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 – 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

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┬áskate 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.

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:

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.

When Is Familiarity Important? Three Part Series – Part ONE

6 12 2009

Yesterday I commented on a “How to photograph skateboarding” article and it got me thinking – When is it important to be familiar with your subject? I’ll stay with skateboarding for a moment…

If you don’t know skateboarding the chances of you taking a great (not just good) skateboard photo in minimal. There are so many subtle nuances in skateboarding that make a great shot. With that being said these nuances that are predictable when you know the athlete and the sport. Here’s a photo of Neal Hendrix I shot at The Skatepark of Tampa / Tampa Pro.  Neal is a perfect example. As a skateboarder he is super consistent and since was a contest run he was doing the same tricks in the same parts of the ramp – which is typical of contest runs and in practice. But if you didn’t know Neal or the tricks he was doing – you would be at a severe disadvantage. (Thanks Neal for being a good example.)

I ask myself constantly – “Why am I shooting this?” Many times the answer is “because I want to” or simply “this looks cool.” I’m fine with any answer that makes someone pick up a camera but if you go back to the why – it’s something that interests you – right? Why else would you want to capture that moment in time?

With all that being said sometimes the subject is something that doesn’t take a long time to get familiar with. In the next posts of this series I’ll give examples of different subjects: subjects that I had to get to know well before I made a great picture and others that I familiarized myself quickly with before a great photo was made.

(Note: Thanks for reading my blog. Please post comments as you see fit or send me an email ( with any questions etc.)

Personal Photography Tipping Points : FOUR Photos

2 12 2009

Thinking about myself as an artist is a daunting thought. I don’t know why but I am extremely uncomfortable with the label. However, I can distinctly remember photographs I have made that made me stop and say I’m on to something. Here they are:

The Vampire – This was taken during a winter trip home. We were walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the opportunity just presented itself. I was actually unaware what was going on until Amy pointed it out. Her presence of mind and awareness made this happen – I just had all the right settings dialed it. This shot was altered in Photoshop to make the imagery more powerful.

Jackson Hole, WY – This photograph was the first time I pre-visualized the shot and went back to the spot and made a picture happen. I was driving to the skatepark in Jackson and saw this sight. Not having a camera with at the time made this experience what it was. I saw exactly what I wanted to capture and went back a couple of hours later and created it.

God and Basketball – (Gila River Indian Reservation) While driving around in Arizona I just sort of let the road take me. I ended up on the Gila River Indian Reservation about 25 miles south of Phoenix. After stopping to take a couple of photos I found this site. This was one of the most powerful places I have ever been. The spot was perfect. I had a basketball in the car which completed the picture.

Kristina Snake River Overlook – (Grand Teton National Park) I set out to recreate Ansel Adams’ famous photograph. I took about 25 or 30 pictures of this famous spot with my camera in Black and White mode. As I was putting my equipment away I called Kristina’s name and she turned to look and this is the resulting picture. This was a one shot moment that I couldn’t duplicate again (much like The Vampire) photo.

These are the four photos that make me consider myself a photographer and someone who make pictures. I don’t know what else to really say about it. When I look at these photos I am taken back to the exact time and place they were taken – I can’t describe it any better then that…

Evolution as a Photographer : Part FIVE

27 11 2009

So we’re pretty much up to date…rather than rehash the last couple of years I want to talk about the future. Besides, if you’re reading this you probably know what the last couple of years have brought me – if not send me an email or comment and I’ll go back and add a 4.5 blogpost.

Today I find that I am shooting photos a couple of times a week and if I’m not shooting I’m doing something photography related. Photography is my creative outlet (I do have a 9 -5) and a way I can express myself. Let people into my world through imagery – by making pictures. (Favorite picture ever.)

I am lucky and thankful for everyone who has taken the time to comment on my pictures. I love the negative ones too. Especially the negative one’s that attack me personally and are so far off based. They show me that I am on to something…

Lucky to have a great girlfriend who supports my photo journeys and often accompanies me. (Kristina at Snake River Overlook / Jackson, WY). Lucky to live in Tempe where there are so many creative people who are willing to engage in open dialogue about technology, creativity and new ideas. Arizona has helped my immensely to become who I am as an artist. Lucky, to be able to reach out to people who believe in what I do and give my the opportunities that may be more plentiful in larger cities yet harder to come by. Thanks to RCPM for their support and access along with all the other musicians who have asked me to shoot their shows (or vice versa.)

Although, I believe my photo future is bright – it’s still cloudy to me. I don’t know where photography will take me and I am not sure of the route I will take. My immediately plan is to enjoy the route wherever it takes me…

My photos can be found at:
Flickr Page

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