Tips and tricks for perfect concert photography
It's fascinating to look at pictures from a concert where the photographer has really captured the mood of the moment and what's special about the event, the band, the location and the audience. Of course, as a visitor, you usually can't get that close to the bands, so it can be all the nicer to be able to marvel at them as close-ups afterwards. Concert photography, with lighting that often leaves much to be desired in terms of photographic technique and an eventful environment, often also associated with time pressure, presents a special challenge for photographers, which many perceive as very appealing. Before jumping into the photo pit of your favorite band, there are a few things to keep in mind that can make the experience more enriching and the photo adventure more successful and relaxed.
A good introduction to concert photography
If you are interested in the genre of concert photography as a hobby, or if you are already an experienced photographer and want to enter new territory and try out photographing at concerts, you are best advised to start by inquiring at smaller locations. Here the competition is less high and lesser-known venues and less famous bands are often very happy to have photos and publicity. There are also usually less strict rules here, you can take photos for longer and in a more relaxed way, and you may not be limited to the photo pit in front of the stage, but can move around freely.
Other advantages of a small venue can be the personal setting and a more relaxed atmosphere. So, if you have a camera, lenses and a secure photo bag, there's nothing to stop you from embarking on your first concert photography adventure. You can now choose a location, look through its program and capture a few interesting dates. After that, you should contact the organizer to ask for a photo permit.
You can also find the right camera bag for your equipment and everything you need to protect your camera at our Oberwerth Shop. From classic camera bags modern sling bags up to noble photo-beachers and backpacks and backpacks. Of course you will also find hand straps and shoulder straps. Finest craftsmanship from the best materials. Feel free to look around and find the bags & accessories that best suit you and your equipment!
As soon as there is a green light from the organizer, you can start researching the band to be photographed or the artists of the evening. What are their specialties? What did past concerts look like? Who is a permanent part of the band and who maybe just bought in for a tour? What kind of lighting can be expected? Also, whether they are right- or left-handed can be important information to plan shots and know in advance which side of the artists or stage to position yourself on.
No concert without rules
Especially with big events and famous bands, concerts are often perfectly organized and, above all, associated with all kinds of rules. These can come from the organizer or from the band or its manager. Generally, at a big concert you can expect a time limit of the "first three songs", which is a pretty squishy statement. In practice, this means that all photos of the concert must be taken in the first five to 15 minutes. So, in order to take the necessary shots in this tight time window, you have to think carefully in advance about who and what you want to photograph and how.
Although one would so urgently like to have more light when photographing the stage action, flash is taboo in concert photography. Not only would it disturb the artists and the atmosphere of the evening, but it would also rob the photos of their very special charm, which the special light situation of a concert gives them.
As an official photographer, you can get much closer to the center of the action at many events than normal concertgoers. Larger concerts usually have a so-called photo pit directly in front of the stage, i.e. an area between the audience and the band that is shared by photographers and security. To gain access to this area, you need an accreditation as a member of the press or a photo permit from the organizer. Depending on the event, you may also be granted access to the stage, for example to photograph less visible artists on the drums or to take a closing photo of the band with the audience in the background. You should ask the organizer which areas you have access to in each individual case.
The house rules and the rules of the organizers can differ in specific points and you should familiarize yourself with them in advance and pay close attention to the specific rules and prohibitions before signing a contract. At the event itself, the security, which must ensure a smooth flow and the safety of the band and the audience, then has the last word and their instructions must be followed. To capture the special atmosphere of a concert, photographs of the audience are particularly useful. When photographing the audience, however, you should be absolutely sure to respect personal rights and, for example, not focus on individuals in the audience, but photograph the crowd as a whole.
With smaller promoters and lesser-known bands, these rules can be much more relaxed, which is why smaller events are often the place of choice for concert photography beginners. Whether in a huge hall in front of thousands of people or in the pub next door in a familiar circle, concert photography in any case brings with it some peculiarities that you should familiarize yourself with in advance.
The craft of concert photography
Then, at the concert itself, there are a few things to keep in mind. The good thing about starting in a small venue is that you can approach it slowly and have enough time to learn the basics of concert photography. In any case, you should think about where you can position yourself best beforehand. Especially if you are working under time pressure, it is important to take photos of the front men and women first, preferably in different formats, as portraits and half portraits in portrait and landscape format. After that, you can then turn the focus to other band members and shoot a few overviews. Once these central images are in the can, you can capture a few details like the band's background banner and specifics of the performance.
Etiquette in the photo pit includes moving considerately, not obstructing security or other photographers in their work, and blocking as little view of the stage as possible. You should also be discreet so as not to distract artists from their performance. Whether in the photo pit or free to choose your position, as a concert photographer you should know before the event from where you plan to take which shot.
The right photo equipment for concert photography
When it comes to equipment, concert photography is all about functionality and being very familiar with the equipment and being able to operate the camera blindly. Given the lack of lighting at concerts, fast lenses with an aperture of about f/2.8 are essential. Several zoom lenses with focal lengths ranging from wide-angle to medium telephoto should also be included.
Since you have to adjust the camera settings to the conditions of the evening and have little time to do this with several cameras in succession, most concert photographers rely on just one camera. It is important that the camera still takes good pictures in an ISO range of 1600 and that, in an emergency, it is still possible to get something out of the pictures with a little denoising in post-processing, even with a light intensity of only 3200 ISO.
Safety is also an issue, of course, and when choosing a shoulder strap, bag and the like, you should be aware that in the heat of the moment the camera can be knocked out of your hand or a beer can be spilled on it. Accordingly, a high-quality camera bag in which the photo equipment can be stored well and safely is particularly important. You should look for a model in which several lenses are ready to hand and easily accessible.
Oberwerth photo bags offer the advantage for concert photography that they are equipped with a special Loxx locking closure. While you can't tell by looking at this elegant metal clasp that it has a security function, the small buttons consist of two parts that automatically secure the bag with a stainless steel spring. The ingenious thing about the closure is that the lock can be easily opened again with a flick of the wrist if, for example, you urgently need another lens. So our Oberwerth bags with Loxx closure elegantly and timelessly provide the security for photo equipment that you want at a concert, whether in the crowd or right up front in the photo pit.