Music Photography Gear Guide

For anyone interested in pursuing live music photography, AKA “low-light action portraiture,” the issue of the most appropriate equipment is an inevitable question. Below are my recommendations for the best cameras and equipment for music photography.

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DSLRs for Music Photography

I shoot with two cameras for my music photography work. The reason is that it cuts down on lens changes immensely and this efficiency allows me to focus more on capturing the moments I want to.

My current personal setup includes a pair of Nikon D750 and a Nikon D500. The D750 give me two identical bodies that are high performance but still lightweight and compact, and big on image quality, especially high ISO. The D500 serves as my go-to distance DSLR, making my 70-200mm into a sweet 135-300mm at an effective f/2.8, or pairing with my Nikon 300mm f/4 VR for a crushing 450mm effective super telephoto.

Nikon D5
Nikon D750 Nikon D500
The flagship Nikon D5 is probably the best choice for event photographers that Nikon has to offer when money is no object. Insanely quick, excellent high ISO performance, and a great balance between resolution and manageable file sizes for work in the field.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 1D X

I personally use two D750 bodies for my live music photography. The high ISO performance, AF and overall speed are all excellent and up to the challenge of shooting gigs. For portraits, I still use the still-amazing Nikon D800, which has the edge in resolution, but I have come to love the smaller size and quality of the Nikon D750.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 5D Mark III

The D500 is an APS-C or crop sensor DSLR, which gives an effective 1.5x to all full-frame lenses. I have been using the D500 to excellent effect as a way to get closer to the action for soundboard shoots and festivals, where position can be limited and distances can be large. The AF on the D500, which is the same as the that of the D5, is absolutely a killer for action.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 7D Mark II 

f/2.8 Lenses for Music Photography

I use three zooms as my main lenses for music photography: the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. These lenses cover 14-200mm in a highly effective manner, all in a fast f/2.8 aperture. For concert photography, the constant aperture is a tremendous boon. These lenses rule the arena, amphitheater, and larger club shows.

With all of these three zooms, I never hesitate to shoot wide open if the situations calls for it; they offer excellent image quality at f/2.8 with no exception.

nikon-14-24mm-f28-lens nikon-24-70mm-f28-lens Nikon-70-200
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR
The 14-24mm is a lens that makes other photographers cry. Ultra-wide perspective, ridiculously sharp even wide open at f/2.8. I love using this lens up-close and personal for maximum effect.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II

Nikon's standard zoom, this 24-70mm features exceptional image quality at wide apertures – perfect for concerts. I shoot this lens wide open without hesitation. For most gigs, the 24-70mm is my go-to lens.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II

Right after a midrange zoom, I consider a good 70-200mm an essential piece of kit for live music photography. A must-have for close-ups and drummer shots at larger arena & amphitheater shows.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS

Prime Lenses for Music Photography

Even with the jaw-dropping performance from top of the line cameras like the Nikon D3s and D700, there are just some situations that still call for fast primes. These three lenses get the job done in light that makes f/2.8 lenses weep. In my kit, I use the 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 extensively at club shows.


af-s-nikkor-50mm-f-1.4g_front af-s_nikkor_85mm_f1.4g
Nikon 24mm f/1.4
Nikon 50mm f/1.4
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
If you need a fast wide-angle lens, the new Nikon 24mm f/1.4 is basically the only game in town. Nikon has thrown in all the bells and whistles with this lens, and with the $2,000+ price tag, I'd expect nothing less.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 24mm f/1.4L

A 50mm f/1.4 prime is the cheapest f/1.4 you'll use, and a great entry into low light photograph. While the 50mm focal length on APS cameras like the  D300s is a little tight for my tastes, I love this lens on the D4.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 50mm f/1.2L or Canon 50mm f/1.4

On full-frame, the 85mm focal length is great for tighter shots of band members, and especially singers and drummers. For DX cameras, the 85mm offers a narrow field of view that's great for headshots.

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Canon Alternative: 
Canon 85mm f/1.2L or Canon 85mm f/1.8

Recommended Accessories

These are the accessories that I use for my work. Recommended for any music photographer.

 ety-plug_standard black_rapid_double_strap_7704 sandisk-32gb-cf
ER-20 Earplugs
Black Rapid Double Strap
SanDisk Extreme Pro CF
These Etymotic Research earplugs are great for lowering the levels of live music while still maintaining clarity. Perfect for musicians, and great for music photographers as well. These also come in a “BabyBlues” smaller size for better comfort for those with more narrow ear canals.


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The Double-Strap by Black Rapid is my preferred way to carry and shoot with two camera bodies. DSLRs are kept at waist-level and at the ready, while the harness system keeps the weight well balanced. Indispensable for concert photography with two bodies.


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For my images, I prefer SanDisk CF cards. With newer, UDMA-enabled cameras like the D3 and D700, the write-speeds amazingly fast. I shoot with 168GB cards, which have more than enough space for most three-song live music shoots.


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General Recommendations

Just starting out? Please see my article Choosing Lenses for Concert Photography first. Considering the ubiquitous low light of indoor venues, song limits, energetic performances, and the generally frenetic pace of rock shows, the proper gear can ease some of the intimidating constraints of concert photography.

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There are 345 comments

Add yours
  1. Stephen

    Well it’s early days still but I really like the feel of the 17-55 and the results have been great so far! Can’t wait to try it out properly… I don’t know why I waited so long to get it!

  2. Todd

    Stephen, ha, you’re right. After the Flaming Lips debacle, I have a new bit of gear at my disposal. By the way, how’s the 17-55 treating you?

  3. tricia

    Can I pick your brains?, what would you recommend for an amatuer who likes taking photo’s at gigs but I usually end up with dark grainy shots, I use a kodak p850.

  4. Todd

    Hi Tricia,

    I’d recommend looking at some of the entry-level DSLRs like the Nikon D40x and Canon 400D. These cameras are going to offer much better low light performance than your current camera, especially paired with a lens more suitable for concert photography.

    Hope this helps — let me know if there are more specific recommendations I can give, I’m happy to help.

  5. julia

    hi todd,
    i’ve actually picked up your website a couple different ways in the past month and really love it. so thanks for that first off..

    secondly i’m about to purchase a P&S camera for taking to concerts. short answer as to why i’m not getting an slr is that i’m not looking to go professional.. do you have any recommendations for me?

  6. Todd

    Hi Julia,

    Glad you’ve found the site and have enjoyed it. For a concert photography P&S, I would recommend the Fuji F30, F31, F40, and F50 cameras. The F30 and F31 are now discontinued, but offer very nice high ISO quality for such a compact camera. The newer F40 and the F50 that replaces it both have more megapixels, which unfortunately means a little more noise, but shooting at a lower resolution actually seems to render good results with these two.

    These Fuji cameras would be my first suggestions for compact concert camera. Hope this helps.


    • Sam T.

      Hey Todd! I’m a start-up music/fashion photographer ( in high-schoo) I was wondering if ypu wouldn’t mind checking out my site, maybe giving me some advice? Your ork is awesome dude!

      • Todd

        Hi Sam, your work is looking good! I particularly think your personal work section is really strong. With music, be sure to really only share the very best from each gig — I think this will be something to change as you cover more shows. Keep up the good work.

  7. Nic

    You’ve got a long gear list there. If I want to start out slow & I have a Nikon d70….which lens do you think I should purchase first for concert photography? which two, and list in order…


  8. Todd

    Hey Nic,

    For the first show I shot, I used a D70 and the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 that is listed above. You can see shots from that show here.

    I’d be happy to suggest a kit plan for you, though I think it would depend on a few things, but namely budget and the types of venues you will be shooting in.

    However, without that info, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 is a very nice lens on the D70 — while it’s wide aperture performance on the more unforgiving D2x is not that great, the lens is very sharp on the D70.

    Beyond the 50mm, it depends on the venues. If you’re starting off in smaller venues were you’ll be close to the stage, the Nikon 35mm f/2 or Sigma 30mm f/1.4 will be very useful.

    Though it’s large and expensive, the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 is my favorite concert lens for a variety of reasons, including its range, constant aperture, and great performance at f/2.8. If I could only have one lens at the front of the stage, light permitting, I would pick this one without hesitation for most shows.

