How we photograph performances

I love concert/gig photography - its an areas where you can constantly improve your photography skills because of the challenging nature of the environment. The other reason I really like concert photography is because it combines two elements of photography that really interest me - photojournalism and street photography.

When shooting a concert - I'm typically looking for the story. What's going on on-stage and in the audience? Where is the emotion? Capturing a concert is about telling a story - it has a rhythm which includes:

1: Location shots (the venue and associated stage, people taking pictures)

Hartland at the Western

2: Key shots (a few images that capture the entire gig - the atmosphere, the performers concentration and the crowd reactions)


3: Details (instruments, microphones, cymbals and abstracts)


4: Close shots (the shots that show the end of the concert, high energy and crowds)


Shooting a concert from an equipment perspective can also be a challenge - you need to be ready for anything, but travel light (so you don't miss the action as you go back to the holding area for another lens). You also need fast lens and camera bodies that can give high ISO without making the image grainy.

A key technical areas for concert photography is being able to control the aperture of the camera (this in turn controls the depth of field and how much is in and out of focus)

I typically carry four lens for concert photography:

  • Canon 17-40mm f/4 L is my main wide angle lens
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L is my main walking lens
  • Canon 85mm Prime f/1.2 L is my standard prime
  • Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L is my main telephoto lens

In most cases I spend nearly all of the concert with the 85mm Prime f/1.2 and the 70-200 f/2.8 on a pair of Canon 5Ds bodies that capture 8688 x 5792 resolution - 50MB RAW files - that way I can switch easily without having to change lens and the big aperture of the 85mm lens gives some fantastic results.

For other examples of our concert photography, head over to the Events Portfolio.

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