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

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Five Photographers That Rock

2 01 2010

Everyone who has ever been successful has mentors. If mentor is too formal a word for art than people they admire and look to their work for inspiration. The access to online portfolios, flickr and tweets about photo shoots has expanded my view. But ultimately there are a handful of photographers over the years whose work has stuck with me – so here is my list of FIVE Photographers that I respect and admire their work. (In no particular order.)

Stevie D of the Raging Lamos by Ben Cornish

BEN CORNISH: Who is Ben Cornish? Ben is a filmmaker that lives in Denver but growing up he was one of my best friends. Ben was the person who always had a 35mm camera or a video camera with him. I know somewhere there are umpteen boxes of VHS tapes and photographs from our high school days and thereafter. I’ve always liked the diverse subjects Ben shot. One day it would be a skate session and then maybe a concert we were going to later and probably along the way he would pull the car over to take a picture of a cool tree by the side of the road. Ben made it ok for me to take photos and to have a camera with me often.

GLEN E. FRIEDMAN: If you don’t know who Glen E. Friedman is – look it up. Glen documented two groundbreaking subjects in history (and my life) – early days of skateboarding and the east coast music movement (both punk rock and hip-hop.) Glen’s unique composition and powerful portraits are the envy of many photographer. Often before going to shoot a concert or a portrait I will look at one of his amazing books to get ideas on position, lighting and composition. I know I am not alone when I say – Glen E. Friedman has influenced me more than any other photographer. (Period.)

TODD OWYOUNG: Todd is a Concert Photographer from Los Angeles, CA. The thing that always strikes me about Todd’s work is the amazing colors. Concert photography is usually a fight with light. He is able to make the lighting work for him and produce excellent work. What I admire most about Todd is his transparency. Usually his posts include what lenses were used and his camera settings. As I refer to Glen’s books I also refer to Todd’s website to gain insight on technical aspects of concert photography. He has helped my progression as an artist.

CHADWICK FOWLER: I have known of Chadwick for a while now – but I first met him spring of 2009. Chadwick is a professional photographer from Phoenix, AZ that specializes only in great shots. His business is segmented into Commercial Photography, Concert / Music Photography and Portrait Photography. He has a passion for getting the best photo at the perfect moment. More than that he has a passion for his craft (photography) – I know because I have seen him in action. Chadwick sets the bar high for us photographers in Phoenix and we are all better for it. Check out his work. www.chadwickfowler.com

CRAIG BLANK: I’ve known Craig since the early 80’s. Craig was one of our best friend’s (older) brother. I don’t know what to say about Craig’s photographs – whether it’s about his architecture work, product work or portraits – His photos always capture that thing. (It’s difficult to put into words.) Again, these are the shots I am continually seeking. Craig is probably one of the most technical photographers I know (graduated from School of Visual Arts in NYC.) When I see Craig’s work it always makes me pick up my camera and photograph something.

There’s my list. These are the artists that I work to be named with at someday. Who are your favorite photographers – I want to know so I can expand my circle influence. (Happy 2010 to everyone.)

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…





When Is Familiarity Important? Three Part Series – Part THREE

10 12 2009

Sometimes there are situations in photography that the moment is instant and spontaneous. Capturing that moment, that feeling and making a great photograph is the only thing that is on your agenda. There is no time to get familiar with the subject or the location. – click or it may be gone.

There are rules to photography. There are rules and there are suggestions. I try to know the rules and suggestions (I am not the most technical photographer I work on instinct with settings etc.) and when it comes time to make a picture – go with what feels right.

Central Ave Boxing Gym is a place I had never been before. I never really knew what a boxing gym looked liked or what it felt like to be in one. (I can tell you now that it’s very hot.) I didn’t know what the lighting conditions would be like or spacial restrictions. I went and spoke to some people and observed for a couple of moment before shooting anything. This photo was taken from a balcony above the training floor. It was the place that I could get the best exposure and the best composition.

Moments like this are great when you walk into a situation without knowing anything and leave with a photograph that you really like.

The more you know about something the better your end result will be but don’t let that limit you. The best way I’ve found to familiarize yourself with a subject is immersion. Go out and shoot something, then go photograph it again. Measure your progress – keep notes. What do you wish you did differently? Go and repeat. Great photographers are made by shooting photographs.





When Is Familiarity Important? Three Part Series – Part TWO

8 12 2009

Concert photography is like gambling in a casino – the odds are mostly against you. However, there are those times that if you know the game well enough and see an opportunity to come up and have the nerve to follow through – the payoff is huge.

My favorite band to shoot is Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers. Local act gone national, great rock-n-roll and it’s always a good time. I’ve seen RCPM tons of time but I have just started photographing them seriously.

Although I’ve seem them a lot it wasn’t until I saw them as a photographer did I realize how hard this band was to photograph. With every shoot I started to realize how the stage presence and gestures were dictated by the song or tempo. Roger has a great stage presence and is very energetic (someone commented on a photo of mine and said it was trying to photograph a moth in a bright light.) After a while and after watching and after missing shots – it all clicks. Ok here comes the song (Mekong) ok he’s probably going to do this…ok here’s this song (Counterclockwise) I should be positioned over here a little.  Believe me it makes getting shots like this one (taken on 11/21 in Tempe, AZ) a little easier. Going back to the initial gambling analogy – you’re able to stack the deck in your favor a little.

I’ve never shot soccer before – let alone kids soccer (or kids for that matter.) I was bored one day and I wanted to take photos and I ended up in Snedigar Park in Chandler, AZ. It was hot that day and I decided on setting up in a corner under a tree with a telephoto lens. (Truth be told I never use my telephoto lense – I don’t know why.) After reviewing my action shots which were good – not great I saw this photo. A picture of a bunch of kids waiting for play to start. 7, 8 and 9 all in a row. That’s what makes the shot. If I was little more familiar with kids soccer or more specifically I may have shot a great action photo – but this is what I came away with. A numeric composition.

Next post will deal with something that I briefly familiarized myself with a left with making a great photograph.