    If you get back to me with a budget and more info on the types of gigs you’ll be shooting, I can give you some more suggestions.


  9. Don Talley

    I’m brand new to the world of concert photography and due to budgetary limitations, will be starting with a Canon Rebel XTi. Concert Photography will be a hobby for me rather than a business.
    I’ve done quite a bit of reading on the ‘net to determine what lenses I should go after for my typical venues which will be small dimly lit clubs where I’ll be up close to the stage.
    Your website has been the most helpful and clearly written information… far.
    Found your site via the Flickr concert photo site.

    Thanks for putting together such a great site.

  10. Todd

    Hey Don,

    It’s great to hear that this site has been helpful to you, thanks very much for the kind words. The Rebel XTi is capable of producing some very nice files at high ISO, so I wouldn’t be afraid to crank up the ISO when the light is low. Regarding lenses, let me know if I can be of any help, I’d be happy to make suggestions.

    Thanks again, I’m glad to share any info I can.


  11. Ebony

    Todd, OMG! You totally inspire me! For the longest I have done some concert photography on & off. I have connections with the radio stations and clubs in my area [Little Rock, Ark.], but I have been really afraid to go ahead and jump on in the concert photography business, itself. I already do some portraiture and other freelance jobs, and I do live off of my photography work. I am just having a hard time making sure that I am getting paid what I am worth and not selling myself short. When you got started, how did you go about setting your pricing???

    Thank you for your excellent work!!!

  12. Todd

    Hey Ebony,

    Thanks for getting in touch, I’m flattered the work and/or anything on the site has inspired you. Your connections sound like the perfect in for stepping up your concert photography work.

    I should say that portraiture and other commercial photography is another game, and that it’s really quite difficult to make a living doing solely music photography. And as I imagine you’ve found out, being paid all can be a struggle!

    I think that for concert photographers starting out, there’s really a tough decision between the temptation to give images away for nothing to get a foot in the door, and the real need to be recognized for images and the value they bring to the music industry.

    My advise would be to establish a price list for web images and full-resolution, royalty-free images. You may decide to break out two price lists for unsigned bands, those on indie labels, and then prices for major label artists.

    Feel free to comment or e-mail me if you have any specific questions.


  13. Solange Moreira Yeoell

    Hi, I always like having a look at your pictures in here too.
    It is a nice site. All the info and help, you’re great.
    I don’t know if I said before but your shots are inspiring. They are gorgeously done.
    Thanks for the visit in my flickr. I love music and I am an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Every gig I get to I need to try to capture some of the moment as best as I can and with what I am allowed in. It’s fun to hide from security, they always think my sony DSC-H2 is a pro cam, I wish, it would save me lots of money.
    I was amazed when you wrote that the shot of VHS or Beta was taken at 1600 ISO, amazing results, I know it’s a small file but it shows no noise and brilliant details. As most of your shots really.
    I have been in a fun Canon x Nikon debate the other day and I have to swallow my pride being a canon user but the live shots and photographers I enjoy most in flickr use Nikon. Shame, shame or maybe I am just dreaming, hehe.
    What do you think?
    I’ll be coming back to appreciate your work. Good Luck and take care. xx

  14. Todd

    Hey Solange,

    Thanks very much for the feedback, I appreciate it. I’m glad to hear you enjoy the site and work. To hear that the images are inspiring is a very high compliment to me.

    It sounds like you have the very heart of the best music photographers in your intentions. When we love the music, I think it shows in our images.

    Yes, almost all the VHS or Beta shots were made at ISO 1600, which is where I often shoot. Shooting at ISO 800 is a rare luxury.

    I don’t buy into Canon vs Nikon debates very much — the camera I use is hardly new, and yet I think I manage along with it well enough. Also, I shoot Nikon and my brother shoots Canon, but we’re perfectly friendly to each other, ha.

    If there’s anything I leave out on the concert write-ups that you’d like to know, please let me know.

    Thanks again for your comment.


  15. Rick

    Hi Todd,

    First off, I would like to say that I admire not only your work, but your overall willingness to share & teach. Too often, photographers give each other the cold shoulder when it comes to tips & tricks of the trade, almost like they are magicians who don’t want to share their secrets with other magicians.

    Anyway, I wanted to get your thoughts on how I could maximize the overall quality of my concert photos. Too often, the images end up either too noisy, fuzzy, motion blurred, etc.

    I am shooting with a FinePix Fuji S2 Pro (Nikon body) with a Tamron 28-200mm zoom lense at 1600 ISO.

    Don’t get me wrong, I end up with a lot of awesome shots, but out of every 100 shots, maybe 30 or more are unusable. I blame bad lighting for most of it, but what tips can you give me to ease my pain? :o)



  16. Todd

    Hey Rick,

    Thanks very much for the comment, I’m happy if any of the info on ishootshows has been helpful to you. I have no problem sharing the tech info, as I know it’s a constant problem in concert photography.

    It sounds like you’re running up against an issue of slow shutter speeds negatively impacting your work. I would immediately suspect the Tamron 28-200.

    With an aperture range of f/3.8-5.6, the lens costing you a lot of speed as you zoom in, which is going to translate into slower shutter speeds.

    It depends on how active the performers are, but I like to stay above at least 1/80 second, and 1/160 and faster is my preferred range for shutter speeds.

    At wide angle, it’s possible to get away with slower shutter speeds, but if you’re at 200mm, vibration will be magnified and you will probably want to be around 1/200 second at least, and 1/250 and higher would be even better.

    Hope this helps, let me know if there’s anything else I can answer.


  17. Allison Busse

    Hi Todd,

    Your pictures are amazing and very inspiring. I am just starting with concert photography and am using a Canon Rebel XTi for now. I saw that someone else mentioned that camera but never followed through with asking for lenses. Can you make any recommendations for me? I will mostly be shooting in pretty small venues. Thanks!

  18. Todd

    Hi Allison,

    For smaller venues were you’re going to be right up to the stage, I would look at lenses 50mm and below. If the lighting is also very low (as it often is in small venues), I would look to the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and Canon 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4.

    As a single option, 50mm can be a little tight, but it depends on how high the stage is and how close you’ll be to the musicians.

    If there’s more light, a zoom that offers a wide-to-short-tele range like a 17-50mm f/2.8 would be a good choice. Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and of course Canon all make lenses in this range that will fit your camera. For concert photography, f/2.8 is probably as slow as you’ll want to go unless you can use flash.

    If you have a specific budget you’re working with, I’d be happy to help you pick out some lenses. Hope the above is helpful.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.


  19. Zach Stern

    Hey Todd, I just bought a D40x (literally 2 or 3 days ago), and I was wondering if you could reccomend any lenses for shooting shows specific to that camera. The reason I ask is because as you probably know the D40x is one of those weird ones where the motor for the autofocus isnt built into the camera, so it only takes specific lenses that have the motor built into them. Or thats what everybody keeps telling me anyway.

    On the other hand, maybe I should just forget about the autofocus all together?

    Was wondering what you thought about it. Thanks!!

  20. Todd

    Hey Zach,

    Thanks for the comment. As you well know by now, the D40x is a tricky camera, as the lens choices are limited to new lenses. However, I wouldn’t be too bothered by this, as there are some great choices available for the camera.

    For me, my favorite concert lens on a 1.5x camera like the D40x is a midrange zoom in the 17-55mm range. Sigma makes the 18-50mm f/2.8 with HSM, which is like Nikon’s AF-S lenses with a built-in focusing motor.

    With concert photography, even f/2.8 lenses are considered somewhat slow, depending on the lighting, so I would highly recommend at least an f/2.8 zoom.

    The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 also has a built-in motor, and works very well as a low light concert lens. This prime would be best suited to smaller clubs with dim lighting where you can get right up to the stage.

    If you’re going to be shooting in larger venues with high stages, a lens like the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM could be a good pick.

    I’d recommend staying away from variable aperture kit lenses like the 18-55mm and 18-135mm, as the slow speed is going to be prohibitive for concert photography.

    Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.


