Concert Photography: Blaming The Venue For Bad Lighting

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Whenever I hear from other people that bad lighting made for bad photos, I can fully relate and understand where they’re coming from. But when I hear people blame solely a venue for poor lighting, it only adds to my constantly growing rage against humanity. You see, stupid ill-thought out comments make me hate people. You society, are making me a hermit. I now opt to sit in the dark and sulk about the growing epidemic of idiocy in human beings rather than going out and living my life. I’m totally kidding. I sulk about society’s growing stupidity in public as well.

But seriously, a venue cannot be your scapegoat for unsatisfactory photos. It is not the job of the venue to tend to your desired lighting settings. The lighting designers are not there to make sure the photographers have ample light so they can get their shot. Their job is to make sure the artist performing has a fitting light show that corresponds with their set list. To blame a venue because their lighting did not suit your needs is not only juvenile but ridiculous.

A skilled photographer will do everything they can to get the shot. Whether that means climbing something to be above everyone else or bending over backwards to compose a shot. Your job as a concert photographer is to get the shot no matter the circumstances. Hell, that’s the job of a photographer in any setting. You have to work with what you have and make it work. You can’t simply blame the world around you. If the lighting sucks, take a shit ton of photos and have a great time in Lightroom later. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to fix it in post processing. But one fact is certain, venues can’t be blamed if you don’t get the shot you wanted.

Case In Point: Terminal 5

It won’t always be the places without photo pits that have unfortunate cases of lighting. See above this photo of New Politics vocalist David Boyd from their opening set for Fall Out Boy at Terminal 5. He is drenched in red light but I made do with the situation and got the shot. And I like to think it’s a pretty great one at that. I waited for a spectacular moment that would stand on its own despite the unfortunate lighting situation and it paid off. Bad lighting is going to be the case at every venue. You’re in a dark place whose main priority is providing a great venue for live music. Work with what you have.

Go to the next article in our Concert Photography Series: New York City Venues
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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (Basically, she's a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.