One Approach to Concert Photography

Machine Head @ Mayhem Fest

The photo pit is a brutal place.

Q&AOne approach to concert photography: When the lights go down, if you're in the photo pit with me, I want to destroy you. After the first three songs, then we can be friends.

Todd,

I have quickly become an admirer of your work, particularly the unique angles and texture of your photos. One questions:

How do you approach the “photo pit” at bigger shows. It seems like such a recipe for cookie-cutter photography, but you get some really unique stuff. So I am curious how you approach those assignments.

Thanks, and keep up the inspiring work.

All the best,
Rich Copley

Hi Rich, thanks for the question.

At the risk of sounding brazen, my professional approach with every concert I photograph is simply to make the best set of images that anyone will see from that show or tour. Which is not to say this happens, of course – but as I concert photographer, this is my high goal for every event.

When I enter the photo pit with other photographers – to paraphrase to the former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson – “My main objective is to be professional but to kill them.”

At the heart of this healthy sense of competition is really simply a drive to make great images, which is more essential than any technique or specific game plan on entering the photo pit. As we all know, the variables for any given concert are going to be myriad and defiant, but one's determination for excellence can be a powerful constant. Everything else is simply a means to an end.

In this regard, the real competition in the pit is simply with myself. I have a keen desire to push myself and improve on what I've done. In contrast to my professional goal of world domination, my personal goal is simply to make one portfolio-grade image with every show.

While it's true that the conditions of many concerts – from difficult lighting to confined shooting positions – may seem like they'd create a fairly bland collection of images between present photographers, restrictions can also foster creative solutions to overcome mediocrity.

When one is hungry enough to execute the best possible work, everything else – working the angles, attention to lighting, killer composition, hustle, and perfect timing – falls in line. Will is more important than skill, because the latter is finite. Determination (and a little luck) can make miracles happen.

What's Your Approach to Concert Photography?

What are you goals when entering the photo pit? What's your approach to concert photography?

My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography

Nikon D750:
I use two Nikon D750 for my live music photography. Amazing high ISO performance in a compact body with tons of pro features.
nikon-24-70mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 24-70mm f/2.8:
For most gigs, the 24-70mm is my go-to lens. Exceptional image quality at wide apertures and super-functional range.
Nikon-70-200-squareNikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR:
A perfect pair to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, I can basically shoot any job with the midrange and this lens. Superb image quality.
nikon-14-24mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 14-24mm f/2.8:
Ultra-wide perspective, ridiculously sharp even wide open at f/2.8. I love using this lens up-close and personal, where it excels.
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