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Tips for Working with Artists and Bands as a Concert Photographer

Updated: Jan 8

Do you want to lift your concert photography to new heights? Capturing a concert or a live show might look like a tempting job, but it can be quite daunting if you are new to the world of concert photography. As a professional music photographer, you need to be creative and have the professional skills to capture photographs of live performances that tell stories, and evoke memories. Here we are exploring the highlights of professional music photographers with some valuable tips to have a successful shoot with live music.

Photo Credits: Karla Carroll, OC Budge, Phillip Pavliger

What is a Concert Photographer?

A concert or music photographer is a professional who provides quality images from live music shows and events. These experts work independently or as freelancers. They should have an understanding of composition, lighting, resolution and attention to detail. They know how to find and capture the creative moments that tell stories and portray the band’s unique personality and style of music. Here are some tips to working with artists, bands, venues and promoters as a live music photographer.

Techniques for Unique Concert Photography

A group of music photographers pictured together at a recent music festival.

Be Prepared

First and foremost you may want to do some research on the artist or band. Check out their music style, on-stage persona, and possible existing photos. It will help you capture the essence of their live performance. You also need to have the right equipment, and the exact location of the performer and knowledge of where your location will be during the shoot. For example, will you be in a photo pit directly in front of the stage or does the artist want all photographers at the FOH, ('front of house' - back of the venue at the sound board). Carry some extra memory cards, batteries, and lenses to avoid any mishaps. A long lens is required if you are shooting at FOH. Furthermore, don’t forget to reach the location as early as possible, to avoid the photo escort (and other photographers), having to wait for you.

Essential Equipment for Concert Photographers

Photo Credit: Byron House, (Kenny Aronoff on drums)

Connect with the Artists

If time and the artist allows...You can introduce yourself, and discuss your plans to capture their live performance. You can also attend their smaller shows to capture their hidden moments and connect with them personally. Another great place if permitted, is backstage or in the green room, before or after their performance. The artists truly appreciate concert photographers who are discreet and stay out of the way of the performance. So be professional, and respectful, at the show and especially during the shoot.

If I have an 'all access pass' to shoot from anywhere, I always give the band a heads up if I will be on the stage at some point shooting their set. I especially acquaint myself with the drummers and let them know I'll be close, as I'm usually shooting alongside their drum kit and all around them, during the show.

The Importance of Personal Engagement in Concert Photography

Fantastic Negrito and I backstage after his set, as Taj Mahal played onstage, at UC Berkely Theater, 2018

Cooperate with Other Experts

If you find other music photographers and/or videographers are capturing the event, it’s always a good practice to communicate with them so not to get in each others shots. As well as, you also need to keep in mind the guidelines or restrictions given by the artist, if any.

Focus on the Energy and Atmosphere

As a professional music photographer, you need to focus on presenting a story rather than just capturing the artist on the stage with concert photos. Don’t be shy to experiment with various views and angles, such as shooting from the stage, pit, or balcony. Where ever you will be allowed access from to shoot. Sometimes, you have to accept some tough lighting conditions at the concert. In such cases, try to enjoy the ambiance that the lighting effects generate. You can correct some live lighting issues in your edits. Such as if the lights are dim, or reds and blues, you may want to correct the look by changing your photos in Photoshop or Lightroom into black and white whilst editing.

Maximizing Collaboration among Music Creatives

Interviewing iconic music photographer, Henry Diltz at NAMM 2022. Photo Credit: Mike Starkey

Some of my favorite camera gear...

(Affiliate links): Canon Mirrorless R6 Body - Canon 70-200 2.8 Zoom Lens - Canon 24–240 Lens -

Wrapping Up

After covering the event, you can review what went well (and not so well), and how you can improve it to make your next event more successful. Learning what went right and what went wrong each time. And bring that knowledge with you to the next gig. That makes one a better photographer with each shoot. It takes years so dont be hard on yourself if you think your progress is taking too much time. Practice builds confidence and know how. Accept the difficulties and enjoy the process of capturing the soul and essence of live music.

Reach out to The Music Soup to explore more about the best live music photographer!

Photo Credits: Bruce Forrester, Phillip Pavliger, Pat Johnson, Robin Zickel, Jean-Luc Vaillant, Daniel Simon.

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