The music is pumping in your ears, the stage lights are shining, the crowd is singing at the top of their lungs – and you get to capture it all. There are few projects more fun or thrilling for a photographer than a live music concert. But between the sea of people, dancing performers, bright lights, and cramped angles, concerts can be challenging environments to shoot in, especially for beginner photographers.
Luckily, the team at Ted’s Cameras love a good gig, and they’ve got you covered. Read on for their top ten tips on the best camera settings, lens, and techniques for concert photography.
1. Shoot in manual mode
Concert photography is particularly tricky thanks to the constant and often extreme changes in light – they’re a whirlwind of laser beams, strobe lighting and colours galore. The more complex the light show, the harder it is for a photographer to keep up with the different lighting conditions and rapid changes.
To tackle this issue, it’s a good idea to shoot in manual mode – or at the very least aperture priority to tackle the lighting situation. In low light situations, manual mode allows you to maintain greater control of your exposure to the light around you, rather than risk producing false exposures on an automatic setting.
2. Rock the right lens
The best lens for some rockin’ concert photography is a fast lens with a large maximum aperture. This will allow more light to enter the camera sensor and give you faster shutter speeds, helping you to freeze the best on-stage or audience action with clarity.
We recommend starting out with a carefully selected zoom lens with an f2.8 or similar maximum aperture, such as the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 OS HSM Art. This will help you make the most of whatever vantage point you can get at the venue, without having to deal with the limitations of a fixed focal length.
While zoom lenses are not as suited to low-light shooting as the fastest prime lenses, modern cameras feature incredible ISO performance, so it won’t hurt to bump this setting up a bit. Check out Ted’s 2019 Best Digital Cameras for Photography for inspiration.
3. Look for lightning fast focus
While music concerts can go for hours, many of the key moments happen in a flash – so you need to be ready to point and shoot quickly. Part of this readiness is helped along by a fast-focusing lens.
Most modern high-quality lens will boast a fancy focusing system to help you capture the moments that matter. Each brand refers to their fast-focus system by a different name, so just make sure you keep an eye out for this feature when selecting your lens.
4. Step it up with stabilisation
Built-in stabilistation is a godsend at concerts. Shooting with a faster shutter speed will ensure you are able to freeze moving subjects in their tracks – but you may still need help eliminating some of the blur created at your end – sometimes referred to as camera shake.
Some cameras have built-in stabilisation, while some brands, such as Canon and Nikon, include image stabilisers in select lenses. Canon calls their stabiliser “IS”, while Nikon calls it “VR”. It’s worth checking out the Tamron AF 18-200mm VC Lens for Canon and Nikon 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR II DX..
A built-in stabilisation feature can be essential for giving you the confidence and ability to shoot handheld in darker scenarios without wasting too much time stressing about your selected shutter speed.
5. Wield a wide aperture
Always shoot low light concerts with your lens wide open. An aperture with a wider opening allows more light to enter the camera sensor, ensuring you don’t miss any of the action. We recommend apertures of f1.4, f1.8, or f2.8 for concert photography.
6. Amp up that shutter speed
Keep an eye on your shutter speed. If possible, a speed of 1/250 will ensure any performers on stage are clear and sharp – and you should avoid going too low to prevent blur. The more active the performers on stage are, the faster your shutter speed will need to be.
Don’t forget about your ISO – the higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive your camera will be to light. Start the concert with an ISO of about 1600, and if your images are still coming out blurred, bump up the ISO until you’re happy. Just remember that the higher your ISO, the more grain it will create in your photographs.
7. Capture all of the lights
While you’ll be prepared for low light situations, you should try shooting when the concert lights are on, too. Bright lights can add to the drama of the moment, as well as providing a much-needed burst for your camera.
8. Flick the flash
Don’t bother with flash – generally, you’ll be too far away for it to have any effect on the outcome of the image, and it can negatively affect the exposure settings on your camera, too.
9. Keep your eyes wide open
Some of the most exciting concert images of all time involve the audience, surroundings, or some unique detail spotted on the sidelines. Even performers will tell you that the audience plays a huge part in the quality of the show, so try your best to capture this energy.
10. Rock out respectfully
Concert venues can have strict rules about who can photograph and from where. Don’t be thrown out because you’ve ignored the rules or gotten in people’s way. Be respectful, mindful, and enjoy yourself!
Getting in your groove
Shooting a live concert is a great opportunity to develop your photography skills and figure out your personal style while having some fun. To figure out which lens is best for you, head to your local Ted’s Cameras store for some expert advice. You’ll be taking rockstar level photos in no time!