Photographer David Szymanski shares some of the special considerations that should be made when shooting a concert
FOR THE LAST SIX YEARS, I’ve been working as a freelance photographer specializing in music photography. During that time, I’ve found the following tips help prepare me for shooting at music events and concerts.
Shoot with a "fast" lens.
Concerts are always dark. This shot of rapper Lupe Fiasco at Summerfest (Milwaukee, WI) was achieved by using a fast lens (f/2) and a shutter speed of 1/400. The combination of the shutter speed and f/stop allowed me to shoot in the dark concert while freezing the water as it flew around the stage.
Avoid using flash.
Try to avoid using on-camera or external flashes at concerts. Not only can it distract the musicians, but it also blows out the colored stage lights. I made this image of Maze from Chopper Trike Rebels utilizing the red and blue stage lights, which illuminated the crazy contacts he was wearing.
Know the venue rules for photography.
Be mindful of the venue rules and know them before you arrive. This live shot of electronic music duo Gabriel & Dresden was possible after I exchanged a few emails with their manager. They were nice enough to set me up with a media pass to photograph at the Spring Awakening festival (Chicago, IL).
Research who you're photographing.
This allows you to get an idea of how the band performs and interacts with the audience. D.A. Wallach of Chester French is known to be energetic and run around the stage. After finding this out through watching videos of the band's performances, I shot in bursts to capture him in mid-air as he jumped.
Extra tip: When researching a band, find out if they spray anything that could ruin your equipment. I would recommend always carrying a plastic covering for your camera or a plastic zipper bag. This helps when dodging Faygo soda at an Insane Clown Posse concert.
Be nice to security.
Be nice to every security guard that you encounter. After chatting it up with one of the guards at a Chromeo concert, they allowed me to shoot from the second floor, which was closed off. Gaining this access gave me a view point that none of the other photographers had, which resulted in this great shot from above.
Sometimes you may not be able to photograph from the pit, so try to find other locations in the venue to shoot from. After I became frustrated with not getting close enough to photograph Rusko, I wandered around the venue and discovered a balcony which overlooked the entire crowd. This made for the perfect photo, as it showed the energy of the 4,000+ people that night.
Extra tip: Always have extra camera batteries, memory cards, business cards, pens, notebooks, and most importantly, ear plugs!