STARTING OUT IN CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY
The key to capturing realistic live concert photos is the camera, lens and operator. A pro grade DSLR camera is the choice if you want full quality out of your images. A pro camera isn’t meant for a “selfy” photographer or posting dinner pics on Facebook, but you don’t have to be a professional to own one. These cameras are a wise investment if you want to capture a wide range of lights, colors and contrast in a live performance no-flash photography application.
DSLR cameras have a wide range of manual settings, which sets them apart from point-and-shoot cameras, and you can expect fast shutter speeds, a broader ISO range, interchangeable lenses and more adaptability. The best DSLR cameras have so many manual settings that you can shoot in any way you want, in any lighting situation, and especially at a concert in low light, with the right lenses. These cameras come with great auto modes, but manual controls are what set them apart from retail store cameras. All these controls, adaptability and extra features give you more creative control and allow you to frame live shots the way you want to. The only limitation is you can’t fit one in your pocket, and when attending big national concerts, you must have a photo pass to enter the building with it.
Megapixels aren’t the first thing to consider, and many cameras have high megapixel counts (sometimes upwards of 32), but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. On many sensors inside DSLR cameras, a lower megapixel count with bigger pixels will produce cleaner images with less noise. Unlike many other cameras where you end up paying for a higher pixel count, the money spent goes toward larger sensors that are more powerful and can produce better images.
Pro DSLRs have a wide ISO range, anywhere from 80 all the way up to 25,600, giving you flexibility to shoot in a variety of lighting conditions. Advanced sensors help reduce visual noise if you do have to use a high ISO, which is beneficial if you’re shooting in low light such as concerts.
Cameras either have an APS-C (crop) sensor or a full-body sensor. Full-body sensors are close to traditional 35mm sensors from the past, and APS-C sensors are a tad smaller. Image quality increases with a larger sensor due to the higher resolution, but APS sensors increase the focal length of the lens, which means that the lens appears to be longer and gives you a better zoom effect.
These cameras are much larger than pocket cameras, but you aren’t buying these cameras for their size. The ergonomics should be comfortable so that finding buttons and settings is easy, without requiring you to take your eye off the viewfinder. The size and resolution of the LCD display screen is also important, and removable memory is a valuable added feature that makes it much easier to transfer files from the camera to a PC.
These cameras don’t skimp on the extras. Many come with a multifunction button that gives you quick control to rotate, rate, resize and adjust the auto-focus. If you take a lot of pictures and your worried about space, look for a camera that has dual memory card slots so you don’t have to change the cards as often. Depth-of-field buttons let you preview the preselected aperture to see how much of the foreground or background is in focus.
Professional DSLR cameras are an expensive investment, but the only way to take your hobbyist skills to the next level. Many of these cameras can cost thousands of dollars, so figuring out what you need in advance is essential. In addition to analyzing the features and functions, you’ll need to research lenses to fit the situation you’ll experience shooting a live concert.
We at SHOCK and AWE have determined the only way to shoot high quality low noise photos in low light is with the lowest aperture lens you can find in any particular size. A 1.8 will shoot in the lowest of low light, but can be extremely expensive compared to higher aperture lenses. Why do you see photographers shooting in medium to low light with an external flash that sticks way up and flickers constantly? Because they have a higher aperture base on the lens. The cheaper the lens, the higher the aperture rating. Some lenses can cost up to $10,000 or more, depending on size. We recommend starting out with a 50mm 1.8 to learn on, and move on up from there.
If your lens is a higher aperture, then you’ll have to pull your ISO way up depending on how dark the stage is, which causes noise and unprofessional looking grainy shots. Once you shoot with a great lens you’ll experience the difference firsthand, and will most likely save your money for the better lens every time. What you spend will absolutely make a difference in your photos.
HAVE FUN WITH YOUR CAMERA!
A pro DSLR camera is the perfect upgrade if you’re ready to break into live concert photography and accelerate your hobby. These cameras are durable, configured for any shooting situation, and offer all the manual controls you need. Take your camera out in the sun and pull up your settings, pull down the ISO and create different effects. Watch how the sky can change colors by adjusting aperture and speed, and make high lighting objects shoot rays from them, or turn the grass dark green or give it a washed look. Experimenting in natural lighting scenarios will only broaden your skills in lower light situations. You will learn to adjust-adjust-adjust, which is so important in capturing the perfect “money shot” for your concert photo collection. Be sure and upload those photos to a thumb drive and have them printed to frame for your office wall or entertainment room. They’re a perfect conversation piece, and people won’t believe you took them yourself!