Updated: Jul 1, 2020
When you step into a concert venue as a photographer, there are so many things to consider before you start. I'll help you understand a few things that could potentially help you out when shooting a concert or show in order for you to capture that amazing shot!
I have years of experience as a concert photographer and have worked for editorials within Sweden and Denmark as well as being in house photographer for Vega, Copenhagen and K.B. Hallen arena.
I have also had the privilege of working with bands and artists direct at concerts and during recording sessions or production days.
Here's a few things to get you started when trying to capture the perfect shot.
Fever 333, Pumpehuset, Copenhagen.
In the weeks, maybe months in some cases, before a concert, I spend quite a bit of time researching the artists I am going to shoot. This could include where the band members position themselves, what they wear and what they do on stage.
I know the concert location, therefore If I know the venue inside out. I have an idea of the best positions to stand or how high the stage is. If it's a new venue, then I would look through previous images people have taken at the venue with a small search on the venue website or google.
I will look at concert shots from the band that people have posted from previous shows on the tour (shots from a show the night before) on Instagram. This gives me an idea of how they looked, whether the photographers were up close or far away and if anything crazy happened.
If I am shooting for an editorial or the venue itself, I would generally try and contact the band's management to let them know that I'll be coming down to the gig, introduce myself and find out if there are any special requirements for the show.
I'll also create a story on my 'Instagram stories' page about the show that evening and tag the band or artist in the post.
Asking the artist if there is any chance of shooting more than the 3 songs photographers are allowed is also something I'll do before the gig. It never harms to ask.
If you don't ask, you don't get, but in the case of the image above, that's exactly what I did.
Contact the band direct.
Having a Facebook and Instagram page for your photography helps in many ways. I will start following a band on Instagram as soon as I know I'm going to be shooting the band in weeks to come. I'll have a genuine interest in the band or artist already, so a few 'likes' here and there and comments, get's your name out there from the offset.
I will send the band or artist a message, closer to the gig, on messenger or Instagram introducing myself and asking if it's cool to meet them before the show.
It doesn't work all the time, but not contacting them at all gets you nowhere 100% of the time, so what do you have to lose? You might just be able to meet the band or artist and get permission to shoot the whole show and even a stage shot or two.
The more unique the shot, the more the audience is likely to engage in the image. Well, that's the case for me.
Kid Kapichi, Amager bio, Copenhagen.
Capturing 'that shot'
Most of the time, I will have done enough research to get an idea of where I should position myself during the first 3 songs, or at least, know that something might happen.
In the instance of the main image attached to this post, I knew that this band did some crazy things on stage and that the lead singer likes to either come into the audience or 'jump' into the audience.
He hadn't done so during the set so far and as I was allowed to shoot the entire gig at the band managers' approval, I had a feeling during the encore, something would happen.
I decided to find the best vantage point and just sit it out in hope that something would happen. Thankfully, my patience paid off and he jumped into the crowd off of two speakers during the last song. In the extremely dark venue, I knew I had the best settings on my camera (slow shutter speed, high ISO, f2.8 as it was so dark) ready for any jump and just clicked as hard as I could the second I saw him leap off stage. Of three usable images during his flight, this was the best and subsequently, one of the best shots I've taken.
The art of capturing the perfect shot is a mystery. You never know which concert it will happen at and that's part of the enjoyment as to why you do it or take on gigs you wouldn't necessarily do of your own choosing.
There are not many feelings in life that come close to being stood in front of potentially 50,000 people at a festival, turning your head around to see thousands of faces staring in your direction and then the band entering the stage with the crowd going wild. The adrenaline kicks in and you have around 15 minutes of non stop action to be composed and find the right moment to capture the best shot you can.
You feel amazing when you finish shooting a concert and you look back through your images with a smile on your face because you know you caught that shot you wanted.
Crowd shot, Northside, Aaarhus.
With a bit of planning, anyone can capture 'that shot'. Just make sure to remember the following:
Take your time - Don't just click hundreds of shots for the sake of it. The best photographers find a position and wait for the right moment to click the shutter. If after 10-20 seconds it's not working, move to a new position. It only wastes time in post editing and who wants 100 shots of a guy singing into a microphone in a static position?
Don't follow the crowd - If I'm shooting a concert with a lot of photographers in the pit, I let them all move to one area together. I like unique shots and if I have the same shot as everyone else does after a concert, I don't feel satisfied that I've captured something unique.
Shoot through the crowd or objects to the side of the stage (generally at concerts with no pit or if you are allowed out of the pit after the 3 first songs) - I like to try a few shots where I'm shooting between people in front of me or random objects to the side of the stage. Sometimes, you wouldn't even know that I've done this, but it will just add that little something different to the shot. It adds dimension to the foreground and gives some variation to your collection of shots from the show.
Camera settings!! - shoot in manual (always). Better to learn from the start in manual than waste time in auto, taking substandard, camera guessing shots. If you can understand how the ISO, aperture and shutter speed within the camera work (a lesson for another day) then you can balance these to at least give you a starting point at a concert. For example, at an inside concert in the evening, the standard settings would be:
f1.4 - whatever your lens allows. The lower the f-stop the better.
Shutter speed - around 160-250
ISO - 1600 (can be lower, can definitely be higher, but i try to keep this lower to restrict the amount of grain in my shots).
These are just a few tips and definitely not everything you need to know. However, everyone is individual and no one is better than anyone else. Photography is an art, but it's a creative art based on your own interpretations of the action. There is no right and wrong, but there are ways to help improve your style so you can go out and create a new one for yourself.
Be creative, be inspired and go out and practice like crazy until you find that perfect shot!
Sum 41, Amager bio, Copenhagen