3 Tips for Photographing a Concert
Photographing concerts can be crazy fun or it can be super frustrating. Sometimes it's both. Whether it's trying to get access to a show, something/someone obstructing your view, or equipment failures, it seems like there's always something not going quite right. But that's all part of the gig. You can either get upset and "throw in the towel" or adapt and move on. I like the challenge and it feels good looking at great photos, especially after a particularly challenging show. Here are some tips for having the best experience possible.
1. Get there early.
Not all venues have press areas, so you're going to be lumped in with everyone else. Everyone else may not be as courteous as you and will most likely have their cellphones high in the air to get what they expect to be the best (cellphone) pic ever. Sadly, this means that they're going to have their arms and phones in your line of sight unless you are in front of them.
2. Research the venue.
Is there a large space between the stage and the crowd? Is the stage really large? What's the best place to be to get the best photos? These are all important questions. One of the local venues that I shoot at is a very intimate venue. The stage is only about 6 feet deep and maybe 12 feet wide and the crowd can be right up to the edge of the stage. Because of all this, I never bring a lens that is over 50mm. Anything with more zoom than that, and I would be photographing close-ups of their faces and other detailed shots.
Make sure your battery in the camera is charged and the memory card is empty. The last thing you want is to have gone through all this planning and halfway through the first song have your battery die, or your memory card be full. I always bring an extra of each just to be on the safe side. Earplugs are also important. If you're going to be really close to the stage, chances are, you'll also be really close to loud speakers. Lens and camera body. Obviously you need these to shoot a show, but I recommend the fastest lens you can get. Fast meaning wide aperture. I generally shoot with either 2.8 or 1.4 depending on the venue. As for camera body, find one that has a high ISO. It's going to be dark in the venue and you're going to want a fairly fast shutter speed to freeze the action. That leaves you with the option of bumping up the ISO and/or increasing the aperture. Sometimes you have to do both. Just like you'll want to have the right camera and lens, you'll also want to have the right attitude. Don't stress out and be nice to people around you.
Bonus tip: The Right Attitude
If you're nice, they may be more accommodating to you and willing to either switch places with you, or at least make sure that they aren't lifting their arms into your line of sight. As a taller person, one thing I always do is to look around me and see if there are any shorter people near me. If so, I offer to them them stand in front of me. This is a win-win situation. They get a better view, I've done something nice, and they'll usually return the favor by checking back occasionally to ensure they aren't blocking my view. Also, stressing out doesn't solve anything. Take a deep breath and improvise ways to work with what you've got.
You can learn more about my concert photography over at Your Concert Photopass.