Concert Photography for starters on a budget!

Portugal. The man

In this blog post, I want to explain what camera equipment you need as a beginner in concert photography. You´ve probably seen music photographers with 2 camera bodies and huge lenses hanging around their necks. Although this might be normal working equipment for professional concert photographers, it´s absolutely not necessary to have this expensive gear when you´re just starting out. Read on and get my suggestions about what crucial gear you need to begin your new career in concert photography.

If you are just starting out read my article about Basics in Concert Photography I: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO first.

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Camera

Here we go, this is the camera system you will want to invest in. I’d like to introduce you to the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera system, or, for short, DSLR. In a DSLR camera, light travels through the lens, then to a mirror that switches between sending the image to either the viewfinder or the image sensor. This is the camera type that you’ll find most professionals using and it’s the only camera system that makes sense to use in concert photography at the moment (which might change in the near future).

The advantage of this system is the fact that you can buy multiple lenses with different focal lengths and apertures. You can get ultra wide angle lenses, which are great for when you’re right in front of a small stage, and you can get 500mm lenses for when you’re shooting The Rolling Stones from 30m away at a stadium. The downside is the price tag attached to these cameras. They range from a couple of hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Nikon and Canon are still the market leaders and offer a wide variety of lenses, so you might as well stick with one of these two brands. I am a Nikon shooter whereas others swear by Canon. Make sure you choose the brand you´re most comfortable with. Take a look at the different camera bodies, the lens options and the accessories. Which brands do your photographer friends shoot with? They might have lenses you can borrow when you’re starting out and they might be able to guide you if you have questions. Once you start investing in a system, stick with it. A system switch will cost you a lot of money which you could spend more wisely elsewhere.

Your First Digital Camera For Concert Photography

If you want to get out to a concert as soon as possible, get yourself a good DSLR and don’t think about it anymore. It doesn’t matter which brand you choose. I use Nikon, others use Canon and there are others who use Sony. Nikon and Canon are the biggest players in the market and offer a wide variety of lenses. Just go to your local photography store, hold some and decide which camera body best fits in your hands.

Tv On The Radio, concert photography

Tv On The Radio Canon 40D 50mm@f1.8 1/250sec ISO 3200

The Crop Sensor Camera
What you’ll want to get when starting out is a crop sensor DSLR camera. When I started out in photography, I heard the term crop sensor vs. full-frame sensor in connection with digital photography a lot. It took me a while to figure it out. If you’re also feeling lost in the jungle of technical camera terms, let me try to explain.

OK, let’s go back to the good old analog times. An analog camera which takes 35mm film (the small film rolls, the ones your parents used to create your holiday photos) delivers negatives with a size of 24x36mm. This size is due to the opening that lets the light pass through the camera and hit the film. The 24x36mm corresponds to the size of the sensor in a full-frame digital camera. In a crop sensor camera the sensor size is smaller, or cropped. Since I am only going to talk in this article about camera gear for beginners on a budget, I’ll only focus on crop sensor cameras. (I don´t forsee that you want to buy camera gear for $5000 right now).


  • Crop sensor cameras are cheaper and you will get a camera body with a lens for a few hundred bucks.
  • Lenses for crop sensor cameras are cheaper
  • Camera bodies are lighter and smaller in size


  • Due to the smaller sensor, noise is more dominant in the photos and the available ISO values are smaller.

Since the ISO capability of your camera is key in concert photography I would suggest buying a crop sensor DSLR camera with a maximum ISO setting of at least ISO 6400. You will be faced with low lighting conditions on stage and therefore need the option to set high ISO values. The higher the ISO setting on your camera, the warmer the camera sensor will become, which will lead to higher noise levels in your photos. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself dialing your ISO setting up to at least 1600 to get a decent shutter speed in low-light concert photography. There are ways to reduce the noise during post-production, but the aim is to keep the ISO as low as possible.

Examples of crop sensor cameras for concert photography: Nikon D5100 and Nikon D7100.

Crop sensor DSLRs are mostly available as a kit package together with a lens. You can get a decent camera body with a lens such as an 18-55mm f3.5-5.6. This kind of lens is good for “everyday” photography purposes, like travel and birthday parties outside, but it’s absolutely useless for concert photography. So, to go along with your kit lens you will need to get another lens, or save some money and opt for a “body only” purchase.

One more thing: A 50mm lens (the focal length will be written on the lens itself) attached to a crop sensor camera body is no longer a 50mm! After a number of workshops I’ve given, I now know that most students of photography have never heard of this before. Therefore I am here to explain it: If you have a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera body, you have to multiply the focal length with a crop factor e.g. 1.6 for Canon (50×1.6 is 80mm) or 1.5 for Nikon. So the 50mm lens you thought you had, is an 80mm lens on the camera. Confused? To add to the fun, the crop factors for Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax are all different, but in general you get a similar focal length.

Why is this important? Let´s say you want to buy a wide angle lens for your crops sensor camera. So, you might get a 35mm lens, but on your crop sensor camera it turns into a 50mm normal lens. So, if you want to have a focal length of 35mm on your crop sensor camera you need to buy a 24mm (24×1.6 is 38mm). Just keep this in mind when buying your lenses.

Click here and Download my 5 Secrets of Rockstar Photographers for FREE!

Your First Camera Lens for Concert Photography

For novice concert photographers on a budget I would recommend the cheap 50mm f1.8 prime lens (it’s available for all brands and is a no-brainer!) because of its ability to shoot in low-light at its highest aperture setting. This lens is made of plastic, is small, lightweight and unobtrusive. The “Nifty Fifty” – also called the “plastic fantastic” – has saved me more than a few times when the lighting technician seemed to be asleep and the stage was almost pitch black. For small stages, a 50mm lens is a good compromise to get a head shot of the lead singer and a full-length shot of the drummer (depending on how big the stage is). You might ask, “But what about zoom lenses? I can have all focal lengths covered in one lens. Shouldn’t they be perfect for concert photography? Why should I buy a prime lens?”

Atari Teenage Riot, concert photography

Atari Teenage Riot Nikon D700 50mm@f1.8 1/2500sec ISO1600

Here’s the deal. The kit zoom lenses that come with cameras have smaller apertures (higher aperture numbers). By using an aperture of e.g f5.6, less light passes through the lens (compared to f1.8), which will result in a lower possible shutter speed. From my experience, an aperture of at least f2.8 is a necessity in concert photography and therefore a cheap zoom lens is not an option for use as a concert photographer. You can get zoom lenses with an aperture of f2.8, but they are expensive and not worth the money when you are new to concert photography. Be careful! The 50mm lens will effectively be an 80mm (50mm x 1.6 on Canon, for example) on your crop sensor DSLR. You’ll lose the standard focal length but when first starting out, that’s absolutely fine. If you already have the 50mm f1.8 and you have the feeling that you need a wider lens, then check out a 35mm f1.8 lens (which will be 50mm on your crop sensor body).

Read on here if you want to know more about my essential concert photography settings for beginners.

This article helps you to get started with your first camera and lens. However you also need to know the right camera setting to get awesome shots. Download my 5 Must-Have Camera Settings ebook for free here:

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  • I started my concert photography career with a Canon 40D and a 17-85mm f4-5,6.

  • Mark Turner Images

    Started shooting a Sony a230 with a Minolta 50mm f1.8 and then a Canon 500D with the same type of lens.
    The last few years I’ve become very attached to my D3S though. 🙂

  • Thanks Mark for your great comment. The reason for my blog article is to show that you can also start out to become a concert photographer when you are on a tight budget. You don´t have to buy all the expensive camera equipment in the beginning. Anyhow I think this would be a total overkill, since you first have to learn the basics and as we all know the photographer behind the lens is more important than the equipment itself. So, it great that you also started out using the 50mm f1.8 on a crop sensor camera. However I can understand why you got attached to the Nikon D3S ;). I am currently using a Nikon D700 and D800. I am going to cover the “big guys! equipment on a later post. rock on!

  • Chris Patmore

    I started shooting gigs with an Olympus OM1 and some Zuiko primes, which I still have and use. Then I stopped. Fast forward (mumble) years later into the digital age and my budget would only stretch to a Canon 550D, a 50mm f1.8 and, more recently, a surprisingly good Tamron 17-50 f2.8 zoom. Definitely time to upgrade to a full-frame.

  • Barbara Springer

    I started with -and still use happily- a Nikon D7000. My first lens was the Nikkor 18-105, which still does the trick ;). A Tamron 70-300 f/4-5.6 joined my lens family and recently I got myself a ‘nifty fifty’: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 and completely understand why all photographers recommend that little one! Upgrading to a full-frame camera as well as a ‘faster’ zoom lens is on my wish list, as soon as the cash flow allows 😉

    • Thanks Barbara! Great that you also got the 50mm f1.8. Seems we all agree here on this lens and as you can read it´s totally possible to get awesome results when you are on a budget.

