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What makes for a good concert photo?

How I approach concert photography

How I approach concert photography

Someone recently asked me about what makes for a good concert photograph. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but after some thinking, it was a question that perhaps I may not even be able to answer. The best I can do is to give some insight through my own experiences of photographing concerts throughout my festival photography.

X Alfonso on stage.

X Alfonso guitarist

The challenges of concert photography

While I’m not a professional concert photographer by any means, I have been able to take concert photos in various venues thanks to my involvement with festival photography, as the Festographer. These venues would be set up in similar ways to traditional indoor concerts so I don’t think I would be too far off in saying that we photograph in very similar conditions.

The ever-so-changing lighting, and fast-paced artists on stage make it difficult to get that golden moment, tack-sharp. Moreover, it’s the expressions of the artist that we love to capture, as those are what makes for dynamic photos in my opinion.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Someone once mentioned to me that he once took photos of Bruce Springsteen in concert, and while those photos that included Springsteen were popular, his other photos didn’t see as much light. He wondered if indeed star power has a lot to do with how well your photos are received by the public.

It’s a good question, and while I feel star power may help in giving rise to your photography, I also feel that it’s the picture itself, and how it’s been treated, that make for great concert photography.

Photographs should evoke an emotion to the viewers. It should be able to provide the viewers with a feeling for how the concert was, and how energetic the stage was when you clicked that shutter. I personally feel that it doesn’t really matter what the subject is: if it’s the Boss singing, or literally your boss singing, as long as the photo captures the essence of the moment and your editing further enhances this feeling, then you’ve managed to create a good concert photograph.

Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq

Black and white concert photography in particular can evoke quite a dramatic feeling for concerts. I’ve seen some spectacular ones myself in the past by other photographers, but for me, my preference will always be to photograph and treat my photos in colour. I like to capture stage lighting, the wardrobe, and fans as I saw it with my own eyes.

Bebel Gilberto

Bebel Gilberto

Composition matters

As a final note, I do feel that composition also plays an important role in how well a concert photo will be seen. Even if the subject is well known, a poorly composed image won’t evoke the same feeling as a well-composed one. While I don’t follow any set rules in terms of composition for concert photography, it’s always a good thing to “lead the viewers eyes.” If you were to place the singer in the photo using the rule-of-thirds, try and place them so that the direction they are facing also leads the viewers’ eyes throughout the photo. In other words, avoid placing the artist on the far right edge of the photo if they are facing to the right.

Perspective/angles also play an important role in keeping a concert photograph dynamic. If you look at all the photos in this post, you’ll see that not all of them are taken straight on where the verticals are always vertical. I try and change up my perspective my tilting my camera diagonally, which I believe adds a little more variety to each concert I shoot.


I hope this post gave you a little bit of insight as to how I approach my concert photography. It’s not something I always do, but it’s something I love to do when given the opportunity. The more concerts you photograph, the better you’ll get, so keep at it, even if your first few tries aren’t as successful as you would like them to be.

Hot Docs Film Festival, here I come!

Nikon D800, 13.0 sec., f/8.0, ISO800, 14mm

Nikon D800, 13.0 sec., f/8.0, ISO800, 14mm

Every year I look forward to the time where I get to flex my festival photography skills by taking photos of various festivals around the city. This year for the first time, I have the pleasure of taking photos for the Hot Docs Film Festival.

Although the festival has already started, I won’t be starting until later today—but will be shooting for the rest of the festival throughout the next seven days. It will be a tiring one, I can feel it already, but hopefully a rewarding one as well.

Running from venue to venue may be my only form of exercise these days so I better appreciate this opportunity. The challenge of taking photos in each venue is what makes photography so difficult in this case. And since I haven’t been to each venue yet, I don’t know what I’m up against. Ooh, the suspense!

Whatever it may be, I’ll be ready for the film festival…and so will my camera.

If you’re attending a screening at the festival and see me around, feel free to say hello!

For additional information on my festival photography, please feel free to head on over to my festography site: http://www.theFestographer.ca.

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2014

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Scotiabank’s Nuit Blanche brings to the city of Toronto an all-night art extravaganza that the city loves. I took to the streets this year again to see if I can catch any awe-inspiring exhibits again. You can see my last year’s post here, where many popular exhibits like Ai Wei Wei’s Forever Bicycle was a big crowd pleaser.

I tried to cover many of the exhibits this year in under 3 hours, but failed as it took me about 4.5 hours to get through all the exhibits that I wanted to take in.

What was your favourite?

The historic grounds of Fort York was host to a number or exhibits this year, and this is where I started my tour of the festival.

 

Then I made my way over to the Canoe Landing, where everyone was playing around with the interactive Kaleidoscopic exhibit, followed by the Yoan Capote just a stone’s throw away from there.

There were a few interesting ones by Bremner Blvd., while there were others that I really had no idea what was happening.

I made a quick pitstop at Union Station, where I ran into the 8th Wonder.

And then slowly made my way up Spadina, where the crowd was quite active.

