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





The Silence of Photography

20 12 2009

The deafening silence of photography is powerful. When making photographs or viewing photos no sound is captured. The sound of the people, the music or the weather lays within our minds.

I was inspired to shoot some Tempe architecture by viewing my friend Jon VanderMey’s photos of his local architecture and sights.  ASU has some great buildings for photography – so I took advantage of this great winter day and went on a photowalk.
Typically I do a lot of concert photography and there is always sound associated with each picture. Not so today. More than the picture I made I enjoyed the silence of the subjects. I was able to create my own soundtrack to today’s shoot. Do you know how powerful that can be?
What do you think about or listen to when you are taking photographs?




Has Digital Photography Raised or Lowered the Creative Bar?

15 12 2009

Has the creative bar been raised now that the point of entry into photography has been lowered?

My mind wonders sometimes and during an afternoon in traffic school I posed this question to myself. Now that almost anyone can afford a camera whether it’s an entry level DSLR or ‘Point and Shoot’ – what has happened to us creatively?

I’m sure there are plenty of arguments for both sides but I think that the creative bar has been raised. Professionals now are separating themselves exhibiting a higher level of expertise more than ever. If we took three photographers (professional, serious hobbyist and amateur) and shot 5 photos of 5 different objects – I’m sure the professional would take away the best pictures. No brainer…they have the most experience and the highest level of technical skill.

The new reality is that the professional has to be on their game so that they do not come back to the pack. No longer can a professional photographer show up and deliver mediocre photographs. My sister’s cousin’s brother could have delivered mediocrity – but a pro…no way. That’s why they are a professional and not someone who take photos occasionally.

Granted, there may be more professional photographers but creatively the hobbyist is pushing the professional to justify their title (and fees.)

What do you think – Has the creative bar been raised? I really want to hear what others have to say about this topic…drop me a line – GRT2





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.