  21. Todd

    Hey Zach,

    Yes, that’s the lens. Sigma has been updating a lot of its lenses to include the “macro” designation, which just means that the minimum focusing distance has been decreased.

    That is one of the only economical f/2.8 zooms from a third party that will have full AF with the D40x.

    Hope this helps.


  22. DestinDave

    Todd… I’ve been looking through your site and am amazed! Kenny W turned me onto your work and this site and I can’t thank you enough for the wealth of info and inspiration here. I am interested in changing careers toward music photography and website design – just trying to get my feet wet. Currently I have an XTi (because I couldn’t afford the 5D I really want! Yet!
    I’ve been getting out and shooting local club bands and festivals like the Muddy Blues last summer. I’ve recently made some inroads to gaining access at The Pageant and I hope to meet up with you at some point.
    Your work is incredible, inspiring, and your willingness to help newbies like me is truly a rarity.

  23. Todd

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for the comment, I’m glad to share the info that I can. The 5D is a great camera, but I might wait just a bit, as its successor is going to be announced very soon. I’m sure the new Canon cameras will be nothing short of amazing, now that Nikon has upped the ante with the D3.

    Hope to see you at a show soon.


  24. Adam

    Heyy Todd
    I really want a dslr right but havent a clue on what one to get. with only £500 what would you recommend for gigs and such ?


  25. Todd

    Hey Adam,

    That’s a tricky price point, since one could go either way with it. On the one hand, you could sink it all into a body like the Nikon D80, which is a very nice camera, but you’d have little left over for lenses.

    If you went the other way and invested in glass first, you could look at the Canon 400D or the Nikon D40x and then pair it with a lens that would give you a few more options.

    What kind of gigs will you be photographing? I think the Canon 400D with the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 or Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 would most likely serve you well, as would the Nikon D40x with the newer HSM version of the Sigma 18-50mm. But again, the lens will depend on the venue.


    With that amount of money, I’d take a look at the D80

  26. Zach Stern

    Hey Todd,

    Thanks for all your great advice so far.

    A quick question for you. I was at B&H today, and had two salespeople tell me that buying a sigma lens because they were cheaper might cause me problems. He said they kinda blasted the contrast way up and the shots seem to lose detail, when using sigma lenses.

    Any credence to that? I trust you more then I trust them, since you’re not trying to sell me anything :-D


  27. Todd

    Hey Zach,

    It’s true, Sigma lenses, and third-party lenses in general, can have more issues than OEM products. This can be in part due to the fact that Sigma has to reverse-engineer some things like the AF protocols.

    In addition to QA/QC issues that might possibly exist, lenses made by other manufacturers will have different optical coatings on their lenses, and thus may exhibit different color reproduction. Some have said Sigma lenses have a yellowish cast compared to cooler Nikon lenses, for example.

    From what I’ve seen, the best Sigma lenses are quiet good and on par with those from Canon and Nikon in many respects. That’s the first I’ve heard about “blasting” the contrast way up (which would generally be a good thing) and a lack of detail.

    Personally, I’d recommend the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 if price were no object. That said, the Sigma 18-50mm with HSM should be perfectly capable. If anything, I would think the Nikon sharper at f/2.8, but from what I’ve seen, the two are very comparable otherwise.

    Hope this helps.


  28. Matt

    Hi Todd,

    I’ve been looking through your site and you have some truly great work here. You definitely have a love of the art.

    Quick question for you though. If I was shooting on a D70s (for concerts/gigs/low-light situations), and was looking at either the Nikkor 17-55mm or the Nikkor 24-70mm, which would you recommend? I’m leaning more towards the 17-55mm, since it’s DX and it’s wider than the 24-70mm. The only plus I can see of the 24-70mm is the extra 15mm on the long end and the ability to use in on an FX camera down the line.

    I’d really appreciate your input, and once again great work!


  29. Todd

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for checking out the work and the site, I appreciate it.

    I think the main concern is the type of venues in which you shoot. I used the 17-55mm f/2.8 until I upgraded to the D3, and I absolutely loved the range and performance of the lens.

    For stage-front photography, there is hardly a better lens in my mind (excluding huge arena/festival shoots).

    On FX, the 24-70mm f/2.8 is naturally the first choice in a mid-range zoom. On DX, though, I think that the wide end is a little limiting, especially considering that the difference between 55mm and 70mm is much less than that of 24m and 17mm.

    If you do foresee upgrading to FX, the 24-70mm will of course offer a better upgrade strategy, but you may miss out on the wide end.

    Hope this helps, please let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.


  30. Zach Stern


    What do you think of these lenses?
    NIKON 85mm f/1.8 D-AF
    NIKON 50mm f/1.4 D-AF

    I’m aware that they aren’t AF-I or AF-S and won’t do autofocus with my camera. I’m willing to live with that.


  31. Jacklyn-Marie

    Hi Todd,
    I dig your website. Anyway I just started getting into concert photography-transitioning from performing music to shooting other artists with my camera. Anyway I was wondering how you felt about the Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens for concert photography?

  32. Todd

    Hi Jacklyn-Marie,

    Thanks for checking out the site. On the Nikon 18-200mm, I think that unless you have a lot of light in the venue, the slower nature of the lens is going to be a hinderance in low light shooting.

    I always thing position plays a key part in deciding what equipment is best — Where will you be shooting from in these performances?


  33. Dennis

    I’m curious to hear your insights on your Nexto (or any other PSD’s you might care to comment on). I’m in the market for a PSD like the Nexto Ultra CF, and have been looking for good objective reviews. (I realize you have the Nexto CF OTG, so I guess I’m looking for your thought on Nexto products in general) If you were in the market for a PSD today, would you go w/ a Nexto device again? What i like about the Nexto Ultra CF is its seemingly pared down design in both form and function. Where did you purchase yours? In the USA it seems to be only available from , i’ve never heard/dealt with them. They offer the unit with or without the HD, but I’m leaning towards getting an HD separately. Thanks for any input you care to provide (and by the way, your other words wisdom in photography I’ve come across on the internet have been helpful too!).

  34. Zach Stern

    Hey, I noticed that only one of your lenses is VR.

    Have you noticed a real difference with the VR lenses, and would you reccomend getting the VR version of every lense I buy or does it not matter that much. In general what do you reccomend when it comes to VR lenses.

    Thanks again for all your help!


  35. Todd

    Hey Dennis,

    Personally, I love the Nexto line. I actually have several of the Nexto CF OTG and they all work flawlessly. The Nexto Ultra looks to have even better performance, and a backlit LCD, so it sounds even better.

    I purchased my units from I’d never heard of them either, but read several positive reviews from customers on other forums, so I went ahead. And as you mentioned, they are the only US dealers. I personally went with the hardware only and bought the harddrives separately. It’s very easy to install your own HD, and all the tools are included, so it will easily save you money doing it yourself.

    Hope this helps!


  36. Todd


    I do think VR is useful for individual performers who don’t move around a lot, like singer-songwriters and such. For rock musicians, I think it can come into play to a marginal degree, but at the shutter speeds were it really matters, you’re going to see too much motion blur.

    So, for concert photography, I don’t see VR as that necessary since the action is going to make that feature pretty much irrelevant anyway.

    Hope this helps.


  37. Julie Ferguson

    Hey Todd!!
    I’m looking to buy a new lens and willing to spend the $$ to get a good quality one. I’ve decided to spend the money on the lens rather than upgrading my body at this time. I shoot with a D70 and I’m debating between the nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 and the 17-35 f/2.8. I’ve seen that you use both these lenses so I was just curious to see what you thought. Are there differences besides focal lengths and do you use one more than the other? I also have a 28mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.8 if that matters. I appreciate any advice/suggestions. I was also looking at the nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye…any thoughts on that? Thanks so much!

  38. Todd

    Hey Julie,

    If 17mm would be OK as a wide angle, I would recommend the Nikon 17-55mm, which I love for gigs. It’s great at f/2.8 and the range is a little more useful than the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8.

    As for the 14-24mm, I think it’s a great lens, but on a 1.5x APS body like the D70, it’s possible it might be a little limiting, since it’s range is somewhat narrow.

    I think the 17-55 and 10.5 fish would be a really nice combo for the type of bands you shoot (Nice Underoath and ETID shots, by the way!).

