Concert Photography 101 : Basic Camera Settings

22 01 2010

Death By Stereo : Yucca Tap Room / Tempe, AZ
Taking great photos at concerts has everything to do with knowing how to use the proper settings on your camera. I don’t care if you are shooting with a $750 camera or a $7,500 camera. If you don’t know how to use it under specific concert circumstances – you will not get the shot.

Before the show there are a couple of things I think about. Have I ever seen a show at this venue before? What access restrictions do I have? Is there a photo pit? These questions all lead up to the final question: What is the lighting like at the venue?

Light dictates all of my decisions regarding camera settings.

ISO: The simplest definition of ISO is the measure of film’s sensitivity to light. In digital photography ISO measures the digital sensor’s sensitivity to light. (For a complete explantion: click here)

I set my ISO to the lowest available setting that produces a properly lit image. I don’t like to shoot at ISO 1600+ because of the noise or extra grain in the photo. With that being said – there are situations where it can not be avoided.

How Do I Know What ISO Setting Is Right? There are two ways to quickly determine ISO settings – Test shots or live view. Use your camera’s live view mode to see when you need to push (increase) the sensor’s speed. Live view is helpful to confirm settings before and during all my concert shoots.

Shutter Speed and Lens Aperture: As I mentioned in my previous Concert Photography 101 post, before I was comfortable shooting in manual mode I relied on TV (or shutter priority mode.)

Why? For most venues I tend to max out my lens’ aperture at 1.8 or 2.8 – so there is very little thinking about aperture. When shooting in shutter priority the aperture is automatically adjusted by the internal light meter (we’ll get into metering in the next post) as I alter the shutter speed. Again use your camera’s live view function to preview the photograph. It’s typical for me to change shutter speeds as the stage lights change. Often I go from 1/125 to 1/45 during one or two songs.

These three things (ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speeds) are the simplest way to get on the right path to taking good concert photos. I suggest you practice at your house and get a feel for how your camera reacts to different light. A good experiment is to turn on all the lights in a room – take a couple of photos with different settings. Do the same with medium and dim light. Review the photos and document the settings. Why would you wait until the night of the event to experiment?

If you visit my Flickr gallery you can view my camera settings for every photo posted – take advantage of this information and get a feel for what settings you’ll need at the next show.

As always, I want to know how you do things – leave a comment and share some of your knowledge with everyone.

To view my complete photography portfolio please visit www.grtaylor2photo.com

GRT2 Self Portrait July 2009





Concert Photography 101 : Getting Started

9 01 2010

Greg Taylor Concert Photography Gear

So, you want to combine your love for music and photography but don’t know where to start. I’ve developed a series of weekly articles will help you get started.

The first place to start is with a Digital SLR (DSLR) camera. Sounds simple enough but many people don’t realize that the typical point and shoot camera will not produce the shots you want. Sure point and shoots are great for snapshots of you and your friends but not of the show. I use the Canon EOS xsi with two different lenses. The lenses I almost always use are a prime 50mm f1.8 and a 24-70 f2.8. I find that very rarely do I go into my bag to grab a different lens.

Why these two lenses? The 50mm prime (sometime referred to as the nifty-50) is a lens every photographer should have. The 50 is an inexpensive way to have something that is fast enough for the poor lighting conditions of concert venues. F1.8 is more than enough when shooting at ISO800 – 1600. The 24-70 allows me to frame the shot differently. Whereas the 50mm is prime (no zoom in or out) the 24-70 gives me some more freedom. F2.8 is fast enough with a shutter speed of 1/60 – 1/125 while using ISO800 – 1600.

If you notice I haven’t mentioned using a flash. I never use a flash when taking concert photos. Why? Unless you are on assignment from the band or band’s management the artists really don’t appreciate a flash popping in their face during the set – or even the three songs you’re allowed to shoot (we’ll get to that part later in concert photo etiquette.) Many times the conditions of using a photo pass is “NO FLASH”.

Basic equipment needed: DSLR Camera (which has at least ISO1600) and a f2.8 lens. (Above is a photo of my primary concert gear.)

So you have the gear – now what? You have to know your camera and know the settings. I’m not saying before getting started you need to be the most technical photographer. The knowledge needed is how your gear responds in different lighting situations. What shutter speed? at which ISO? what f-stop? This is what makes or breaks the picture. Get the lighting right and your chances increase dramatically of getting a good photograph. Below are samples of my photos with various camera settings I rely on:

(Links to more of my concert photography with photo settings can be found at www.flickr.com/grtaylor – select image and click on properties)

Know your camera, know your settings, trust your instincts and have fun – chances are you have the best seat in the house!

The next post in this series will discuss ambient light and basic camera settings. The article will also include metering, aperture, determining ISO, and shutter speeds. (Other upcoming posts will include how to get the shot, framing – concert photography composition, post processing digital images, getting your photo equipment in the house and photo credentials.)

I want to know about your concert photography experience. What was the first concert you shot? How did the images turn out? Please leave a comment and show off some of your music photos.

