How To Photograph Rock Concerts – Beyond Basics

Set The Mood
Setting the mood can take many forms.  You don’t need to see the band to successfully set the mood. Look for unusual lighting and stage effects.  If the band is dynamic, it’ll be easy to find this element as they will be putting in effort to set a certain mood with the concert.  Make sure you’ve listened to some of their music before you go to the concert, if this is a band you’ve never heard before.

Go Wide
If you have the option to use a few different lenses, make sure one of them is a wide angle lens.  It won’t be used that often as most people like to have shots of individual band members close up, but a number of wide angle shots are vital to conveying a whole ensemble on stage.  Wide angle shots can also allow you to capture some of the crowd in the shot as well as the band as well as the ever important huge video screen behind the stage for interesting effects.  It probably won’t be on your camera long, but it will help to have the variety a wide lens can provide.

Don’t Forget The Crowd
Try to get above the crowd as well, not too hard to do if you’re allowed into the fringe around the stage, but a bit more difficult if you’re amongst the crowd.  The crowd is an integral part of the show because remember, without a crowd, it’s just a rehearsal.

Look For The Unusual
Big name concerts tend to have some wild things going on during the concert, making them more like stage shows than a concert.  From spinning drum risers to mechanical robots, you will probably have something unusual going on.  As most bands with theatrics in their concert tend to repeat gimmicks from city to city, get on the band’s website/blog/fan club mailing list to get an idea of what goes on at their concert.  Get hold of others who have been to concerts during the same tour to know what and when to expect it.  

Zoom In/Get Close
It’s time to swap out the wide angle lens for a zoom to get up close and personal.  Get as close to the stage as you can or even better, obtain a press pass for a larger concert.  With a decent zoom (70-210mm is a favorite for most) you will be able to isolate individual band members and their activity.  At this point, don’t forget the drummer!  They’re back there, all alone most of the time, isolated by the mass of equipment and pickups (microphones) around them.  The only way to get good shots without a pass to get on or backstage is with a decent zoom lens.

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