Busy Photographer: Shooting Indoor Concerts

Shooting an indoor concert can be difficult. Read on to hear what I have  learned.

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I completely forgot to mention in my previous post that I also shot a concert the same weekend as my first art show. I wanted to mention what it’s like to photograph a live concert. In a nut shell, it is no easy task, but you can usually get some really great shots.

I have photographed several concerts for KVSC-FM now and I always have an enjoyable time. Whether I feel like I’m getting good shots or not, I usually have a low-stress experience because I get to enjoy a concert from right up front or even backstage. As much as I enjoy listening to live music and capturing the performers as they put their heart and soul into their music, shooting an indoor concert is a very difficult gig. Light changes, people/instruments in the way and energetic performers can all contribute to making making it a difficult experience. Below is a list of what to expect when shooting an indoor concert and how to deal with some of the situations.

  1. The light will usually look totally awesome, but it will also be very dark. Thankfully, this is not too much of a problem because most concerts put a spot light or at least more light on the main performers. However, when shooting a concert with no spot light, you might need to give in and boost up your ISO to 1,000 or higher. Shooting in aperture priority may also help in this situation. Basically, the rule with low-lit concerts is to just play around with the settings on your camera. Boosting ISO is a must, but choosing the correct aperture and speed can be difficult because the lights will change quite frequently. I do not recommend shooting with a tripod because of the difficulty in setting it up and making adjustments. Instead, investing in a monopod might be the way to go. I recommend Manfrotto monopods and Bogen heads.
  2. No two concert venues are the same. This really just adds to the excitement in my opinion. The joy of shooting in a new environment and experience the subtle differences across various venues is a lot of fun. The problem however, is you never know what the setup might be like. For example: Will there be a gap between the front row and stage? Will there be seating at all? How high is the stage? Is there a balcony? Each of these differences can usually be overcome by doing what any well-prepared photographer might do: Scout the location before you go. I failed to do this before the last concert I shot and was not allowed backstage. Nazi ushers!
  3. As if the low-light situation is not bad enough, most performers are constantly moving around on stage and making it that much more difficult to get sharp pictures. Again, just have fun and experiment with different settings. Sometimes, you might even get lucky and have an ‘accidental’ shot turn out to be one of your best.
  4. Capturing the right moments can be difficult. Other than having a set list, most small concerts are not really scripted. No need to worry though, just listen to the music, watch the performer’s expressions and be patient. Just let the shots come. In the world of digital photography, you can take as many photos as you want–no more worrying about the high cost of film.
I always have fun shooting performers, whether street performers, concerts or athletes, it is always slightly unpredictable and will have some challenging aspect. Just have fun and use your creativity–get low, watch the background, embrace obstructions–anything that will make someone who wasn’t there really feel like they missed out on something special.

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