With the recent conclusion of another lollapalooza here in Chicago, I thought it would be great to offer up my thoughts (and helpful tips) about successfully shooting musical events. So whether is a “stadium rock blowout” or that favorite “hole in the wall” in your neighborhood, here’s some tricks to capture your favorite band. Remember, experimentation is a key ingredient in creating great art, so don’t be afraid to try new and different things when shooting!
Be ready for the unexpected. Know what kind of stage the band might perform on. Watch them live on Youtube before you go (if you can find previous event footage). Also, check with the venue to make sure photography is allowed (assuming you’ve not been hired by the band or venue to capture the event).
Be selective. Focus on one performer at a time to capture raw emotion and energy. If the band interacts with the audience a lot, make sure to capture those interactions, because a “fan reaction” can be classic!
Find the perfect settings. At most concerts you'll have to set your ISO at a minimum of 800. Sure, you'll get noise at higher ISO's but it's better than a poorly lit photo. Your aperture needs to be at f2.8 or lower. At f1.8 more light will enter the camera allowing you to use a faster shutter speed. This also means you have to be very accurate with your focus. Also, consider a shutter speed at 1/125 second or higher. For hand held photography, be sure to use the reciprocal of your focal length as a guide. For example, if you are shooting at 200mm, then shoot at 1/200 second faster for sharp images.
No Flash – more or less. Flash ruins the stage lights plus if you're far away from the band then it wouldn't help anyway. Refs back to my “trick #3” for making sure you’re using the right settings so you won’t need flash in the first place.
Be sure to wear earplugs! If you get the chance to get up close, you'll want a few pairs at all times in your gadget bag.
To Wrap It Up
Remember, music can soothe the soul, lift the spirit and create amazing times that provide memories that last forever. And capturing your musical experiences through inspiring images is a great way to share and preserve those wonderful moments.