I have been asked numerous times how to take good concert photography photos, so here are a few concert photography tips. I don't profess to be an expert, Iam definitely not a know it all, but I think I have learned a few things over the years shooting concerts that maybe of use to you all, so here goes:
1) If its your first gig... don't panic, don't machine gun the artist, relax, take time to watch the artist in action, watch the lights carefully and compose your shots, rather than just bursting off frames and hoping for the best. frame the shot, wait for the artists expression and most importantly make sure the spotlights are where you want them to be BEFORE pressing the shutter. Yes there's quite a few things you have to get spot on in concert photography in order to bag an outstanding shot. It may be difficult, but hey, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!
2) Beware of microphone stands, microphones and monitors - nothing spoils a concert pic more than a microphone cutting right through the performers face. Try standing to one side of the main singer rather than straight on, that way the mic wont obliterate their face.
3) Equipment - try and use the fastest possible lenses you can get hold of. By that I mean f2.8 or faster. I use canon L series lenses and find the 70-200mm f2.8 IS and the 100mm f2.8 Macro (yes macro) hard to beat. I also use a 50mm f 1.2 and 16-35 f 2.8. I use a Canon Eos 1ds Mark 2 as a camera, I have never used Nikon in my life, although this may change with the introduction of the new D3 - especially if I win the lottery. I also use Lexar compact flash memory cards from 2gb to 4gb. If you can try and get the wa (write accelerated) ones I find these cards great and touch wood they have never given me any problems. If you can, try and invest in a portable storage disc, I use an epson P2000 - its perfect for transferring images from the memory card whilst still shooting a concert on another card.
3) Exposure, ISO and f stop - these are the settings I generally use - f2.8, AV Mode or manual if the lighting is difficult, ISO 800, speed depending on the lens you use is usually in the region of 125-200. As a rule of thumb make sure the shutter speed doesn't fall below the type of lens you are using. For example 200mm use a speed no slower than 1/200th, although the image stabilised canon lens lets you get away with a slightly slower speed sometimes. Spot metering mode, usually measured off the face of the artist.
4) Framing - try and be creative here - anyone can take a picture of a singer on stage, also if you are in the pit with a group of other photographers you need to make sure that the shots you get are not exactly the same thing that everyone else is shooting. Don't worry if everyone around you is in a frenzy firing off frames left right and centre, be patient, earmark the shot you want and wait for the singer or band member to get into position. Be very wary of facial expressions, there's nothing worse than thinking you've got the perfect shot, only to discover the artist has their eyes closed later on in the night when you download the images. The more you shoot the better you will get at judging the right moment. Especially if you know the band you are shooting. DONT I repeat don't be afraid to try something new, you may not bag it the first time, but this is what will make your shots stand out from all the others.
5) Lighting - I NEVER, repeat never use flash unless I absolutely have no choice. It kills the mood of your shots - unless for instance you are shooting dee jays in a club, where slow sync flash can give some really creative and interesting effects.
6) Most importantly enjoy the moment, concert photography is a very difficult beast to master, its not for everyone, but if you persevere its more than worth it.
Well thats about all I have time for at the moment folks. if you need any further information please drop me a line at:
mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see some of my concert photography on my flickr page here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/allen_venables/