Introduction To Concert Photography
Over the last months I got a lot of questions about my concert photography. Mainly people asking how i took the shots and voicing their frustration about their failed attempts. This inspired me to do this blogpost and give you a short insight on how I do concert photography. You can either watch this video, or read this blog, or, of course, both.
Here's a link to the video:
NUMBERS, EQUIPMENT AND TECHNICALITIES
1. Equipment: My first concert shoots I did with the Olympus EM5 M2 and the 25mm 1.8 M. Zuiko as well as the 17mm 1.8 . It worked out great. Later I switched to the Olympus EM1 M2 and now I mainly use the following lenses:
- Panaleica noctron 42.5 mm 1.2
-17mm M.Zuiko 1.2
-40-150mm pro 2.8 7-14mm pro 2.8.
I choose lenses depending on size of stage, location and available light, in general I try to bring one tele and one wide angle lens.
It is important to have a lens that can open to at least a 2.8, as low light is a factor in concert photography. I shoot mostly with very wide aperture.
If the pro lenses are too expensive for you, I got great results with the very affordable and amazing 1.8 series (12mm/17mm/25mm) of Olympus.
2. I always shoot raw and I tend to overexpose a little, as you get less noise if you have to pull back in post.
3. DON'T BE SCARED OF HIGH ISO!
This is the most common mistake I see. Photographers are so concerned with noise that they try to take impossible photographs with low ISO. I made the same mistake.
At my very first concert I refused to go over ISO 1600 and I didn't have much of a satisfactory outcome. Often, the photos were heavily underexposed which created a lot of noise in post production. If I had chosen a higher ISO i would have gotten less noise - My average ISO setting is between 2500-3200. If possible I will, of course, lower the ISO. There were situations where I had to go as high as ISO 5000 and for some I could as low as ISO 800.
I often use the aperture priority mode and watch the shutterspeed, trying not to go below 1/125 of a second shutterspeed. Olympus in camera image stabilization is a great help avoding blurry images.
WHY HIGH ISO ISN'T A PROBLEM:
If you expose correctly you will not have too much noise. Remember this isn't a high fashion portrait, it is about catching the mood and the energy of the concert. Usually you have a lot going on on your images: smoke machines etc and even if there is noise it won't really hurt the photo.
HOWEVER, be careful changing lenses.
I think the worst that ever happend to me, was a concert in a big party tent with over 1000 people. As the night got longer it started to rain.... condense water from all the sweat... EWWWWWW. And you really don't want that on your sensor.
THE CREATIVE SIDE
1. Watch the band before you shoot:
before you narrow your field of view through the lens take your time to observe the band: musicians tend to have signature moves. If you know them you can capture them (I'm a musician myself).
Bandmembers usually have individual relationships to eachother and will also interact in specific ways, these can be awesome moments to capture and it's good to observe them before you shoot so you can look out for them
2. Watch the light.
Often there is a lightshow with a concert. These lightshows have repetitive patterns, and if you know about them - let's say during the highlights of the chorus there is always the same light - you can try to capture it. Watch how the light shines on the different band members!
3. Look for different angles.
See if you can take pictures from the side of the stage, or from the audiences perspective, maybe ask the band beforehand if they would allow you take some shots on the stage.
If you go on stage watch out though: I once had to suddenly sing, and another time the guitarist started to dance with me on stage. Play along - it's a show.
Yes it happend that I had to be part of those.... A nice smile and an elegant pirouette will help
4. Don't use a tripod!
I see many photographers shooting with a tripod at a concert. It is dangerous if there is many people and you cannot adapt to the situation. I'm always part of the crowd, always moving, searching for the perfect angle and shot. You are very limited if you use a tripod.
5. Don't forget about the Drummer and Bass player or other musicians that are not in the front row of the stage. You are missing out if you do! They are used to not being noticed, so if they see you are taking pictures of them they might even give you a pose ;-)
6. Go with the music.
It is a good idea to listen to the music and be ready for the highlights of the song, like for e.g. the beginning of the chorus. Often you get the greatest poses in these seconds.
7. CAPTURE THE MOOD!
A concert is an event. Try to capture the feeling, the mood, the emotion and you will get great pictures. Take pictures of the audience, watch out for the highlights and enjoy!
It probably will happen that some drunk people want their photo taken, don't get upset. Take one (or pretend you do ). These people are there to party :-)