  • Shannon L. Christie

    Hey Matthais! I shoot with a Canon Rebel 2TI and the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. I shoot a lot of local small venues, who have no idea about lighting, so sometimes I am forced to use my flash and in these cases I use the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. These photos I usually convert to black and white. For those who are just starting out, shoot your local bands, you’ll get lots of practice and they are usually very grateful, plus you never know one of those bands might make the big leagues!
    It is definitely time for an upgrade, I really notice the slowness and the lack of crispness with the rebel and really want a full frame, although it has forced me to be creative when framing shots.

    Shannon of Gig Photography

    • Hi Shannon, thanks for sharing your thoughts here! It´s definitely a big challenge to shoot in small local clubs regarding lighting. Sometimes they have just a blue or a red spotlight on stage and this situations will give our cameras a hard time to cope with. On the other hand you have to start somewhere and the big advantage is that you most likely need no press accreditation. So you can just enter the club with your camera gear. Under such low light on stage you definitely need a lens like the 50mm with the smallest aperture number you can afford. f1.8 is already pretty good. There are also f1.4 or f1.2 lenses which are very expensive (the 50mm f1.4 is an exception again, but in my opinion not worth the expense). Also a great tip to convert these pictures into black/white since the guys on stage will like cool instead of red creatures from another galaxy. Good luck with your work Shannon!

  • Nici Eberl

    I started with an Sony Alpha 200 but soon upgraded to a Canon EOS 60D (already a huge step! ^^) which i still use. For favourit lens for concerts is the 50mm f/1.8 but I wanna upgrade soon! (: I also got some quite good shots with my 18-135mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens but I believe that was just pure luck and it was a proper concert venue so the light was really good..haha

    • Cool Nici! If the lighting is good on stage it´s also possible to use a lens like the 18-135mm f3.5-5.6. It´s just my experience that most of the time I find myself at f1.8 or f2.8. Great that you are also using the 50mm f1.8 😉

  • William Richards

    I started with a Nikon D-60 which I still use with a 50mm 1.8. I usually hire a Nikon 70-200 2.8 to get some closeup shots which is fantastic. However, I’m now going to try a Nikon D700 which is a full frame beast of a camera that I’ve managed to borrow from a friend. Going to try it tonight at a gig I’m shooting and looking forward to seeing if my photo’s improve 🙂

    • great choice of lenses William. Looking forward for your photos taken with the D700. Probably you won´t get back to your D60 again ;). Let us know…

      • William Richards

        Unfortunately, I’ll have to go back to my trusty D60 as I’m only borrowing the D700 🙁 I know I won’t enjoy giving it back!

        • at least you know where to invest your money in the near future 😉

  • Joseph De Leon

    Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD73 Floppy disk camera. It used a 3.5 floppy disk as storage. I had two of these.

    Then I entered the point and shoot days. For the life of me I can’t recall any of the model numbers or specs. I had a Sony for a while. Next was Kodak easyshare cameras I have had three of those upgrading each time. Three of four of these cameras lost their lives in mosh pits.

    Now I am using a Nikon D60 with a 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6g lens

    • Hi Joseph! I just had a look at the Sony Mavica 0.4MP beast of a camera! Never heard of a camera that uses floppy disks before. I just used 3.5 disks in my Commodore 64 ;). Great that you used a lot of different camera formats to start with and congrats on your Nikon D60. I would highly suggest the 50mm f1.8 since it´s a really cheap lens and it will boost your ability to shoot in low light. As you can read in the comments almost everyone uses this lens. Wiiliam Richards has also a Nikon D60, maybe ask him what he is saying about the combo with the 50mm f1.8. all the best

  • kaisa

    Hi, Matthias! I am really excited having discovered your site and blog. It’s really interesting to read about your journey as a photographer.

    I have had a thing for music and photography for years, but only about a year ago things fell into place for me so to speak. Currently I shoot for hobby from a fan’s point of view at local venues around Madrid. These days I use Canon 6D and kit lens (24-105) and 40mm f/2.8. The latter was a choice based on its size (it makes me full frame look like point and shoot, almost). While small venues usually don’t have strict policies regarding cameras then sometimes I prefer to have something low scale that fits in a small bag.

    I have also used Canon Powershot G16 for some concerts (festivals have strict rules about interchangeable lens). It’s really a challenge to switch from DSLR to point&shoot. I would possibly never recommend it to anyone who is seriously into concert photography. However, I do think it’s better than nothing and still helps to capture the moments. 🙂

    • Hi Kaisa, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on my blog. The canon 6D together with your 40mm f2.8 is already a good choice for low light stage situations. What resluts do you get with your G16? How much ISO can you set on it?

      • kaisa

        Well, the ISO can be set up to 12 800, but in reality I’d say 1600 is the comfortable maximum. Ideal would be using 800. Anything higher and there’s a lot of noise to be handled. I shot this super lowlight indoor gig at ISO 1600 and it’s okay-ish for small images and web use:
        Also shot SOS 4.8 festival with G16:

        • ah, thanks. The pics look really good with the powershot @1600 ISO. Seems to be a great camera alternative when shooting from the audience

          • kaisa

            Yeah, especially as in some countries getting in with any kind of camera that has interchangeable lens is a struggle. I could almost never take my old SLR and DSLR in Estonia or Finland to gigs. (super frustrating) More relaxed in Spain. Of course there are better point and shoots available with double the price.

          • Here in Vienna it´s also hard to get into clubs with professional camera gear. Great that´s more relaxed in Spain 😉

          • kaisa

            Well, I hope the Spanish bar/club security guys won’t read your blog. 😉 Also, the phrase “professional gear” ticks me off (as in how was my Olympus E-420 with kit lens ever anything professional). Not to mention that high end point&shoots and mirrorless cameras can bring a much higher quality than many entry lever DSLRs paired with cheap lens. However golden rule in life: the security guy is always right. 😉

          • Well, I think the security guys tend to see every camera with a lens attached as professional gear. However, as you mentioned, your G16 or some mirrorless cameras might get higher quality photos. Exactly, don´t fight with the security guys 😉

  • Mark Turner Images

    I started with a Sony a230 and a minolta 50mm 1.8. Then moved across to a Canon 500D with a nifty 50. Settled the past few years with a Nikon D3S with a nifty 50 and two Sigma f2.8 zooms.
    Good article, cheers mate.

    • Thanks Mark for sharing your equipment tips. I really like that you also started out with some beginner gear and then moved on to the professional ones. As I mentioned it´s absolutely not necessary to have all this fancy and expensive gear when you´re starting out. I guess you´ll stay with your D3S right?

      • Mark Turner Images

        The D3S is a beast and I love using it but you’re right. You can take a good gig photo with an entry level DSLR as long as your glass is fast enough. This was with the 500D and 50mm prime. It was my first big gig in Sydney of Jesus Jones.

        • I totally agree that in the beginning fast glass is the most important factor of concert photography. Th 50mm f1.8 is a no-brainer and as long as the camera has ISO settings up to 3200 you should be able to get some awesome shots. Great atmosphere in your picture Mark.

  • Peter Brunnbauer

    Thanks Matthias for your inspiration, I am an Austrian living abroad working in (market) research but missing creativity (love photography n music), just wanted to get into band photography and find concert shoots quite challenging. I got myself an old canon 5d now second hand and a 50mm 1.4f lens and am inspired now to start. Is it a problem to get into shows with your SLR or do u get some kind of photographer permission upfront.? Many thx for sharing & keep up the good work!

    • Hi Peter! Thanks for your comment and great to hear that you want to start out in concert photography. You have already a good camera and the 50mm f1.4 will serve you well in low light stage photography. I would suggest to start in small local clubs where you don´t need any permission. For bigger venues you need press accreditation from a magazine, blog or newspaper. I´ll cover this topic in the next view posts or you can have a look at my “Guide to Rockstar Concert Photography”. all the best

      • Peter Brunnbauer

        cool danke! on my old canon 5d I got iso 1600 max, but hope thats good enough with 1.4f, and only at a later stage if I really get into it, would get a mach iii or so. yep, I anyhow go to a lot to small venues n shows in squat places etc. many thx again n greets from amsterdam & grüsse an meine alte heimat wien!

        • ISO 1600 should be ok, depending on the light situations. I always suggest at least an ISO capability of 3200 or even 6400. But it should work out for the beginning. best from Vienna

  • Lesley Keller

    i started out with a canon t1i and the kit lens. soon after i added a 50 1.8 and a 70-300 3.5-5.6. i stuck with that for as long as possible. then i upgraded to a canon 7d, tokina 11-17 2.8, a tamron 24-70 2.8 and a tamron 70-200 28. so far these have done me well. the tokina especially. such a wide angle has been so fun to play around with. i think the next lens i need to upgrade is the 24-70. autofocus is kinda slow on this tamron, so i will most likely get a canon L series next.

