Exposure Settings for Concerts & Spotlights

Taking photos at a concert, regardless of who’s on the stage, can be a tricky thing to master. There are a number of things to consider. But the one thing that you need to give the most importance to is the spotlight, as David Bergman explains:

Spotlights create an intense beam of light that completely overpowers all the other lights on the stage. It takes some effort to negotiate the spotlight and get away with good exposures. The spotlight is also the most consistent of all the lights. The other production lights may change color and intensity, but the one light that stays pretty much constant throughout the concert is the spotlight.

Spotlights can expose a face rather well. But as they tend to drown out the rest of the lights, everything else appears dark. The camera’s built-in meter will try to raise the exposure and in doing so over-expose for the subject’s face.

photographing live performances

There’s no such thing as a golden formula for exposure settings at a concert. Every concert has a different lighting setup. And therefore the same exposure details will not be applicable for all situations

how to shoot better images in concert

First of all, don’t set your camera on auto exposure. This will overexpose the performer’s face.

The correct approach is to figure out what the exposure should be for the face (lit by the spotlight) and then lock it in manually. Of course you have to switch to manual before you do that and stay in that mode for the entire duration of the shoot.

You must be wondering, at this point, how to come up with that correct exposure for the face. The easiest way, according to Bergman, is to start from any ball park number and then correct yourself by taking a few test shots.

tips for concert photography

Use these guidelines to make things a little easier:

  • Set your ISO as high as your camera permits without noise making everything garbage.
  • Set your f-stop as wide as your lens permits.
  • Adjust the shutter speed, considering the previous two settings. Use the highest shutter speed you can so that your images don’t turn out blurry.

how to take photos of a concert

Once you’e locked in the right exposure for the subject’s face, forget it. There’s no point in fidgeting with the camera after this. Just shoot as many frames as you can. The idea is to enjoy what you’re doing, soak in the atmosphere, and shoot great images.

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