concert photography tips and tricks

by Tracy Ritter

This is the first picture I ever took at a concert (well, since my days of going to see New Kids on the Block when I was 16).  I was about 7 or 8 heads back in this general admission crowd of 20,000+ people. I held my little point & shoot camera high above my head, trying to dodge hands, heads and other cameras, zoomed as far as I could, and prayed to come back with something decent. Then I bolted for the restroom as I was pregnant with my 4th child and missed over half the show.

concert photography tips and tricks photo

This was the start of my love for this band called Daughtry, and my want/need to see them more and photograph them better.  Over the next few years (and a few point & shoots later) I’ve gathered a lot in my “bag of tricks” for my hobby, concert photography.

First thing I learned?  Always try and bring my DSLR!

It really made a huge difference in my concert photography.  My gear includes a Canon 40d with my 50mm 1.4.  Some (okay, lots) of venues/bands frown upon, or just straight up don’t allow, anything with a detachable lens at a concert. I decided I was going to give it a try at a few shows and take the “big” camera with me.  So far, its worked for me and I haven’t come across too much trouble.  I only use my 50mm.  Its short, and doesn’t stand out like a zoom, so they will usually look past it.  I did have one theater-type venue tell me I had to put it away (I was already in my seat and shooting with it) but the band’s security backed me and told venue security it was fine.   So, until I get that coveted press pass I dream about having some day I will continue to try and “sneak” by with my DSLR.

A few good p&s cameras if you’re not wanting to lug the DSLR around all day and night, or the venue doesn’t allow them in are the Canon PowerShot G12, Canon PowerShot SX40 or Canon PowerShot SX20IS. The SX line is a little bigger for a p&s but definitely hold their own with manual settings and their capabilities.

Second thing: Get Close!

This next picture was my second show.  Yep, pretty much ON the stage (and yes, I felt sweat dripping).  If you are going to a General Admission show, get there early!  I’m not against paying a little extra to get close for a seated show either.  It’s worth it. Makes the show that much better AND your pictures!

concert photography tips and tricks photo

Shoot RAW. Whether with a point & Shoot that allows for manual settings or DSLR, it allows for so much in editing.  Lighting at a concert is constantly changing, and colorful, so pictures often need adjusting afterwards.  RAW allows for that.

concert photography tips and tricks photo

High ISO. Turn off the flash and bump that ISO! 1600 to 3200 (or as high as your camera allows you) is ideal. Venues are dark, lighting isn’t great.  Shoot with high ISO and embrace the noise, or fix the noise in post if you just have to.  Play around with a point & shoot to see what works best. Sometimes the sport settings are decent, some do well on ‘night’ settings.  If you know your way around manual settings that is ideal.  High ISO, wider aperture (I’m usually around 2.8), as fast as you can go on shutter speed and still maintain exposure.  Watch for lighting changes that are bright.

concert photography tips and tricks photo

Shoot a lot! Depending on the type of concert the performers are probably moving all over the place.  By capturing lots of frames you are likely to catch some awesome moments on that stage.  Shooting several frames also allows for the “error” shots to be tossed (motion blur, lighting changes, etc)

concert photography tips and tricks photo

concert photography tips and tricks photo

Know the show.  Hop on YouTube and watch some videos of your favorite performers.  Know their signature moves, when that awesome bass solo comes, or cool lighting opportunities.  Know which songs they may move around a little less, they (performers) are easier to shoot when they are not moving.

concert photography tips and tricks photo

concert photography tips and tricks photo

concert photography tips and tricks photo

FINAL TIP: Just put the camera down.  Seems silly to mention this one, but also very fitting.  Sometimes you need to just enjoy the show.  Put the camera down and take in the music.  This one is tough for me, but I’m getting better at it. There you have it.  Just a few pointers on how to improve your concert photography. I really just apply a lot of my everyday camera/photography knowledge to my concert photography. The more I read and practiced for my portrait photography the better my concert photography got too.

concert photography tips and tricks photo

concert photography tips and tricks photo

concert photography tips and tricks photo

concert photography tips and tricks photoTracy Ritter, Minnesota
photographer
website | concert blog | facebook | twitter
Tracy Ritter is a mom to four wonderful children, wife of 15 years, and lover of all things coffee.  She provides natural light portrait photography in the Twin Cities metro area.  In her free time (what’s that when you’re a mom of four?) she loves music, and concert photography as a hobbyist.  She also enjoys being a “Taxi Mom”, toting her children to all of their sporting events and watching them play/perform.

