This is the second and final part of my guide to concert photography.
You can be technically adept but still take poor photos, the trick is knowing when to click the shutter. Watch the performance for a moment, where is the light on stage? You may have to wait for the performer to move into the light.
My favourite shots are ones that show emotion and energy. Go for a shot when the singer steps away from the mic, you don’t want it obscuring your shot.
Try and get one when the singer is "in the moment", reaching for a high note or gesticulating.
The other thing to remember is that shooting digital means you can take lots of photos. Go nuts.
Consider the background
While you’ll be concentrating hard on capturing the performer in the foreground don’t forget to keep an eye on what’s visible in the background of the frame. A simple backdrop is usually best, so position yourself to avoid getting the lighting rig or advertising banners in the back of your shot. Any clutter in the background will just distract from the focal point of your shot.
One effect that can look good is backlighting the subject. If you spot a particularly bright spotlight behind a performer move around till it’s directly behind the subject. It’ll give them a warm halo of light. A solar eclipse-like effect.
While the action on stage is what you’re primarily there to record, don’t forget to look around you and capture other elements to the show.
Once you know you’ve got some great shots of the performance think about grabbing some shots of the crowd. If you can get the performer and the crowd in the same shot, even better.
If you’re photographing a festival, shots of the audience and the vibe of the day are particularly important. Think of Glastonbury, and it’s images of floods and mud soaked punters that come to mind before any particular performer.
A music festival is about a lot more than the acts on stage, and you ought to take photos to tell that story.
Editing, flash and ettiquette
After you’ve taken hundreds of shots at a show, cull them down to the best 20 or 30. Then cull that down to the best 3.
If you’re going to show other people your photos don’t show them everything, just the very best.
They’ll assume all your shots are that good.
Sometimes your photos may need a tweak in post-processing. This isn’t unique to digital photography, people have been tinkering in dark rooms forever so it’s certainly not cheating to adjust your images in Photoshop. I usually just adjust the levels.
To make the blacks really black, bring up the contrast a little. Don’t change too much though, it’ll just look obvious and cheesy. Plus photo agencies and publications may not accept images that have been overly manipulated.
Photoshop can also help you remove an overwhelming colour cast, which under stage light is often red. Try tweaking the curves and colour balance to find a level that looks natural.
Sometimes the colour of the stage light will be so murky and red that the image is almost unusable. In this instance try converting your image to black and white and the image may improve dramatically.
Be aware that very few publications will run black and white photos these days though.
For shots taken at high ISO values you may want to run your shots through noise reduction software. Noise Ninja and Neat Image are widely used and quite effective.
Flash and etiquette
Flash is generally forbidden in concerts but sometimes unavoidable to get a decent shot. I wouldn’t use an on-camera flash, an external flash will work much better.
If you’re in a small venue try bouncing it off a ceiling or wall – not in the performer or audiences face. Don’t go overboard with the flash, it’s distracting and quickly irritating, so if you have to use it keep it to an absolute minimum.
Be nice to those around you. If you’re shooting from the audience don’t just shove your way to the front.
If you want to get closer, tap someone on the shoulder, smile and ask if they mind you moving forward to take some photos.
If you need to stand right in front of someone ask them if they mind and promise you’ll only be there for a minute. Keep that promise and move on.
If you’re in the photo pit be considerate of your fellow photographers. Keep an eye out for them and never walk in front of a shot while they’re composing it.
Always respect security, if they tell you to stop taking photos it’s not worth the hassle to argue.
Just put your camera away and enjoy the show.
Well that’s my advice all wrapped up, i hope you found it useful.
If you haven’t seen the first part, check out Concert Photography Masterclass.