Concert photography isn’t easy. Despite the passion that you may hold for your favorite band, you won’t be able to control their venue, lighting, poses, shadows, angles, schedules or activity levels. You’ll simply have to do your best with what’s given to you. In that respect, here are 15 concert photography tips that might make your night a little easier.
1. Boost Your ISO (But Not Too Much)
The higher your ISO, the more sensitive your camera becomes to light. Unfortunately, a high ISO is also a recipe for “grainy” pictures full of noise. You’ll need to find the right balance when working with concert photography tips, so try fiddling with your camera settings while the cover band is still playing. Then you’ll be ready when it’s time for the main event.
2. Invest in a Fast Lens
The best lens for concert photography will depend on a variety of factors, but generally speaking, fast lenses are a safe bet if you’re trying to capture all of the action in a sharp and defined way. This is because fast lenses have wider apertures that let in more light to your camera’s sensor. A good starting place is 50mm and f/1.8, but you can adjust as needed for your specific style.
3. Shoot In Manual Mode
Concerts are notorious for their dramatic, quick-changing lights, and cameras can’t always keep up with their pace. If you try to shoot in automated mode, your pictures will probably come out overexposed because your camera was trying too hard to read the environment and give you the “right” settings for good pictures. Use manual mode instead so that you can override your camera if necessary.
4. Choose Your Perspective
If you want an expansive shot of the crowd forming a mosh pit, you’ll need a high, wide perspective for a landscape-like photo. Look for balconies and steps that you can climb. If you want a closer, more intimate image of the lead guitarist closing his eyes during a riff, you might need to narrow your focus and shove in front of someone else’s shoulder. Perspective matters quite a bit in concert photography tips, so don’t be afraid to go for the money shot.
5. Employ the Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a popular photography tip that also extends to concert photography tips. Instead of always putting your subject in the very center of your screen, pretend that there’s a three-by-three grid stretching across your digital canvas. Put your subject in different “squares” to see how it affects the composition of your shot.
6. Go Monochrome
Black-and-white pictures can hide a lot of flaws, so if you’re wondering how to photograph a concert despite pixels, blurs and other image quality issues, this is it. Imperfections will be much less noticeable when they’re smoothed away by shadows and contrasts. Some cameras will even let you preview monochrome shots or toggle between color and grayscale options while you’re shooting.
7. Don’t Use Your Flash
Not only is this a big no-no at live concerts, but it’s also functionally worthless. Even if you manage to snap a bright photo of the band, your background will be a dark shadow that offers no visual points of interest. A better strategy is manually experimenting with your exposure settings until your camera is ready to take shots in the dim light.
8. Read Reviews of Other Concerts from the Same Tour
If the band releases hundreds of balloons during the final act, you’ll want to be ready. If they spray the crowd with water to get everyone excited, you’ll need to pack a moisture-proof camera bag. This is why it’s important to read reviews and testimonials from other people who have attended concerts on the same tour. Concert photography tips can only do so much; you’ll need to prepare as much as possible for unexpected events.
9. Mind the Little Details
This is one of the essentials when it comes to tips for concert photography. Details are what separate blurry amateur snaps from well-developed, high-quality photos. Here are just a few things that you might highlight in your shots:
– Hands or glow sticks waving in the air during a slow song
– Snake-like cords and plugs trailing away from the band’s equipment
– Close-ups of the smoke or fire from the concert’s special effects
– Human emotion from excited or teary fans
10. Use Different Shutter Speeds
To capture the drummer’s sweat flying off his sticks and hitting his cymbals, you’ll need a high shutter speed that can freeze a split-second in time. To create an artistic motion blur behind a headbanging rock star, you’ll need a slow shutter speed that gives the impression of movement. Experiment with both of these techniques to create a wide range of concert photos.
11. Get Used to Silhouettes
Unless you have previous experience with low-light photography, you might be surprised by the number of photos that will turn into silhouette photos without even trying. Instead of fighting it, why not embrace it? Set up photos during spotlights and blackouts to form perfect shadows framed against eye-popping light. You can’t edit them in later, so you’ll need to capture them in the moment.
12. Learn How to Photoshop
If you’re wondering how to take concert photos like the experts on Instagram, you should know that at least half of their time is spent in Photoshop. This is called “post-processing,” and it’s done by everyone in the business. Only by boosting colors, deepening shadows and editing out unsightly smudges can you achieve the flawless look that you expect from professional concert photography.
13. Stick to Dominant Colors
Not many tips for concert photography are concerned with color, but it’s something that you should think about anyway, especially since you’ll be working with a limited palette. Concert technicians don’t waste time with turquoise lights or rose-gold lasers. They’ll stick with bold, bright and basic colors that can be seen by the back rows just as easily as the front ones.
14. Avoid JPEG Mode
You may not read this in many concert photography tips, but it’s important. JPEG mode will blind you to the flaws in your photographs by masking over them or making assumptions about what you want the final product to look like. If you’re serious about taking good concert photos, you’ll need to shoot in raw mode and do the post-processing yourself. Again, it all comes back to Photoshop.
15. Start Small
Your favorite band is coming to your city in six months. You want to take your camera and document the entire evening, but you’re not sure that you’ve read enough concert photography tips to make it work. Try starting with a small, local venue where amateurs play cover songs or read poetry to the crowd. You’ll figure things out in the real world faster than the digital one.
If you’re wondering how to take good pictures at concerts, let these concert photography tips be your first step towards success. Alternatively, you can also give our article on event photography tips a read. Don’t forget to open the comment box and share your personal tricks, too!