In this series of articles, I’ll explain the best ways that I have learned to shoot live bands. Topics covered will be what gear to buy, settings to use, how to act professionally, how to process the images and many other topics!
How do I get access in the first place?
The theory of Occam’s Razor basically states that the simplest answer to a question is the correct one. Want access? Ask! Start with local bands in local venues (bars, craft fairs in parks, small festivals, etc.) If you don’t have a portfolio, you will be doing a lot of work for free. You have to realize that getting paid for shooting bands is a long, almost impossible process. You have to make concessions here. In essence, you are getting paid, by being allowed to develop your portfolio into something that you can eventually present to prospective clients.
Ask the venue, e-mail the band members, do what you can to get a foot in the door.
You must use the best gear that you can afford. In a lot of ventures, equipment does not define the user’s ability to complete their task in an effective manner. Can Sidney Crosby use a cheap stick to out-score almost every other hockey player outside of the NHL? Yup. Can you use cheaper equipment and get great shots? Yup! Usually. The darker the venue is, the more important your equipment becomes.
If you are shooting in a studio environment, basic equipment can produce stellar results. Let’s face it: you can’t really buy a crappy camera these days. Even the most basic DSLR available for consumers to purchase these days is leaps and bounds above the advanced pro-models available ten years ago. Developments in sensor technology advance so quickly these days, your body will be “old-news” 12-18 months after you buy it. Here’s my advice: Buy the best body that you can afford and then focus on lenses. Good glass will offer you more versatility than new bodies every year or two.
One of my go-to sites for gear reviews is The Digital Picture. I get no benefit from sending you to this site by the way. I have learned so much from Bryan in the past few years, I feel that I should send people to a place that I trust.
Oh boy, now we’re getting into expensive territory. While bodies depreciate very quickly, lenses don’t. They don’t wear out, the technology doesn’t progress as quickly as bodies do and you get what you pay for.
You may hear the term “fast glass”. This refers to the aperture of the lens. A smaller number means that the lens lets more light in. It also means that you pay more for smaller numbers. For concert photography, an aperture of f2.8 allows you to use fast shutter speeds and a lower ISO to avoid noise issues.
Image Stabilisation (IS) is also a consideration. If you shoot subjects that move, the IS will not help you in any way. If your subjects are static, it can make-or-break a shot. My practice is to purchase the version of the lens that offers IS, but that is a decision that must be made individually.
IS is not as important in concert photography as it is in macro photography. Sometimes, let’s say when shooting sports, it may assist the lens in acquiring focus faster by turning the IS off. There are many posts out there to help you in determining if you require the assistance of IS.