UMS PHOTO TEAM 2019 - CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS & TRICKS

Welcome to the world of concert photography! It’s so much fun (it is). Your friends will think you’re so cool (you are). It’s super easy (it’s not). Here’s a few tips to help out.

GEAR

  • For shooting in low-light situations, you will want the fastest glass in your bag.  My personal favorites for concert photography are the 70-200mm/f2.8, 16-35mm/f2.8 and the 50mm/f1.4.

  • But what if I don’t have those expensive lenses??? You’ll do the best you can with what you’ve got! I shot my first two years at UMS using a crop sensor with only my kit lenses and the nifty 50 (under $200). Learn your camera, know your settings and find some light.

  • Bring a camera cover/ziploc/poncho/something to hide your gear with if it rains or if you’re at a show where they’re throwing beer at you.

  • A monopod can help, but will be a nightmare at UMS.

  • Try to carry as small of a bag as you can. The venues will be super crowded and it can be rough getting through the crowd, particularly with a giant backpack.

  • NO FLASH AT SHOWS!!! No one wants to be that guy, and in the real world, that will get you booted from a show and probably earn you a well-deserved kick from the other photographers. Do not use a flash at a show, but I do bring one along for crowds, street photos, etc. This means that if you have a pop-up flash on your camera, you need to learn how to disable it (google is your friend here).


CAMERA SETTINGS

You know your gear and your artistic vision way better than I do. (Hopefully, you also know the exposure triangle.  Google that ‘ish if not.) That being said, here’s a few common starting points for shooting music.

  • Shutter speed. To stop movement/reduce blur, use a faster shutter speed.  This becomes crucial in low-light situations. Your camera/post-processing can often reduce the noise of a higher ISO, but you can’t fix blur or unsharp images after the fact.

    • PRO-TIP: Most cameras allow you to set a minimum shutter speed.  I generally set mine at 1/60.

  • Aperture.  In low-light situations, you will shoot more open (smaller f-stop numbers - f2.8, f4 etc.).

    • GOTCHA: Be aware of too much light! The thing we all wish for can also lead to those washed-out photos, where the act on stage is a blob of white but the back of the head of the dude in front of you is exposed perfectly.  Expose for the light on stage - that may mean stopping down to f4 or f5.6, particularly at the outdoor stages where there will be more light. 

    • GOTCHA: Be wary of shooting wide open! Each lens has a sweet spot, usually a stop or two above totally open.  (Ex - I generally shoot my canon 50mm/f1.4 at 1.8 or higher.) Also, when you shoot so wide open, it can be really hard to have much of the image in focus.

  • ISO. You’ll be shooting at higher ISOs than you may be used to.  I generally shoot at ISO1600-6400 on my Canon 5DMIII and sometimes higher on my Sony A7III. Know what your gear can handle and remember you can fix a certain amount of noise in post.

    • PRO-TIP: Most cameras allow you to set a maximum ISO in auto ISO mode. If I’m leaving my ISO in auto, I set the upper limit for the situation (often 400/800 for daylight and 6400 for low-light).

  • THANKS FOR ALL THAT, BUT WHAT SHOULD I SET MY CAMERA AT? Everyone has a different style and probably a different opinion here, but my usual formula for low-light shooting is:

    • Shutter speed: 1/160-1/250 | Aperture: f1.8-3.2 (f5.6 for super bright stage) | ISO: 1600/3200

    • Tweak as needed - f5.6 for super bright stage, ISO 6400 for a reeaaally dark venue


PRO TIP: CHECK YOUR CAMERA SETTINGS BEFORE EVERY BAND! You’ll be moving in and out of different lighting scenarios all day. Get in the habit of checking your settings, as well as checking the first few shots to make sure you’re getting what you hope to!

PRO TIP: IF YOU DON’T KNOW, ASK! Most photographers are friendly and will happily steer you in the right direction if you ask.  If not, f*** them and ask someone else.