends how close you can get to the action but isn't a 2.8 aperture too small? Also manual focus is better than auto focus due to the flashing lights?

    Forgive me I'm a newbie.

  • Tom March 3, 2009 07:00 am

    Great article. Here's an article that a concert PJist wrote on "How and Why to charge: Musicians"

  • Tony Daniell March 3, 2009 06:47 am

    I found the spot metering trick while trying to shoot my daughter's ballet performances. The artistic director's whimsical solutions to back drops forced me to do something. Thanks for validating that for me!

    But I hadn't thought of going to b/w to help me with the grain issues. I was shooting at ISO 1600 with an inexpensive 70-200 and struggling with making that work for me. I'll try b/w and see how they come out.

  • Matt Gibson March 3, 2009 06:13 am

    One piece of advice not directly related to the photography: if you shoot gigs like I do, with loud rock in smaller venues, take earplugs! Often the best view (and the best place not to annoy anyone behind you) is just in front of the speakers at the front, and you'll still want to have your hearing afterwards :)

    Also, turn off the display on the back of the camera, and get used to shooting with it off, using the in-viewfinder metering and readouts. Otherwise the damn thing will blind you while you're changing settings!

  • Tanya Plonka March 3, 2009 05:48 am

    Great summary!

    I disagree with location scouting far in advance... At a large show, it's a standard set up with a media pit, and at a bar show EVERYTHING changes at the last minute, like where the tables are, where the audience will stand, and more importantly, where bouncers will stand! In either case, you always have no clue what the lights will be like until the show starts. However, if you could manage to be there for sound/lighting check you'd be all set :)

    And as Alan said above, those red lights are terrible at shows! If you have any persuasion over the lighting guy (or the band has hired you to be there), inform them of how awful those lights turn out!

  • Alan Nielsen March 3, 2009 04:49 am

    I agree somewhat with spot metering. Again, everything has it's place.

    When you're shooting a lot of "metal" or rock concerts, the lighting guys love the red lights. When you go back and view them and they don't look great, don't be afraid to post-process those into B&W!!

    Also, props for the TSO pics. Who would have thought!

  • Sybren A. Stüvel March 3, 2009 04:44 am

    If you live in Amsterdam and want to give concert photography a go: I'll be playing with my band The Soundabout in Winston on march 17 :)

  • Ilan March 3, 2009 01:45 am

    Great list of tips.
    One of the most important once, I think it "Get Spot On" - It gives you a strong enough light, and a dramatic selective, lightning.
    One tip I find like a good working tip when shooting concert (by the way - there is little difference in light settings between concert and a wedding or a rave concert, for example) - Get an angle - High angle(!) will allow you to transfer the looks and the energy of the crowd, a shot from the stage /DJ corner will give you the opportunity to capture the "waves" of people dancing below.

    Great article!

  • Yanik's Photo School March 3, 2009 01:02 am

    Great tips Peter!

    I would also add to the shutter speed at most concerts I shot were around 1/100 sec or higher. I found that 1/60 were still too blurry for my taste (unless I wanted a blur effect).

    Your tip on spot metering was great. I always shoot manual but never thought of playing with metering. I'll try that next time. :)

  • Ben Jamieson March 3, 2009 12:40 am

    Nice piece. I didn't think of the spot metering tip, and now wish I had!

    Oh, and you don't necessarily need to be an official photographer to get decent shots. These ones:

    were all taken from 10-15 rows back, and all with my trusty 50mm f/1.4 (there's no way a 'regular' concert goer is going to be let in with a 70-200mm!)


  • dcclark March 3, 2009 12:16 am

    Great advice, especially about the need for spot metering (since I suspect that most of us stay in matrix/evaluative mode by default).

    I'm a big fan of these articles about unusual venues or shooting locations. They may be useful to me some day, but more importantly, thinking about strange lighting, action, and focus problems makes me understand my camera and its inner working better.