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Concerts and Live Events

Photographing concerts and live events is brutal and unforgiving. It combines the hardest aspects of photographing fast moving objects as in wildlife photography and also the low light conditions of photographing at night or in the dark. Add to this the environment in which you have to take your photographs and you will find that it is a very inhospitable niche of photography that attracts a certain kind of person. Not only will you very probably be knocked and jostled but your camera equipment may take a beating as well so you need to be prepared for any eventuality.

It is easy to capture an image of a concert or a performer at a concert; any amateur photographer can accomplish this with a little bit of knowledge and some moderately priced equipment. However to capture genuinely compelling images that are interesting to look at is another problem entirely and this is what separates the amateur from the professional. Bear in mind that under most circumstances you will not be allowed to use your flash, and even if you were allowed to it wouldn't have any effect other than to saturate a stage scene with bright white light and make the pictures seem washed out and dull. And to add insult to injury depending on what concert or event it is that you are photographing you may only be allowed a few minutes into the press area to actually take some photographs so time is certainly of the essence. Bear in mind that before you even get to this stage you will likely have to obtain a press pass at most events; these are hard to come by and you will have to convince the event manager or artists promoter that you take good enough photographs and have reputable credentials.

Regarding equipment, you will do worse than taking a wide angle to medium telephoto zoom lens and using this as a primary lens for most concerts. Obviously as your skills and knowledge increase and you gain more practice you will likely develop your own techniques and find other camera/lens combinations that suit you and other events far better, however for a primary lens for your first few live events this type of lens should see you in good stead. If you are photographing at an indoor concert you will most likely have your ISO set right up to 1600 as there will always be very little ambient light to work with, but you will also want to use a relatively fast shutter speed if possible to avoid blurring and to catch moments without too much of a sense of motion in them. Fortunately one good thing about concert photography and event photography is that you can shoot happily in manual mode knowing that most often the performers will never leave the stage area; so you can adjust your camera within a very strict set of confines and not have to worry about making major adjustments.

With a little bit of practice you will be able to take away much of the trial and error that is concert and live event photography; however be careful if you are there on payroll of a newspaper, magazine or other publication. If you present poor images for your first job you will be immediately blacklisted and probably not be able to find work in the business again as live event photography is a very tightly knit group. Henceforth you should attend smaller events beforehand if possible that will allow you to take photographs and practice your technique. Perhaps a local school is performing a play and if you give them a call they may be only too happy to allow you to document the event if they are given copies of the final photographs. However you go about it it is vitally important to practice before the big event otherwise you will find yourself overwhelmed and unable to function properly and take good quality photographs in the short space of time you have in the press area.