    One thing to consider about the 14-24 is that it’s huge front element could really be a liability with the shows you shoot.

    On the D70, which I still have, the 17-55 is super sharp at f/2.8, so it would be perfect for gigs. It would balance a little better than the 14-24mm, too, since that lens is really front heavy.

    Hope this helps, let me know if there’s anything else.


  39. Jon

    so I’m thinking of getting a d300 and the 17-55 f/2.8. Would I get any kind of similar image result as the d2 or the d3. I’d like to get either of those but my budget restricts doing so and I was wondering if a d300 and a battery grip would be worth it in terms of getting similar prints

  40. Todd

    Hey Jon,

    The D300 is going to be better at high ISO than the D2x, but about 1.5 stops worse than the D3.

    The 17-55 was my favorite concert lens on the D2x, and on the D300 with its nice image quality up to 3200, you should be set. For concert photography, I’d definitely recommend the D300 over the older D2x or D2h.

    With the grip, the D300 should balance well, too.

    Hope this helps, let me know if there’s anything else I can answer.

  41. Bert

    Hi Todd,

    I work as a part-time photographer at the local zoo. My boss still has some old 50mm f1.8 lenses and a 50mm 1.4(both non-D versions). I can have a 1.8 for free and maybe get the 1.4 for a few bucks. I own a D40. Even though my main use for the 50mm’s will be portrait work, I may want to take it to some live bands at jam sessions which happen almost every day. Do you advice using manual focus(my only option) for this or is it practically impossible in such low light? Thanks in advance and keep shooting!


  42. Todd

    Hey Bert,

    It will depend on how low the light is, but I think those lenses will be OK as long as you have patience and enough time to work slowly. It may take quite a bit of trial and error, but I don’t think it will be impossible unless the light is so dim that you can’t accurately see the performers to focus.

    Using the D40, you should be able to use the electronic rangefinder focus confirmation in the viewfinder.

    If you know the bands and have lots of access, all the better.

    Hope this helps.

  43. gerald

    todd how are you my question is related to the lighting. In most of this venues and concerts the lighting is a nightmare to say the least, different colors every second, changing the lights intesity at all times, and so on.

    what setting will you recomend as far as white balance ( do you balance the lighting on post processing or leave whatever colorcast you get as part of the mood and emotion of the moment).

    Do you use an specific iso (ex 800) and leave it there or do you use the excellent auto iso that the nikon cameras have. Btw since your shooting with the D3 is clear that anything is game with this beast, but what about something like the d70.

    Finally what other type of photography do you excell or really want to get better in the future, love to pick your brains and thx in adv.


  44. Jon

    Hey Todd,

    so the d300 would fall somewhere in between the d2 and the d3 image quality wise? I wanna be able to use this at shows and also for other various jobs but I want to make absolutely sure that the d300 and that lens can handle the low light settings in the greater St. Louis area. I know its not a miracle worker but the odds of me getting my camera into the pageant are slim to none so if it could handle the not so nice light of pops for example that would be very beneficial.

    • Peter Horn

      We are talking high ISO here as the main factor, please take that into account while I try to sort out the Nikon line here under that aspect:

      If you can’t afford the D3 and want something better than the D300 (which is excellent already) there’s still the D700 in between. It share more or less the same high ISO image quality with the D3 due to its full frame sensor, and is not as bulky as the flagship.

      Be aware, anyway, that going with the D300 vs. D700 or D3 will affect your lens choice as well because of the crop factor issue.

      Forget about the D2/D2x. That is another generation. I am happy I waited for the D90 to come out instead of buying a used D2.

      While we’re at it, D90 is basically a D300 for photogs on an even tighter budget; is has more or less the same image quality (same thing as with D700 vs. D3).

      Apart from that, please do not disregard the handling issue. You have to take them all into your hands before making a choice – there are huge differences, even though all Nikons are ergonomically well designed.

  45. Todd

    Gerald: I shoot with Auto WB about 99% of the time, and color correct as necessary in post (RAW). Normally this is fine, though correcting for overly cool or warm casts is quick and easy.

    I’ll change the ISO depending on the light levels — whatever it takes.

    I shoot architecture, travel, weddings, portraiture — just about anything. But concert photography is what I’ve been dedicating myself to lately. :)

    Jon: Roughly, I think the D300 is in between the D200 and D3. What other venues will you be working in besides Pop’s? Clubs really run the whole gamut, and the lenses you shoot with will also greatly affect the ISO needs.

    I suspect that the D300 would be fine what what you need, ISO 3200 seems clean enough with that camera, and you can always bump it up to ISO 6400 in a pinch.

  46. Ami

    Hi Todd,

    My second post here on your site. I’ve been studying the quality of your photographs and the carefully tailored replies you give and would like to say you are amazing. With that I’d like to as you a question!
    I’m a Canon user, new to concert photography, and I own a 30D with a 50mm 1.8. I’m planning on shooting some larger venues and am wondering which other lens you would bring along if you were in my position? Would it be the Canon 17-55mm? Im on a (very) tight budget, but would consider renting equipment for results.
    Thank you!

  47. Todd

    Hey Ami,

    Thanks very much for the kind words. I’m trying :)

    For larger venues we you’ll be shooting from the pit at the front of the stage, I think the 17-55 would serve you very well. I had the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 and I loved the range on a APS camera. It was my go-to lens for stages around 1.5 meters tall.

    The only thing you may miss out on is reach for drummers, but 55mm can do the trick for more environmental shots — it just depends.

    Now that I’m using the Nikon D3, I use the 24-70mm f/2.8, but the range is effectively the same.

    I think whatever you go with, an f/2.8 aperture will be a great asset.

    Let me know if you have any more questions. :)

  48. Jon

    hey Todd,

    Jon again, I’m ordering my d300 tomorrow. I just need to get my hands on a 17-55 like yours. Any suggestions where to find one on the cheap?

  49. Ami

    Thanks for the reply Todd,
    Should I go for the 24-70 f/2.8L USM right off the bat so that I am able to transfer the lens to full-frame?
    Would that range be disirable on my 1.6 crop body?

    Also, I am trying to build a physical portfolio. What is your favourite method of presenting printed images to potential clients?


  50. Kiri

    Hey Todd,

    I really enjoyed looking at the photographs you take. I take a lot of photographs for my boyfriends band, and have a Canon 400d. I get some nice shots but i feel that a better lens is needed to get some better quality images. Im currently using the standard 18-55mm that came with the camera, and have tried some other lenses but the lighting never turns out right.

    What would be the ideal lens and what app would you suggest having it on?

    Many thanks


  51. geraldo m

    hey todd let me tell you a story my 1st dslr and still only one is the d70 i bough it a month after it came out ( trust me it wasn’t easy ).

    After getting this my obsession was glass and only glass, so i always check for the latest info and opinion on what is/was the top dog.

    so this guy i remember this a long time ago came with what seems like the mothership of review, the nikon 70-200/2.8 vr, page after page of detail description of every feature, every button, and awesome wide open photos, jaw droping stuff,this review stuck to my mind for a long time, i make my mission to some day get this lens.

    Finally this week after many years of waiting i got it, i decided to go back to take a look at that review on and quess who made that review.

    The question is when are you going to make a review of the new nikon 24-70/2.8

    even so i don’t gonna wait for your review this time ( i got this one on order already ) i’m waiting for your stuff this time, again. Thx in adv.

  52. Sraw

    Hi Todd,
    I just read your very instructive posts … that’s so cool to read, thank you so much for charing your experience.

    I have a question, I’ve been looking for months for a backpack able to carry some photo gear with a laptop and that would not look to bad (I’m not a fan of lowepro ones)…
    so if you have any advice, you’re really welcome. So far I just used some dakine skate backpak with a laptop sleeve and a homemade camera soft case

    Many thanks for your science !

  53. Todd

    Hey Seb, I have a Crumpler backpack and find that it’s very well padded (as all of their bags are), but I don’t use it very often because of the bulk. I generally use Kinesis bags or the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home.

    I do have a Kinesis backpack, but it’s more for hiking and travel – not an every day bag.

