I’ve summed up a short guide based on experience about concert photography as well as the videography.
I got into concert photography a lot again after the Burning Q festival happend. Years ago I travelled through half Europe capturing my favorite bands on analog film but at some point it was getting totally crazy with the expenses as well as some changes in my life.. however, Burning Q hooked me up again and since that festival, I’ve been on a ton of events shooting metal bands – again.
For the equipmentside, I recomment starting with a 50mm lens – the Canon 1.8f is an affordable okay-lowbudget lens, it’s a prime, it’s not the 1.4f, but shooting at 1.4f wouldn’t be the best way anyway – sharp nose, blurred eyes…. I try sticking at a 2.8f and the 50mm gives you a sweet but quite limited range. on a fullframe body it is a 50mm – but cropfactor 1.6 makes it a 80mm prime. Still,that’s nothing to worry about, and with a lot creativity and back and forth movement this lens will give some sweet images.
I personally love my 35mm Walimex 1.5t videolens and on local club gigs you’ll see me working a lot with it on 1of the cams. Yes, it’s a 500$ lens that has no autofocus, everything is manual and it also has some issues. It’s designed for video and I’m used to this lens, so I can handle it’s issues quite quickly. But it can be a hate getting the focus on fast situations or actions. So beware of this lens if you are not flexible or have just a 15 minutes timeframe to shoot. What I love about this lens is the quality it can produce for it’s price. The reason I use this lens so often is the ability to shoot video also if the band ask for that instead of images. It’s a thankful range for video and if you’ve just one camera to work with you want something standart. There is not the possibility to change lenses without loosing frames and it’s also not like with camcorders where you can zoom (which allways adds touch of unprofessionalism to the shot in my eyes). Shooting video on a concert with 1 cam only means you capture video without interruptions. This must be well thought and for sure 1-2 friends or a second cam on a tripod shooting with you makes final video way better.
The big festival lens will be a 70-200 2.8f mostly due to the distance between stage and photopit. Now look at the pricetag for such a piece of glass and start thinking twice… use the 70-200 on a ASP-C camera to get the most out of it (remember it’s x1.6). You’ll get some supersweet closeup shots for sure. I used a cheap 70-300 lens only at the Burning Q Festival during daytime for the closer shots – at evening time that lens wasn’t handling the dark stuff so nice anymore…
For the local club and small shows a 24-70mm 2.8f is a good allrounder for wide shots at 24mm and closer ones at 70mm. It’s a no-brainer to buy one if you have the money before the tele or ultrawide lenses.
Finally we go one step further -have you ever seen those shots with audience and band involved? I love those kind of ultrawideangle glass, again, these glasses are totally overpriced compared to it’s time in use and a 14mm on a ASP-C body gives you 22mm. For this kind of shots, fullframe body is totally recommended which makes the ultrawide usage extremly expensive. Lowbudget shooters (with a fullframe camera – haha what a paradoxon) may go manual only with the Samyang/Walimex 14mm lens which is around 400$ -affordable but again as my 35mm too – manual and with it’s drawbacks.
For the body-side fullframe body for wide shots is recommended (like said above), to get the most out of your telezooms make use of cropping bodies such as 60D or 600-700D.
Last piece of gear you should have in your toolbag – especially on festivals – a second fully loaded battery or a batterygrip (batterygrip makes your cam look more pro^^…) and for sure some additional memorycards… it’s a hate if you miss to shoot the headliner of a 10 band festival cause your out of space or out of power…
Light can be very tricky and you might find yourself in the situation long exposure gives you the only option to get right exposed images. I never shoot with flash (not unless band gives me permission using flash, even then I rarely use it – and if just indirect). You still have 3 options to get light into your lens like allways – shutterspeed, aperture and ISO. For the SS 100 will do, below that you’ll have motionblur, especially on drumsticks and headbanging musicians… on the aperture side 2,8 will work fine – in a dark club you might need to go with it anyway. ISO wise… yeah I hear people crying about noisy pictures… seriously, forget about noise for a while, think about a correctly exposed image. I mostly have ISO set up to 6400, 3200 in average and I’ve no issues with noise at all. Yes, it’s noisy a bit but nothing that’s not fixable in post. I love the analog grain from film but that’s personal taste. If a images is too noisy – try black and white on that image and noise might be gone at least a bit.
I’ve a quite complex postproduction going on with the images so it’s by far too much to discuss in here now. What I can tell you: shoot in Raw for more options in post.
I allways postprocess my images and deliver them only a small collection instead of every images taken. The key is to give out your best only and take the time to get the best out of each good shot – never batch process them. For some bands every image would do fine, but what you want is, going to the next concert of the band you shot before for and people reference you with your awesome work.
Hobby, journalist or just photographer… it’s fine shooting your favorite bands but at the end of the day you’ve costs and want to get something in return at least. The hobby guy normally do not get access to the big shows photopit and DSLRs are forbidden on most events for non-press and non accredited persons. As journalist, the images are for your magazine or blog or whomever you write for. But the freelance photographer,you may have the equip allready – but still need to make a living. Let’s have a view on this groop only. Can and – if – how does this concert photography generate revenue, I would say it can if done right so it’s a yes and no on that end and totally depends on execution.
As allways there is no right or wrong way. But we are not in the 80th or 90th anymore where the internet wasn’t main source for information and magazines ruled the music scene. You’ll have a hard time if you’re trying to sell your images to mags. Also you’ll have a hard time getting access to the shows which are real deal. Last but not least, for those majorlabel artist shows you need a strong portfolio and not just that – also an equipment worth a small new car (like mentioned)… that in mind, it’s a long way refinancing the equipment if concerts are the only focus.
So let me explain how this (my way) can work for a good anyway:
I don’t sell to magazines at all. I get asked sometimes by writers to contribute pictures but normally they are not willed to pay. I’ll usually give out my shots in a lower sized and branded version to the bands and independant for free – they can use it for their portfolio or facebook pages and on the other hand, I get some exposure in return. That’s a win/win situation at this point but still a minus in budget – as photographer you have costs to drive there, even the venues/entry is free most times. It’s still an investment and I prefer this investment over commercials printed in a newspaper not showcasing any work at all.
The real deal comes from another source. I’m videographer and the photography side is just a promotional “add on”. Most bands I shoot pictures are not only thankful for the images, they ask for other shots, such as videocapturing of there next show, musicvideos or promotional images for their CDs etc. And if you shoot 10 bands, at least one or two will call you back for some paid gigs…