    • Lesley Keller

      oh i forgot to mention i got one of those 40mm 2.8 pancake lenses. this lens was so sharp, it was unbelievable. such a great value for the price.. i don’t use it often but i refuse to get rid of it because i love it so much.

      • I have never used a pancake lens before but the 40mm f2.8sounds very intersting.

    • Hi Lesley, love how you got started with the 50mm f1.8 and then building up your camera equipment. I guess the Canon 7D is already a great camera. You also cover the most used focal length in concert photography. Adding the Canon 24-70mm lens to your setup (which would replace the Tamron, I guess) would be a good idea. I love the Nikon version of the 24-70mm f2.8, cause the autofocus is very fast and accurate also in super low light conditions. I don´t know exactly how the newest version of the Canon 27-70mm f2.8 lens performs, but I think you can also take a used older version of it. Does anyone have thoughts about the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 for concert photography?

      • The latest version of Canon’s 24-70mm f2.8 is a concert photographer’s dream come true. It’s dang sharp and the autofocus is fast and accurate as well. Unfortunately I don’t own it (yet) but about a year ago I got to try this lens on a Canon 1D X – that’s a killer combo for sure!

  • Hey, great article! I got my first DSLR last year, but have only combined my passion for music and photography a few months ago.

    I have a Nikon D5100 and shoot with a 35mm 1.8 and sometimes with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR (kit).

    Now I’m thinking about upgrading my zoom lens. Do you think Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 or Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 would be a good choice? Or should I go for something with a bigger range?

    • Hi helloiamkat! Thanks for your comment and great that you have found your passion in concert photography. The combination of the D5100 with the 35mm f1.8 is a good match and you´ll be able to get great pics in low light situations. Your zoom lens might be too slow (means the aperture numbers are too high such as f5.6) to get decent shots, therefore I would suggest to get a version of the 17-50mm f2.8 Tamron, Sigma or Nikon. I would say, if you are planning to shoot in clubs (rather than big festival stages) the focal length is perfect for it. Since I am only using the Nikon version (which is a great lens) I can not give you any information about how the Tamron or Sigma performs, but I am sure there a lot of reviews about them in the net.

  • Johan Bauwens

    I don’t really like the focal length of 50 mm. I use my 85 mm f1.8 a lot in smaller venues, and it’s not that expensive. I love my 70-200 mm f 2.8 IS, I use it even in smaller clubs, so I can get close ups.

    • Hi Johan. It depends if you are using a crop or a full frame camera body. For a crop sensor the 85mm (which will be then 130mm) might be not what you want. For a full frame body I am also using my 85mm f1.4 more than my 50mm f1.4. I use the 24-70mm f2.8 most often in smaller clubs and my 80-200 f2.8 for big festival stages. Thanks for your comment and it´s always interesting to hear what equipment other people prefer.

      • Johan Bauwens

        I use a 6D for concerts, mostly with my 85 mm, and sometimes my 1DIV with a 70-200. It all depends on how close you can be to the stage, is there a frontstage or not ? A 50 mm, especially on fullframe might not be perfect for capturing the drummer who is always in the back. Nowadays entry level cameras can be used at Iso’s that where unthinkable in the past.

        • That´s right Johan! A 50mm on full-frame is not the best lens to get the drummer. However if you just get started out on a budget I would suggest to get the 50mm f1.8 as first lens, cause it´s cheap and let´s you shoot in low light conditions. Yeah, with a good entry level camera you should be able to get at least ISO 3200.

  • Juan Miguel Luis Mendoza

    I always have a 50 1.8 or 1.4 in my bag, every concert, rave, party, wedding, whatever I shoot, I always have a 50mm.

    if I shoot full or crop sensor, the 50 is always my go to. Except in a
    crowded pit or room… then I go with the 14mm 2.8, like Matthias’ wide. I’m picking up a 24-70 2.8 (equivalent to Sandra’s 17-50 2.8) mainly because crowded pits restrict my 50mm usage.

  • Hallo Matthias. I agree with you but for me the top priority is to be concentrated and have a good timing. Know when the light (spot) will come. I take fotooz with Nikon 7000 and 55-300mm f4.5-5.6 and 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 I don’t use the 35mm f1.8 very often. I like to zoom I still learning. (excuses for my poor English)

    • Stefaan, sure having a good time is why we are doing this. I don´t know in which venues you are shooting but an aperture of f4 and more would be way too less light for my pictures. I sometimes find myself at ISO 6400 and and aperture of f2.8. Try to work more with your 35mm f1.8 and you´ll see what I mean.

  • Sandra Grootenboer

    My parents gave me a Nikon D3100 for my birthday and a 18-200 nikon lens, when i wanted to take concert photos i added the 50mm 1.8 nikkor aswell. Most of my concert pictures are still being shot with that lens. Altho i have added a 35mm 1.8 and a tamron 2.8 17-50mm but i tend to grab my nikkor 1.8 lenses most times. Since last december i have added the nikon D7000 to my collection. And thinking about lenses to add… still not sure if i want the tamron 70-200 2.8 or go with another nikkor like the 85mm 1.8… would love your opinion on that.

    • Sandra you have already great camera equipment! It depends if you want to shoot bigger stages like festivals. If yes, than I would suggest to get the 70-200mm f2.8. I use most of the time a combination of Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, 85mm f1.4 and a 14mm f2.8. But I shoot on a full frame sensor camera. so for you the 17-50mm would be the equivalent for my 24-70. I used also my 50mm f1.8 a lot in the beginning.

  • I bought my first camera (Nikon D40) used and pretty much all the equipment I have had after that has been used. Now I shoot with Nikon D80 that I grabbed for $200 CDN. I have learned from my experience and by viewing the work of some of those who can afford the best gear that it is important to master what you’ve got and the art form in general. You can have the latest and greatest equipment and still have poor photos.

    • I totally agree with you Charnelle! A good camera body with ISO settings of at least 3200 and a cheap lens with an f1.8 is all you need to get started. Don´t get fooled by guys who think they are awesome because of their equipment.

  • Claudiu Miron

    I started with a BRIDGE camera that my parents bought for our family in general. I use it for almost a year, when i started out in photography. It’s a Fujifilm SL240 and it has way too small sensor for concert photography. My first camera that i bought is a film SLR, Canon eos 300 (rebel 2000) that came with a kit lens which is also not good enough since i only use DM Paradies ISO 200 film, because it’s cheap. After that i bought the 50mm f1.8 canon lens specially for concert photography. Now i usually have both cameras hanging on my neck at concerts, the bridge because it’s digital and i need photos fast and the film slr. It’s difficult and my neck hurts every time. I will soon buy the Canon EOS 60D and a good lens (still have to decide what lens, on a budget) because the bridge just doesn’t help me well without using flash in concert photography. Here is a link to the sensor size my bridge camera has compared the iPhone 5 sensor compared with the 60D sensor size compared to full frame, just so you know with what kind of sensor i work now at concerts:

    • Claudiu Miron

      Also, i began to work in concert and band photography 3 months ago, so everything in this niche is still new to me, but i am sure this is for me, because i also love heavy metal for 5 years now (i am also learning to play an electric guitar), so combining this and photography makes me really love what i am doing despite my present technical limitations of my gear.

      • Hi Claudiu! Great to meet you and I am glad you found your passion for concert Photography. Honestly saying you give yourself a really hard time. By using a Bridge camera with it´s small sensor and an analog camera you limit yourself too much in the beginning. I know the equipment is expensive but if you can afford it please get the 60D soon ;). The 50mm 1.8 is already the perfect lens for it. I love analog photography and soemtimes I shoot concerts on film, but this is a totally different level compared to digital photography. With an ISO 200 film you can´t do the trick to shoot in low light conditions such as concerts and you have to know your camera settings and how to develop you films in the lab. So I would suggest you read on here and if you have any questions comment here again:

        • Claudiu Miron

          Thanks. I’m going to get the 60D this month. It is now relatively cheap in my country (Romania), very close to 600D’s price, which i initially wanted. What film do you use at concerts and in general photography? Have you tried the DM Paradies film, and if yes, what do you think about it (in general, not just concert photography)?

          • sounds good. For my portrait work I use Kodak Portra 160 or 400. For concert work I would suggest the Kodak 400 Tri-X which can be pushed in the lab. I have never used the DM Paradies film.

  • Started out with a D3000 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 now I use a D600 70-200 f/2.8 ,16-35mm f/4 and that little niffty fifty.

    • Great to hear Nathan that you also started out with the 50mm f1.8. Looks like a great combo you are using. How do you like the 16-35mm f4? I am interested in this lens, but since only Canon has the f2.8 version I am still not sure about this particular ones.