To view my complete photography portfolio please visit www.grtaylor2photo.com





Concert Photography Series: Tips, Tricks and Other Notes from Experience

27 12 2009

Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers

Concert Photography Series:  In this series I will discuss things I have learned along the way from both my experiences and from other photographers. Topics will include lighting, camera settings, equipment and how to obtain the elusive photo pass.

Living in Tempe, AZ I am at both an advantage and a disadvantage with concert photography. Cons: we are a small market. Not every band has Tempe / Phoenix on it’s touring radar. Quite often when I research tour schedules it’s common for a band to go from Los Angeles to Dallas or to Las Vegas and skip the whole Southwest. Pros: This is a smaller market and there are not a lot of photographers specializing in live music. So there are less requests from media for credentials. We have a vibrant local music scene and the bands are very lax with photography and the small clubs are very photo friendly. We have a number of smaller venues (i.e Marquee Theater, Dodge Theater or The Orpheum) where with the right credentials you will be able to photography national acts. (Please replace the names of venues etc. with your local venues that have a capacity of up to 10,000 people.)

Where to get started? Vote on the poll and let me know where we should begin.

To view my complete photography portfolio please visit: www.grtaylor2photo.com





Not just Another 2009 List – It’s My List

23 12 2009

Yes it’s that time of year again…Everyone reflects about the previous twelve months and compiles a list. Some lists are made of resolutions – but not mine. This list isn’t just another Top 10 List – It’s my list. It’s my list of more things that I want more of in 2010!

Best Movie: The Hangover – one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen in a theater. No, I’ve never passed out and been face to face with Mike Tyson’s tiger. (Sorry if you were living under a rock and didn’t see the movie and I spoiled it for you.) I have however gone on a bender and woke up the next day and wondered what the hell happened and who do I need to apologize to?

Best Concert or Live Show: This was a close one but after really thinking about it – It’s Rusted Root and Crowfield at The Marquee Theater in Tempe.

It’s been years since I’ve seen Rusted Root and honestly if their PR Agency hadn’t given me photo access I wouldn’t have gone. It would have been my loss. The band sounds just as good as ever. Another thing about this show was the opening band Crowfield from Charleston, SC. Crowfield is band on the verge of getting popular. (Check them out on iTunes or wherever.) I bought their disc and it’s in constant rotation in my car.

Favorite Travel Spot of 2009: Boise, ID. We went to see friends in Boise on our way to Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, WY. I had never been to Boise before and didn’t know what to think. I was amazed. It’s a great small city that reminds me a lot of Denver only smaller and a little like Tempe but only larger.

Non Music Related Event: The Redneck Olympics on the Mogollon Rim. Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell you the stories. (Maybe.)

Favorite Restaurant: This category had to be broken into two – lunch and dinner.

Lunch: Green New American Vegetarian in Tempe – Awesome food, great prices, fantastic value. (Four Peak Brewery in Tempe is a very close second.)

Dinner: Mucho Gusto Mexican Bistro in Tempe – Our favorite place and some of the best Mexican in the Valley.

Favorite Bar: TT Roadhouse (68th St. & Thomas) Cold drinks reasonably priced and the best jukebox in Phoenix hands down. Some of the patrons may look a little rough around the edges but everyone there is good people. Grab a drink, drop some coins in the jukebox and settle in for a heated game of darts. (Note: TT stands for Tortoise Trophy – a motorcycle race in England.)

Best TV Show: I don’t watch much TV at all. My choice has been off the air for a while but it was something I found in 2009 and since this is my list here it is: The Wire. If you’ve never watched the wire. Get all six seasons on Netflix, lock yourself in a room and watch them all. Awesome.

Favorite Book: Tribes by Seth Godin. Stop fearing criticism and start leading.

Favorite Song: Again it’s my list so I’m going to pick a song I really liked in 2009 that is actually from 1997. Triburay Otis – Otis is track one from The Refreshments (now Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers) second album Bottle and Fresh Horses. Sometime older is a little better than the new and Otis always sounds great live.

So there it is – my list of 2009 stuff. I know there will be people who disagree with me and think I’m wrong. Let me know how wrong I am via comment but remember – this is my list…





Not just Another 2009 List – It's My List

23 12 2009

Yes it’s that time of year again…Everyone reflects about the previous twelve months and compiles a list. Some lists are made of resolutions – but not mine. This list isn’t just another Top 10 List – It’s my list. It’s my list of more things that I want more of in 2010!

Best Movie: The Hangover – one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen in a theater. No, I’ve never passed out and been face to face with Mike Tyson’s tiger. (Sorry if you were living under a rock and didn’t see the movie and I spoiled it for you.) I have however gone on a bender and woke up the next day and wondered what the hell happened and who do I need to apologize to?

Best Concert or Live Show: This was a close one but after really thinking about it – It’s Rusted Root and Crowfield at The Marquee Theater in Tempe.

