The ideal way to get started into music concert photography is to begin with shooting in small clubs because in such venues you can easily get access to shoot the photographs without any press identity proof. So that’s why these are the best locations to experiment with your camera settings and getting used to being in front of the stage. If you have some of your friends who play in a band, you can ask them for their photo shoot to be done by you. Of course they would be more than happy to have pictures of their concerts. But the problems with such venues are the lack of light on stage. So the musicians look so horrible in such light. And because of such low light it is very difficult to get the sharp photos. So what will be the solution for this?
Buy a fast and cheap prime lens
Fast and prime lenses are the ideal solution for the above mentioned problem. In low light situation to get the sharper shots, using the fast and prime lens is the only solution unless your camera can support the higher ISO sensitivity without giving much noise. But as a beginner we would recommend you the 50mm F/1.8 prime lens because of its ability to shoot in low light at its lowest aperture. You can also use flash in low light situation but using direct flash can ruin the effect.
Getting the correct exposure
One of the major things in photography is getting the correct exposure by measuring the amount of light. And during the live music concerts there are several sets of repetitive light. You should keep in mind the correct parameters for the different lights. You should always check your histogram and check for the overexposed points to ensure that your main subject is exposed properly. One of the worst things is to get back home with a picture that looks good on your camera screen but on your computer it looks overexposed or underexposed. So we recommend you to shoot in Raw so that you can compensate for the exposure if necessary.
Get the best results out from ISO
Increasing the ISO can cause noise, but it is better to take a bit noisy photos sometimes than missing the action totally or taking blurry photos. You can also reduce the noise later with some image editing software. Converting photo into black and white can be a better option for noisy photos.
Choose the ideal settings and shooting mode
Choosing the right shooting mode depends on every individual, so you can choose whatever fits to your style. But still shooting on aperture priority mode (AV) and keeping the aperture value as low as possible (ex. F/1.8 or F/2.8 depending on your lens) will be ideal and fast. Some people also shoot in manual mode. Shoot on burst mode so that you will get variety of action shots rather than shooting on single shot. Also keep your metering mode on spot metering because the stage lighting always keeps changing and you will never know if the light will hit the artist’s face in the next second or not. Keep extra empty memory cards with you always.
Get creative with spotlights and silhouettes
Sometimes when it’s too dark and you are so far from the stage and you can’t use the flash also from that distance, in such situation you can wait for the spotlight to fall on the artist. You might get very interesting results with those dark images that are lit just by the spotlight. It is actually looks better than the frame where everything is lit. Also when there is lighting changing rapidly in a usually dark place, we will recommend you to try for shooting silhouettes. Choose the silhouette that is very clear so that viewer can see and understand what the subject in the frame is even if it’s without light. These kinds of photos you can shoot when there is no light on subject and the only lights are the ones behind the band or the subject.
Now that we have discussed all the technical issues to photograph a concert, we must not forget to discuss the composition as well. In concerts, it is not likely that every photo will be technically perfect, but you should capture the story and a good interesting composition. Sometimes it could be just a close up of an artist’s facial expression, or just the guitar, or sometimes whole band. It all depends on your artistic vision and equipment constraints.
Concert photography is fun and exciting though it is not easy at all. The key to success is a lot of practice before you go to shoot a big concert. Try various tricks to help you if you cannot take a sharp photo at first. It can be hard to look around during the concert, but keep your eyes always open and camera ready.