      • I went for the f/4 over the f/2.8 because of age and the 2.8’s history of having the auto focus die and cost an arm and a leg to replace.
        I spent about two months um’ing and ar’ing over which one to go for before finally taking the plunge and going for the f/4, it works for gigs but you have really be on top of the settings and lighting a little more than normal as you’ve lost a stop but it can produce some pretty cool images and it’s a lot cheaper and lighter than the 14-24mm which would be the other realistic option (imo).

        I can find a few example shots I’ve taken with it if you’d like to see?

  • I started concert photography also with a Canon 40D and with a 50mm f1.8 lens.

    • Hi changing focus! This is a great entry combo. I once used the same combination of 40D and the 50mm f1.8 as I got started. thanks for sharing

  • maenuu

    I’ve started 5 years ago with a Sony Alpha 23 and a 18-55 Kit-Lens, after 1 year there were to much limitations. I came to a Nikon D7000 with a mega-zoom (18-200mm) and some concerts later i’ve buyed an old, used Sigma 70-200mm. After another year and near 150’000 pictures later i’ve buyed huge D3 from Nikon and a half year later my second D3 comes. Now i’m a working professional and earn some serious money with my photography. Some Months ago my D3’s were replaced by two used D4’s. My recomendation only buy the gear you need at least all two weeks and sell all the other stuff in your closet.

    • Hi Maenuu! Wow, what growth in your equipment! 2x D4´s sounds pretty dope. And you are totally right, start out with the equipment you actually need. If you are just trying to get your foot into photography a crop sensor camera (with at least ISO 3200) and the 50mm f1.8 will be a great combo.

      • I didn’t mentioned – the 50mm is my best friend, actually 50% of my images were made with my 50mm. For example last saturday at a Franz Ferdinand concert i made this image with just the 50mm Lens.

  • I’ve started 5 years ago with a Sony Alpha 23 and a 18-55 Kit-Lens, after 1 year there were to much limitations. I came to a Nikon D7000 with a mega-zoom (18-200mm) and some concerts later i’ve buyed an old, used Sigma 70-200mm. After another year and near 150’000 pictures later i’ve buyed huge D3 from Nikon and a half year later my second D3 comes. Now i’m a working professional and earn some serious money with my photography. Some Months ago my D3’s were replaced by two used D4’s. My recomendation only buy the gear you need at least all two weeks and sell all the other stuff in your closet.

    • Hi Maenuu! Wow, what growth in your equipment! 2x D4´s sounds pretty dope. And you are totally right, start out with the equipment you actually need. If you are just trying to get your foot into photography a crop sensor camera (with at least ISO 3200) and the 50mm f1.8 will be a great combo.

      • I didn’t mentioned – the 50mm is my best friend, actually 50% of my images were made with my 50mm. For example last saturday at a Franz Ferdinand concert i made this image with just the 50mm Lens.

  • John Schulze

    MPF-105X with a Tou/Five Star 75-200mm f4.5 zoom was my first SLR back
    in 1990. I had a few cameras after that I shot concerts with in the 90’s
    including a Minolta X-700, Minolta XG-M, Minolta 7xi, Minolta 9xi and a
    Minolta 7000i. I also used a few Nikon film cameras in the late 90’s
    and early 2000’s including a Nikon N2002, Nikon N60 and Nikon N90s. I
    bought a Nikon D70 the day it came out in 2004, the Nikon D90 in 2009,
    the Nikon D7000 in 2011 and the D7100 in 2013. Now I shoot a Nikon Df.

    • Hi John! great equipment development on your side! How do you like the Nikon Df? I was discussing the Df with a friend last time and he seemed to be really happy with it. Would be great to hear your opinion on it

  • John Schulze

    MPF-105X with a Tou/Five Star 75-200mm f4.5 zoom was my first SLR back
    in 1990. I had a few cameras after that I shot concerts with in the 90’s
    including a Minolta X-700, Minolta XG-M, Minolta 7xi, Minolta 9xi and a
    Minolta 7000i. I also used a few Nikon film cameras in the late 90’s
    and early 2000’s including a Nikon N2002, Nikon N60 and Nikon N90s. I
    bought a Nikon D70 the day it came out in 2004, the Nikon D90 in 2009,
    the Nikon D7000 in 2011 and the D7100 in 2013. Now I shoot a Nikon Df.

  • Brandon Mizar

    Canon Digital Rebel with 18-55 3.5-5.6 kit lens. This was the first Digital Rebel released. It was fun learning how to shoot shows and learn my gear better.

    • You always learn a lot if you are limited by any factors. In your case Brandon, by using the kit lens you definitely learned what limitations your camera equipment has.

  • Brandon Mizar

    Canon Digital Rebel with 18-55 3.5-5.6 kit lens. This was the first Digital Rebel released. It was fun learning how to shoot shows and learn my gear better.

  • The first concert i ever shot, 4 years ago, Miss montreal at our local student’s intro week. Shot with canon 5d and 50mm f1.4

    • nice capture Stefan! Not bad for your first try!

      • DanoMcRoo

        What would you estimate your actual distance from this performer to be?

  • The first concert i ever shot, 4 years ago, Miss montreal at our local student’s intro week. Shot with canon 5d and 50mm f1.4

    • GoMax Photography

      You had a 5D with a 50mm 1.4 for your very first concert?! Dang! You had a pretty penny to spend before getting out there and building a portfolio, that’s impressive. Great shot!

  • JM Cruz

    My first ever gig camera (and still using it right now) is an old Canon
    550D and I use a 50mm 1.8 mark 1. It did wonders for me until I got to
    use other lenses like the 24-70 f/2.8, 17-50mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm
    f/2.8. All in all, I still pick up the 50mm despite having the luxury of
    borrowing other lenses…

    Another thing that I constantly use is a Sigma 30mm f/1.4. Awesome lens for ultra low light situations. 🙂

    • Amen on the 50mm love. first lens i ever bought (albeit 1.4), It’s my lovechild <3

      • Stefan, I wish Nikon has the 50mm f1.2. like Canon shooter have. Todd Owyoung told me that he is testing the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 and it´s a dantastic lens for Nikon shooters. Just the price tag is a little bit on the high side for a 50mm.

    • Thanks JM for sharing your equipment. I totally agree that the 50mm is a no brainer for the start, but can also stay in the camera bag once you upgrade your lenses

  • JM Cruz

    My first ever gig camera (and still using it right now) is an old Canon
    550D and I use a 50mm 1.8 mark 1. It did wonders for me until I got to
    use other lenses like the 24-70 f/2.8, 17-50mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm
    f/2.8. All in all, I still pick up the 50mm despite having the luxury of
    borrowing other lenses…

    Another thing that I constantly use is a Sigma 30mm f/1.4. Awesome lens for ultra low light situations. 🙂

  • Anja Ivanovic

    Nikon d3100 + 50mm 1.8 i killed the sensor after one year of shooting concerts and then i upgraded on d7000 and sigma 70-200mm 2.8 and sigma 17-50 2.8 – still budget friendly gear

    • Hi Anja, Great that you also started out with a 50mm lens. How do you like your Sigma lenses. I have heard a lot of good things about them

  • concert photography is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. you meet a lot of new
    cool people and you can exchange experience and tipps to the other guys
    (and of course receive a lot of good hints). the hardest thing is to get
    the right shots of your favourite artists, but afterwards you like to
    watch the pictures again and again and you can be so proud of them 🙂

  • Heather

    I just bought a Canon 6D. I’ve got 2 lenses: 50mm f1.8 and 24-105mm f4. I need all the advice I can get.

    • Hi Heather. You are already well prepared with your equipment for the beginning. I am going to post some more advice on how to shoot your first concert soon on my blog

      • Heather, how is your experience with the the 24-105mm f4 for concerts?

  • Dani

    I still use a 600D with a 50mm and works perfectly fine for me. From clubshow to festivals. Also the only lens I use!

  • Greet

    True, same here, 50mm f/1.8, it works perfectly!

  • I started out with the Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/ 3.5-5.6. After a year I got my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D. So basically I had to learn a lot from the start. And with that body and 50mm f/1.8D lense came the “hard times” ‘cuz there is no auto focus, only manual.
    Now I upgraded to D7000 and I am still using my 50mm. Saving up for new lense =) Thinking about the Sigma lenses. What do you think?

    This is one of my first tries at concert photography (with 50mm-manual focus).

    • Hi Monique!
      Using a manual focus lens for concert photography might be the hardest thing you can do, especially in the beginning. it’s really hard to nail the focus at f1.8 in low light stage situations. However you mastered it already and your photo looks awesome. I really love the backlighting and color in it.
      I used a Sigma 50mm f1.8 for a while on my D700 and it’s a good lens. Todd Owyoung told me that he loves the new sigma 50mm f1.4, but it’s about $900, so i would suggest to either get the Sigma or Nikon version of the 50mm f1.8. You’ll see that having the option using autofocus will make your life much easier.

