Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Top Tips for Concert Photography

Ever since I started shooting concerts, I've always been interested what advice others give on the subject.  It just so happens a group I belong to on LinkedIn has a discussion going on pertaining to this very topic.  So I thought I'd take what I've learned, along with others have shared in this discussion and compile them here.  Please feel free to comment and add your own advise!
  • Fire away!  Especially if the music and the artists are lively.  There's so much that will be happening (movement, lighting, emotions) that you're bound to capture something if you shoot in burst.  Remember, at most venues you've only got three songs to work with.

  • Use a fast lens.  The faster the better!  You really shouldn't be using anything that's slower than 2.8 unless you're using something like a D3S with superior high ISO performance.

  • Crank the ISO.  This depends on your camera body and how well it handles the noise produced from the higher ISOs.  I don't like to go over 800 on my D700.
  • Shoot in RAW.  You have more options tweaking the photo in Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture if you use RAW.

  • Play around with different depths of field and different vantage points to alter the mood in your shots.  Try to bring in your subject as close as possible, either physically, or with a zoom lens.  You want to convey a feeling of closeness.

  • Get group shots, individual shots, instrument shots, and fan shots (if your publication is interested in those).  I always try to get a few photos of every band member.

  • Freeze the action.  You generally want your shutter speed to be a 1/250.  You can lower it based on tone of the performance.

  • Use blur creatively.  After I've snapped a good number of pictures that I know will be super sharp with frozen action, I drop my shutter speed a little to capture some creative photos.  Hair whipping and the hand jamming a guitar produce some very dramatic photos if everything else is sharp.  A shutter speed of 1/180 will usually produce this result.

  • Spot Meter.  The lights are constantly changing and using a spot meter on your subject will help you nail your exposure.

  • Shoot Manual.  This is a personal preference, and takes some time to get used to, but after you shoot concerts long enough, you'll be able to quickly adjust your exposure to compensate for the rapidly changing lighting.

  • Know the artist.  Find videos of them performing on YouTube.  If you can learn how they perform ahead of time, you can try to anticipate those "money shot" moments.  Does the lead guitarist like to jump around or hold his guitar high in the air?  Does the drummer like to throw up his sticks and catch them?  Does the singer have a signature move?  A little research goes a long way!

  • Be aware of things like mic stands and monitors.  Depending on your vantage point, they can be a distraction in the shot.  Pay attention to how the singer holds the mic stand and the direction of the lights.  The shadows cast from a mic close to a singer's face can be very phallic and will result in a useless photo.

  • Know your venue.  Are you right up against the stage or shooting from the soundboard?  What type of lights does the lighting technician prefer?  If you know these types of things, you can better determine the type of lens to use, if you need a teleconverter to give a little more reach, whether you need to bring a small step-stool, or if auto white-balance will work.

  • Be aware of your composition.  It's better to shoot a little wider and crop then to shoot too tight and cut off something that's an important part of the picture.  If shooting a guitarist, you want to capture the whole guitar and avoid cutting off the headstock.

Patrick Monahan with Train at Mix 94.1 Petapalooza
Matt Hires
Poison—Rikki Rockett, CC DeVille

1 comment:

  1. Great nailed your work....