 

 

 

 

 

My final stretch was walking East on Queen Street towards City Hall.

And my last stop was none other than the LandMark by Exhibit Change at St. James Park, where I had my own part in this year’s festival. My interpretation of Toronto’s First Post Office was displayed on a massive 6′ by 12′ board in an effort to showcase the unsung heroes of this city.

I hope you had a great time at Nuit Blanche, and I look forward to what it has to offer us next year.

Luminato Festival 2014 Wrapup

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It’s hard to believe that I’ve been with the Luminato Festival for seven years in various capacities from volunteer to team leader to photography mentor. Now my second year as one of their staff photographers, it’s been a blast photographing all that I can for them.

Now that the Luminato Festival has come to a close for another year, I’ve had the chance to gather my images and take a look to see just some of the events that I managed to take photos of. While I found myself running around here and there for 10 straight days, it’s really hard to believe that there were still several other events that I was not able to experience—let alone see for myself. The festival is so big and varied that there was sure to be an event for just about anybody’s taste.

The photos shown here are just some of my favourite moments from this year’s Luminato Festival.

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My first day had me shooting Isabella Rosselini’s Green Porno, Live on Stage, which was a fabulous mix of intellectual stimulation and lots of laughs. The audience loved her as she “lectured” throughout the evening on animals and their sexuality with short video montages of her playing the role of the many animals to a hamster costume change, and really anything in between. It was held at the historic Winter Gardens Theatre (seen below)—which for a photographer, is always a great place to be in!

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The Hub at David Pecaut Square is the “core” of the Luminato Festival. This year with two stages set up for concerts, two large covered tents, and the main area transformed into a cardboard beach compliments of the Cuban collective Los Carpinteros, it was quite the scene that had to be experienced in person. And for those that wondered about the cardboard surviving some rain? From the looks of it, it turned out alright.

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The opening weekend had the Taste of the Beach, serving $5 plates of food to hungry Torontonians. With the smell of delicious concoctions like the Bacon Explosion, I couldn’t resist myself from tasting some. Throughout the festival, food from Parts & Labour made everybody happy with their selection of food and drink menu. Gotta love those fries supreme!

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Music Mob this year was held on dry grounds under the roof of the Air Canada Centre. It was a grand venue making it a fantastic turnout of local instrument players mingling with members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

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What would a summer festival be without some outdoor concerts? With no shortages of those at David Pecaut Square, it kept me busy each day. The Slaight Music series brought together some great talent that had everybody in attendance dancing on their feet. I loved those bands that took the time to interact with the audience, like the Lemon Bucket Orkestra (seen below) who went unplugged and played some songs for those outside the fence!

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There were big names on the bill for the main stage, like Buffy Sainte-Marie (shown below) and Ziggy Marley, however, the one I was most anticipating was Bebel Gilberto, as I have always loved her soft, sultry voice that one can easily get lost in.

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Too many events within a span of just 10 days means so many pictures. Here are just some of the other ones that I had the fortune of taking this year: Literary picnic at Trinity Bellwoods Park, All the Sex I’ve Ever Had, International Edition, Stones in Her Mouth, Jason Collett’s Basement Revue (which opened my eyes up to Rich Aucoin and his explosive performance) and a bunch of other concerts including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra closing the festival with their open air concert on the final day.

It was all a treat for the senses, and I am very thankful to be able to experience even just a portion of this festival. For more information on the Luminato Festival, check out their site at http://www.luminatofestival.com.

I’ll end this post with one of my favourite images made at the festival this year. While photographing one of the concerts at the Hub, this woman decided to get up on her friend’s shoulders. As she was right in front of me, it was a great opportunity to take some photos with this unique vantage point.

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Luminato Festival’s YVPP 2014 Workshops

It’s hard to believe that a year has already passed since I last held my photography workshop for Luminato Festival‘s Youth Volunteer Photography Program (YVPP). With this being my fourth year teaching the program, I was more than thrilled to be back again, inspiring and enriching the minds of highschool students. I recently finished holding the last of my photography workshops for Luminato Festival, and it looks like it was a great success again.

With about 30 students and 10 mentors, the workshop was bigger than ever. And with the new workshop venue at Artscape Youngplace, it all worked out flawlessly. It was great to see all the enthusiasm of the students during these workshops, which makes me happy as I believe they are better able to relate to my experiences. I even had one eager student, liking my first workshop enough to choose me and my second workshop over Chris Hadfield’s talk during Henry’s Exposure Show a couple weeks ago! Yay for me!

The weather was great, and our photowalk was lots of fun with so many things happening nearby at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Here are a few snaps of some of the students at work during our first and second photography workshops and photowalks.

Luminato Festival runs in Toronto from June 6-15, 2014, and for the second year in a row, I will be one of their festival photographers. I look forward to experiencing the festival and everything it has to offer us, as I test my skills in photographing the sights and sounds of one of the top-ranked annual international multi-arts festivals. If you haven’t experienced the festival for yourself, be sure to see what they are all about on their website at http://www.luminatofestival.com.