November 12, 2012

5 Tips to Better Concert Photos

I just wrapped up the first week of my three month assignment with The Dallas Morning News (TDMN).  Although the first few days of learning the publication's workflow, the headquarter floor plan, and meeting important editors and photographers were slow, I couldn't have asked for a better assignment for a Saturday night.  I had the great opportunity to photograph Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at the House of Blues in Dallas, Texas.

I never heard of Grace Potter before looking at my assignment list Saturday morning, but after spending some time on Youtube, I had high expectations for the night to come.  Luckily, Grace lived up to her music video amazingness and rocked the already awesome venue.  You can read TDMN's review of Potter's performance here.

Read through the break for a few tips to shooting better concert photos:
I have learned a few tips from my handful of live music assignments, which not only make for better concert photos but also make the editing process more efficient:

1. Shoot RAW.  This will provide you with the best image quality when you need to adjust white balance and fine tune the exposure to compensate for the light changes during the set.
2. Use Tungsten White Balance.  Unless the venue has recently been retrofitted, more than likely the lights on the stage are tungsten.  Setting your white balance to Tungsten before the performance will bring you closer to the true light color and give you consistently colored files, vastly speeding up the editing process.
3. Vary your focal lengths.  During Grace Potter's performance, I used everything from 24mm to a 200mm with a 1.4x extender.  I try to the get safe, tight, shots with a 70-200mm first in case the all-too-common situation where access is cut short arises.  I then go wider and try to incorporate the stage and other band members.
4. Anticipate the peak moment, then shoot it.  Just like any other photojournalism assignment, you want to capture the peak moment, action, or emotion.  This may be the loudest note of the verse or the artist's simple smile in return to the crowd's applause.
5. Shoot the details.  Spiked high heels, special guitar picks, fingers on the neck of the guitar.  Whatever you see, shoot it.

Do you have any tips to making better concert photos that I left out?  Share them in the comments below.

Please enjoy the extended gallery of images from the concert directly on


  1. Congrats on your first assignment in TX Stan! Couldn't have asked for a better first gig - and your striking pictures certainly live up to it! Can't wait to see more.

    Daniel Stainer

    1. Thanks Daniel, I appreciate it. Keep checking back, I have a lot of great stories to share.