Jan 27 2019

Taking the Best Concert Photos

Enough can’t be said about enjoying tour concerts in the moment, but making sure those moments live on in photos and videos is important, too.

Depending on the venue, taking photos or video recordings might be completely fine, might require permission or be restricted in some way, or it might not be allowed at all. Your Tour Manager can check on requirements in advance, so you don’t waste any time on tour.

Once you’ve secured any necessary permission, you can focus on getting the best shot. ACFEA Tour Manager Rachel Flamm has some tips:

  • Have one or two non-performers, preferably your most talented photographers, assigned to photograph or record concerts. Having too many people recording, especially on tablet or cell phones with bright screens, can be distracting for the performers and audience, but with a little forethought, a good photographer will hardly be noticed on the side aisles and in the balcony.
  • Now is the time to pull out the SLR and the telephoto lens. The manual controls available on even the most inexpensive SLR cameras these days will give you a huge amount of control you won’t have will a cell phone camera and while cell phone cameras do an admirable job with wide angle shots, they struggle when you try and zoom in on individual performer’s faces.
  • In old churches with dim lighting, dial up the ISO and use the widest aperture and slowest shutter speed you and your lens can handle. A really good telephoto lens with a wide maximum aperture and image stabilization is worth the extra weight in your bag, and can be easily rented ahead of the tour.
  • If it’s allowed by your venue, use a tripod, or even a flexible mini-tripod for your cell phone camera. Concert venues are often dark, so a steady hand is critical. If a tripod is not allowed, brace your camera against a wall, pillar or balcony railing to limit camera movement while shooting.
  • Plan to move around the venue to get photos from different angles, but only move during applause or intermission. The squeaky floorboards of old churches will always manage to squeak at the worst times if you move during a song! Try shooting from the balcony and both side aisles as well as the usual “audience view” shots. If you only shoot from one side or the other, you will inevitably miss people who will be blocked by other performers. Use the rehearsal as your chance to play with shooting angles and plan out where you will shoot from.
  • Considering not taking photos during particularly quiet songs or passages. Even the click of an SLR mirror can be heard throughout a particularly resonant church during a quiet passage, and besides, performers faces are generally happier and more animated during upbeat pieces!
  • If you only have your cell phone camera to work with, consider some interchangeable lenses for it such as those made by Moment. I love their wide and telephoto lenses to increase my range of focal length options with almost no extra weight in my bag.
  • If you can do so without being intrusive (another place a telephoto lens will help!) get some photos of the audience too. The surprised, happy faces, the tears, and the children dancing in the aisles can be some of the most memorable parts of the concerts.

Long-time ACFEA courier Marianne Swienink-Havard is well known for taking stunning concert photos of the groups she couriers. She noted that it’s good to try and take photos when the performers are taking a breath, as they will probably prefer that image of themselves to one with their mouth wide open. “It never bothers me but the performers themselves are usually horrified when they see the images,” she said.

Marianne continued, “Many modern cameras have a facility to get ride of ‘noise’ when using high ISO. Although it makes the image a lot ‘softer’ it does avoid annoying grain. When using film, grain was attractive, but digital is just distracting.”

Half the fun of taking photos and videos is sharing them with your fellow tour members and friends and family at home. Consider a photo or video sharing site (such as flickr or YouTube), a dedicated social media site (a Facebook group page, for example), or even simply a shared folder in a cloud storage system (like a Dropbox or Google Drive folder) to make sure others can share these special moments and relive the memories after the tour.

And don’t forget to share them with your Tour Manager, too – we love seeing them! Read our photo terms page (acfea.com/photos) for information on how we might use them.