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Basic concert photography tips

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
David Standridge

Basics of concert photos

There are many, many good sites on both the "Technicalities" and equipment out there, but that is not my goal with this article. The goal of this article is to share with you  the nuances of the art of concert photography.  Bringing to life in photos the emotions that the performer is conveying through pictures.

If the pursuit of monetary wealth is driving you, then concert photography is probably not the field of choice to pursue. There are many personal level perks that do come with the job, but usually, money is not at the top of the list. After all, and especially with national groups, the fear is that you are there to get a few quick money shots to sell and you may be perceived as profiting from the group's image.

One of the first things to overcome when starting out photographing concerts was the urge to use a flash for my images. The one exception to that rule would be if your subject were wearing a hat, or for some other reason the eyes are shadowed.The question has been raised on many occasion “What camera should I get?” and my answer is almost always a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) for the sheer versatility and control that the camera gives.

For the low light situations that most venues offer, the DSLR offers the flexibility of changing shutter speeds, aperture, and ISO (the old days it was commonly called it Film Speed or ASA). I have found that for most concert venues, both large and small that a higher ISO, say either 800 or 1600 will allow me to set and maintain exposures for the dramatic images with no flash. On the subject of flash, I have found from experience that while illuminating the subject (and usually all the background noise and clutter), the flash often casts a different color light than what the venue lighting is actually casting on the performer.

Another pitfall to avoid is trying to preview every image.  If you are looking at the preview screen trying to view images, then chances are that you are not watching the action on the stage and therefore run the risk of missing the money shot.  That one image that will set you apart from the rest of those there with a camera.

The biggest dilemmas that you will run into are clutter.  In the venue there may be amplifiers, speaker stacks, and yes, even mic stands that can distract from the image that you are trying to capture.  The saddest thing is to find this great shot of a performer only to realize later that there is a microphone where his mouth should be.

With all of this in mind, and the fact that as a concert photographer you are trying to bring the event to your viewers, enjoy what you are doing.  That is the most important thing that can be left with you.

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