Photographing concerts

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This is a slightly unusual topic for me: concert photography is something I’ve done quite a bit of, but never generally publicise because it falls out of my preferred commercial work. I started with being interested in the music first, in the mid 2000s; I shot a number of small venues locally, and these actually formed some of my earliest work – licensed to musicians and the like. Sadly, musicians are much like photographers: 99.99% of us are broke, but there are a small number of rockstars who make it into the big leagues. There are a few more who do okay and get by; we’re thankful we can sing for our supper and not drive a desk. That said, I have never (and will never) be on the other side of the microphone.

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After a hiatus of a decade with a couple of relief points, I recently started again. Initially because a friend who owned a jazz club here in KL invited me to the club’s birthday party, and I happened to be in town and free that night. Being the place where I initially cut my teeth in exchange for unlimited martinis and a place to decompress from my day job, I packed a couple of cameras and headed out the door. After a few minutes of practice, I picked up the rhythm again.

Since posting a couple of those images elsewhere, I’ve received a number of emails asking for advice on shooting concerts – hence this post. The images are a selection of work from various eras in my career – you can probably tell by the change in style and watermark. Interestingly, I think there’s both not that much scope for individual style and more than you’d think – this sounds contradictory, but allow me to explain. Firstly, the lighting in all of these situations is fixed; there’s no way you’re going to be allowed to use a flash (or at least not for very long). You must make do with what you’ve got. In addition, unless you’re in a smaller venue or have all-access, your vantage points are going to be restricted, which in turn restricts your angles, compositions, spatial alignments, and perspectives that will work compositionally. At larger events, you may only get three or four songs from the pit, and absolutely zero stage access. In fact, these days, stage access has become increasingly rare – unsurprising as I’ve seen far too many ‘informal’ or ‘public’ events get mobbed on stage by amateur photographers completely blocking the musicians from the rest of the audience.

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Here’s my checklist before shooting a concert.

Permits and access
If you’re going as an attendee, make sure photography is permitted beforehand. This sounds rather basic, but in recent times big name artists such as Taylor Swift have been doing all sorts of silly things to ‘protect their public image’ – the reality is that they’re also missing out on a lot of free press in the process. There are other artists who encourage sharing/recording/photography, and this makes sense philosophically: as an artist, you should support fellow artists if you want them to support you.

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Smaller clubs and venues will usually permit photography, and there’s no harm in doing a barter of a few images for entry. I don’t normally encourage work-for-free (or close to it), but the reality is a lot of the smaller places really cannot afford to pay – and you’re getting free access and subject matter anyway. The supply-demand equation is fair, in that sense. Of course, how fair depends on how good a photographer you are. Midsize events may well permit access to certain areas that are off limits to the public if permission is gotten ahead of time.

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Pre-reccie and rehearsals
If possible, visit the location during the rehearsal. This gives you a chance to gauge distances and angles, and areas you can access. Things are a lot more relaxed during rehearsals, so you will have a chance to talk to the artists, have them get comfortable with you (and possible score some work) and you with them. In addition, there are generally no access restrictions so you can get as close as you need to. At this point, the logical question would be ‘why not just shoot the rehearsal and forget the main event?’ – the simple answer is that the atmosphere just isn’t the same, and you of course won’t have any crowd elements.

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Planning and previsualization
Knowing what you’re going to get will, allow you to plan your shot list both for comprehensiveness and so you can move around minimising disruption to the rest of the audience. I would suggest starting in one place and following a route rather than moving around (the exception is if you’re in a separate photographers’ pit, or the stage wings). Knowing what compositions are achievable with what focal lengths from which positions will mean you’re prepared and don’t miss critical moments. I’ll generally try to figure out the best places to put each band member in relation to background elements, lights and each other. That said, sometimes you have no choice because your position is fixed. Lastly, this sounds basic, but memorise the program so you know where to be, when. Be familiar with the music!

