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September 30, 2016

Concert Photography for Beginners: Choosing the Right Lens

Concert photography is one of the most challenging fields in photography, as opposed to posed photos; in this kind of photography we have no control of almost any parameter in the picture. We can’t control or direct what’s being photographed, nor do we have control over lighting, which is constantly changing, and even our access to different angles is very limited. For these reasons, it is important to include fast, wide-aperture lenses in your arsenal.

For novice concert photographers on a budget, I would recommend the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens because of its ability to shoot in low-light at its highest aperture setting. It is available for all camera brands, and being made of plastic, is small, lightweight and unobtrusive. Often called the “Nifty Fifty”, the 50mm f/1.8 has saved me more than a few times when I stepped into a venue only to find limited, dim lighting on stage. For small stages, a 50mm lens is a good compromise to get a head shot of the lead singer and a full-length shot of the drummer (depending on how big the stage is).

You might ask, “But what about zoom lenses? I can have all focal lengths covered in one lens. Shouldn’t they be perfect for concert photography? Why should I buy a prime lens?” Here’s the thing. The “kit” zoom lenses that come with cameras have smaller apertures (higher aperture numbers). By using an aperture of f5.6 for example, less light passes through the lens (compared to f1.8), which will result in a lower possible shutter speed. From my experience, an aperture of at least f2.8 is a necessity in concert photography, and therefore a cheap zoom lens is not a viable option for concert photographers. You can get zoom lenses with an aperture of f2.8, but they are expensive and not worth the investment for those who are new to concert photography. Be careful! The 50mm lens will effectively be an 80mm (50mm x 1.6 on Canon, for example) on your crop sensor DSLR. You’ll lose the standard focal length, but that’s fine when you’re first starting out and learning. If you already have the 50mm f1.8 and you feel your shots are too tight, then check out a 35mm f1.8 lens (which will be equivalent to a 50mm on your crop sensor body). This will allow you to fit more in your frame, which is great for capturing multiple band members, band backdrop shots, etc.

As you progress as a concert photographer, I would recommend trying out a 100mm f2.8, a super wide/fisheye lens like the 15mm f2.8, a 24-70 f2.8, and a Sigma 18-35 f1.8 ART, among others. These will allow you to capture a variety of shots, increasing the likelihood of getting that “perfect” shot. The goal is to find what works best for you and your shooting style.

Come in to any of our locations at
for you, and answer any questions you may have! We have many experienced photographers on staff who will be glad to help you take your concert photography to the next level.

-Grant Conner, Superstore in Creve Coeur, MO