      • Nuno Gomes

        Matthias, All the photos in this album i’m leaving bellow where taken with a legacy Yashica 28mm 2.8 mf… on some of them I used a semi-fisheye adaptor too.. After breaking my “plastic fantastic/nifty fifty” the only fast enough lens I had was that one soo I ordered a CY/EF adaptor from “evilbay” as kay from DRTV would say…
        Pretty good photos I think..

    • Dom Graham

      I find Sigma generally to be a good value alternative to the more expensive Canon lenses. I have a Sigma 50mm f1.4 that I love. Tested a Canon equivalent and I felt I got better results with the Sigma. Not often the case but the newer Sigma lenses are good in my opinion.

  • Mark Evans

    My first proper gig I shot was the band set your goals, I had a Nikon D40 and the 18-55 kit lens, iso 3200. Yeah, my shots were awful but it was my fave band ever at the time and I had a blast. Don’t shoot gigs anymore cause I was just trying to work my way up shooting local gigs in tiny dark venues and it just wasn’t happening for me, so retired my camera to it bag now for the foreseeable future.

    • Hi Mark thanks for sharing your experiences. I hope I can provide some tips here on my blog to get you started again!

  • susanne

    i have not yet been in the photopit but i have been lucky enough to get to front row on two one direction concerts this year where i actually got to bring my DSLR (first time taking concert pictures with something other than my phone). i used my canon 60D with a 40mm f/2.8 lens and i absolutely love that combination and was sooo happy with the pictures i got! bonus was all the screaming girls around who got the boys attention and got them over to us more which resulted in even more pictures, and they are extremely difficult to shoot as they are so all over the place, running around, waving, dancing and what not. i have now upgraded to the 6D and i still hold on to the 40mm. absolute favourite! i feel like it is quicker than the 50mm f/1.8 and as a plus it barely makes any noise while working!

    next concert i am going to will be ed sheeran and i am going to try out my new canon g16 which seems to be perfect for me to use under concerts. everything is better than my phone, and for all i know i might get an even better result with the g16 too! it can go down to f/1.8 and is so easy to work with so just a tip for others to maybe try out too? i think it will also make the experience more enjoyable as it is not as heavy as a dslr and if you actually stand in the middle of the crowd, one might find it much easier to move around and lift it up and stuff concidering how much (or little) space you might have around you to take good pictures, and it is not heavy or take up much space or anything! 🙂

    (sorry about all the grammar mistakes there might be and all, english is not my first language)

    • susanne

      one of liam from the last concert, and more can be seen on if one would want too 🙂 there was no roof though which made it easier than if there would have been a roof but i always used f/2.8 and had to adjust the ISO because the shutter had to go really fast to get clear and good pictures of them in action 🙂

      • Hi Susanne!
        Thanks for sharing your story and the great photo. Let me know how the Canon G16 worked out

  • Yaazkal

    Hi, what will be better to start?

    * D610 with 50mm f/1.8G (total $2114) full-frame, better (if not extra-better) ISO performance, but fixed at 50mm

    * or a D7100 with a zoom lens like a Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 (total $2396),
    good ISO performance, more expensive (the total) but flexible focal

    Regards !

    • Hi Yaazkal.
      It depends on your future plans. I guess both are great options and as you mentioned the D7100 will get you more flexibility in front of the stage. Therefore I would go with this option. The D610 with the 50mm is also great, but you are stuck with 50mm. Another full frame lens like the Nikon 24-70mm will cost you another $1800. What about the D610 with the Tamron 24-70mm?

      • Yaazkal

        Hi Matthias (I’m Juan that wrote you a mail). Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer. As my mail said I have about $2500 to sart, so D610 + Tamron 24-70 will be the win option but out of my budget. So D610 + 50 + cheaper zoom could work… or Maybe I need extra work an a few months to wait for the D610 + Tamron combo.

        Again thanks a lot for your advice and great website (buying your guide is included on my budget)


        • Thanks Juan. If you want to use the zoom lens for concert photography I am afraid you need at least f2.8. It doesn´t make a lot of sense to get a cheap f3.5-5.6 zoom lens which you can´t use in low light situations. If you are just starting out and you want to try if you like it then I would go with the D7100. You can always upgrade in the future. Full frame sensor cameras are great, but if you are on a budget they might be an overkill in the beginning.

  • Maggot30s

    I’ve been shooting on and off for 2 years with a Nikon D7100, Sigma 50-150 2.8. I started with a D60 and Nikon 35mm. Was a good combination for open mic nights but struggled in low light. The D7100 and Sigma combination was used for this shot.

  • Rhian Westbury

    I’ve been doing photos for around 18 months now and had some amazing opportunities during that time, I use a Canon 600D currently with my favourite lens a sigma 18-35mm f1.8 but i’m looking at making the move to a 6D or a 5D Mark III if my budget can stretch just gutted that i’m going to have to get new lens 🙁 Really should invest in a 50mm, just never got round to it!

    • great to hear Rhian! The 50mm f1.8 or f1.4 will serve you well. If you go full frame you definitely need a 24-70mm f2.8 too.

  • tessa

    I have to say I’m finally starting out I’ve ordered my d5100 and it’s lens my ambitions began as embers back in 2010 with my little Kodak point and shoot haha I have been using a Sony the past year for regular photos just building a portfolio but nothing really lit me like a perfectly timed shot, I was searching for the right camara to start with (d5100) and will be following you from here on to get all the advice I can!

    Here’s one of the Sony pics back I’m the day

    • Hi Tessa!
      Thanks for sharing your photos. I personally like the look of them. However you´ll see a huge different when using your D5100. Which lens are you going to use for your concerts? If you have ordered the Kit lens you´ll definitely want to get the 50mm f1.8 in addition. let me know if you have any questions about it

  • abigail

    Hi! I’ve bought a Nikon D750 just recently. I want to know what lens would be the most appropriate not just for concert use but also for portrait use? Thank you!

    • Hi, I would suggest the 27-70mm f2.8. It´s a versatile lens and I use it not only for concert photography but also for my portrait work

  • Kim Baxter

    I was lucky enough to shoot the Scorpions twice on their “Farewell Tour” on their U.S. leg. This was the very first time I had shot a famous rock band. These first two were taken in Denver, Colorado ~ I had an all access pass, which allowed me to roam where ever I wanted, & stand in front of the stage away from the crowd. But the camera I was using was garbage ~ just an Olympus point & shoot. If I had been down in the pit, I probably would have been laughed right out of there by the other photographers. The last two were from 2012 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and again I scored the same access passes. Here, I was only using a Fuji FinePix S4250, but I got better quality than last time. They’re coming back to the U.S. in Sept. & Oct. & this time, I’ll at least be armed with a DSLR ~ Nikon D5200, with a Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm and a Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 55 – 300mm lens. Mediocre, I know, but I can’t afford the lenses I really want, so I can make do with what I have.

    • Good job Kim! Congrats on getting decent results even with point and shoot cameras. I am sure the next time you shoot Scorpions the pics will be awesome.

      • Kim Baxter

        Thanks Matthias ~ I definitely will have better gear for the Scorps when they come back this fall. My new Nikon D5200 has been so good to me, even though it’s a step down from the real heavy players, I know I’ll get great shots. I’ll test that out in April when we go to see Michael Schenker & Herman Rarebell in Colorado. Really excited to photograph them!

    • Kimmie Alexandre


  • Bernd

    I got into concert-photography by accident when I was still working as a journalist for a local newspaper. I had an Interview with 4Lyn and I didn’t even want to see the show but the band invited me and so I got my first AAA-Pass. It was in 2007 and I was using a Canon 10D with a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 Lense. I used the camera till 2012 I think and I am still using the 24-70 f2.8 as my main lense. I never shot in RAW until 2013 and hardly used post-production.

    • thanks for sharing your story Bernd. The 24-70mm (Nikon on a full frame body) is also my go-to lens. However you don´t need all the fancy equipment and the latest camera models to get great concert photos. Cool capture!

  • James Diaz

    Is a Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm lens a good start? I know I’ll have to buy a better lens which is fine, which do you suggest? Thanks !

    • Hi James. It depends on the lighting situation on stage. For smaller stages where there is almost always low light I would suggest the 50mm f1.8 if you are on a budget. The most important point is that your lens has a small aperture or f number such as f1.8, f2.8. Your 18-55mm has f numbers like 5.6 which means that not so much light will hit the camera sensor and therefore you´re pics might turn out too dark or blurred.