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Lens choices
I usually go with a three prime lens setup. Firstly, you need as much light as you can get – especially in the smaller venues, where lighting is generally pretty dim. Secondly, performers move a lot: you’re going to need much higher shutter speeds than you think; high enough that the limiting factor is going to be motion of the subject, and not your hand shake. If you’re shooting slow enough that VR or IBIS is useful, then chances are either you’re making deliberate motion blur, or you might have caught the wrong moment: nothing exciting is happening. I’ll usually go with something wide/contextual that gets most of the stage in at a reasonable standoff distance, then something where I’ll get about a quarter of the stage – enough for two or three performers in context; lastly, something long to punch in for a tight shot. Depending on the size of the venue, this could range from 21/50/85 to 28/105/300 – or more. Zooms are more flexible, but you might run out of light. My current problem is the best performers in my usual range are all manual focus, with the exception of the Q – this means trap focusing and pulling focus with a burst. Live view is just too slow.

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Camera choices
The obvious preference would be for something with strong high-ISO performance, fast AF, a high frame rate, and moderate resolution – this is the kind of thing the D4s and 1DX-class cameras excel at. More resolution is not necessarily a benefit because it means slower frame rates, slower writing, and above all, much more precision in focus and stability required. Elements are generally fairly low frequency (humans) or out of focus, so more resolution isn’t going to show a dramatic difference even under ideal circumstances. However, the reality is that you can use pretty much anything. I’ve shot concerts before with a fully manual film SLR and ISO 800 film; it can be done with care (and if you like results of a certain style)

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Equipment setup
I find the all-or-nothing approach works best. Either the camera is set up in continuous tracking autofocus with spot meter linked to the focusing point, and you pick the performer’s face, let the camera do it’s thing and worry about composition and timing, or you go fully manual. The problem is, I’ve never found a camera that can reliably deal with erratic and energetic performers under lights of changing color*, or erratic exposure. So most of the time I find myself in full manual: keying my exposure to not clip anything and knowing I may have to do some recovery later – do not clip highlights, because this looks unnatural to our eyes; black shadows do not – and adjusting a stop or so as necessary. I’ll also disable auto-ISO because this uses the meter to determine what luminance level the output file should have. Lastly, manual focus: with an optical viewfinder. Live view is just too slow, with or without magnification and/or mirrors. The final trick to make manual focus workable is to pull focus whilst shooting a burst, at the highest frame rate you can. Remember: the subject is moving, so your chances of a hit are actually pretty high.

*DSLRs will frequently experience AF focus shift under tungsten light because the PDAF systems are generally calibrated for a single wavelength.

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Shoot time: timing, gesture, light; being fluid
If what I’ve described previously sounds like a very masochistic way of shooting, it is; however, it’s also yielded the highest keeper rates for me. If you’ve seen one rehearsal, or a song, or know the music or the band’s style, then you’re more likely to know what happens next: which means being able to anticipate critical moments, prefocus at a certain point (e.g. the mic stand location) and know where the key passages or lyrics are. Though pulling focus plus bursts sounds a bit haphazard in terms of timing, these key moments typically last long enough for you to make it work, and anticipation makes it relatively easy to pre-frame correctly. Spontaneous action with a hyperactive band is different, and for that you just need AF and luck (or to know when and where it’s going to happen in advance). I admit I have little experience with this.

I’d also suggest framing a little bit looser than normal – say think of an 85 as a 105 – I won’t go so far as to call it cropping because the perspective shouldn’t fundamentally change, but the reality is it’s very, very difficult to be simultaneously aware of all the moving elements in the scene whilst focusing on the key performer. So leave yourself a bit of room to trim afterwards.

