Music has the power to transport us to another time and place. It can conjure up memories of past experiences, of love, of friendships, and provide us with the soundtrack to our lives. And for many of us there’s no better way to experience music than with live music!
For music lovers, there is nothing quite like seeing a favorite band or artist in person.
The energy of the crowd, the lights, and the vibration of the sound rushing through your body, all come together to create an unforgettable experience.
But for concert photographers, capturing this experience on camera can be the most invigorating experience ever and also a challenge at times.
Concert photography is about preserving memories, capturing the essence of the performer and stopping time so that we can always remember a certain moment or a show. It's an art form in itself, allowing us to relive the beauty of music and an emotion for years to come.
As a concert photographer, I am incredibly privileged to capture memories that will last forever for those attending the show, and especially for those not being able to attend for whatever reason, whether it be health, finances or mobility. My job consists of shooting both the artists on stage and also their enthusiastic fans enjoying the experience. Concert photography requires me to convey the feeling of the concert in my photos and tell a story.
That's why in this blog post, I'll be sharing with you what concert photography is through my lens (and how to get the best photos possible).
What It's Like
Concert photography is unlike any other type of photography (for me). As a music lover, there is nothing quite like it, it's exhilarating. The environment is loud, chaotic, crowded, and often very dark.
Whilst shooting a festival, you're on your feet for many hours, running around trying to get the perfect shot running from stage to stage, sometimes as much as a mile apart. And even when you think you got that perfect shot, there's no guarantee that it will turn out the way you want it to. And then again some shots are great surprises, by accidentally capturing something you didn't see through the viewfinder when you shot it.
But despite all the challenges, it's still one of the most rewarding forms of photography.
Why? Every show is different, the artists and their team of people on their crew have different rules to follow and therefore every experience is different. No two concerts are ever the same, so you always have to be on your toes and ready to adapt to whatever situation arises and whatever new rules are thrown at you.
You never know when a singer will decide to jump into the crowd or when a guitar player will smash their instrument onstage. That's what makes concert photography so exciting—you never know what's going to happen next, and your ability to predict the behavior onstage will always come in handy. It is an exciting genre, usually interesting and nearly always loads of fun. There's not a concert that I go to shoot that someone doesn't ask me if I need an assistant to carry my gear!
Of course, with all of that excitement comes a fair share of challenges as well.
For starters, concert venues can be incredibly dark, which makes it difficult to get clear shots without using a flash. Absolutely no use of a flash is always specified in the contracts that I sign before shooting a show. There is never a show where a flash is allowed. Even if they were allowed I personally would never use them.
Another challenge is that concerts are fast-paced and unpredictable. The performers are constantly moving, and you never know when something amazing is going to happen. You have to be ready to shoot at a moment's notice really quickly and efficiently in order to get the best possible shots. Thats where the ability to predict the movement onstage comes in handy and when you attend as many shows as I do, you get better at predicting, especially whilst being familiar with the artist that's performing. I've been attending concerts since I was a kid and this has contributed to me being so comfortable in this environment.
Additionally, you often have to shoot through barriers, such as security guards or other people in the crowd, which can make it challenging to get a clear view of the stage. If you're not shooting from the photo pit, the stage, or a platform, you have to contend with people moving around and blocking your view. This can happen when the promoter requires the photographers to shoot at FOH (Front of House), which is really back of house by the sound board. This location can put the photographers far away from the stage at some venues. So when this happens, I am usually forewarned so I can bring with me the right equipment to shoot from a distance.
You know how it is when you're trying to watch something and constantly having your sight blocked by others moving around? But that's the environment. One must have to accept where they are and make the best of things. Also, I’m not tall so that can add to this issue.
Getting That Perfect Shot
Although concert photography may seem like an difficult task at times, there are certain things you can do to set yourself up for success.
First and foremost, always be kind and considerate to both the other photographers and the label representative/promoter. Always get the correct credentials/permission from the artists to actually shoot the show. I usually apply well in advance to the show. On the day of the gig, arrive early and never keep the (promoter) ‘escort’ to the stage, waiting. Follow the rules, sign the contract and be mindful when shooting not stand in front of the other photographers there. As we are all there to do the same thing. Don't get in their shot!
Don't be afraid to experiment with different angles and perspectives—the more unique your photos are, the more likely people are going take notice.
And finally, always remember that practice makes perfect, the more concerts you shoot, the better your chances will be of nailing that perfect shot!
More About Getting That Shot
The Best Equipment for Concert and Live Music Photography
When it comes to live music photography, there are a few key pieces of equipment that you'll need in order to get the perfect shot.
Primarily and above all else, you'll need a DSLR camera, and good quality lenses with fast shutter speeds. This will allow you to capture sharp images even in low-light conditions.
In addition to your camera and lens, a few other pieces of equipment can come in handy when shooting concerts...A small stool to stand on, a tripod if shooting from Front of House, extra batteries, a protein bar and ALWAYS bring with you your good manners!
1. Work quickly and efficiently
You must be able to work quickly and efficiently to get the shots needed in the short time you are allowed to shoot. Usually only the first two - three songs.
This means being able to change lenses quickly, knowing your camera settings like the back of your hand, most of your adjustments will be in the dark, and being able to anticipate moments onstage before they happen. Be familiar beforehand, with the artists you're shooting.
2. Anticipate moments
A good concert photographer knows how to anticipate moments before they happen. How and if the band moves around on stage.
This comes with experience and a familiarity of the music, the musicians and human behavior. By anticipating when a song is going to build to a climax or when a crowd is going to go wild, you can make sure you're in a position to get the shot when it happens!
3. Have an eye for emotion
A great photo captures more than just what is happening on stage; it captures the feeling of the moment as well. What I aim for is capturing the ‘essence’ of the performer.
To do this, you need to have an eye for it and be able to capture ‘the moment’ with your lens. This is usually achieved by having an innate eye for this job. This is what can set your shots apart from the rest. I like when the artist looks straight at my lens, so the capture speaks intimately to the viewer.
Keep These in Mind
Make sure you have plenty of batteries and memory cards, so you don't miss a moment due to faulty problems that are bound to happen at some point.
Know your camera inside and out. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it's important to know how to use your camera quickly and efficiently so you can focus on getting great shots instead of fumbling with your camera settings. And you’ll have to be working in the dark so know what the knobs and dials are for even in the pitch black cause you’ll be working in braille most of the time.
Don't be afraid to get creative. Concerts are all about having fun and letting loose, so don't be afraid to experiment with different angles and compositions.
Remember to enjoy the show. After all, you're at a concert to have fun too.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and as a concert photographer, I try to capture some of the most powerful words and moments imaginable.
Music has a way of speaking to us on an emotional level, and good photography can tap into that emotion and convey the essence of the music and the musician to the viewer.
And aside from the skill and the equipment this job requires to get that perfect shot, you need to have a passion for music. You need to be able to feel the music and to understand what you want to capture in your photos. Music runs through my veins, the camera is merely an extension. I consider that the photos are simply music in a visual form.
Indeed, live music or concert photography is more than just taking a picture of a musician on stage. Everyone has cameras these days. It's about capturing the feeling of the music, the energy of the crowd, and the overall atmosphere of the event.
It's a challenging form of photography, but it can be truly stunning when done well.
Check out all the music photography in The Music Soup. www.themusicsoup.com
Whether it's an outdoor festival or small venue gig, I will help immortalize your experience with stunning imagery - from pre-show set up, throughout all stages during the show, and post-show wrap-up. From load in to load out.
Contact us today, and let's capture your gig so they never fade away. firstname.lastname@example.org