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Concert Photography: How to do it – Part 3

January 8, 2015 9:15 am

Read part 1, here.

Read part 2, here.

Now that you have a better understanding of how to get into a venue to photograph a concert, what gear to bring and how to set it up, the best way to arrange your lighting, and insight into aperture settings, it’s time to discuss the last few essentials for great concert photography. There are a couple more “tricks” available to make your photos unique and when you’re done, you need to make sure equipment comes down safely and photos backed up.

Creative shutter settings

Along with having your speed lights in clever locations to illuminate your shots, you can also adjust your shutter speed to capture moments that are full of movement and emotion. Achieve this by using a slower shutter speed, and Jason Nakleh from PopPhoto.com suggests starting with 1/4 of a second. At this shutter speed, the photograph you take will have multiple layers of interest. Wherever the flash hits, the motion appears frozen, clear, and in focus. However, the slower shutter speed creates movement in the shot as areas look smeared and blurry. Looking at the photo, it appears as though you’ve managed to capture the blur of motion leading up to the crisp, clear, in focus final action. Experiment with your aperture and shutter speeds until you achieve the desired look and remember that even some of your “reject” shots possess creative inspiration.

Double exposure

In order to create concert shots that are unlike any other, you have to be willing to step outside your normal comfort zone. Concert photography is an ideal time to embrace the possibilities offered in shots with double exposure. With double exposure, you capture multiple moments in one shot and this creates an intriguing depth in your photos. For his concert work, Jason Nakleh creates double exposure either in-camera or post-processing. To do this in-camera he suggests that you “drop your exposure a bit, as both exposures will be contributing to the final exposure. I’ll usually expose a 1 or 1.5 stops under when shooting double exposures in camera, usually equaling out to a normal looking exposure.” Again, it’s up to you to decide what type of double exposure shot you prefer for your particular style.

Timing is everything

As part of your initial planning, it’s important to find out how many songs you can photograph. For a smaller band, you can probably do from start to finish, but larger venues may limit you to shooting during only the first three songs. When your opportunities are limited, take as many shots as you can during the allotted songs. If you’re able to shoot throughout the entire concert, slow down, take your time, and focus on capturing the shots you really want so there’s less sorting through later. Remember that the energy of the concert and band increases throughout the show and that many bands save the crowd favorite songs until the end, so make sure you have enough battery life and space on your memory card to capture the climactic moments.

Cleaning up

Once the concert ends, it’s time to remove all your equipment from the stage and safely pack it up for transport back to your studio. This can be challenging as the band and stage crew are also tearing down gear to end the night or to prepare for the next band. Try to stay out of the way and secure all your gear quickly before it’s knocked over or damaged in the rush. As another point of courtesy and an important step toward successful future gigs, express your gratitude to the band and stage crew for allowing you to shoot there and any help they offered. Have your business cards ready and hand them out so everyone know where they can find the photos you shot during the concert. Making these types of connections are vital to your success in concert photography as it’s likely you’ll see the band and crew at other events and they’ll remember your courtesy, cooperation, and friendly attitude.

Post-concert

The first thing you want to do when you arrive home or at your studio after the gig, is back up all of your photos on your computer. Keep them on the memory cards too in case something happens during transfer or processing. Once you’ve gone through and edited your shots, insure that everything it backed up to at least two different locations to avoid the dismay of losing an entire night’s work due to technical issues.

For the next part of the process, Jason Nakleh uses Lightroom. He views this as the second half of the concert photography adventure and says, “From here, you can go anywhere. You’ve got 16GB of RAW images at your disposal, it’s up to you to find the ones that you connect with, that you think people will connect with.”