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Lastly, as mentioned by Ken in the comments: hearing protection. Some sort of attenuating ear plugs are best, because you still want to hear what’s going on…

At last, we come to the whole objective of concert photography: for me, every frame has to have some sort of gesture or emotion or feeling – the music has to be in the image. The audience has to feel what you felt and heard; this means taking some time to listen and get a feel for the artist. Timing is critical: there must be some sort of gesture in every frame; facial expression, lip movement, hands, body language – all of these details are critical. Something as simple as a hand on an instrument can be a powerful frame, but only if the hand gesture is the correct one (preferably with a decisive finger shape and some tension or action). In good production design, the lights, effects and props are complimentary to the music; the whole show comes together as greater than the sum of its parts. Our challenge is to encapsulate that in an image. The good news is that somebody has already thought out the lighting for us, and it’s isolating the subject already. The bad news is we have no flexibility, and the performer may well improvise.

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I’ve always felt that to a large extent the music and production design dictate the style of the presentation; to a much larger extent than say a freely posed portrait. In essence, it’s a posed portrait in which you can’t move the subject and the lights have been set up for you – you can only move yourself, and if you deviate too far from the initial set design, then there’s a visible disconnect betweens the mood of the image and the mood of the performance and music. For example, my own speciality is jazz concerts. Our expectations of jazz photography have been influenced by decades of photography in dim clubs where high speed film in monochrome was really the only option; however such images also don’t work so well in color. I suspect it’s because monochrome is a better medium to convey the melancholy or ‘hard’ passages – and so has stood the test of time. I need to challenge myself and challenge that too, I think.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: remember to enjoy the music! MT


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  1. Hi Ming,

    Interesting article and some really nice work. I especially like the color shots — you should do more of it (although I share you bias for black and white for jazz). I will add a slightly different approach, influenced by my start shooting dance photography during the film days. I use single shot or continuous low (3-5 frames/second) so I can take one shot at peak action. Granted, it helps to know what is coming up next but I have found with bursts often the shot I wanted occured between frames. By waiting for my desired moment I am more likely to get exactly what I want. There is also the bonus of weeding through less chaff, changing cards less frequently, etc. I also stay in form for the times when I shoot film. Just a suggested alternate approach for those out there. Of course, people should use the techniques that work best for them.

    Happy shooting, and if you ever come to Boston or Montreal let me know: I know a few good venues. 🙂

  2. Hi Ming, I thoroughly enjoyed the article and the pictures. I will respectfully offer alternate technique from bursts: I still use the single-shot approach, waiting for the moment I want. Of course, I learned while a dance photographer shooting film, a gig I landed after my first exhibition (architecture, ironically). I find with continuous shooting I can’t always nail the shot I want but instead get the instant before and the instant after: Even with digital I wait until the moment I want comes, aided by knowing whatès coming next. Continuos is useful for me when I don’t know the artist, or they are doing something unexpected or fast-paced. Typically I set my cameras to continuos-low so that I can squeeze off single shots as I want, but can keep firing as needed without having to reset the camera. Just an alternative technique people may want to try. The best technique of course is the one which is comfortable and gets you the shots you want…

    • The bursts aren’t because of timing; I fully agree single shot is the way to go there. Rather they’re to counter the effects of camera shake/motion when you hit the shutter, and/or focus pulling with MF lenses.

  3. David Burns says:

    Another great article, thanks.

    I used to do a lot of theatre photography and for my sins, insisted on only shooting using the stage lighting at arranged photo-calls or technical rehearsals. Others at the time used to use flash but I always thought that this killed the atmosphere. The directors with whom I worked agreed with me. This was in the days of film, using Tri-X pushed to 800 and 1600 ISO and producing 20X24″ B&W prints for front of house ready for the evening performance the next day. The atmosphere was great but oh boy, the grain and the technical quality! My final technique, after much experimentation, was to use 35mm with a 50mm or 35mm lens with a step-ladder in front of the apron on which I placed a big cushion to lean on. This was very helpful with the 1/8 or slower shutter speeds I often ended up using. I tried MF but the longer focal length lenses made the camera shake too intrusive.