  54. Daniel

    hey todd just a quick question about the D3.

    Does the D3’s low light capability make the fast lenses like 2.8’s 1.8’s etc. less usefull?
    Because it seems you can now shoot dark venues like you are doing without fast lenses and still not get much, if any, visible noise.

    I guess my question is basically does the D3 make those fast lenses useless or not as usefull as they were?

  55. Todd

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for the interesting question, I think it’s a great one at touches on some of the major implications of the D3.

    If anything, the Nikon D3 makes fast lenses all the more useful (or interesting, if you want to look at it that way), because their valuable features are simply enhanced. Now I can shoot in even lower light with my f/2.8 zooms, or pull out f/1.4 glass under the worst case lighting.

    Variable aperture zooms might get a new lease on life for some, but I will always take a faster lenses if it offers me more options.

    If you open the question up to f/2.8 zooms vs. f/1.4 primes, then the answer changes a bit. ;-)

  56. geraldo m

    hey todd how are you, quick one for you have you ever use any of the teleconverter from nikon (1.4, 1.7, 2.0)specially with the 70-200/2.8

    Btw are you going to review the 24-70/2.8 love to see that one.

  57. Todd

    Hey Geraldo,

    I have used the Nikono 1.7x teleconverter on the 70-200 and it works well, though it’s best if you stop down. The loss of light from f/2.8 to f/4.8 can be a big jump for concert photography.

    I may eventually do more extended reviews of the 24-70mm f/2.8 and other new lenses, but nothing in the works just quite yet.

  58. marc

    Hi, you should add some ear protection to your guide. I think if you visit that many shows, and especially if its an all-day festival, you cannot go without something to turn down the volume. If you don’t use earplugs you will end up needing a hearing aid in a couple of years.

  59. Todd

    Hey Marc,

    GREAT suggestion, thank you! You’re absolutely right. I always use earplugs, since I often go to several shows every week.

    Even wearing earplugs, I know my hearing is being damaged – just more slowly.

    Thanks again for the excellent recommendation, I will add this.

  60. Todd

    I’m the same way. I always bring earplugs. It’s a necessity. I have just found a new set of earplugs that I really like, since they are rated at 32dB.

    I’ll be posting an update soon, thanks again for the suggestion.

  61. Jill

    Hi Todd-

    I’m not sure if you’ll remember me but we met at the Walkman/White Rabbits show at Blueberry Hill.

    I was wondering if you have any filter suggestions?



  62. Todd

    Hey Jill,

    I recall meeting you, how’s it going? For filters, I would recommend going with a filter made by the same manufacturer as the lens, as the lens coating will match and produce consistent color.

    Otherwise, I like the B+W filers, but they’re expensive. The Hoya Super HMC filers are good, too, but don’t quite clean up as well.

    I simply use Nikon UV filters on most of my lenses. Digital sensors aren’t very sensitive to UV light, though, so you can just buy neutral, multi-coated glass filters, too.

  63. Joe

    Hey Todd, great update!
    I’d love to know what your thoughts are on the 17-55 vs the 24-70 with crop bodies.

  64. Todd

    Thanks, Joe! On a cropped body like a Nikon D300, Canon 40D, etc, I really do prefer the range of a 17-55mm lens, especially for concert photography.

    On a 1.5x or 1.6x crop, 24mm is just not very wide. While I may only go to 17mm for a select number of shots, I love the flexibility to go from a head-and-shoulders portrait to a full-length shot with the same lens.

    I should add that this is for stage-front photography with a pit of five-feet or less in height, but also applies for travel photography and general PJ stuff. I just love having the WA option in my standard lens.

    Another thing to consider is that all millimeters are not created equal: the difference between 17mm and 24mm and much greater than that of 55mm and 70mm

    Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.

  65. Marcus

    Hey Todd. Great photography and cool site! Found you via flickr.
    I’ve photographed a few gigs before but I just upgraded. Here’s what I have at the moment:
    Canon 40D
    Canon 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS
    Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6
    Sigma 30mm f/1.4
    Sigma 55-200mm f/4-5.6
    Last time I photographed a fairly big gig I used a 350D and mostly the Sigma 10-20mm. Some of the best photos here:
    I found that it worked pretty well but then the gig was pretty well lit.
    Obviously the fast 30mm prime is going to help me out a hell of a lot but I was wondering how well you think my Canon 17-85mm f/4-5.6 would do. It has image stabilisation built in and I can hold it down to about 1/6 or 1/8 of a second without blurring it but obviously the people will be moving too. The 40D’s noise at 3200 or 6400 ISO doesn’t seem bad either. Worth using? Any tips?

  66. Todd

    Hi Marcus,

    I wouldn’t recommend a lens as slow as f/4-5.6 unless you’re shooting in very well lit venues. While IS can help to some degree with static subjects, image stabilization won’t do anything to counteract the motion of more active performers.

    You can get away with this slow aperture range a little more with an ultra-wide lens like the Sigma 10-20mm, but for a midrange zoom, the aperture is going to be a big liability.

    While it’s costly, a lens like the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 is excellent for stage-front concert shooting.

  67. Hellcandy

    Hi Todd,

    Thanks for the fantastic tips!

    I currently own a Nikon d70. I was wondering if you could help me. I am looking to get a decent lens for concert photography, something that allows me to get close ups of each band member and also possibly help with festival stages. I work for a band so I am generally allowed to sit at the side of the stage.
    My main concern is my budget really. I want to get a good lens but also at an affordable price…at the moment £800 is too much!
    Which lens would you recommend for getting relatively good close up shots of bands?

    Any help would be much appreciated!

    Many Thanks :)

  68. Todd

    I would recommend a lens like the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR for tight shots of individual band members. The range is great for this type of work, especially if you’re on the side stage.

    The Nikon is expensive, but Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina all make 70-200mm lenses that will be less expensive.

    If you need the lens now, you might look for a used Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8, which will be much cheaper than the newer 70-200mm.

    Hope this helps.

  69. Todd

    Hey Richard, I do use lens hoods while shooting on assignment, but it really depends on the lighting and situation.

    I have metal, screw-in lens hoods for my primes, which stay on all the time (which eliminates the need for lens caps for me).

    The Nikon 14-24 has a built-in hood, while the 24-70 and 70-200 do have rather large hoods. I probably shoot with the hoods reversed as much as I have them in their active position.

  70. Richard

    Thanks for the insight Todd! I must say the pictures you take are mind blowing! Keep up the good work and congrates!

  71. Richard

    Hey Todd, yes, Image quality and noise performance. I heard the D3 can shoot clean files up to even 6400! Is it true? Thanks man

  72. Marc


    What do you think of the new Tokina 11-16/2.8 lens? I read some great reviews by Ken Rockwell (Nikon mount) and on (Canon mount). So far I use a Tamron 17-50/2.8 with a Canon 40D and I have the Tokina 10-17 Fisheye lens. An ultrawide angle lens is yet missing and the fisheye effect is sometimes great, sometimes not. With the Tokina I would have a 2.8 throughout the entire 11-200 range.
    You seem to do a lot of wide-angle shots, thats why ask you.

  73. christopher franko

    Todd, hope this isn’t too off topic, but I have a trouble shooting question for the D3, a camera you and many of your readers use. After shooting fine for hours last night at a small club/dj night, my D3 now simply won’t turn on. (It was the second time I’ve shot at this particular bar/night club. No troubles at all the first time around. The only difference is that I used my new SB-800 (instead of an old SB-600) for the assignment.)

    After the shoot, I tried to do a quick image edit but it wouldn’t turn on. I wish I could give more details about the evening but there was nothing at all unusual about the evening, the camera’s performance…no accidents or bumps or anything…I wasn’t even near any electronics/speakers, etc…

    I tried another battery. Still won’t turn on. Tried a lens remount/cleaning. No go. Was there a solar flare recently or something? I’m perplexed. I haven’t even had the camera 3 months….

  74. sophie

    Hi Todd,

    Wow, firstly i would to say your shots are amazing. Im am just starting off with gig photography and recently purchased the canon 40d with 17-85mm lense. Could you please give me some advice on which lense i should get and any tips u may have. I have been told to get a 24-70mm lense by a couple of people but i wanted to ask your thought.


