As photographers sometimes opportunities arise too awesome to pass up. This past summer I was given just that. I was asked by a band @welcomehomestl to pack up and head out on the road for a month as their tour photographer. I have had some experience in the past shooting concerts but I would never claim to be an expert. After the first week or so I had learned a lot and really got into the swing of shooting a concert every night. Over the tour gained a ton of experience and have a few tips to share if your opportunity comes to shoot your next event or concert.
First, know your gear. When shooting anything being comfortable with your camera is key but even more so when shooting a concert. You are limited to a short time and working in dark environment so knowing how to quickly change aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and metering modes is a crucial. Furthermore, knowing the limits of your lenses and acceptable ISO setting is beneficial (I personally try to keep my ISO under 6,400 and my aperture at f2.8 or higher). Understanding how you camera is metering the light can help in mixed stage lighting. When using an evaluated metering mode the highlights from a stage light may over expose a subjects face so I recommend trying out a spot-metering mode. Overall knowing all of your gear in and out will allow you to get the most out of the performance.
Secondly, study the venue. When you arrive there are a few things to look for. I always would look at the lighting set up (placement and type of lighting). Next, I check where the best shooting area is at the venue (stage front photo pit, stage side shooting, shooting from the crowd). The last thing I check for is where I am going to store my gear and make sure it will be excisable during the show (I recommend checking with the band and venue managers where is a good place to work from). Through checking out the venue before the show you can create a good game plan to work from.
Lastly, go into the performance with a plan, there are many things you can plan for your shoot from specific shots, a specific style, or even just what lens you want to use. A very helpful thing is to have communication with the band you are shooting if possible. Through talking to the band you can know the set list and be ready for parts of the show to happen (guitar solo, drum solos). Also communicating with the band can help develop a style that you are aiming for as most bands try to have all their photos fit a certain style and look. Having a plan is always best but when a plan isn’t panning out and you aren’t getting the shots you want, don’t be scared to try some new things (switching lenses, using a flash/taking a flash off, etc.). With a little planning and the creation of a solid game plan before the show you can maximize your time shooting and get the most out of the set.
Shooting concert photos is not an easy thing to do and does take some practice but with these few tips you can jump into shooting a little more gracefully. If you have any questions about shooting concerts or events feel free to visit me at the Creve Coeur Camera St. Charles location today!
-David Flotte, St. Charles