    I have since then shot several concerts on digital and the joy of superb quality (relatively) images shot at 32,000 ISO and higher is almost incalculable! If only I had been able to shoot all those theatre images back then on a D810!

  4. Dear Ming, great pictures (as usual). Please allow a question: do you fix color temperature during concert shootings? To which value? “Incandescent” might be not the right choice with LED lights today. Thanks a lot.

    Ado A

    • Thanks. Depends on the venue – sometimes there’s so much color you just have to go for whatever won’t blow a channel; otherwise it’s all perceptual. I try to make a mental note of which objects were grey or seemed like it – you can then use these to eyedropper.

  5. Brett Patching says:

    Thanks for yet another great instructional article Ming!

  6. Good shout on the ear plugs – last year I was asked to shoot a gig at a midsize venue at short notice and didn’t have time to track some down. Regretted it for a day or two afterwards…

    • Haha, “shout”. 🙂

      As Ming knows, I’ve been working on a similar project but with dance instead of music, and I have to really echo two things in Ming’s post, and both are basically about preparation: the actual act of taking the photo is only one step along a chain of actions. Those two things are:

      1. Know your subject. Know how to make them look good: for a physical performance art like dance, this means knowing the difference between a good and ugly line. Know when things are going to happen (this means putting down your camera and attending rehearsals with a notebook, and drawing up a shot list afterwards). Know what the piece is about so maybe the body of photos you’ll shoot can say something as a collection. Know your camera, so the act of using it is unconscious and smooth. And test beforehand: go to rehearsals and make sure what you think should work will actually work. That’s for technique and equipment.

      2. Practice! Practice using your camera. Ralph Gibson, a famous Leica user, said that he’d go watch the movies with his camera in hand, and he’d just practice setting various things in the dark while he was watching the movie so he’d have the whole thing down by feel. Practice using your AF or MF technique: go out and do street photography using the same technique you’re going to use in the theater so you know what works and how to make things that don’t work as you thought, work better.

      Technically, I don’t think there’s much that beats a DSLR and knowing its AF system well enough to use it on the subjects you’re going to shoot. For example, moving the d9 mode array around on the D810 on AF-C works much better for me than 3D tracking. Face recognition modes, like on the Panasonic FZ1000 I tried out this weekend, don’t work well when the faces of your subjects turn away (even a little bit) and turn back because the acquisition time takes too long. Low-light AF with the mirrorless cameras I’ve tried isn’t great either. I’d rather MF in that case because at least I can judge when something is close to being in focus instead of mindlessly hunting.

      For MF, it’s knowing when the focus confirm dot means you have focus in the particular light you have, and building a feel for when the camera’s found focus. For me, I know that if I approach the focusing point from near distances (as opposed to infinity), and a bit past where the dot lights up is good. It takes practice to make the muscle memory to turn the ring into front-focus first before turning back to light the focus dot.

      I also find that lens quality doesn’t matter that much when you’re using highish ISOs (1600-3200 for me). Decent is basically indistinguishable from spectacular. I’ve shot the same event with a Nikon 85/1.8 AF-D on a D810 and a Zeiss 55 Otus on a D5500, and I don’t think anyone can tell a difference between the two lenses, except in a couple of exceptional circumstances. The important exception is flare when a bright light is in your frame: the 85/1.8 has rather spectacular flare, but it can be used artistically. I try not to shoot wide open though so that I have some depth-of-field margin for focusing errors and also to get more of their body in focus.

      • Thanks for the detailed thoughts, Andre. You’re right in that stage performances are quite similar to concerts – but you often have the advantage of knowing the scripting in advance, being able to attend and shoot at rehearsals etc. 🙂

        I’ll add one more thing in the vein of manual focus and know your camera: rack focus a little as you shoot. I find that increases my overall hit rate, too.

      • Oops, unintentional pun!