  75. Todd

    Hey Sophie,

    Thanks for the kind words. For lens choice, I think the main question would be what types of venues you’ll be shooting in and the light levels.

    If you’re looking for an all-around lens for indoor events, I personally like a 17-55mm f/2.8 lens on the cropped bodies from Nikon and Canon.

    The 24-70mm lenses are excellent, but 24mm is no longer wide enough for general use on a 1.5x or 1.6x sensor (for my work). I prefer having a wide angle range in my midrange zoom.

    Hope this helps, please let me know if you have more questions.

  76. sophie

    Hi Todd,

    Thankyou for the reply, its helps alot.

    Im looking to mainly all round gigs from small events to larger venues, but as you know mostly the smaller events have very poor lighting. Would the 17-55 be ample for low light situations? and how do you avoid blurred shots..thank you so much for your help.


  77. Todd

    Hi Sean, thanks you, glad to hear you enjoy the work. Which shows/sets are you interested in? I always share the tech details for every gig in the write-up.

  78. Blaize

    Todd, all i can say is great site. i’m getting into concert photography more and more… shooting with am xti, 50mm 1.8, and a sigma 17-70mm 2.8-4.5 i’m lookin to upgrade MOST of my gear (to a 40d, 17-55 2.8 is) long story short… a fair chunk of cash, with that said i shoot fast at shows and have gone through an 8gig cf just over an hour… so my question is rooted in storage methods. i was thinking about getting a 16gig cf but caught sight of the epson p5000 looks sweet expensive though. do you have any experience with any storage units like this? jobo units? or anything like that?

    anyway… you’re doing a hell of a job man… keep rockin it.

  79. Todd

    Hey Blaize,

    I think portable storage units are a great option to buying one huge card, since they can defray some of the pitfalls of using a single card.

    I have experience with the Nexto CF OTG model and recommend the Nexto brand simply because it’s super easy to use and very reliable.

    Nexto just released a PSD that reads at 40 mb/s, which would be great, too. The downside is that the Nexto models don’t feature an LCD for image display – you just have to trust that the images are on there. You can verify by file name, and of course if the transfer errors during a move, the files on the card are never deleted.

    If you have two cards, you can shoot with them in tandem, transferring one to the drive as needed while the other is in use. Swapping out like this, even festivals are no problem.

    Hope this helps, glad to hear you like the site!

  80. david jenrette

    Every time I see your work I am more impressed. I am in Ocala Florida which only occasionally has great groups performing. How would i go about getting credentialed to take photos at these events?

  81. Todd

    Hey David,

    Thanks for the kind words. You can check out some advice for how to start photographing music in the FAQ section of this set. Also, I may be writing a primer on how to get into concert photography, so stay tuned.

  82. George

    Hey Todd,

    First off, I love the site, and as an aspiring concert photographer, it is a great resource, so thank you for that. My question was that I am looking to upgrade from my Nikon kit lens, which is awful as you said, but budget was an issue. I am in between the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 and the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8. I know it is probably a good call either way, but just wanted to see if you had an opinion on the two. Thanks again.

    PS I will be using it on my D50 by the way.

  83. Todd

    Hey George, thanks for the kind note, glad to hear you enjoy the site.

    I’ve heard good things about both lenses, but if deciding right now, I’d take a hard look at the Tamron lens. It looks like a great lens, and the price is right.

    My friend Gabi just picked up the Tamron and loves it.

  84. riccardo

    hi todd,i own a new eos450d and want to buy a lens for concert. I know a constant f2.8 is better,but what you think about the canon 24-105 f4L is usm? and sigma 24-70 f2.8 dg macro ex ? thanks thanx thanx

  85. Todd

    Personally, I would go for f/2.8 over the convenience of range in the f/4 lens, L or not.

    I’d actually check out the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 or Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 as a midrange first, unless you really need the reach. I just like my wide-angle option for a midrange zoom. :)

  86. Mike

    Hey Todd,

    There was someone who posted ealier about lens upgrade for a Canon Rebel XTi, which, as I am also on a short budget, have purchased and get rather disappointed at low-light shows. I am beginning to write a lot of reviews for sites and I need to be able to get some better quality shots. I do like how the ISO can be increased without too much damage to the shot, but still, it would be great to get some crystal clear shots in small venues with little movement. My shots are either too grainy, or have too much movement. Any recommendations for a lens upgrade??


  87. klappa

    Hi Todd,

    could you please post few uncropped (test) photos with D3+Sigma 30/1.4 ? I love that lens and You’re the first one I found who uses it on FX – idea of it beeing somehow usable on full frame sensor really made my day ;-)


  88. Brad

    Hey Todd,

    Great site and even better photos!
    I was referred here by a post on DPReview.

    Just curious, I noticed in a past post that you use primarily auto WB…..any thoughts on using incandescent or say a 2700-3200K temp. setting?
    I’ve had trouble with the camera “adjusting” the auto WB at dance recitals (especially with the red channel).

    I will be shooting from various locations with a D300, 17-55, 80-200 and 10.5.

    Thanks in advance,

  89. Todd

    Hi Zach, I would also look at the Nikon 35mm f/2, since it’s twice as fast as the f/2.8 lens, albeit a little less wide. AF-S lenses are going to be faster to focus – personally, I don’t like using my 50mm or 85mm primes as much as AF-S lenses because they’re often slower to focus and also more erratic.

  90. Todd

    Hi Brad,

    I do use Auto WB about 99% of the time and tweak in post as needed. However, if you are going to be shooting under static lighting, or at least lighting that doesn’t change very often, I think you’ll be OK if you can set the color temp.

    What I’ve found with a lot of stage lighting, at least in the venues where I often shoot, is that it’s close to high rendering fluorescent in the range of 2700-6500k.

    If the auto setting is still giving you results that are too “hot” with regard to the color temperature, I’d definitely try manually setting the WB.

  91. Zach Stern

    Hey Todd,

    I appreciate the feedback, and I definitely understand what you’re saying. I’ve rented the Nikon 24-70 and 28-70mm f/2.8 lenses and they’re amazing. Unfortunately, I just don’t have $1600 to spend on a single lens right now.

    I would consider this sigma as you suggested earlier

    But from reading around apparently it has some severe autofocus issues. Has that been your experience?



  92. Todd

    Hey Zach,

    I completely understand on the budget issue, it’s always a factor.

    I think the Sigma 30mm is a great lens within its limits, which are that it’s designed very narrowly to be a great low light lens. The 30mm isn’t the lens I would reach for if I had to do landscape work or architecture, because the corners/edges never really achieve critical sharpness.

    Since you just picked up a D300, I wouldn’t worry about the AF issues. I found that the lens focuses perfectly on the D3 after some quick AF fine tuning, so I don’t hesitate recommending it if you’re using a newer body with this feature.

  93. Jen

    Hi Todd,
    My first concert will be inside a club called Kool haus in Toronto. It is a smaller venue with relatively good lighting (as I am told). I have a D70 camera (max 1600 ISO) and am going to rent a couple of good lenses. I’m thinking of the Nikkor AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D (for backstage as well) with Nikkor AF 35-70mm f/2.8D. I opted away from the 70-200 because it’s a smaller venue and away from the prime 85 f/1.4 because the lighting is apparently quite sufficient. But I am very inexperienced and wanted your advice. Your work is amazing and inspirational! Thanks so much

  94. Joey

    I LOVE your site! Truly a source of inspiration. I had a technical question for you. I just got my own D3 and I was wondering what auto focus settings you use. Do you try to take advantage of the scene/face recognition (I haven’t actually tried this out yet, but I keep reading about it)? I got so used to the “center-focus and recompose” method on previous cameras that I still do that almost exclusively on the D3 (ok, ok, I take advantage of all those 51 points a lot, too). I know moments at a concert come and go very fast. Does the Auto auto focus (the big rectangle) help you at all? Or how do you typically focus?

  95. Todd

    Hi Joey, thanks for the kind words, glad to hear your enjoy the site. I use the 9-point AF system on AF-S or AF-C, single area AF.

    I’ve never used the Auto Area AF. Hope this helps!