  • Selçuk C Erenerol

    Hello Matthias! I currently use a Sony a6000 with 35mm 2.8 zeiss and 85mm 1.4 samyang (plus the crop factor). I bought this little monster for street photography purposes after using 35mm film cameras. lastly I started to shoot concerts because I love shooting portraits and as a drummer music & live performences too, so why not combining both! but I have seen the difficulty of the lacking ISO quality of the mirrorless’ so now I’m thinking of eos 6D or nikon D610 in order to take my passion to the next level.

    to cut it short I would like to share some of my shots captured with a6000 and 85mm 1.4 samyang of Fink from his Istanbul concert and also a DJ performance which was also my first photography job. I would really like to hear your critiques about my shootings (I mostly share them on Instagram and VSCO, so I’m gonna leave my name below if it’s OK with you) thank you in advance!


    Chris Selçuk Erenerol

    Instagram: @7grFilm

  • Dawn

    Thank you for sharing your expertise. Almost all of my concert photography needs to be stealth so a DSLR is out. Any photos I take are for personal use only, so they don’t need to be professional quality, just good enough for an 8 x 10 print. So, my question is, for concert photography, which is more important, a powerful zoom or a larger sensor? Whoever can design a non-system camera with both will be my hero. For example, the newer large sensor compacts like the Panasonic LX100 (4/3 sensor) and Sony RX100III (1″ sensor) have zooms of only 3.1x and 2.9x respectively. On the other hand, I can get a slightly larger than typical sensor with an Olympus Stylus 1 (1/1.7″) and have 10.7x zoom capability. I realize 10.7x is not exactly a superzoom, but the compact superzooms I have found all have 1/2.3″ sensors.

    ‘If you’re a tech junkie, go ahead and read all the reviews and reports
    on the web. I’m sure you will successfully procrastinate for the next
    few months, reading, thinking, discussing and rethinking the choices
    over and over again.’

    Yep that’s me. I need some assistance pulling the lever. Help!

  • zastrow21

    Hi Matthias! Just wanted to say thanks for all this information. I shot my first concert this past weekend in Colorado and even though I noticed things I need to improve on, I thought the pictures came out really great because I took what I learned here and applied it. Nikon D3300 50mm 1.8 @ 1/250 1600-3200 ISO

  • Kirsty

    Hi Matthias!

    Just wondering what starter cameras you think is best for concert photography that won’t cost me an arm and a leg? I have a canon 1100D with a 50mm lens for portraits, and I tried to use it for a concert (small venue) but the camera performs really badly in low light. Thank you!

  • Midori

    I know the last post was 7 months ago but hoping my question can be answered. My friend suggested i get a Nikon D5200 to start out with which i purchased and it came with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens and i was given in a bundle Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens as well as a 52mm 2x pro telephoto lens and a 52mm high definition 0.45x wide angle lens. I know the aperture is low but until i am able to get another lens this is what i have. Suggestions for using in low lighting? I have a show this tuesday i will use to test and i can get pretty close without being in peoples way so distance is not an issue. Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

  • Kevin Bergin

    As bad a lens as it is for concert photography, one of my favorite shots came via the 18-55. A broken 24-70 (crowdsurfer) left me with nothing but a long lens and the kit lens to shoot on a smaller stage. Using it as an 18mm f3.5 prime isn’t *that* bad, it’s just limiting. Moral of the story is to always have a backup plan just in case!

  • These photos are shot from : Canon Powershot SX 230 and here is the video from it:

    It comes in point and shoot category and there are few more options in the same:

  • Gumbylives

    Having been a lover of live music…since forever, I decided to start combining my love of photography and music. Here is one of my shots from the first time I ever shot a band live – Art Bergmann. Nikon D80 – 35mm 1.8.
    I now have a D7100 and use a 24-70mm 2.8 lens along with the 35 mm .

    This is not my best – but ended up being used for various tour posters and from that point on I have been published in several magazines and newspapers thus building a good solid foundation locally.

    I am now stuck in a limbo of trying to acquire larger magazines/publications/websites to hire me to shoot for them live.

    Thank you Matthias as you keep my motivation going.


    Sharon Steele

  • AndyH

    Just shot my 2nd show with a d3200 and the 50mm f/1.8, I’m in love with this lens already
    The nifty fifty is fantastic!

  • Domingos Ambrosio

    This is one of the first concerts I shoot, nikon D70s with Sigma 24-70mm f2.8

  • Helena Granjo

    well I didn’t have money for a slr, so I started with a Sony DSCH9, when I could I bought a Canon 60D and the nifty fifty 50mm1.8, still hoping to buy a full frame camera

  • Sean Shore

    I started shooting small local shows with my canon 550d and the basic zoom lens. 2 years on I still have the 550d but have upgraded my lenses and bought a fish eye just to see what I could create with it.

    Since starting out I have now started photographing some of the UKs top rock bands included skindred, while she sleeps and asking Alexandria and have also toured around the uk, all with practically the same equipment i started off with.

    My work can be found at: although I am slow to update it so checking out my Facebook would be better! 🙂

  • Ruth Spicer

    I started out with a Nikon D3000. Then moved up to a Nikon D5200 and now the Nikon D7100. I currently have several lenses of which are the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8; the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8, the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and the Nikkor Prime 35mm f/1.8. I just got approved for my first photo pit concert with Steve Miller Band & 38 Special. Also have media passes for the King Biscuit Blues Festival and have applied for a media pass to the Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Fest. I’m the official photographer for the Blues Society of Northwest FL and just started doing photography for Rock Legends Photographers & A Better DJ/Blues Festival Photography. I would dearly love to win one of your premium packages for all my upcoming events and festivals.

  • I started with an old Nikon D50 crop sensor camera, whose ISO only goes up to 1600. I used the Nikon Nikkor 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 that came with it, plus a Sigma 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 for shots from further away. I have just graduated to a Nikon D750 with a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 and hoping to add a 70-200 f/2.8 and 12-24 f/4.5-5.6 before too long.

  • jessebarnett

    I’ve only been shooting for the last year. I’m using a Nikon D5100 with the 50mm 1.8 and the 35mm 1.8. I’m renting a 24-70 2.8 for an upcoming music conference to try it out. Here’s a shot from the They Might Be Giants show last week in Boston.

  • Brent Schroeyens

    I started out in Augsut 2013 rather unexpected with a Sony α230 with a standard zoom lens attached to it lying around in our house.
    A half year later I decided to kickstart my photographing carreer and received a Nikon D610 from my godfather on New Years.
    Picture attached is from my first concert I ever shot (taken with the Sony camera).

    • Is it Atlas Losing Grip?

      • Brent Schroeyens

        It’s The Hickey Underworld, a Belgian band.

  • Sara Henderson Stearns

    Honestly? My IPhone 5!! I hope to buy a Cannon soon. I am truly new, but have always had a passion for capturing emotion on camera.

  • Matt Lambert

    I started out with a Canon XSi (450D) and standard lens package, but a few months after I picked up the 50mm f1.8 after a photographer pal and former college newspaper editor of mine told me about the “nifty fifty.”

  • Started out about three and a half / four years ago with a Nikon D3000 and a 50mm f/1.8 (which I still regularly use)

  • Alistair Fleming


    Alistair from Glasgow Scotland. I have a Canon 500D with a Tamron 16mm – 300mm f3.5/f6.3 lens. Not ideal perhaps for concerts but otherwise a really good lens. I have been going to small local gigs for afew years now & really enjoy it. I would like to get an F2.8 lens with 200mm as it difficult to get very close without annoying everbody around you.

  • MDK2002

    I started out with a Nikon D60 and kit lenses.

  • Luis

    First concert was a local act in Guadalajara Mexico at a local bar called Old Jacks which already closed. I shot with the Nikon D5100 and the Nikon 50mm 1.8 which was a pain since it was the manual focus ones so I struggled with manual focusing the band… Though I got some good results…

  • Matias

    Hi !! I started to shoot live concerts a year ago with a Canon 60D & Canon 24mm f/2.8 and two or three months later I got the Canon 50mm f/1.4. I hope this year I can upgrade to full frame camera with a nice 24-70mm f/2.8.

    • Hanny

      how do you like the Canon 60D? I’m in need of upgrading camera’s and I’m debating on what to get next. I had the 20D, but as i shoot in low lighting shows, I need more ISO.

      • Nuno Gomes

        I shoot with the 10D soo I think we are in similar situations!!! its a 13 year old camera. but still produces realy nice images as you can see here

        yet I’d love to get a usable higher ISO… when pushing it more than 1600, completly ruined the image…

        • Hanny

          I just bought recently the 70D. I shoot low light venues and the iso on this crop sensor camera is incredible in my opinion. But after shooting with a nikon, i def would like a full frame next.

  • Dom Graham

    Canon 60D, 50mm f1.4. done a couple of local gigs but this Saturday I am lucky enough to be the official photographer for an upcoming awesome rock band called The Sherlocks at their gig in Manchester. #very_excited! I’ll have a final read of Matthias’ freebie ebook before I go!!!

