Skip to main content

How to Take a Concert Photograph with a Digital Camera

Learn how to take pictures at a concert from commercial photographer Dan Bracaglia in this digital photography lesson from Howcast.


It has been my favorite form of photography and is usually rock 'n' roll
photography. I've been fortunate enough to shoot for a couple of big
magazines and newspapers and have had access to really awesome concerts.

The reason I like it so much is because A) it's extremely challenging. It's
generally crazy lighting patterns, crazy lighting schemes, low lights
situations, fast action. So it create a lot of difficult problems, but if
you work with it really hard you can get great photographs.

A couple tips to get some great rock 'n' roll photographs is you're going
to shoot wide most of the time. Most concerts will have you up front for
maybe the first two or three songs and that will be all you will get to
shoot. So you've really got to nail it in that time. Shooting wide ensures
you a lot of frames to work with. That way if you're have to crop in, you
can crop in.

I generally will set the exposure I think is right in manual mode and
adjust it accordingly as I'm shooting, depending on how the lighting is.
Nailing down a white balance in is also a really great way to ensure
that your faces aren't going to look too blue or too red or whatever. The
lighting that they're using, you want to compensate for that.

Now if it's a small venue you might be able to get away with using a flash.
I don't really recommend it because A) it generally aggravates the rest of
the people in the venue, especially if it's a really intimate crowd. So if
you're going to use a flash, use it sparingly. Don't be that guy in front
popping off a million frames. They're just going to hate you.

Generally speaking, at bigger concerts you're not going to have that
option. You're basically going to be at the mercy of the bouncers up front,
and you're going to be able to do what they tell you. So if you want to use
a flash, ask them first. In fact, ask them anything before you do it
because you don't want them to be your enemy.

Another important thing to keep in mind when shooting rock 'n' roll is
everybody going to hate you. The crowd is going to hate you because you're
either in their way or you're up front out of the mosh pit, or you're
popping off a flash, or you're really close to the bands. For all these
things they're not going to like you.

The band is not going to like you because they think you're just . . . not
all of the time, but a lot of big bands will be like, oh, this guy is just
smooching off our fame. The bouncers aren't going to like you because
you're in their way. Pretty much your only fan is going to be the band's PR
firm which is okay. So if you're cool with everybody hitting you and you're
cool with the really tough challenges, hey rock 'n' roll photography might
be for you.

These are some of my favorite shots I've done over the years. This is (?)
NRD shot during an outdoor concert. It was a pretty easy shoot with good,
natural light probably day. In fact, it's actually pouring rain during this
show. The band was covered, and all of the other photographers had given up
and gone home, but I was sitting in about a foot and a half of water next
to the stage and just happened to look up and get this shot.

This is the band, the Front Bottoms, performing at a really teeny, tiny
venue. This is an example of using a flash with some shutter jags, and this
photo is less about the band and kind of more about the movement and the
vive of the music.

This is Paul McCartney at Yankee Stadium. It was a really different kind of
photo. This was shot from really, really far away with a really strong
telephoto lens. This we literally had the first two songs, and we were
shuffled right out of the stadium into a parking lot.

This is Dave Navarro. This is an example of really funky lighting. The
reason, honestly that it is grayscale is his face was so blown out from
fluid and it was corrected, so sometimes grayscale is a good way to deal
with a problem like that, but it was such an interesting look I felt it
deserved to be edited and published.

This is another band shot with some shutter jag, low ceiling with a flash.
This is another example of using black and white. This one was less because
I messed up and more of it began to convey a mood. He's a good friend of
mine. This was another one shot from far away. This is Jane's Addiction

A lot of rock 'n' roll photographers will kind of neglect the crowd. You've
got to realize that is half of the concerts, the performers, the energy
they're getting back from the crowd that makes a concert so interesting.

This is obviously the boss, Bruce Springsteen, hometown Jersey boy
represents I think really intense. You can tell he's really getting into
it. It just kind of makes it. This is an example of using the lighting
schemes around there to kind of give it energy, to kind of give a mood to.

Another thing to realize with rock 'n' roll photography is you've really
got to be prepared for anything. You're, again, always going to be at the
mercy of the bouncers, the people in charge. So I have had plenty of shares
where I wasn't even allowed in front of the stage and had to shoot from a
balcony with a long lens. So for that reason I always bring two cameras. I
always bring a wide angle. I always bring a telephoto. I always bring a
flash, just in case I can use it. I always go into the concert with the
understanding that there's a chance I'm not going to get to shoot at all.

Popular Categories