So you have decided you want to rock with your camera and specialize in concert photography. If you are as passionate about music as you are photography this would be a perfect fit with the potential of creating a dream job. With that said a seasoned concert photographer knows the importance of capturing that moment that showcases the performer’s spirit and the emotion of the material they are delivering to the audience. Remember an ideal concert shot is more than catching the big action shot of a screaming rocker it is also the soft vulnerable quiet moments that can often create a better visual story for the viewer. The performer is allowing you to enter their world and experience what they are feeling through their music and it is your job as the photographer to encapsulate the concert – sometimes with a single shot. (This would not be a good fit for a studio photographer due to lack of control of light, rowdy crowds pushing and shouting behind you and subject on a constant move).
One of the first things to consider is your gear inventory. A camera that allows for manual settings is far superior as lighting conditions are unpredictable at best. In my experience there have been several instances that flash was not permitted and therefore a manual setting adjustment was imperative to the success of the shoot
A telephoto lens can be your best friend, especially in a crowd. It allows you to zoom in on the action through the crowd much easier, reducing the surrounding and background clutter. You can track and capture facial expressions as the subject performs with greater ease.
Depending on the type of location logistics, a mono pod can be a vital resource for a concert photographer. It not only provides stability and reduces camera shake but it is a perfect tool for panning and is lightweight, easy to carry and takes up very little room in a crowded environment.
For the more advanced shooter there are filters that reduce light glare and gear that allows flash to bounce off various locations. There are a cornucopia of remote and hand held gadgets that offer a little more options for creativity but are not necessary if you focus on your camera’s fundamentals and pay close attention to over all lighting conditions.
A simply way to “get the money shot” as we say in the business is to ramp up your ISO setting and speed up your F Stop. What this does in laymans terms is that it allows more light to enter the camera and stop the action quicker, resulting in a cleaner, crisper shot. On a personal note I prefer spot metering over evaluative because of the constant light changes at concerts, however, there is no real rule. It all depends on environment, lighting, camera model and overall look and feel you are trying to achieve. So my best advice is to experiment until you and your camera have found a common ground that works as a general starting point when shooting concerts.
Something that has ruined a great many shots are mic stands, they are your enemy. The band is likely to be on a elevated stage above you and there is nothing worse than a lead line that dominates the photo. Try to time your shots where people step back a little, or shoot from the side to avoid this.
I highly recommend shooting in continuous mode, as this function enables you to capture a sequence of movements, expressions and reactions. As long as you keep your finger on the shutter the camera will continue to take shots, the odds of getting that perfect image are far greater and with the world of photography almost exclusively digital there is no expense to endure, just delete the unwanted images.
Also try and anticipate reactions of the performer you’re shooting. Since music delivers a melody and beat you should be able to speculate when a big move, facial gesture or action should be about
to be presented to the audience.
On a final note, although this column has only touched the tip of the iceberg on concert photography, the most important tip I can offer is to watch the band, study their mannerisms on stage and don’t forget about the audience and how they interact with one and another. People feed off of each other’s energy and that is particularly predominate in music, use this energy to aid in capturing the raw essence of performance so that the viewer can feel like they had the experience even though they we not able to attend the concert. Until next month, get rocking and Happy Clicking!