        Some great advice there, Andre. As someone who doesn’t know the first thing about dance, I’d love to see more of this project 🙂

        • Thanks Todd! I’m about to upload it to Flickr. I’m still waffling over a couple of pictures in it. You can see a couple on there already (the two latest ones, though the color photo is not in the final selection because it’s not B&W).

          Ming, I have yet to try rack focusing. I’ve been hesitant because there’s a chance it will be past the peak moment, but it’s worth trying anyway.

  7. Martin Fritter says:

    Two questions:

    Could you expand on “trap focusing?” I assume it has something to do with hyperfocal distances, but just a hunch.

    No mention of EVF. Have you had occasion to use a Sony Alpha in these contexts? Did you fund Sony’s EVF adequate?

    • I have the same question about trap focusing.

    • Trap focusing is where you focus on a point where you know the subject is going to be, lock focus, then shoot when they get there. It may or may not be hyperfocal and you may or may not stop down. Think of it as zone focusing for AF.

      EVFs are perfectly usable. I haven’t used a Sony Alpha because AF is just too slow/imprecise.

      • Thanks Ming. I do that with manual focus lenses sometimes as well.

      • It should also be noted that Nikon for a few models removed the ability to trap focus (set the camera to close the shutter only when a subject moves into the focus zone at the preset distance). It’s on the D7000, was removed on the D7100 and I believe on the D800, restored with a firmware update on the D800, and is factory standard on the D7200 and D810. I don’t know about the D750 or the precise details of these switches, but its removal raised a fairly big stink.

        • I can’t see how you would make the camera do that other than by using the AF-L button, but that overrides AF confirmation and allows the shutter to release regardless of whether the area underlying the AF point is in focus or not – much like the half press to recompose.

          • It does use the combination of back-button-focusing, AFS, and a few other settings, Ming. But it does stop the shutter from releasing until something walks into the focus zone at the preset focus plane.

  8. Another wonderful blog Ming!
    Your comment, “At last, we come to the whole objective of concert photography: for me, every frame has to have some sort of gesture or emotion or feeling – the music has to be in the image. The audience has to feel what you felt and heard; this means taking some time to listen and get a feel for the artist. Timing is critical: there must be some sort of gesture in every frame” says it all as in all but one of your photos I didn’t even have to imagine I was there… I actually felt the music and emotion oozing from the shot!

    On another note I know there are issues with low light and mirrorless but in due respect to the musicians I would think mirrorless would be a wonderful silent option. If I were shooting with a non-obtrusive looking Oly M4/3’s would you think I’d have any chance of success or would the results all be just noise!

    • Thanks. Yes, you could use M4/3 providing you have a bit more light (some of these were shot with M4/3, and all of these). Not sure about some of the darker jazz bar venues though…

      • Thanks Ming… and wow, I love the shots in the link you provided… there is hope for the M4/3 it appears even in relatively low light! I’ve been leaning towards the Oly OM-D MII (when it makes its appearance, hopefully sooner than later this year) as a companion to my D700. I have a Sigma macro 105/2.8 that I regard as my best current lens and have put all other D700 glass purchases on the back burner until I sort out the M4/3 decision. I like the looks of the new Oly Pro lens and would only pick those up if I started to get into M4/3, especially for the “reach” as you say, but now my interest is tweeked in the 28/1.8G you’re using with your own D700… you’ve got me thinking now!

        • You probably want to look at the fast primes instead of M4/3 to make the most of the system.

          I don’t have the D700 or 28/1.8 anymore. Wide documentary work is handled with the Sigma 20/1.4 Art or the Leica Q…

  9. Lovely work.

    A long time ago for me, 1988, I was staff photographer for a summer classical music camp at the Brevard Music Center in the mountains of western North Carolina. It was tremendous fun even if the pay was meagre. I especially loved photographing the operas and musicals they put on nearly every week. I was shooting pushed film (mostly Kodak T-max 400 and P3200, but also some color tungsten slide film), and printing the b&w stuff in their small darkroom for news articles, and for the young students who would buy prints of themselves. It would be fun to do more of this with modern digital cameras, which are so much more capable in low light than pushed film ever was.

