A Music State of Mind

23 Oct
Vertical Horizon - Matt

Vertical Horizon – Matt

Every week I think about what photo type thing I want to share with the world, and today, I want to share music.Wha??

I know, I know…wrong art form. 🙂  What I mean is, today I want to talk about the art of taking live concert photos.  There are two reasons for this…  First, I happened to take concert photos a week ago, and I just found time to edit them. And second, **spoiler alert** I may or may not have a super secret/awesome interview lined up with a well-known photographer who made music photography a cornerstone of his career, and he wants to share his story with YOU! **end spoiler alert**

So, let’s talk about a concert environment for a bit, ok?  As a general rule, it’s dark and it’s loud.  For larger concerts with a good stage set-up, you have stage lights to help show your subject, but it’s often inconsistent.  Your white balance will most likely be completely wonky (technical term) and your guitarist and bassist are probably moving at a much different speed than your drummer and your animated lead singers.  Add to the mix some obstacles to shoot around, and the permissions issue…and you have one big hot mess.

Sounds great…sign you up, right?

Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit - www.heartsandthieves.com

Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

First and foremost, you want to think about the permissions issue.  Not every venue will allow “professional looking cameras”…aka DSLRs…without a photo pass.  Furthermore, some venues or artist management companies are now requiring you to sign away some of the rights to your photos in exchange for the photo pass.  In turn, this limits your use of the photos which may limit your desire to actually take the photos.

Phew!  That’s a lot to think about!

Okay, so let’s say you either go to a show that has no photography limitations, photo pass or otherwise.  The next thing to consider is the trade-offs.

Most concert halls are dark, which means you either need fast glass or you need to bump up the ISO.  So, do you prefer a super shallow depth of field which can make focusing (at least, it does for me!) tricky, or do you prefer a little bit of grain in your images?  For me, it’s a happy medium.

It’s also loud!  Now, I know that may seem silly to point out, but it can make a difference.  I actually went to one show that was so loud that the sound was vibrating the camera…I couldn’t figure out why every image was camera-shake-central, until I put some distance between myself and the speakers.  Suddenly the images sharpened back up. Haha

Rick of Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit - www.heartsandthieves.com

Rick of Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

For me, personally, crazy colors and obstacles are rarely an issue.  I don’t mind if my subjects have magenta hair and neon blue faces from the stage lights…it’s just a reflection of the moment.  Similarly, obstacles aren’t usually too much of a problem if you have any sort of freedom to move around or shift from side to side.  Doing that requires a little bit of self-awareness in the dark though.  You’re not on stage…don’t break a leg!

Finally, think about the effect of shutter speed.  As I said, if your subjects are putting on a good stage show, they’re going to be animated.  Do you leave the shutter open longer to let more light in, even if it results in some blur?

So many artistic decisions to make!  And you haven’t even begun to think about composition…and how many leading lines you can find on a stage! haha

Atomic Tom - Phil, Luke

Atomic Tom – Phil, Luke

I know I have said this before, but concert photography is truly a great marriage of my two favorite art forms.  The passion of the musicians on stage inspires me as a visual artists, and their energy gives the images life.  If you’ve ever thought it might be fun to take some concert photos…well, you’re right.  It is. Do it. 🙂


One Response to “A Music State of Mind”


  1. Rocking Faces Off | SeeingSpotsPhoto.com - May 9, 2013

    […] For those of you looking for a little info about what goes into good live concert photos, check out this previous blog post. […]

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