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How to shoot a concert

How-to: Concert Photography

Concerts often mean dark venues and tricky light conditions that can undermine the photos of concertgoers. Concert photography is therefore a very demanding art that requires adapting your equipment and settings. Here are our technical and practical concert photography tips to guide you, help you highlight your favorite musical artists and take amazing concert photos.
Shooting a concert requires a lot of skills

© Keagan Henman on Unsplash

Concert Photography: Turn off the flash

When shooting a concert, you can first turn off the flash. As a rule, flash photography is banned in concert venues or by the artists themselves. A flash’s bright light will bother both the musicians on stage and the crowd. 

If you have a concert photograph pass or press pass, the rules might be different, but don’t rely too much on your flash anyway, and favor our other tips in order to compensate for the lack of light.

Shoot your images in RAW format

If you have a RAW compatible device, select that option now for your concert photos. Favor the RAW + JPG option, which allows you to preview your images and which also stores lighter JPG files. 

Thanks to this uncompressed format, you can recover much more information in dark areas and in white. This will make things easier when editing concert photography, since there is a good chance your images will undergo strong light contrasts in post-production.

Concert photography need to work around the lack of lighting to capture artists and bands

© Yannis Papanastasopoulos on Unsplash

Use a bright lens

The main challenge with concert photography is the lack of light, which ultimately informs your entire approach. Several elements can help make up for the lack of light, and your equipment is one of them. A bright lens is key here. Thus, the brighter your lens, the larger its aperture (f / 2.8, f / 1.8, f / 1.4) and the more it will be able to let in light. 

By choosing a large aperture, the depth of field decreases. This is generally suitable for concert photos and will allow you to better highlight the subject in the foreground. Concert photography is very demanding, so using a good lens is essential if you don’t want to push your camera to its limits.

Increase your ISO sensitivity

As a concert photographer, to compensate for the lack of light, we also recommend that you increase the ISO sensitivity of your sensor more than usual. When shooting outdoors during daylight and in good light conditions, you are generally positioned between ISO 100 and 400. Here, don’t hesitate to go up to ISO 3200, or even more if your camera handles digital noise well. 

Pay attention to that last detail, because if you increase ISO sensitivity too drastically, digital noise will be very present; it will be unsightly, and it will degrade your concert images. What you want is a happy medium, but this concert photography tip will already help save you a few precious steps. 

Concert photos allow the photograph to capture and represent the ambiance of the live show

© Harry Swales on Unsplash

Concert Photos: Choose the spot metering mode

When you shoot using automated modes, your camera uses a certain metering mode to properly expose your images. By default, this is the Matrix measurement that calculates an average for the entire image. If you use this metering mode at a concert, chances are your concert photos will be overexposed. 

Spot metering is confined to a much smaller area and is very practical for overcoming difficult light conditions. This way, when shooting a concert, you can focus on having the right exposure for the faces or for your main subject while getting consistent exposure of the rest of the image. 

Manage your white balance

The automatic white balance that comes with digital cameras is very effective in most cases. At a concert, things get trickier since the different types of lights and color temperatures all blend together. 

When shooting a concert, we recommend staying in automatic mode all the same, but post-production is an unavoidable step in concert photography, in particular when it comes to readjusting the colorimetry of your images, which will have been distorted by all the artificial lights. 

A concert photographer also need to do a lot of post-production after taking the photos

© Marcus Neto on Unsplash

Concert Photography: In conclusion

As you can see, concert photography is a demanding exercise due to the challenging light conditions. Compensating for the lack of light will be your main goal and there are several ways to do this, such as using large apertures, increasing the ISO sensitivity or using your camera’s spot metering. 

With your RAW files, you can then more easily correct unattractive discrepancies and restore the colorimetry of your images for successful concert photos.

By Céline Nebor

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