    • Oh, and a monopod is a great system support for low light shooting like this where you need freedom of movement to follow action, which usually is strictly horizontal, yet providing some extra stability over handholding a camera.

    • Thanks. I’ve shot a couple of concerts with film (though not anything critical, as results tend to be somewhat unpredictable) – but yes – digital is unquestionably the way to go for these things…

      That said, film seemed to be a bit more forgiving to me: you could get away with lower shutter speeds handheld because there was less acuity, plus you could push and never really lose the highlights. Digital clips and shake is obvious; you have to up the ISO and get your exposure spot on or risk underexposure or highlight clipping and shake…

      • Yes, b&w negative film is generally pretty forgiving, though I did manage to overexpose some pushed T-max 400 once, resulting in blown white shirts that couldn’t be burned in for highlight detail. Fortunately, the clients were not that critical, and liked the images enough to use them. Slide film was much less tolerant of overexposure and the extreme dynamic range present in stage lighting, even a correct exposure was disappointing to me, though useable for their purposes. I wish they had let me shoot color negatives instead. The results would have been better by a lot.

        • I recently shot a concert on T-max 400 pushed to 3200 (120 film, not 35mm) and apart from being huge fun, the results were pretty usable. Now, it was my first concert and it was a somewhat gritty rock/metal band so perhaps the standard was lower – but with practise photographing concerts this way seems very doable.

          I agree that in some sort of way film is more forgiving. My digital camera showed some very harshly lighted areas that were just 100% white (or blue depending on the light) on the performers’ clothing. On film, I rarely saw any of that and most of it was easy to fix in Photoshop.

          • Too bad Kodak discontinued Tmax P3200. I still have some rolls of it in the cold. P3200 was really a native 1000 ASA film that pushed very well. The results were quite grainy if shot and processed for 3200 EI, but at 2000 EI with more exposure and slightly less development, it was noticeably less grainy and had a longer tonal scale. It was great for the often dim mood lighting of opera productions.

        • Slide film is really not suited to this little light, tripod or not 😛

          • The head of the press office at the Brevard Music Center in the 1980s was ignorant of that, and a great many other things. Basically he was an idiot, but he demanded transparency use. I guess it was easier to send out slides to newspapers back then. I would never have chosen to use slide film, but it wast not my choice.

  10. 🙂 Ciao Ming. I smiled when I read your article: I can only agree with everything you write. I met a lot of international jazz musicians, thanks to my wife (a journalist who writes about music) and started to shoot at jazz clubs just for fun and because I love the dim mood of these concerts.
    Almost all for free, because to them “money” is almost a forbidden word.. 🙂

  11. Well written as always, Ming! Do you know a photographer called Flemming Bo Jensen? For me there is something special about his club and concert photographs — the mood, the music and not at least the sound level (loud!) can be felt through his images.

  12. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Like your other posts, Ming, this one is straight-from-the-shoulder.

    Excuse an older photographer from sounding a bit petulant, but I do find it tiresome when someone bursts into print and has a rant against “available light” on the grounds that it is (apparently) the result of laziness or ignorance or an unwillingness to get the “right equipment” – and follows through with another one, abusing anyone who leaves a bit of border to trim & crop the shot later, for not taking the trouble to “compose the shot properly”.

    Your candor and common sense make a refreshing change! Your post should be very helpful to anyone thinking of trying concert shots. Or, for that matter, a range of other night shots

    • Thanks. Sometimes you can’t bring your own light, sometimes you don’t want to because it would destroy the mood, and at others, it’s just impossible (think buildings). The rest of the time, sure, we haul the speed lights… 🙂

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says: ? Anybody who has a rant against available light while photographing jazz sessions must be total ignorant not knowing that Flash is the thing musicians Hate most and using it will have kicked you out. Beside the obvious fact that on camera flash kills totally the magic of moment.

