Shooting a concert can be particularly challenging, especially in small venues with were the lighting isn’t particularly planned out and part of the show. This means that you will need to push your gear to the limit more often than not and this means knowing your camera, how it works and it’s limitations.
I shouldn’t even be including this on the list but just in case… Always shoot RAW if you plan on retouching your images afterwards. A jpeg will be post processed by your camera and look much better without any edits straight out of the camera, but will also reduce the amount of information available in post processing. RAW files include as much information as possible in a flat profile which is why they look a bit dull and never as good as the the LCD in the back of your camera which is the best starting point for your edits.
As wide as you can go! You need to get as much light as possible into that sensor so set the aperture to its widest setting. You will be pushing your ISO to the limit and you will need to get your shutters speeds up to make sure you are getting sharp pictures. I shot pretty much everything at f/2.8. If you are seriously thinking about shooting concerts then you will need a lens with an aperture of f/2.8 as a minimum. Obviously if you can afford a 1.8 or 1.4 lens then go for it!
While this will vary depending on the action on stage I’d say as a rule of thumb stay above 1/100s to ensure that the images are sharp. If you are using a long lens without image stabilisation then you might need to go even faster. Don’t be afraid to experiment however. For example the lighting on the drummer was pretty poor so in this case I had to go as low as 1/50s with an ISO10000 and the aperture at f/2.8.
If you are happy with your camera’s high ISO results then I’d leave this on AUTO. I’d rather have the shot and maybe reduce some noise afterwards, rather than losing the shot all together. If your camera is bad above a certain ISO then i’d still set the camera to AUTO but limit the ISO to that value. You can usually set this up in your camera settings. In this case I had to push my Canon 5D MK IV all the way up to 12800 but I couldn’t be happier the results. I feel that noise adds character to concert photography so for the most part the pictures had no noise reduction applied in post processing.
For the most part I’d recommend using Spot Metering mode. There are typically a lot of spotlights moving around the stage and your focus will typically be on the artist rather the stage. Averaging the exposure over the entire shot will more often than not mess with the exposure of your main subject. Spot meter only looks at a very small area and will ensure that your subject is exposed properly.
There will be lots of lights, which can through your white balance off. I always leave this on AUTO rather than messing around with the white balance throughout the shoot. If you are shooting in RAW as advised above then you will have no problem to adjust this to your liking during post processing.
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