There is nothing like seeing your favorite artists for the first time live, in concert. Most fans want to document it in any way possible, including taking tons of great photos. You may have a high-tech or maybe you’re using smartphone. Either way, there are some basic things you need to know about taking concert photography.
One thing many question is do you need a flash for concert photography? Most venues do not allow flash photography. While you may think that using flash may help in a dark venue or concert hall, in almost all cases, it is simply not allowed while artists are performing.
However, don’t fear! There are several other ways that you can improve your photographs even in low lighting venues, such as:
- Use a fast lens
- Work with your aperture
- Get in Manual Exposure Mode
- Adjust your ISO
- Work with a quick shutter speed
Why You Should Never Use Flash at a Concert
While you may want to get a beautiful, bright image of your favorite artist, this is actually an awful idea. There is a lot of thought and effort that goes into each performance, with lighting crews working overtime to create unique sets that fit their artists’ needs. Using the flash on your camera is simply disrespectful to the artist, the crew, and your fellow listeners.
As mentioned, most venues simply do not allow for you to use flash to begin with, eliminating that option right off the bat. However, most venues have also taken lighting into consideration and have created lighting that fits the artist’s aesthetic.
Many concert-goers find that images taken in even lowly lit venues turn out beautiful and can be more dramatic than those that are lit through flashing.
In fact, many flash-lit photos do not turn out well at all. The artists are usually moving around and can become blurry or cast weird shadows. Most seats will be at a lower angle than the band, which can also produce odd shadows that simply do not do the moment justice.
What to Do Instead to Get Great Concert Photos
If you are having trouble creating quality concert photos, there are some extra steps you can take with your camera to produce higher quality images. Learn how to use the setting of your camera to get the best possible result.
Use a Fast Lens
One of the first things you can do when it comes to improving your concert photography is to equip yourself with a fast lens. A fast lens is a lens that has a large maximum aperture, which lets in more light and works best in low light conditions.
When you use a bigger aperture during a concert, it will allow you to have a faster shutter speed in the lower light. This allows you to freeze action with ease and increased clarity compared to other lens options. A great way to know if you are using a bigger aperture is that it will feature a smaller f-number.
The only downside to using a fast lens is that they can be expensive, but they are a quality investment if you plan to take concert photography or are highly interested in photography.
A lower-priced option if you are short on funds but want to increase your photo quality now is to choose a 50mm fixed lens. This has a wide aperture but does not have the zooming ability that many other lenses do.
Further Enhance Your Aperture
While using a fast lens is a great starting point, you also want to ensure that you shoot with your lens wide open. You should shoot with your lowest aperture, which allows for more light to enter your camera. The best apertures for shooting in low light conditions are f1.4, f1.8, and f2.8.
Use Manual Exposure Mode
Depending on the concert you are attending, the lighting can change drastically throughout the performance and can make it difficult to adjust to. While a lot of time and effort can go into these light displays, it can be a photographer’s worst nightmare.
To have deeper control of the exposure used, you may want to keep your camera settings in manual mode.
When you have a lower light moment during the concert, you can maintain full control of the light around you. Your camera may not be able to keep up with sudden light changes, and you can get false exposures. However, when you keep the camera in manual mode, you can have full control of the settings.
Adjust Your ISO
The ISO for your camera refers to its sensitivity to light, the lower your ISO setting, the less sensitive the camera will be. Vice versa, the higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive to light your camera will be. When you are taking photos in low light, like a concert, you may need to raise the ISO to a higher setting. This will allow your camera to respond to light faster.
Of course, you should start off at a lower ISO and see how the images are turning out. If you notice the images are burry, you may want to raise the ISO to the next setting and continue to this process until you are receiving images that you love.
While enhancing the ISO can lead to a slightly grainy look, this can be edited out more easily than an overly blurry photo can be.
Work with a Quick Shutter Speed
A faster shutter speed often works better than a slower speed, with the optimum choice being 1/250 or faster. Any slower speeds can produce images that are blurry and may not turn out for artists that are more active on stage. However, if you are attending a slower-paced event, you can opt for slower shutter speed.
Prepare Yourself Before the Event
While you are probably not attending a concert for a band or artist that you are not familiar with, you should educate yourself on their performance style.
If you have been hired to take images of the performance, this is even more important as you may not know what to expect. By learning more about the band, you can better prepare your camera for the lighting and level of activity that will take place.
In addition to learning more about the band, you should also learn more about the venue. This can help you prepare yourself in the lighting situation and where your seat is located. If you truly want quality images, learning as much as you can about the event before attending is key.
Be Patient with Yourself
You should never jump the gun on getting a quality image or think you are missing quality moments as soon as the artist comes out. While you do want to capture moments, you should take your time and ensure you are producing quality images, not rushed photographs.
Remember the tips listed above and do not let the pressure of the moment cause you to take blurry photos. It is better to miss an occasional moment and produce nice images versus rushing and capturing less than spectacular images.
When you first arrive at the venue, the lighting will probably be better than later on during the event, but you can go ahead and take a few images to better adjust your camera. During the event, review your photos often and make any adjustments needed. Remember to take advantage of downtimes and use them to make any alterations.