Low light, fast moving subjects and bright spotlights make concert photography one of the most challenging fields in photography. You have no control of almost any parameter in the picture. You can’t direct the object being photographed, you do not have control over the lighting, which is constantly changing, and you do not have access to any angle.
There are 3 factors that need consideration when it comes to gear and low light photography :
It is important to have a camera that allows to take photos at high ISO without a lot of noise, it is very common for me to use an ISO higher than ISO1600.
I use a Nikon D800 (equipped with 36 Megapixels, Full frame FX Sensor), which has incredible image quality, outstanding resolution, and pixel-level ISO performance.
The easiest way to overcome dark lighting is to use the fastest lens you can get, which means a lens with a large aperture (f/2.8, f1.8, f/1.4). For example, the 50mm f1.8 lenses are quite good and cheap these days.
I mainly use the 70-200mm VR f/2.8 and the Nikon 24-70mm VR f/2.8 and occasionnally I use the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and the Nikon 14-24mm f.2.8.
|THE ONE I USE ALL THE TIME||THE ONE I SHOULD USE MORE|
|Nikon 70-200mm VR f/2.8||Nikon 50mm f/1.8|
|Exposure mode||Manual (I used to use Shutter Priority when I started concert photography)|
|AF Mode||AF-C (Continuous focus)|
|ISO||From ISO 600 or ISO 800 up to...as high as your camera allows you without producing too much noise|
|Flash||No flash !|
|Aperture||Wide open between f/2.8 (f/1.8 with the 50mm) and f/3.5|
|Shutter speed||From 1/125th sec to 1/400th or 1/500th sec or faster if the lighting is good|
: NIKON D800
Lens : Nikon 70-200mm VR f/2.8
: 200 mm
: 1/400 at f/2,8
: ISO 4000
|(Piaf the Concert - Town Hall, Birmingham.UK)|
My post production process, which is as important as the initial capturing of the image, consists of using Adobe Photoshop to open each file (I mean the best 20 or 30 photos of my shoot), and work each file on its own : adjusting the levels, using the "clone tool" to clean the background and reducing noise in the photo, using the noiseware pro photoshop plugin (http://www.imagenomic.com/).
Shoot in RAW
I shoot in RAW exclusively, which gives me more flexibility and control.
RAW post processing allows you to adjust many things like the sharpness, the white balance, the saturation....
Keep your photos safe
If your camera has dual memory slots, use them both, it would prevent from data loss... On my D800, I set the CF card to the primary, because it is the fastest card and use the SD slot only for back up.
Compose with creativity
Composition in concert photography is just as important as in any other photography but can be tricky simply because so many other elements must be working you favor.
Be aware of what to exclude and include in the frame – whether its speakers, cables, or stage lights.
Try to photograph all members of the band as well as their instruments and don’t be afraid to look into the audience and take photographs of the fans either.
Composition is a fun part of concert photography, so experiment and make your images stand out !
Play with light
In concert photography, lighting at most concert venues will nearly always work against you. The light source generally comes from spotlights, which are often moving about the stage and audience.
Look at the photograph on the right for example and see how using the spotlight also aids in the composition of the shot.
Work with the side lighting and backlighting as well, as they can be useful for creating some solid silhouette photos.
In conclusion, don't forget that in concert photography there are no rules, you’ll have to see in each show the lighting effects in order to decide how you will photograph but with a little practice, you can develop the 'eye' for getting clean shots.