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Tips for Shooting Live Music

Josh Larkin (tonupbandit) on December 3, 2012

Keywords: stage, clubs, concerts, nightlife, night_photography, photography, photographic, disciplines, guides, tips, tricks

Going to the show
I want to focus more on techniques and some gear-related items in this post, but before we go down that road, there are a few considerations that I want to mention.

First off, if you haven't shot much live music before and don't have a portfolio, or you aren't shooting for a publication that can get you a pass, you're not going to be shooting Katy Perry too soon. Sorry to rain on your parade, but it's unlikely that the artist's publicist, the venue, or a newspaper or magazine is going to give you access to high-end talent until you're high-end talent. No biggie, though, because no matter where you live, there are small clubs with shows happening, and that's a great place to learn this aspect of the craft.


Suzanne Vega gives a nod to the camera. 1/200th f/2.5 ISO1250  

Secondly, there are a couple of standard rules of engagement that you should follow when shooting musicians. In general, most bands follow a first three songs policy, meaning, you can shoot through those three, then knock it off. Seems fair, since having a photographer snapping away through an entire performance can get a little distracting I imagine. So, even if you're not in the pit in an official capacity, you should generally respect that rule, as well as the no flash rule. Yep, you read that correctly. No flash. Flash is really distracting to performers, so generally it's banned.

And finally, let someone know you're shooting, and for what, even it's just for practice. At smaller venues with local bands, I'll try and locate a manager, or a band member, and let them know I'm shooting. Often times, the band will be happy that someone's there shooting, and if you offer them digital copies, they'll often tell you to shoot as much as you want.

So, those are the ground rules. And here's the sum of it: you're going to be shooting in the dark, you can't use flash, and you might not have very much time to nail your shots. Best to be prepared with the right gear and no how to dial in your settings so things go smoothly.


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Josh Larkin Josh Larkin (tonupbandit)

Awarded for his articles published at the Resources and The Nikonian eZine

East Calais, USA
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