  • Sara Robins

    Hi Matthias! My first DSLR was a Nikon D5000. I quickly moved up to the set up I have now which is a Nikon D800, I LOVE the thing! I have the 50mm 1.8 , 85mm 1.8 and the 24 -70mm 2.8 with me at all shows. My 24-70mm has become my go to lens…but I have to say my 85mm 1.8 has my heart. I dont mind moving my butt to get the shot. Lol! Can’t be shy when shooting music, but always respectful. I love your blog, I can use all the tips I can get. It seems like making $$$ in this industry can be frustrating to say the least. That is where I could use solid advice. 🙂 Your awesome Matthias thanks for your posts!

  • Sarah Brownlow

    I have a canon EOS 700D with a tamron 18 – 250 (not great in low light) and a canon 50mm 1.8 prime lens and currently I work these as best I can where I can. I have had the priviledge of borrowing a 5D and canon 24 – 70 mm 2.8 lens (I REEEALLY want this lens) and a 70 – 250 I think – both amazing and left me with huge lens envy 🙂 and some pretty ok shots really….Dear Santa…../Our father who art in heaven…./Please god etc. etc. lots of prayers to the skies above, I have been a very good girl this year 😉

  • Ingimar Hrímnir Skulason

    Iv had a Canon 1100D from the start, I had a 18-55 mm kit lense as I was learning but bought a Canon 50mm 1:1.4 ultrasonic later after reading and hearing from other photographers that it was essential for portraits. I borrow lenses from friends if I feel I need it but I mostly count on my 50mm for everything I shoot and have for the years after getting it.

  • Ingimar Hrímnir Skulason

    Iv had a Canon 1100D from the start, I had a 18-55 mm kit lense as I was learning but bought a Canon 50mm 1:1.4 ultrasonic later after reading and gearing from other photographers that it was essential for portraits. I borrow lenses from friends if I feel I need it but I mostly count on my 50mm for everything I shoot and have for the years after getting it.
    A shot from the latest concert I shot in Geneva of Ken Mode preforming – 50mm on my 1100D.

  • Tina Imoshdium

    I started as a concert photographer (only as a hobby) in 2014 on a metal concert. but this photos down below are from my last try this year in february. i am proud of them but there is so much i have to learn about the right techniques – i think. they’re were shot with nikon D3200 – 18mm f3.5 and ISO 3200.
    The nikkor 18-55mm lense is the first lense i’ve bought and i’m using this one since 2014.

    you can see other photos of my little career as a photographer on facebook:

    Rock on m/

  • Hmmm…Tried to log in with Facebook but it just keeps putting my Disqus account instead, so I will just link it at the bottom of the post.
    I shot photos of my first concert with a Canon AE1 35mm camera. I went to a Queensryche concert, and I had my camera in my car with me, and it is just happened that someone going into the concert told me if I had a camera bring it because they were allowing photography.

    More recently I have been using a Canon 40D, most of the time with my Canon EF 24-70 2.8L lens. I also have a Canon 50mm 1.8 and a Canon 85mm 1.8, and I use those also in some situations. I am about upgrade my camera (WAY past due for that! LOL) within the next couple of weeks.

    My personal Facebook page is here:

    And this is my business Facebook page:

  • kaani

    Hi! Thx for your updates^^ I guess my experience is pretty strange to you guys cuz I live in Japan and I don’t take concert pix in my country. I’ve been flying to Europe to see my favorite Norwegian band many years and I took photos sometimes with compact camera on automatic setting. Of course it didn’t work many times. Then I started to take pix of Korean artists and in my country we can’t take pix at the concerts so I go to China to take concert pix of Korean artists lately. You can take pix as many as you want without press pass in China. I used Fuji FinePix S1 at the beginning. I still love this camera, but when huge LED screen on the back of the stage, it didn’t work. My friend who brought both S1 and DSLR told me, DSLR worked. Then I decided to buy DSLR. Of course I’e checked this site and read through many times. I bought Nikon D750. Still I’m learning many about camera and shooting concert pix, but I really enjoy doing it. Just for fun, not become a professional actually but I do love taking pic at the concerts. Here’s one I took with D750. Not rock musician though.

  • Sarah Brownlow

    I use my canon 700d with a 50mm 1.8 prime and tamron 18 – 250 (but its not great in low light) im a beginner but enjoying the journey and one day i hope to afford a canon 24 – 70 2.8 🙂 (among other things 🙂

  • Allan Peterson

    My first indoor concert that I shot this spring. Shannon Curfman at a local casino. I shot it with a Canon T3i with a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens. i now us a Canon 7D.

  • John Mackenzie

    The site won’t let me post from my
    Mackenzie Photographics Facebook site so I have to post from my personal site .I’ve shot concerts on and off since 1988. But more seriously in the last couple years since I went digital .
    I’m using a Nikon d7000 and an 80-200 f2.8

    Attached are pics from the Newsboys
    And Red

  • Mae D. Sparrow

    I’m really new to concert photography, but j really love seeing all the awesome shots from the various photographers I follow. The only equipment I have a Canon Rebel T2i and the kit lense. I’m saving up to buy a 24-72mm lense soon though.

  • John Mackenzie

    Pics from Newsboys and Red
    I guess they did not show up on my last post

  • Joana Cardoso

    Hello! I started to shoot live concerts six years ago with a Sony a350 with 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 and 55-200mm f/4-5.6 lenses (kit). But soon I realized that I needed better equipment. One year after I upgraded to a Canon 50D with 18-200mm (kit) and bought a 50mm f/1.8. I’ve been shooting with them for 4 years. Last year I finally bought a 24-70mm f/2.8, and I couldn’t been happier. My next step is to upgrade to full frame camera and buy a 70-200mm f/2.8.

  • Pippa Smith

    I started with, and still do use a Canon 450d and my 55-250mm kit lens for most of my music festival photos. I tend to not get up too close to the stage so security leave me alone but I can still get some pictures that I’m told are pretty good for what I’m using. Obviously, I’d love to do better up closer without the risk of my camera being confiscated though!

  • Douglas Smith

    My camera used is a D600. But Ive also used a D7000 with a Nikon 28-70, 80-200 and Tokina 16-28. Love these lenses!

  • Linda Hellbom

    My very first camera was the legendary Kodak Caprice 110 but my first concert photos I took with some Minolta film camera before I bought my first digital camera Minolta DiMAGE 414 from a friend. After that I for a used long time the Canon Ixus 95 IS pocket camera. Nowadays I shoot most of my photos with Nikon D3200.

  • Eleonora Ladin

    HI, Matthias, i started with Canon 550 and 18-55 lens:) My first experience as concert photographer started at my favorite band concert, Scorpions , in 2010 🙂

  • Domen Ulbl

    When I first shot concerts at my highschool I used a 550D with 18-55 50 1.8 an 55-250

    Now I’m all nikon with D750 and 24-70 2.8

  • Andreas Schiffmann

    Well, a Nikon D90 with an AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm lens was and is my first camera. Having my eyes on the D810 now … I also own several other Nikon and Sigma lenses.

  • Stephanie Calcavecchio

    this is great information…I usually use my Canon EOS 5DMark II and a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 lens…

  • Alexander Twentythree

    My first camera .. wow .. was a good while back .. but I started with a Pentax K100 with a 50mm lens. After getting better at my craft and reading that war photographers used Nikon F cameras, I saved funds and got a Nikon F2. Here is a photograph I took when the Misfits got back together in 1995 with my F2 and trusty 50mm 2.8

  • Wouter van Noort

    I started out at a small venue in my hometown,
    At the time was using a Nikon D3200 and a 18-105 mm 3.5-5.6 kit lens,
    No experience whatsoever, and I got that camera just weeks before(first one I ever had).
    This is my best shot I took that evening,
    And from then, things started to move very fast!
    I’ve learned a lot along the way, also from you Matthias!

  • Helga D.

    Hi, Matthias!

    First of all, thank you for your informative and very helpful blog.
    My first camera was Canon 40D with 17-85mm f/4-5.6 kit lens which later was replaced with a Canon EF
    50mm 1.8 II. This equipment was good and reliable and helped me a lot in the beginning.

  • Richard Bolwell

    The first concert I sohot was less than a year. I shot with a Nikon D3100 and a hired 28-200 f/3.5 lens. I didn’t know much about concert photography at that point and struggled to get interesting, sharp and in focus After trawling through the thousands of images I did however manage to find a handfull of useable images.

  • Sakkajohn Minanond

    I just start into photography in last 3 years. Here is Guthrie Govan with the Aristocrats here in Thailand last year.

    I shot this shot with Eos 100D +55-250 EFS….. Not a low-light favorite gear but for a starter, I think it is great, especially on outdoor activity.

    Today, maybe I will test Tamron 70-300MM F/4-5.6 Di VC USD with 6D on a club concert.Want to check that how much can I push this combination.

    I think the other interesting combination for APSC sensor camera is 85 prime.
    For Canon, you will get 136 mm. on crop, pretty good for candid and concert. I tried this once, get a nice result.

