Concert Photography: Tips & Tricks

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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.

    Wear ear plugs: You’re going to be directly in front of the speakers and trust me, once those puppies start playing, they will be loud. Take some decibels off with ear plugs. I get dispensable ear plugs from my dad who already has some but you can buy cheap ones in any hardware store.

    Carry business cards: This is simple, convenient, and great for networking. You can hand them out to potential clients or other photographers. They’re also relatively cheap to make. Google for the best places to get them done because I’ve seen prices along $20 for 200 cards somewhere on the Interwebz.

    Have extras with you: Memory cards, batteries, etc. Make sure you have everything you might need while not completely weighing you down. But don’t carry an external flash with you. You shouldn’t be allowed to use these anyways plus it’s just extra weight to carry.

    Pay attention to stage lighting patterns: Sometimes a certain song may have a lighting pattern in which at certain points in the song, the person controlling the lighting will burst some white light. It’s happened to me at many shows. So if a song is really repetitive and this happens, get your shutter ready for the right moment of awesome lighting.

    Pay attention to which hand the artist holds the microphone: If the person holds the microphone with their right hand, stand on the right side of the photo pit so that the microphone isn’t blocking their face in the photo.

    Stay for the show. You don’t know what you’ll miss: I see this all the time where photographers will leave the venue after they’ve done their job. Sure, if you don’t listen to the particular artist, do as you please. But if you do this, you have no idea what you could be missing! Look at my above photo of Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis. After the first three songs, I went back to meet my friend in the crowd. Seeing that I paid for my ticket, it would have been stupid to leave. But because I stayed for the show, I got a photograph of Yannis CLIMBING Terminal 5.

The best part is that I don’t know how many other photos exist of him at that angle physically climbing the venue. I could be the only photographer who got that shot! I also got to photograph him crowd surfing, walking around, jumping, etc. I got the shot because I stayed for the show. And that other photographer standing in front of the pillar? He probably only got a shot of Yannis’ crotch.

    Confirm your pass two days before the show: This is just smart to do so you don’t get turned away when your name isn’t on the press list.

    Don’t be rude to the ticket booth people if there’s no pass for you: They have no control and this isn’t their fault. Don’t get testy with them. I’ve watched people yell when they can’t get into a venue and boy, do they look silly. Have the tour manager’s phone number in case of these issues.

    Send the photos to the artist’s publicist: After your photos have been published, it’s just smart to send the publicist a link to the photos with a “Hey these are the photos from the show.” You may catch their attention with a certain photo that they may be interested in using!

    Never sign a contract giving up your copyright: These are your photos and you’re entitled to full ownership. Be smart when signing any contracts.

At shows I always try to get these shots:

Go to the next article in our Concert Photography Series: Blaming The Venue For Bad Lighting
Follow Nancy Hoang:

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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