 

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16 Responses to “concert photography tips and tricks”

  1. Dec 17 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Great tips and images, Tracy! Its great that you’re able to take your camera in! I’ve been to a number of events where they have told me to put it back in the car. :(

  2. Jeannette
    Dec 17 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    That’s awesome! I just went to the Dave matthews Concert & they didn’t allow cameras with detachable lens, BUT I tried to rock my iphone as well as I could….

  3. Debbie
    Dec 17 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Great tips and images! Sadly every event I’ve ever been to does not allow cameras with detachable lenses. You have the choice to forfeit your camera or return it to your car. :(

  4. Debbie
    Dec 17 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I forgot ask…..Are there some tips & tricks to gaining permission so you can take your camera in to these big events??
    The only way I know of getting clearance to shoot big venues like this is by taking a workshop.

    • Stephanie
      Dec 21 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      . You could write in to the act / organizer and ask if they need a photographer. needless to say, with this method, you will be expected to hand over some photos for them to post on their site. Don’t worry though, they’ll most likely choose 1 or 2 but the best part is that they always give credit if you ask, so this is a good way to get your name out (and possibly more future passes)
      2. Make friends with local acts in the area. More often than not, these acts are just starting out and may be asked to open for bigger acts. If they agree for you to take their photo, you’ll be brought in as one of them, usually allowing you 2/3 very good perks:
      a. You’ll get in for free
      b. You’ll bypass security- no bag checks & . possible camera confiscation
      c. (not always) but you may get to go in to the venue early for rehersals/ soundcheck – go nuts and play around & prepare yourself for the possible shooting conditions later on.

  5. Dec 17 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    What a wonderful article, Tracy! Thank you! Great shots, too!

  6. Dec 17 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    These are amazing!

  7. Leigh Ann
    Dec 18 2012 at 12:14 am #

    Perfect timing! Thanks so much for this great information. I can’t wait to use it! I love Jason Dawtry!

  8. Dec 18 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    thanks so much for this, tracy!!! your pictures are fantastic!

  9. TracyR
    Dec 18 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Debby~ I have attended 10 shows this year, at various venues in different cities, and only had trouble at one (the theater show I mentioned), So, I’m not really sure? The last venue let a gal carry in her camera bag with multiple lenses even. I was surprised at that one (and she didn’t have a press pass).

  10. Rachel Staats
    Dec 19 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    You’re an amazing photographer :)

  11. Feb 15 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    These are awesome tips as my son has just become a member of a HS rock band. I’ve included my FP photo page where I’ve posted some of my photos of him and the band. I would love for you to give me your opinion. Your photos are fantastic!

  12. Mar 16 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Some good tips and pics here, Tracy. I especially love that last shot (b/w). You can’t look at that and not smile =)

    I think my favorite tip — and this applies to every kind of photography situation — is to just shoot a lot of pictures.

    When I had a photography business a couple years back and would shoot local shows, it wasn’t uncommon for me to snap off 2,000+ shots in one night! But it’s that kind of volume that really bumps your learning curve and practically guarantees that you’ll have more “keepers.” And with digital (compared to the cost of film and processing), it’s a no-brainer to just keep shooting away.

  13. Sheri
    Apr 12 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Love your blog and your photos. I bought a Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V which has a 20 X zoom. I bought it based on comments made by an amateur photographer I met on the Coldplay fan website. It takes wonderful videos, my favorite medium, but I’d like to try to take better photos. I normally use the sports mode which take decent pics if I’m fairly close. But if I’m not close (like I was for Coldplay) the photos aren’t great. Any other suggestions besides the ones mentioned above?

  14. Stephanie
    Dec 21 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    I’ve read through most of the comments here and I agree; these shots are amazing!

    As for the people asking how to get a photo pass for shows, the best way is to work for the press. There are a few other ways though;
    1. You could write in to the act / organizer and ask if they need a photographer. needless to say, with this method, you will be expected to hand over some photos for them to post on their site. Don’t worry though, they’ll most likely choose 1 or 2 but the best part is that they always give credit if you ask, so this is a good way to get your name out (and possibly more future passes)

    2. Make friends with local acts in the area. More often than not, these acts are just starting out and may be asked to open for bigger acts. If they agree for you to take their photo, you’ll be brought in as one of them, usually allowing you 2/3 very good perks:
    a. You’ll get in for free
    b. You’ll bypass security- no bag checks & . possible camera confiscation
    c. (not always) but you may get to go in to the venue early for rehersals/ soundcheck – go nuts and set your camera for the lightong situation.

    Hope this helps :)

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