  • Flemming Grøn

    This is all good and well – I like this discussion very much, but at the end of the day when standing in the row to get into the venue, security will in 99% of all cases tell you that you are not alllowed to use a DSLR at the concert, so you are left to use a point&shoot in far the most cases. Not all people are professionals like Mathias are lucky to be licenced to use a DSLR.
    What about some good advice using point&shoot? Many of these have numerous and pretty advanced settings. Here’s one I made of Chris Rea using an Olympus SH1 – very cheap camera.

  • Hugo Moreira

    This is the first concert I’ve ever shot. I did it with a basic Canon 1100D with the 18-55mm f4.5-5.6 lens. What can you tell me about the photo, what should I do to improve?
    Thank you so much for the tips

  • Nyoman.Sarja.Wiryadi

    hi mathias, i’m new to stage photo. started with 60d and 18-135mm lense and then i decided to go after 5d classic + 50mm 1.4

    i find it really fun shooting stage performers, especially music performer. any suggestion for wider lens?

    really hope to see u in person!


  • Zebure

    The first concert that i took pictures one, was drawing big monster tour, 2013 in Stockholm. At that time, I used a simple digital camera. Samsung wb700..nowadays I use a compact camera, the Lumix -FZ70.

    I have very little knowledge about modes on the camera However, I love to take Pictures.

    Eletric Banana Band (Lumix -FZ70
    Kizz( Samsung Wb700)

  • Ester Nogueira

    Hi! first of all, thank you for this posts. I’ve been spending all my sleepless nights reading this! i’m 20 years old and since the first time i had a camera on my hands i knew who i wanted to become. and i’m on my way to it! I’m going to london to study photography. But i’m really passionate about shooting music shows! and looking at your pictures just give me more strength to reach my goals. i really wanna get to this point of knowing something about everything in photography. I really don’t see myself doing anything else but this. I wanted to look for jobs to practice and improve my skills but unfortunately in my country (Portugal) we barely survive through photography and the offers are very low.
    Since everyone is sending their pictures… i guess i will do the same and share with you some of my amateur almost-talent. I shot this pic with a Canon 650D and 50mm 1.8 lens. it may not be the best one technically but it’s probably the one that i like the most, because of the lights and b&w effect and the contrast. It was the first concert that I shot. I’m starting to invest in some new equipment. specially the lenses. And in the future i want to buy a canon 5D Mark III.

    Well, thank you very much for this awesome reading moment. and keep going with the amazing shots!

  • Brandilion

    Helloooo! I’m going to a stadium concert in a few days, and I have floor seats pretty close to the end of the catwalk stage. I have a Canon T2i and I’m wondering if it would be best to bring a 50mm f1.8 or my 55-250mm? After reading this article, I think the 50mm would be best but I just wanted to ask for another opinion. I’ll definitely post my photo results when I get back! 🙂

  • Christine Miller-Ramey

    Hi there, I’m a concert photographer as well, and I shoot mostly southern gospel concerts. I’ve been thinking about getting a new lens for my camera and shoot with a Nikon D3200….have always been a Nikon user. I’m just wondering what should I get to get close up when the artist is far away from me, without spending a fortune on it. I don’t have that kind of money to spend on it. So, I’m just wondering if there are any brands other than the nikkor lenses that would work for what I’m going for on budget. HELP! Here is my blog, I’ve been very happy with my camera, and it has done well, but want something to get closer in to the artists. I’m not always able to get up close. Just because of the sitting arrangements at most concerts. Any help is appreciated thanks. 🙂

  • Cina Nguyen

    I just started shooting concerts a week ago. I’m starting out with a 35mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.8. I’m currently using a crop sensor camera, Nikon d5200. I’m happy with the shots I’ve been capturing but I want more. I want a more wide angle lens. However, im On a bit of a budget. What lens would you recommend for a beginner for concert photography. A wide angle lens. I’ve attached two images of the recent shows. I’m pleased with the results but eventually I would like to be able to capture images of the entire band all in one photo. Or action shots of the artist with their entire body in the frame. Thanks!!

  • Adam Lindley

    Awesome tips, for someone who never gets in the photo pit but gets the best seats they can, Ive been thinking about a mirrorless ( Olympus E-M5 is the one Im currently checking out ). In Australia we are limited to what we can take in – they specify no removable lenses ( em5 is small enough that both will fit in my pockets in reasonably loose pants ) otherwise Id go for a dslr – any tips or other recommendations ??

    • Hi Adam, it´s the same here in Austria – no cameras with removable lenses. It all depends where you want to go with concert photography. Would you like to take snapshots from the audience and go with a mirrorless system. If you want to raise one step above, than get a decent DSLR crop camera and start shooting in small clubs. I wrote an ebook which covers how to get started here:

  • Kim VanHorn Distin

    What bridge camera would you recommend for venues that do not allow cameras with removable lenses in?

    • Hi Kim. Honestly saying I have never used bridge cameras, but the important options are always the same. Low aperture number and high ISO capabilities. I am using a Fuji XT-1 which is a mirrorless camera and I am able to shoot at ISO 6400. So, have a look at these two pararmeters first.

  • Kimmie Alexandre

    After dabbling a bit I’ve discovered I love shooting various stage performances. The shots attached were both with a Nikon D5200 / 55-300mm f/4.5. At night. I decided that on the budget at the time if I could make what I had work, shooting with the correct lens for the job would be wicked cool. Here’s to forever learning and creating. :).

    One pic is Rick Springfield and the other is Stephanie Calvert of Starship. Both were taken st Epcot.

    • thanks for sharing your photos Kimmie! If you get enough light on stage lenses with an aperture of 4.5 can also work well. This holds especially true for bigger stages.

  • Carmen

    I went to a small rock concert last week, I was at the front with my Nikon D3300 and standard lens 18mm – 55mm but my photos were most out of focus or blurred, total disaster! the lights were red and blue so this didn’t help either.
    I used Shutter Speed Mode at 1/60 or 1/80, couldn’t go either as the photos were too dark otherwise, aperture at f3/5 (the minimum I could use) and ISO1600-3200.
    What I did wrong? How can I improve this?

    • hi Carmen, The problem is the lens with an aperture of f3.5-5.6. Since too less light can enter the camera, the shutter speed is very slow. Normally I would say use a shutter speed of 1/200sec or faster to freeze the action on stage. So, the 1/60sec are responsible for your blurred photos. It seems the stage lighting was really dark too, so ISO 3200 won´t help you much either.

      Solution: like I also wrote in one of my blog articles:

      you need a lens with a low aperture number like f1.8 or f2.8. f2.8 wouldn´t help you either under these light conditions and therefore I would suggest to get either the 50mm f1.8 or the 35mm f1.8 prime lens. You won´t have the ability to zoom anymore, but you can take great shots even in almost dark stage lighting conditions.

      Hope that helps and let me know if you have any other questions

      Rock on,


  • Eva Ule

    I want to take photos at a concert tonight; I have Nikon d3300 and my aperture is 5.6 (minimum). Is that okay? And how should I set my ISO? Also I have 0-55 lens, but it’s a smaller concert so it’s not a problem

  • Jonathan Edwards

    Hey Now! Great site! Just starting some live concert photography. Using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i with just the stock lens of EFS-18-55mm and EFS 55-250mm macro which is all I have at the moment. Borrowing a friends Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II for a show this weekend and am excited to have a better lens. I have had some pretty good results so far. I am in the market for a better low light lens and am hoping one day to get a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens. Is that a good choice?

  • Jessi McPeek

    I shoot a lot of local musicians just as a hobby. I have just really started getting into it in the last three months since the original music scene is starting to grow in my area. This shot was taken with a Canon Rebel T3 with 50mm f/1.8 at one of the most recent shows. (no post processing)

  • Lou

    Hi, these tips really helped me! I did my first concert shoot last week and I’m actually pretty proud with how I did. I actually thought I wouldn’t get any good shots! So I pleased when they were actually pretty decent, but most importantly I’ve had a lot of fun and now I know that I really want to grow and become a better photographer. I included a picture of my first concert shoot. So thank you so much!

  • Buster

    Took this last night at an Adele concert in Vancouver – I love my little point-and-shoot cheapie because of the great zoom and it’s great in low light, but I always find my pictures look “gummy” – not sharp or crystal clear. Any recommendations on a replacement?

  • Fred E. Byrd

    I only have a Canon 60d and need to know what lens to buy to get sharper, higher quality photos during dim concerts – on a budget.

  • jimn

    I’ve used the Canon G9 for years but the lens isn’t fast enough for dark concerts. I’ve been waiting for a small and super fast compact for sometime and it appears that Panasonic is releasing one I’ll finally buy. It has a 1.4-2.8 lens with 3x optical zoom and LEICA lens.