  96. alexis

    i found this very interesting to read. thanks for putting this up :D

    i have a 40D canon DSLR but i havnet purchased a good lens yet. i learned at my first concert trying to shoot that i need a better lens…

    i still need one. i just dont know what to get!

  97. Todd

    Hey Hugo,

    I’ll see what I can do. To be honest, I don’t use the lens on the D3 very often. However, if you search for the Walkmen, you’ll see a few shots from them using the 30mm on the D3.

  98. John Price

    Hi Todd,

    Do you use two bodies when you shoot from the pit I always find it difficult to decide which lens setup to take, 70-200 or 24-70 (D3), or do you change lenses on the fly.
    I think your work and kind advice are an Inspiration, if I could come close to your style, and quality I would be a happy man.

    Best regards,


  99. Todd

    Hey John,

    I just use one body while shooting concerts, and change lenses on the fly. Someone just posed this question in the Al Green thread, and there’s a small discussion about it in that post.

    For most gigs, I have been relying on three main lenses as of late: the 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200.

    More than anything, I think the mental shift is probably the biggest hurdle in switching lenses. Though it does take a bit of time, which is a precious thing in concert photography, I think “changing gears” in one’s approach is probably the key part.

  100. Gary

    Hi there firstly a great site, amazing in fact, i am just starting out in concert photography and actually have a band who have said i can shoot anytime i want. Due to my budget i am problay going for the canon EOS 400D, iv been told that this is an ok one to start with? It does come with 2 lenses, 18-55mm and 55-200mm but from what iv read i shouldnt use the ones you get with the package? so am a little confused to what lenses i should buy for concerts that will have low light etc. any help will be great. Thanx for your time.

  101. Daniel

    Hey Todd, I don’t know if this would be the right “section” to ask you this, but it made sense to me so here it goes …

    Do you usually use lens hoods or filters when shooting concerts (indoor and outdoor)? I’m asking this because I was convinced filters would be a better solution, but unlike what I was expecting, a lot of people seem to use lens hoods.

    Any reason to chose one over the other?

    Thanks in advance.


  102. Tyler

    Hey Todd,

    I had two quick questions about concert photography for you.

    First, I see you recommended the nikon 50mm f/1.4, but I’m on an extremely tight budget and was wondering if the f/1.8 would be a good compromise, until I can get together the money to buy the f/1.4 and eventually a zoom.

    The second question is, after you’ve done a fair amount of shooting for free, and people start to request you to shoot their shows for them, what would be a good price to charge for the shooting, so that I eventually can buy the better lenses. Thanks.

  103. Jordan

    Hey man,

    I asked a photographer from the San Fran bay area about what I should do about buying new lens’ for my Nikon D40 and he pointed me in this direction and hell it’s helped me out a fat lot! Thanks man.

    But I’m still in decision about buying a new lens. I’m on a budget only being 15 years old but I can save up! I’ve worked with a fair few punk bands now and it’s getting hard and somewhat boring now with my standard lens because it can’t cope with the environment.

    50mm Nikon lens? Or 17-55mm Nikon lens? What do you suggest?

    Thanks man.
    Looking forward to hearing from you,


  104. Alvin

    Hi guys, i’m intending to go for a concert soon, i’m currently suing an olympus e-520 with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6, i also have a 40-150mm one. both are actually kit lenses. I need advice on how to get the pictures taken on that day? anyone?

  105. pinhead

    Amazing gear!

    I have only a d80 and 2 lenses from sigma 18:50 f 2.8 and 50-150 f2.8 i need to buy a 70-200 f.28 to complete the set, also a flash sb800 for example ;)


  106. chuck

    Hi Todd –
    You’ve got some great shots online, and it looks like the D3 really does make a difference in low light situations using a higher ISO. It almost looks like you were using a flash on many of your shots.

    Quick question, are you able to or are you making a living shooting concerts, or is this a side gig for you at the moment?


  107. Wacks

    You have a kick ass portfolio and i envy you. Your work is amazing man i wish im half as good as you. :) Anyway, I am just wondering will my current setup work n event photography plus a indoor concert..
    Here’s my Setup:
    Nikon D80 with bat grip
    Tamron 17-50mm 2.8

    I will be the major photographer of the event and to be honest i am not a pro this will be my first paid gigs and i am kinda nervous..i am planning to purchase a new lens nikon 85mm 1.8 but i am not sure yet..i dont want to spend a lot of money for a 1 night shoot..Heck, 85mm is far more expensive than the amount their going to pay me. But i really don’t care about the money..I just feel like my current setup will do the trick.I hope you can help me..I am just a newbie in photgraphy.
    What are your advice for a newbie like me..
    I am planning to set my cam to say 1/80 – 1/100 and 2.8 – 4 WB is PRE or AWB and JPEG Fine set to Manual Mode. I don’t want to shoot RAW ‘coz i don’t have enough time to PP each shots. Pls. let me know if im in the right track..

    Thanks a lot and more power Todd!


  108. Beki

    I have a Nikon D40 with the 18-55mm lense. Do you recommend a particular lense for concerts or do you recommend a different camera altogether?

  109. Joel

    Hey Todd!

    I recently started working for the paper at my college and have had the privilege of using both the 14-24mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8VR. I use a D80 to shoot my pictures. I would just like to say how much your photos have inspired me to get better!

    I have a few technique questions that are not really related to gear. I assume you usually shoot in Manual mode and adjust your aperture and shutter speed accordingly; I was just wondering what the typical range of ISO settings you use for your concert shots. In really dark places I go up to about ISO1000 on my D80, but it becomes somewhat noticeable at those levels. I was wondering if you tend to shoot at that range too and whether it is a limitation of a “lower end” camera which prevents me from getting tack sharp shots under lower lighting conditions.

  110. Todd

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for writing, I’m glad to hear if any of the work here has served as an inspiration.

    I do shoot almost 100% in manual mode, adjusting exposure as necessary.

    Generally I will shoot between ISO 800 and 6400 for most concerts, using f/2.8 lenses. The Nikon D3 and D700 that I currently use are quite good up to ISO 3200, so the camera is a factor in the sensitivities I use. With the Nikon D2x, I would go up to ISO 1600, but rarely above that.

    Hope this helps.

  111. David

    Hi Todd,

    I have the opportunity to upgrade my D80 to the D300. I’m considering this so I could reach higher ISO’s without as much noise. I also have my eye on the D3 and D700.

    In your opinion, does it make sense to go to the D300, or wait for the higher end camera?

    Thanks for your advice,


  112. Zach


    I’ve shot one or two shows, and in some other environments, where the area was so steamy my lens would fog up to the point of being useless. Any ideas how to get around this?



  113. Todd

    David: I think you’ll see around a stop or maybe a stop and a half difference in noise between the D700 and D300. I think that the difference in the “pushability” of the files will be different, too.

    I’m not sure whether that increase in performance would suit your needs. That said, the D3 and D700 are fantastic tools, I’m really enjoying them.

    Zach: If you’re going from cold environments to warm ones, I’d try to keep your lenses as insulated as possible from the cold before bringing it into the hotter space. Giving the lenses time to adjust and warm up will also help.

  114. Mariant

    Hey Todd!… Great work you have here! and a lot of useful information too…thanks :). I own a Canon 30D and I’ve been told that I shouldn’t go above ISO 400 if I want really sharp shots. I generally shoot with my Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, but I still get dark pictures… you think I should go a bit more extreme with my ISO or you recommend another lens for me? (Yes, I tend to shoot really low-lighted shows at local bars and so…)

    Thanx! (Cheers from DR by the way ;)

  115. Bob - Trainee music Tog

    Hey folks.

    MARIANT: One of the things to remember and I’m sure Todd will agree is that you can get clear crisp shots at most ISO’s as long as you nail the exposure. If you start changing the exposure in post production, then you will see the noise amplified then.

    DAVID: I use a D300 for my Gig shots and I love it, but look at some of Todd’s earlier shots with his D70 and see that if you nail the technique and have good glass you can use just about any body.

    Anyway…. Todd, I see you don’t have a Fish in your lens collection? Any reason for this? I just added a nikon 10.5mm f2.8 to my setup and loving it.



