Beginner Tips to Concert Photography: Camera Settings


Camera Settings:

                 Unfortunately music photography holds many challenges, one of the greatest challenges is the settings in your camera . Due to the rapid change in stage lighting over the course of a bands set, a music photographer has to have a great understanding of how to manipulate the settings in their camera to get a desirable image that is pleasing to the eye. 

  • Never shoot in any automated settings (Av, Tv)
    • In music photography to get good shots for your friends or client, you have to pull most of the weight, not your camera. Although you are new to Music Photography, you will have to have an advanced understanding of how to manipulate the settings in your camera manually, to render an exceptional final image. In Concert photography, putting your camera in Av, or Tv mode will get you good images (sometimes) but when you put your camera in automatic you are sacrificing a certain amount of control in your final images.
    • For instance, many concerts have back lighting behind the artist, and they  will be pointing directly at you while you are taking photos (See next section), Depending on what light metering you are using (Evaluative, Center Weighted, Spot), and what automatic setting you have your camera in (Av,Tv), you camera will meter for the backlighting and give you a silhouette of the artists. This takes away from capturing what could have been a great moment, and an exceptional photograph. 

If I had my Camera in Av, or Tv I would had lost out on getting a great image. My camera would had most likely (automatically)metered for the backlighting and give me just a silhouette of Bryce Avary (The Rocket Summer Left). As opposed to a more balanced exposure. The same would apply to photograph of Jenna of Tonight Alive (Right)

  • My suggestion would be: 
    • Shutter Speed- Taking some Test shots, experiment with different shutter speeds, but be sure to go no lower than 250/sec. Any lower will most likely result in motion blur unless your lens or camera body has image stabilization (IS). If you were shooting at an outdoor concert such as Warped Tour (RIP) then bump your shutter speed as needed to not get an over-exposed image. 
    • ISO- If your shutter speed at 250/sec is still rendering an under-exposed image then bump up your ISO, but research your camera and make sure you know how far you can bump up your ISO before you images would begin to have excessive amounts of grain. Some of the best cameras for low lighting (like at concerts) would be any camera in the Sony a7 series. I shoot with the Canon 6d mk1, it is a great camera although it holds no comparison to Sony a7 series. Fortunately I have great lenses that allow me to shoot in the same low lighting, with the (almost)  same image quality. If you are shooting an outdoor concert, then I would advise bringing down your ISO and allow yourself to bump up your F-stop and shutter speed. Bumping up these settings would allow your camera to render a sharper image with more clarity. 
    •  Aperture- Finally, if you indoors be sure to shoot with your Aperture as wide open as you can. If you are shooting at an outdoor festival or concert shoot no wider than F/5.6 or F/8, Any smaller of an aperture would lead to diffraction (which is not good). 
  • Always Shoot in RAW. 
    • There is some debate behind this one. I know some professional photographers that find shooting in RAW cumbersome and not really needed, and for them that could be true, and for you that could be true as well. However, for me I find shooting in RAW is completely necessary and I only shoot in Jpeg when I am working under contract, and it requires that I not shoot in RAW. 



***What Difference Does*** it Make?

  • Wow, I'm glad that you ask. Shooting in RAW doesn't just gives you a higher resolution image, it  allows you greater ability to edit your photo in post-processing. when you shoot in RAW, your camera holds on to much more of the information or data that it captured in a photograph. It is that data that it holds onto in RAW, that it would otherwise not when shooting in jpeg, that allows you more flexibility in editing    at home. To get specific, Depending on your camera while shooting in RAW it might capture 12 to 14 bits of data, while in Jpeg it would only capture 8. There are some images that I took that would not have been usable If I had not taken them in RAW. A good example Would be the image above, When taken I didn't have the right settings configured and the image was completely black. To my surprise when I was editing in Lightroom, I raised the brightness and saw there was actually a decent photo hidden there! If I had taken this photo in Jpeg, the final image you see above would be ridden with grain from just hiking up the brightness too much while editing it in lightroom, and would just not be usable for any portfolio. 

         Which this leads me to another quick tip: Never delete any photos that you take onsite. If I had looked at that image in my camera and saw that it was just black -without knowing there was usable data to work with and edit- and deleted it I would have not given this final edit to the band. Fortunately I didn't delete it, I was able to edit it into a useable image and after given to the band (Who was signed to Invogue at the time) and they wouldn't had put it up as their cover photo on their facebook page. Moral of the story, Shoot in RAW so you can have as many possibilities with your editing as possible. The Whole point of art is to have no limitations to what you can do. 


For more questions please do not hesitate to comment, or email me. I would be more than happy to help you out. Follow me on facebook, Instagram, or Twitter



Thanks for reading!