      • And the noisy shutter of course. That`s why Leica was the camera king of jazz clubs.

        • Michiel953 says:

          And I thought jazz clubs were supposed to be noisy… 😉 . Noisy shutters shouldn’t attract undue attention.

          I remember walking into either The Vanguard or The Blue Note, December 1992, and sitting in (with about twentyfive others) at a John Scofield concert. Ordered a beer etc. I bought a live cd, recorded at the same place, later and on that recording you heard the cash register opening and closing while the musicians were playing. It actually fitted in quite well with the music.

          • I wouldn’t be so sure that it wasn’t intentional! Sadly there’s only one pitch to most shutters, and it doesn’t really fit in. The EFC cameras (or leaf shutter only cameras like the GR and Q) are completely inaudible though.

          • Michiel953 saysAnd I thought jazz clubs were supposed to be noisy… ;-). Dear friend jazz is not noise ( the background is ), unless you think bird song is noise too 🙂 and real jazz lovers do shut up when fine moments come. There are silent moments too where shutter sounds like a shot. But of course the other meaning of the word,you know, I that jazz…

            • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

              last line, All that jazz, of course.

              • Martin Fritter says:

                Seems like a good place for two more cents. Photographing at classical events is never ok. One should also be mindful of one’s neighbors at any venue. Not blocking their line of sight, for example. So discretion and circumspection seem like the ways to go.

                • Agreed. Most of the time I admit this does not apply to me as I have official access and move around a lot anyway; that way nobody is blocked (and wearing black helps too 🙂

            • Michiel953 says:

              @Stanislaw: I thought that Scofield concert (musicians huddled in a corner, twenty feet away) was, pretty noisy in the sense that the music was too loud. Maybe I’ve got oversensitive hearing… 😉

              • I tend to find concerts in general a bit too loud…perhaps it’s the cumulative effect of all of the sound engineers being a bit deaf after years of concerts and overcompensating for their own hearing! :p

                • Michiel953 says:

                  I vaguely remember seeing “the” sound check guy sitting way back in the concert hall, waiting for The Doobie Brothers to perform. Maybe that explains it. they’re setting up the sound levels for deaf people at the back.

      • Indeed.

  13. Nice post. You forgot to mention one essential piece of equipment if you are granted access to the stage (especially the wings) – hearing protection. I have shot a fund raising concert for several years that provides me with access to the stage wing, and that usually puts me a few feet in front of a wall of speakers. In this type of situation, hearing protection is essential. (And if the situation permits, a monopod can be a bit of a luxury if you are shooting with long glass.)

    I have shot in some jazz clubs as well (usually grossly underlit), but I do have to admit, there is something about the energy of a rock concert that just makes shooting that much more fun. I have yet to nail a good shot of “dueling axes”, but I am hoping that this year’s concert will offer some good opportunities.


    • Very good point, Ken – I shall add that in now. Jazz clubs are almost always grossly underlit; I don’t know if that’s a prerequisite of the genre or just because budgets tend to be slim 😛

      • Jazz Alley in Seattle is very photo friendly, has good lighting, great seating and top notch artists, but I cannot say the same about the few smaller clubs that I have been invited to shoot in. Even with a FF DSLR shooting at ISO3200, the images still look horrible. I like the clubs, and its great fun to hear local musicians play, but the “stages” are a total afterthought. I just want to donate a spot light or two just so I can have a fighting chance at a decent image.


        • That’s actually not a bad idea, haha. I’m usually at 3200 and f1.4 or f2 to get a decent shutter speed – the latest generation of hardware does pretty well tonally, but I suspect the H5 and 100/2.2 might be quite superb – if disruptively noisy with the shutter 😛


  1. […] Note: MT previously wrote about concert photography here. […]

  2. […] Tie in Kuala Lumpur from a couple of months back. You may recognise some of the images from the photographing concerts article. Enjoy! […]

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