So, you want to become a music photographer? Sure, you love music and photography – combining the two seems natural. But music photography takes some serious practice and a unique set of skills. If you’re ready to hold office hours between 8pm and 2am, then scroll down our list below.
Leave the extra gear at home! Some music photographers like to travel with a flash (which the band will probably hate), more than one camera body, and several lenses. This is going to make you a lot less aerodynamic as you move around the crowd – or it means that you’ll need a place to stash all your extra gear. Instead, a workhorse 24-70 F/2.8 provides enough versatility. If you feel daring, you could also go for a 50mm prime.
Watch YouTube Videos
This is just to say: do the research. Watch YouTube videos of the band you’re going to shoot. Learn what kind of moves which members of the band like to pull. If the guitarist is known for their amazing solos, for example, then don’t just focus in on the lead singer.
Choose High ISO and Quick Shutter Speeds
To freeze the movements of musicians jumping from one side of the stage to the other, pick a quick shutter speed. (You don’t want blurred photos!) However, fast shutter speeds let in less light. In dark music venues, this might be a problem. So, boost up the ISO. Figure out what level noise becomes a problem (usually around ISO 3200 or 6400) and crank it to the limit. If it’s super dark, then you might even consider risking a noisy image to edit later in post-production.
Use Continuous Autofocus
For live music, continuous autofocus is best. Musicians are usually moving subjects, after all. Focusing with AF-S, on the other hand, really only works when the subject takes a break from running around.
Keep Your Cool
Don’t panic. With live music, not everything goes as planned. You might not get the shots you were hoping for, but quick thinking is worth more than a perfect shot list. If you’re willing to go with the flow, then you might end up with something even better than what you expected.
If you’re just starting out, remember to travel light with just a workhorse lens to maneuver through crowds. Do your research with YouTube videos, and keep your cool (i.e. expect the unexpected). Ramp up ISO to compensate for quick shutter speeds, and use continuous autofocus.