Concert photography: Shoot Your First Concert

James Blake, Electronic Beats Festival, 20121010, Arena, Vienna, Austria

When you’re new to concert photography, it can all be a bit overwhelming at the beginning. Which clubs and concerts should I choose to shoot my first concert? What about my camera settings? Do I need a flash? Should I ask the band beforehand? In this blogpost “Shoot your first concert” I´ll unveil my experiences as concert photographer and help you to get a good start with your first concert.


Start in small clubs

The first advice I can give you is to start taking photos of concerts in small, local clubs. In these venues, you can almost always get in with your digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera without any limitations (read here to get advice on your first camera gear). For bigger venues you need a press accreditation, but don´t worry too much about it now. So, starting out in small venues is the easiest way for you to get some experience as a concert photographer. Check out which clubs allow you to enter with your camera equipment first. You can just go to concerts of these clubs beforehand. If there are security guards at the entrance and they check your bags, then you obviously can not enter and take photos with your digital SLR camera. (Some venues allow small pocket cameras, but you want to become a concert photographer, right?). So, the first step is to make sure there is no restriction in taking photos in the club.

Once you found a suitable venue, you want to search for cool concerts. The best way is to have a look at the following sources:

  • club/venue homepage
  • local newspapers
  • local blogs
  • event webpages
  • music magazines

And believe me, it doesn’t matter where you live, there will always be a club with some bands playing.

I AM X, 20131413, Arena, Vienna, Austria - shoot your first concert

I AM X Nikon D700 50mm@f1.8 1/200sec ISO 3200


Your first concert: Don’t be late!

Once you’ve found a concert you’d like to attend, (why not ask some friends who play in a band and offer them your skills?) buy a ticket and make sure you’re there on time. Being late to your first concert can give you a nervous breakdown if you have to push through to the first row and fiddle around with your camera settings whilst the band is already halfway through their playlist. Not good. Be there at least 1-2 hours before the show. If you recognize the band, either whilst they’re doing their sound- check or hanging around in the club, kindly ask if they mind you taking photos of them tonight. Most of the bands will be glad that there’s someone who’s thrilled by their music and will see it as an honor to be photographed by you.

Position yourself in front of the stage and respect other people who also want to enjoy and have paid for the concert. Then the concert starts! All of a sudden, the club lights go out, the only light is coming from some blue and red spotlights flickering away, the band enters the stage and a wall of sound smashes into your face. You grab your camera with your 50mm lens f1.8 ( , set the camera to automatic mode and — BAM — the little flash monster sitting on top of your camera pops up and throws the ugliest light you can think of onto the singer’s face. Not only is the poor guy half-blinded and irritated, but your photo will also look like sh*t. At this point, a lot of frustrated beginners just take their cameras home and never shoot a concert again.

So what’s going on? If you want to know which camera settings I use read my blogpost: Concert Photography Settings for Beginners here!

Where did you shoot your first concert? Tell me in the comment section below