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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