Whenever there is a music festival, photographers are contracted for taking amazing shots of performing bands. Nonetheless, all photographers know how challenging this field is, as they often struggle to get decent images for numerous reasons. For instance, they have no control over the lighting, flash is often prohibited, and artists are consistently moving… In short, they have no control of almost any parameter in the picture!
How can you be prepared to shoot despite these conditions? What camera settings should you use?
What do you do before the concert starts?
Hafiz : Before the concert starts, you need to be 100% prepared. I would recommend you to go early to the event and have a chat with the person responsible for the lighting. If possible, tell her/him what kind of lighting & colour you’ll need. Personally, I think it’s better if you get some white or neutral light, in order to have a normal colour balance in the image. It’s not good if you always get a whole bunch of different red/blue/green, it will definitely smash the artist’s face!
Additionally, if you’re lucky enough to meet the artist(s) before the show starts, ask them what sort of photographs they are expecting. I always do some research on the band before I shoot. I try to figure out their style and what kind of photo they like.
You should also check with the staff or the artists in which areas you are allowed to shoot. Some musicians can be hard to capture, especially if they are far away from the centre of the stage. For instance, I often struggle to get clear photos of the drummer. For this reason, I always ask if I’m allowed to climb on the stage, shoot from the back, etc. – So remember, go early and talk to the staff and musicians!
What camera and equipment do you use when shooting gigs?
Hafiz : Gigs are often in low light with a dark atmosphere, so the choice of the camera and kit are very crucial. In terms of camera, I am currently using a Sony A7iii, which is very good when shooting in low light. If you’re an amateur or a hobbyist who regularly enjoys shooting live concerts, try the Canon Powershot SX230 HS. This camera has a great performance at high ISO sensitivities, and the good news is with an affordable price tag. If you’re a professional and want to invest a bit more money, Sony Alpha a600 could be an excellent choice. Equipped with a 24.3MP, APS-C-sized Exmor, APS HD CMOS sensor, and BIONZ X image processor, this camera provides you with some extremely high-resolution photographs!
The choice of lenses is the most important step! If you want to get a huge amount of lighting in your photos, you’ll need lenses that have a super wide aperture. I usually use a 24-70mm f/2.8 stabilised lens for concert photography.
What would be the right shutter speed?
Hafiz : Musicians are constantly moving, banging, jumping and running. In order to freeze the movements, therefore you’ll need a fast shutter speed. This will help you avoid getting your photos blurred. In order to freeze the action, I use 1/100 or sometimes over 1/200.
Tip: I often noticed that 1/160 was the perfect speed in concert photography.
What about the ISO?
Hafiz : Boost your ISO, even if your photos will be noisy. It is much better to have some noise rather than a blurred image. Sometimes just have to do that to get a perfectly exposed image. Plus, remember that you can always reduce the noise at the post-production with some editing. So don’t be afraid to crank the ISO! I think it’s good to shoot at ISO 1600, but if you need to go higher go to 2000.
Tip: When my images are very noisy, I edit them in Black & White.
Should I use a flash?
Hafiz : Beware that flash in concert photography can be your best friend or worst enemy. I remember having been to Natalie Cole’s concert (an American jazz-soul singer), that told the staff that if she sees one single camera flash… She would immediately stop the concert! Why? Flash often has a brightening effect that can surprise & distract the artist while she/he is performing. Especially, if you’re shooting right in front of the artist…
Besides, if you are far away from the stage with hundreds of fans all using their camera or smartphone flashes, your flash will have no single effect on lighting the singer.
Tip: Don’t be over optimistic and think that your flash will help you get perfect concert shots… Anticipate and be prepared to use your camera manually!
Mastering concert photography can take lots of time and resources. However, they are really fun to do! Whether you like rock, funk or classical music, we’re sure you’ll all enjoy photographing famous & cool musicians. – Are you passionate about photography?Would you like to become an event photographer? Well, reach out to Klaud9! We often need freelancers like you to shoot amazing pics at some of the greatest events across Asia. Besides, if you have other tips for music photography, feel free to talk to us! We’d love to share it with our contributors 🙂
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