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.

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