Concert Photography: Shooting The Show

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Shoot in Aperture Priority mode. Nikon: A // Canon: Av

Being new to concert photography, shoot in Aperture Priority mode. Of course, manual would be the best setting but while you’re starting off, shooting in Av is just as good. You should shoot in this mode because it allows your lens to be opened to the widest f-stop that it can. Opening up the lens aperture means having it at a smaller number, causing more light to be let in, and ultimately allowing the camera to have a faster shutter speed.


The smaller the aperture number, the more light that will be let in, the faster your shutter speed is.
The higher the ISO number + the smaller the aperture number = faster shutter speed.


ISO refers to the sensitivity of your camera’s digital sensor. At concerts I will start at a minimum of ISO 800 and go upwards of 6400 if necessary but I usually only use 800 or 1600. Then again, the more expensive camera bodies will allow users to go to even higher ISO values. As you increase your ISO, you’re also increasing your shutter speed which will allow you to capture the performer’s motion better. However there’s a trade-off with higher ISO. As you increase in ISO to compensate for better exposure, you’re also increasing noise distortion. But I’d rather have a sharp noisy image over a blurry image any day.

Continuous Shooting

Setting your camera to shoot Continuous Shooting can be very helpful starting out. This setting also known as burst mode makes it so that your camera takes multiple shots in a row. This can be useful at a show as it gives you more opportunities to get a clear shot if the artist is moving around. I personally don’t use it though because the shutter freaks me out and it’s just more photos to go through later.

Shoot in RAW

Why shoot in RAW? Well this type of file takes all the “raw” data from the image sensor and puts it into your memory card without compressing your image. It lets you have more control in editing than would a .JPG file. Some people don’t like to shoot in RAW which is completely fine because sometimes I don’t either. If you don’t want to, at least shoot in the largest file size possible: L + RAW. That way you get the .JPG and a RAW file which can be stored on external hard drives.

Go to the next article in our Concert Photography Series: Post Processing
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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. (She's basically a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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