Concert Photography Tips from Alan Hess
Discover insider tips on everything there is to know about concert and event photography with Alan Hess at this year’s Photo Video West, where Alan will lead a seminar on Concert Photography. Join Alan and other photography pros in Del Mar, CA for Photo Video West, April 27-28. More details at www.photovideowest.com.
Concert photography is not the easiest thing to do. You only get to shoot for a limited time, from a limited area and are expected to capture the energy for the performance in a single image.
In this blog post, I want to talk about composition, especially when it comes to the background. This applies not only to concert images but to all the images you take—the difference is how fast you need to make decisions when shooting concerts due to the limited time shooting. Here are six things to keep in mind:
1. Simple backgrounds. Look for backgrounds that are simple and have no distractions if possible. Big stacks of amps are perfect for this and when I see a setup like that I try to position myself so that I can frame the performer with the amps in the background.
2. Use the Lights. Many times the lights from the stage can be used as a background especially if they are washing across the stage. Slightly slower shutter speeds will allow the lights to be rendered more clearly. It does take a little experimenting and practice to get the light just right.
3. Shoot wide open. When you shoot in dark venues or at night you need to shoot at wide apertures to get the shutter speeds necessary to freeze the action. These wide apertures help to blur the background which is one of the reasons that I use wide apertures even when shooting in the full sun.
4. Position yourself in the middle. There is usually a lot of stuff over on the sides of the stage. Guests, crew, and stuff that you don’t want in the back of your images. One way to combat this is to shoot from a more central position and not shoot across the stage.
5. Know how focal lengths change backgrounds. This one is a little more technical. The longer the focal length the less of the background is captured. Take the same scene using a 70mm focal length and a 200mm focal length. Even if you move back so that the subject is the same size, there will be less of the background captured.
6. Look around the frame. One of the simplest thing you can do is to have your eye travel around the edge of the frame to see if there are any distracting elements. It’s quick, simple and can really help. Look for anything that might distract the viewer from the subject.