Concert Photography – How to Take the Best Pictures at Any Performance
written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/24/2011
No matter what kind of entertainment you might like you can easily take great concert photos using these simple-to-apply tips and techniques. Whether for personal pleasure, for sale or to complete a concert photography assignment, here's the scoop on getting impressive, salable concert photographs.
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What Kind of Concerts Do You Like?
What kind of concert music do you like? Rock, Pop, Classical, Jazz, Bluegrass, Country and Western, the Blues, Soul, Gospel or some other type? No matter what your favorite kind of music might be, you can relive the great moments of a music concert through a series of well-composed digital photographs. Concerts aren’t confined to solely musical performances either. There are performances of drama, poetry readings, stand-up comedy as well as other types. Here are some suggestions on how to take the best pictures at a concert or performance.
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Pre-Concert Photography Preparations
In preparing for a series of concert photographs, you should consider a bit of pre-concert or performance preparation. You’ll need to ensure your equipment is cleaned and in good repair and working order. An equipment failure of any kind during the concert will leave you sans photos and disappointed. But it’s not only your equipment that needs preparation, you do as well. What is the concert seating arrangement? How close can you get to the performers? Can you arrange for a photographer’s or backstage pass? Will you need permission to shoot photos during the concert? What about model releases and copyrights? These are but a smattering of questions which may require investigation and resolution prior to concert day.
What instruments will be used during the concert? It’s often a good idea to visit a music store, instrument rental facility or a school of music well before the concert. Why? This will afford you an opportunity to get a good series of instrument and musician close-ups which would likely be impossible to get during a performance even with a photographer’s or backstage pass. Musicians and store clerks are usually quite helpful in demonstrating instrument playing styles and allowing those essential close-up photos that will flesh-out your portfolio of music concert digital images.
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During the Music or Concert Performance
The concert day is here. The performers have arrived in town. Were you there to greet them and get photos of their arrival, signing autographs and making final performance preparations? A quick call or two to their agent, newsroom staff offices (the entertainment editor might prove helpful here) or the concert facility offices should yield key information on the band or performer’s itinerary.
Get to the concert performance facility early. It’s possible to get brief access to the performers and stage area during a warm-up or rehearsal to snap a few well-composed digital images before the main event. A few publicity shots are usually welcomed too.
If you’ve no backstage or photographer’s pass, you might be required to shoot your images from the seating area fringes. You shouldn’t try to do so from your seat (if you have one). It’s disturbing to all to interrupt or block the other concert patron’s enjoyment of the concert in any way. You won’t make any friends with the concert facility staff either. You’ll have to cultivate their goodwill for future concerts held in that facility. Crowd pictures and scenes may not require model releases, but if you take photos of people in which they are recognizable, you may need to get signed model releases in order to be able to use or sell the images. If you have a quantity of prepared model releases including all your contact information on them, it’ll be much faster and easier to get the ones you need on the spot.
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Shooting Tips: Flash photos are almost always a no-no during a performance, so be sure to disable your camera’s flash. Use slower shutter speeds with wider apertures for better imaging in low-light conditions. If your camera has a “silent" shutter mode, engage that too. This will eliminate the “noise" of the shutter snapping which can easily disturb those near you including other concert attendees, some of the concert facility staff and performers. You should also use at least two cameras if possible, in the event one camera “fails" for any reason, you'll have the second one allowing you to continue shooting with little interruption. Having more than one camera has saved me on a number of photo shoots. If you have a good telephoto lens with a wide aperture, it may come in handy too but you’ll frequently need to use a tripod, monopod or other camera-steadying support for sharp images. Know in advance what you can or cannot bring into and use in the concert facilities.
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Post-Concert Digital Photography
After the concert there’s still work to be done. Will there be an after-concert cast or performer’s party, reception or other type of gathering? You should know where and be able to attend if possible. If not, get photos of performers and other celebrities entering and/or leaving. Hey, the paparazzi do it all the time and are well-compensated for it too. Don’t forget emotion-evoking images of concert-goers before, during and after the performance. Get people’s names, contact information and signed model releases. People love getting complimentary prints or e-mailed digital files of their photos so offer this to them and you should have little trouble getting their permission to use the images.
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Marketing Your Concert Photography
The magic of the concert has ended – or has it? Days or even weeks later, those music concert digital images are still very much in the running. You can offer your images to:
Also consider offering a series of digital images to the concert artists or performers themselves or their agents, especially if you have unique, personalized shots of a particular individual. Whether a performer is one of the “headliners" or not, even backup band members crave good images of them performing. Who knows? Your informal image may just be the one a performer or agent likes and uses for publicity or other official purposes. Now wouldn’t that be nice?