It’s been years since I’ve seen Rusted Root and honestly if their PR Agency hadn’t given me photo access I wouldn’t have gone. It would have been my loss. The band sounds just as good as ever. Another thing about this show was the opening band Crowfield from Charleston, SC. Crowfield is band on the verge of getting popular. (Check them out on iTunes or wherever.) I bought their disc and it’s in constant rotation in my car.

Favorite Travel Spot of 2009: Boise, ID. We went to see friends in Boise on our way to Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, WY. I had never been to Boise before and didn’t know what to think. I was amazed. It’s a great small city that reminds me a lot of Denver only smaller and a little like Tempe but only larger.

Non Music Related Event: The Redneck Olympics on the Mogollon Rim. Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell you the stories. (Maybe.)

Favorite Restaurant: This category had to be broken into two – lunch and dinner.

Lunch: Green New American Vegetarian in Tempe – Awesome food, great prices, fantastic value. (Four Peak Brewery in Tempe is a very close second.)

Dinner: Mucho Gusto Mexican Bistro in Tempe – Our favorite place and some of the best Mexican in the Valley.

Favorite Bar: TT Roadhouse (68th St. & Thomas) Cold drinks reasonably priced and the best jukebox in Phoenix hands down. Some of the patrons may look a little rough around the edges but everyone there is good people. Grab a drink, drop some coins in the jukebox and settle in for a heated game of darts. (Note: TT stands for Tortoise Trophy – a motorcycle race in England.)

Best TV Show: I don’t watch much TV at all. My choice has been off the air for a while but it was something I found in 2009 and since this is my list here it is: The Wire. If you’ve never watched the wire. Get all six seasons on Netflix, lock yourself in a room and watch them all. Awesome.

Favorite Book: Tribes by Seth Godin. Stop fearing criticism and start leading.

Favorite Song: Again it’s my list so I’m going to pick a song I really liked in 2009 that is actually from 1997. Triburay Otis – Otis is track one from The Refreshments (now Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers) second album Bottle and Fresh Horses. Sometime older is a little better than the new and Otis always sounds great live.

So there it is – my list of 2009 stuff. I know there will be people who disagree with me and think I’m wrong. Let me know how wrong I am via comment but remember – this is my list…





Mickey Avalon Shoot Martini Ranch “What Do You Say…”

12 11 2009

“What do you say..” when you have to shoot in low light? The Mickey Avalon show Tuesday night was a tricky one for a couple of reasons. The main reason being the deceptive light. Most of the time by the eye the light looked decent but the camera was reading things all over the place. I finally decided to go with 1600 Iso and my 24-70mm f2.8 lens – with manual settings. The exposure varied during the set quite often. The other reason being that I am not used to shooting Hip-Hop shows – all things considered I got a bunch of images I really like and it was a lot of fun.

Getting out of my comfort zone was a great experience. This was a great exercise to challenge myself and get away from what I typically shoot. There is so much more movement in Hip-Hop on stage and there are misc. people who otherwise wouldn’t be on stage at a typical show. Mickey Avalon had dancers, a DJ and some guy taking photos from behind him while on stage (covering his flash the whole time with his hand.) This guy was enjoying the show from the stage in a hype man kind of way but I found it odd he was armed with a camera. Composing shots with all the movement and people was tough.

Photos can be seen at: www.grtaylor2photo.com or www.flickr.com/grtaylor

Thanks goes out to Laura and Kristine at Avid Exposure for the access to the show.





Rusted Root : Marquee Theater / Tempe, AZ

10 11 2009

Wasn’t 100% sure about going to this show until a couple of days before. The Marquee Theater is good – but good by AZ standards. I had been there twice last week and got some security hassles on the last night so I was aprehensive about attending.

We pulled into the parking lot around 7:30ish. A van with a “wells cargo” trailer attached came screaming into the lot being directed by a couple of guys. I knew right away the opening band had car trouble – this is going to be interesting. I was 100% right.

Crowfield was the opener. Never knowing what to expect from an opener – we were more than surprised. They were great. (So good I downloaded the cd from iTunes when I got home.) A lot of energy – good lyrics, great tone, just good fun music.

Rusted Root came on about 30 minutes after the Crowfield set. They took the stage, start playing and I get to work for the first three songs (shooting photos in case you didn’t know.) Amazing night of music. Rusted Root is still that fun loving Dave Matthews meets Counting Crows while influenced by the Talking Heads band we all know and love.

The crowd danced their way through a set of old songs, new songs and a couple of covers. A lot of energy – with a lot people drinking water in the crowd (hint – wink wink.) I have never been to a show where the alcohol / beer line was so short.

Thanks to the jack-ass who pushed me in the back and then hid behind his friends because I politely stepped in front of him to take a photo at the end of the show. All in all – a great night of music and a show I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Photos can be seen in the LIVE Music Portfolio gallery on my new website: www.grtaylor2photo.com

Thanks for the support I receive from all of you for the blog and my photography – it is much appreciated!