We all love the rush of an amazing concert, whether we’re dancing along to the beat or moshing in the pit. But many of us like to capture the moment, quite literally, and record our experience. However, it’s hard to get decent photographs with compact digital cameras or smartphones. Dark lighting, flashing lights, and constantly moving musicians make it difficult to photograph. If you’re willing to lug around a DSLR camera and the right interchangeable lenses, you can take some pretty awesome shots.
First you’ll need the right equipment. The standard lens to use is a 70–200mm f/2.8. This will be fast enough to take shots and has a great telephoto range. If you’re a beginner, you can get away with a 50mm or an 85mm, but you’ll have to make up for distance by moving around a lot to get closer. A wide angle lens really isn’t necessary, unless you’re looking for a picture of the entire band and the crowd.
The stage will always be dim so you need to compensate for that light. You should be shooting in a high ISO and a wide aperture. It’s good to stay in the ISO range of 1600 to 3200 (sometimes higher if the camera can handle it without too much noise) and not dip below an f/5-6. However, be aware that these settings will create a small depth-of-field range and higher noise levels. The key is to be flexible and quick when taking your pictures. It’s also important to increase your burst rate. The more frames you can shoot per second, the better because lights will be flashing and musicians will be moving.
Now that you understand some of the settings, how can you get the best possible pictures from your locations? It’s not all about technicality. First and foremost, you must watch the performers. Notice how they like to move on stage, where their favorite places to stand are, what are their signature moves and facial expressions. If you can photograph these quirks, it will make for a beautiful shot. Once you learn their moves, anticipate them. Be ready to compose the picture when the guitarist leans back for his guitar solo.
Go behind the scenes with a professional concert photographer:
Don’t just focus on the people; compose pictures around instruments, props, and lighting. The line of a guitar looks best at certain angles. Take notice if your musicians are right or left-handed so you can choose which angle is best. Be on the lookout for clutter though. The stage is filled with speakers, cables, mic stands, and any other electronics to make the show work. Try not to get these objects in the shot and never position yourself directly in front of a singer unless you want a mic in front of his mouth. Lastly, be nice and you’ll likely get your own mini performance as the musician looks right at your lens.
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