I really like shooting concerts. It certainly is technically challenging with the movement, the dynamic lighting, the subs rattling your brains! This past week, we had the Gulf Coast Seafood and Music Festival for the first time at our new outdoor stage. I have friends in the concert production business, so managed a photo pass for the weekend. It gave me a good chance to go over my approach to shooting shows, and reminded me of the pitfalls and challenges you face in doing so.
My thoughts on concert photography:
Its all about excitement and energy! I set the camera to shutter priority and crank the speed up to freeze the action. This has a few side effects. On the good side, you most likely will end up with a shallow DOF as your camera tries to get as much light as possible. This will make give your images depth. It's hard to separate elements in an image that are in the same, colored lighting, so this helps. On the bad side, you're most likely going to have to push your ISO as high as it will go to keep the shutter speed up. Expect a lot of noise in an already noisy environment. Find yourself some good software to help with this. I use Nik Define2.
Location, location, location! The closer you can get the better. There is so much in the air, the lights are funky, you just aren't going to get cool shots from distance. Get in the pit if you can. Try to get the light rig or stage gear in the background. "And how do you get a pass" you ask? The answer is simple. You have to know somebody! Introduce yourself to the venue staff or promoter BEFORE the event. Make it a win-win for them to go to the trouble of giving you special access. Follow the rules on where you can go and how long you can shoot. Most bands will only want you to shoot down front for the first two or three songs. There are several reasons for that. They get sweaty and nasty after a few tunes, you can be a distraction for the band and the crowd, etc. Be cool and be ready to share your photos and you will be invited back! Works for me!
Zoom in tight to get individuals, go way wide to capture the show. This sounds pretty strait forward, and it is, but so often I catch myself missing out on a really cool picture of a performer by leaving a bunch of dead space, gear, blurry band mates, etc in the background. Something I would never do in portrait photos. Crop it down and see what you can get that's unique. Dedicate some wide shots to capture the lights, staging, and the grandness of the show. Dedicate some shots to portrait shots and some to stage shots. They will all come out better. Good performers will blur the lines for you and create magic moments!
Get Lucky! I can't image doing this type of work for a living!!! Unless you travel with the band and learn the show, it's really a crap shoot on the right amount of haze to get light beams, positions, cool little things they do together, etc. Just start the shutter snapping and be prepared to delete a good 40%+ of your shots as trash! Yeah digital photography!
Enough of that, here is some shots from the weekend:
Friday night was Collective Soul.
Saturday was Loverboy and Foreigner.
Get out there and Rock 'n Roll!