Concert Photography: Maneuvering the Crowd and Getting the Shot

Band photography can be an exciting and fun genre to get into, and it’s great for building your portfolio. Newspapers and magazines will be willing to pay for great images of the local music scene. Of course, like any other type of photography, it has its own tricks and obstacles to overcome. And many of these obstacles are physical, such as the crowd of people you have to wade through to get the shots that you want. This video covers a unique perspective of a photographer shooting a live concert. The little video cam attached to the photographer’s DSLR shows you how he maneuvers the crowd, frames his subjects, and waits for the right moments:

Some tips for shooting live bands:

  • Learn the Venue – Figure out where the band will be playing, where the crowd will be, how close you can get, and most importantly, if you are allowed to shoot there. Most places will be very accommodating for photographers as it can give them potential for publicity, but make sure you ask before you start shooting away.
  • Use a Fast Lens – Most places will be very dim during a live show. Of course there will be stage lights, but the ambient lighting will be very low. To compensate for this, you’ll need a fast lens. A prime is preferable, but a f/2.8 zoom could work as well.
  • Shoot at High ISO – Don’t be afraid to bump up your ISO. You’re going to need it to capture sharp shots in such a dim setting.
  • Don’t Use Flash – Flash is very distracting during a live show, especially if it’s inside. Don’t be the guy that ruins the show for everybody. Be courteous to and conscious about the people around you.
  • Be Prepared – A lot can happen on stage very quickly. The performers are jumping and running. Occasionally they go up to the edge of the stage and wail on a solo. If you want to get these shots, you have to be ready at all times. Some moments only last a second before they’re gone forever.
live band photography concert shooting

Things happen quickly on stage. Be ready if you want to capture the best shots.

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  1. GREAT video. I love the “Camera’s Eye View”. along with the photo inserts and commentary. It really gives a photographer’s perspective on which shots to look for live.

  2. kerri says:

    Thanks for the perfect timing lesson. Last week or so you gave tips on getting in on events as a stringer, well it’s all perfect timing for me, I am going to an event of a young start-up band in my area ( I’ve known the lead since he was a kid). Good tips, love them!
    I just hope my lens will do the job, it’s a canon ef-s 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6

  3. kerri says:

    I was wondering should I shoot RAW &/or JPEG for the event/newspaper?

    • Rick says:

      I’d use RAW and shutter priority. Set the time for about 1/200. Then move up or down depending if I want to capture some motion blur and/or if the guys are still or keep moving around. That way I can get some clear shots and I can clean up some of the noise due to the high ISO that I’d need.

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