The Trouble with Concert Photography

Last night I got the chance to cover my first concert for the Red & Black. Up until then, I had never ever photographed a live concert professionally. Sure, I’ve stood with my phone and tried to get a usable shot for a half-decent instagram post. I had never tried my hand at bringing a real camera and photographing a concert. Last night I had to do it for a sold-out show at the Georgia Theatre for an actual publication. The pressure was on.

Recently I’ve upgraded my equipment to be sure I can cover events like this. I’ve purchased a refurbished Nikon D610, which is a full-frame DSLR. Along with a 70-200 f/2.8 lens, I’ve found that it is perfect for almost every kind of event I shoot. Last night’s concert was no exception. For concert photography nearly any photographer will tell you you need a wide aperture along with a high ISO sensitivity and fast enough shutter speed to avoid blur in your photos.

It is easy to get everything set, take some test shots, and be confident in your settings before the concert starts, however during the show lights are constantly changing. While one moment your subject might be in perfect lighting, the next they may be washed out or shrouded in complete darkness thanks to the lighting effects of the venue. A shutter speed like 1/200 with an ISO sensitivity of 5000 might work perfectly for one shot, but on the next everything is wrong. To further complicate matters, it is nearly impossible to use autofocus in concerts due to the same conditions that make getting your control settings right so difficult. One small movement in manual focus can cause your subject to be either in perfect clarity or blurred enough to make the shot unusable.

All of these factors make shooting at a concert extremely difficult. As an added bonus for last night’s concert, the headliner, COIN, only allowed photographers to cover the first three songs before we had to put our cameras away or risk being asked to leave. If I was unable to get good shots in those first three songs, everything would be lost. Fortunately things turned out alright. While in the future I hope to improve my concert photography, I was not disappointed in my debut effort. I am always seeking to improve as a photographer, and last night was a fresh challenge to push me beyond what I’ve been comfortable with in the past. I’ve included one of my personal favorites from last night, a shot of the lead guitarist for the band Arlie silhouetted with a lens flare across the frame. It’s not the most detailed shot, but it feels evocative to me. Check back later for more shots from this event and some others I covered this week that I’m going to post in my gallery. Also click on the post below this one to be taken to the gallery picked from my shots by our photo editor on the Red & Black website.

 Arlie in concert on Oct. 23, 2018 at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia. Arlie is a Nashville based band currently on tour with Coin. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

Arlie in concert on Oct. 23, 2018 at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia. Arlie is a Nashville based band currently on tour with Coin. (Photo/Julian Alexander)