Concert photography isn’t something I do every weekend. The last time I photographed my friends in Snaphammer was 5 years ago. At the time I was using my Canon 40D DSLR paired with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. The Canon 50mm f/1.4 on a crop body is an 80mm equivalent lens, so it was a good concert photography combo, especially since I could get fairly close. I’ve since sold off all of the DSLR gear, so when I was asked to do the photography for the show his time around, it was a different story. Could I do it with my new micro four thirds kit? Would my autofocus lock on in low light? Were my tiny Olympus primes fast enough to catch the action? How would the micro four thirds sensor handle the low light situation?
I always over prepare for a shoot. In my head I knew that all I (probably) needed was my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and just two primes, the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 and the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. But, I still brought along the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 as well, in case I needed something super wide. In this situation though, the 25mm was plenty wide to capture the entire band as long as I wasn’t right up on top of them, and the f/2.8 lens was not fast enough in such low light. Actually, 75% of the pictures that I delivered from this shoot were with the 45mm f/1.8 lens! Looks like I could have just showed up with the OM-D and the 45mm attached, and the 25mm in my pocket and been more than fine for this shoot. (By the way, when I say “in my pocket” I literally mean it. The Olympus primes are so amazing and small that you can easily carry them in your jacket pocket)
3 Tips for Concert Photography
Use a fast (large aperture) lens
This is by far the most important thing. If you’re going to be shooting low light AND capturing motion, you’re going to need a fast enough shutter speed. Prime lenses are a great option for this, as they’re usually smaller, sometimes cheaper, and offer a nice large aperture.
Use a medium to long telephoto lens
Depending how intimate the venue is, you’re going to need some amount of reach on your lens. It’s good to get wide shots of the entire band, but I love getting isolated pictures of just the guitar player or just the drummer doing their thing.
Use a camera with decent low light performance
Nowadays, most cameras have the ability to push their ISO higher than we did just a few years ago and still retain a fairly noiseless, clean image. When shooting in this kind of situation, you should feel comfortable pushing the ISO above 1000 and potentially up to 3200 on your camera. Remember, a slightly noisy image that’s in focus with no motion blur is WAY better than a perfectly clean blurry one.
Do you have a favorite micro four thirds camera/lens combo for concert photography? Do you have any tips or takeaways from photographing live shows? Let me know in the comments!
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