Taking the perfect picture of your favourite band on stage is a memory you can relish for a lifetime with digital prints. It’s also one of the most difficult shots to get right. Low light, colourful spotlights in every direction and musicians moving about on the stage… a number of factors need to be considered. Will you take up the challenge? Follow our advice and you’ll see, it’s not as complicated as it appears to take good concert photos.
1. Managing the light
Taking the perfect concert photo is always a bit tricky. You’re in an environment with weak lighting, illuminated at random by intense spotlights.
So adjust the ISO setting of your reflex camera to at least 800, or even higher if your camera can deal with the ISO increase. This heightened sensitivity helps prevent a finished photo from looking too dark. Try testing the capacities of your device before shooting.
If you’re a beginner, adjust your reflex camera to the automatic ISO setting so that it will automatically adjust its sensitivity.
Should you use a flash? The answer is no, because it affects the finish: your photo would appear white in the foreground and dark in the background. Besides, flash is generally forbidden at concerts.
2. Getting the right white balance
Concert stages most often combine low lighting with a myriad of coloured spotlights. This may cause issues for rendering colour in your concert photos.
If you have a high-end camera, keep the automatic white balance.
Otherwise, adjust your white balance manually, particularly to avoid red tones that are unflattering for the face.
3. Controlling movement
It’s a major challenge when it comes to concert photography – especially if you want to develop large framed prints to be displayed at home. Here is our advice for avoiding blurred photos:
- Use the Priority Speed mode of your reflex camera: with a higher shutter speed, you will avoid blurring caused by the movements of the musician(s) on stage.
- Set your autofocus to continuous mode (AF-C or AI SERVO depending on the brand). This setting enables the autofocus to find its target even if the subject is moving (you just need to press the shutter button halfway).
- Use the burst mode to make sure you take a good snapshot.
4. Perfecting the composition
As with all types of photography, for your concert photo you should apply the rule of thirds, which can liven up your photo’s composition.
During a concert, a number of ‘subjects’ occupy the stage and need to be taken into account: microphones, singers, musicians and bright spotlights. They all need to be dealt with. Don’t be afraid to deliberately place an intrusive element in the foreground of the picture (a microphone stand, for example). An offset angle can make it interesting.
As for the best position, go directly into the pit if you want to take portraits of the artist: these low-angle shots give a dynamic and immersive feel to your concert photos.
On the other hand, photos taken from the back of the concert hall will allow you to better capture the ambience of the concert.
Another technique for successful concert photos is to play with the backlighting, with the brightness of the spotlights in the background and the artist in the foreground.
5. Shooting in RAW
Given that the shooting conditions are not the most straightforward, it’s advisable to take your photos in RAW format and not JPEG, especially if you want to rework them during development.
In fact, image editing is practically essential in order to correct all of the elements mentioned above (white balance, cropping, etc.).
The RAW format gives you more leeway during the digital processing of your pictures. Were you disappointed in your final photo or was the white balance incorrect? All you need to do is change the settings of your photo processing software (Camera raw, Affinity photo, Gimp or Lightroom) to let you apply a new balance. The same approach applies for readjusting exposure.
You’re now well prepared to take perfect concert photos. As you admire your favourite artist on a magnificent extra-large mounted poster, you can finally enjoy the fruits of your labour.
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