  116. Todd

    Hi Mariant, glad to hear you like the site.

    I think sharpness and ISO are relative, depending on your needs for output and the subject. With as extreme conditions as concert lighting dictates, concessions must be made.

    Namely, being able to get the shot first – for me, that takes priority above ultimate image quality up to an extent.

    From what I’ve seen with the Canon 30D, I wouldn’t hesitate to go up to ISO 1600. Those two extra stops are going to make a big difference if you’re getting dark shots how at ISO 400.

    Hope this helps.

    Bob: I don’t have a fisheye, just the 14-24mm. I may take a look at a fisheye in the future. There’s always the 16mm f/2.8 fisheye for full frame, but I’m in no real hurry. The 14-24mm is doing quite well for satisfying my cravings for extreme perspectives – for now.

  117. chuck

    Remember folks the 10.5 on the D300 is being cropped by 1.5 factor so it’s not really 10.5. I think it closer to 16mm but I still would give anything to have a Nikon FX using the 14-24!
    Another thing, if you compare the images between D300 and D3 in low light situations the D3 runs circles around the D300 (in my opinion) an iso setting of 800 with the D300 is like 1600+ on the D3. Granted if you are in a well lit situation or know exactly what you’re doing you can get just as good images from the D300 compared to someone who doesn’t know their way around the D3.

  118. David

    Thanks for the advice. I am going to stick with the D80 and continue to invest in good glass. I’m shooting next week with the 24-70 2.8 and the Tokina 11-16 2.8.

  119. Bob - Trainee music Tog

    Chuck: I totally agree that the D3 runs circles round the D300 for noise, but the D300 is no slouch either. At the end of the day in extreme conditions you are always going to get noise on any camera and to be honest I think when it comes to quality shots it’s more about the glass. I used to use a 70-200vr f2.8 on an old D50 and got cracking shots at iso1600.
    My lens collection fits exactly into Todd’s guide, (with the edition of a fish) and unless I have a win on the lottery and buy a D3 I’ve got the best gear for this type of photography I can afford. Now all I need to do is study Todds pictures more and learn good technique then I’ll be sorted! :)

    Todd, A little off topic……Do you have any guides for composition or lining up a shot on your site. I’ve got all the gear now, and a fair Idea of what I’m doing, but any tips I can pick up to get fantastic shots like yours rather than nice, but fairly standard shots, are always a bonus.



  120. J

    In terms of gear, what do you recommend for the occasional concert photographer who is doing it as a hobby? I want a respectable camera so I have an ounce of respect in the pit (just an ounce will do!) but can’t spend a fortune.

    I can’t wait to see your Kings of Leon pics from their next Pageant gig!

  121. Dana

    Hey Todd,

    Quick Q: just picked up the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens. Have read online that the B+W 82mm MRC Slim UV Filter is best for minimizing vignetting, but the sucker is expensive! Holy crap! Do you agree or can I get away with a cheaper filter? If so, which?

    On a personal note, thanks for being an inspiration and benchmark of excellence for new music photographers, like myself. You’ve set the bar for what many of us aspire to in connecting with the music. It blows me away you’re so open and giving about it. Thanks sincerely for the time and effort you dedicate to this site!


  122. Kurt

    Hey Todd,

    I was looking into buying a DSLR and I am trying to decide between a D2X or a D90/80. Which of those three work best in low light at high ISO, because I am usually shooting shows at small dak bars and such. Thanks for the help and amazing pictures!

  123. gareth stamp

    Hi Todd – thanks for the great info – I have given a link to your site for students I teach. Are you coming to Glastonbury next year – if so we have a warm house close to rather than a muddy tent. See you there.

  124. Todd

    Hey Gareth, thanks very much for the offer. Glad to hear you enjoy the site, I hope your students find it useful as well. We’ll see about Glastonbury, I’d love to cover that event.

  125. Jord

    Hey man,

    I was just wondering should I upgrade to a D700 from my D40 first or buy my lenses first? I currently only have a 17-55mm standard zoom and a 50mm f1.4 Nikon prime lens at the moment so I don’t know if buying a D700 would be waste of money with the lack of lenses?


  126. Todd

    Hi Jord,

    I think the best thing to do would be to layout an upgrade path and see what best suits your needs. If you go up to a D700, not only will the body be a large expense, but you’d need to upgrade your standard zoom as well.

    I actually prefer the 50/1.4 on FX, and of course that lens will work just fine.

    All that said, going from the D40 to the D700 is going to be a huge jump in image quality and features.

  127. Todd


    I do not plan to offer guides on composition.

    The closest thing to your request might be the “shooting with telephoto lenses” write-up I did, which addresses some technique in approaching subjects with tele lenses.

  128. Todd


    To be honest, I wouldn’t worry about your gear too much in the pit as far as other photographers’ opinion goes. That said, I will say that kit lenses don’t get too much love in the pit, for the sole reason that they are the wrong tool for the job in many cases.

  129. Todd

    Hey Dana,

    I do like B+W filters, but I generally go with Nikon’s own filters for my gear, since the multi-coatings will match those of my lenses. If Canon makes filters, I’d just go with those.

    I do find that the B+W filters are very easy to clean – something I cannot say about some Hoya filters.

    Thanks for the kind words, please accept my apologies for the late reply to your comment.

  130. Todd

    Kurt: In terms of high ISO, the D90 is going to beat even the D2x. Going by the test samples I’ve seen, I think that the D90 looks like it has the best high ISO performance of all the APS-sized sensors out there right now.

    The D2x, however, will have other benefits, like ergonomics, speed, and more robust AF.

  131. Zach


    Can you provide a link to the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 WITH built in focusing motor?

    I see a 17-50 on the tamron site but nothing about a focusing motor.



  132. Jordan

    Hey Todd,

    From your experience what would you say is the best way to go about cleaning your lenses (with filters)? I’ve read all kinds of things about cleaning with a cloth, a brush, just air, etc.

    Thank you,


  133. Todd

    Different cleaning methods are suited for different types of problems. If it’s just dust, a blower or a brush is fine. A lens cloth or lens pen might be good for cleaning off specks. Formula MC or Eclipse for more nasty stuff.

    Of course, it’s just a filter, so I won’t worry about being too gentle, and if you mess it up, you can always buy another one. For me, the whole point of a protective filter is not having to worry as much while shooting and while cleaning. If it’s just your filter, you could clean it with a t-shirt, too.

  134. Chris

    Hi Todd. Great site and work man. Big fan. Anyway, a friend asked me to shoot his show this weekend. I’m of course going to bring my 50mm 1.4. But do you think using a 17-40mm f/4 as well will be a waste? My gut is telling me to leave it at home, but I don’t want to be stuck in a situation where there is a great well-lit wide shot available and I don’t have it.

    Hell, this is my first time shooting a show, so I don’t even know if I’ll even be quick enough to switch lenses if the opportunity presents itself, lol.

  135. Todd

    Hi Chris,

    I think you should bring the 17-40mm. Even though the aperture is a bit slow, it’s going to allow you to get a lot more variety in your shots than just the 50mm.

    Unless the lighting is truly bad, you can always drop the shutter speed for the wider shots without much loss in quality.

    If I were you, I’d be less concerned with swapping as you see a single shot and plan to alternate between the lenses for longer periods of time. This will free you up to “see” more in one focal length and let you concentrate on making images instead of scrambling for them (which is not to say you won’t have to hussle!).

    Hope this helps.

  136. Josh Thomson

    Todd I really appreciate all you do with this site, especially for those just getting into this business. I have 1 band that it looks like I will be starting to work with them on a regular basis. How do you begin charging for your services? How do you determine when you have enough experience o start charging people for the photos you’re taking. Thanks for your help.

  137. Todd

    Hi Josh,

    Quite simply, I think you can start to charge when there is a demand for your work. To some extent, experience has nothing to do with it; it’s all about the value of the images to the interested party.

    You’re providing a service and deliverables, and you should be compensated. Whether this is payment is cash or the band playing your private parties, that’s up to you.

    If you don’t feel comfortable with charging money due to your own perception of your experience, you can request that the band provide opportunities and access to you that will allow you to grow as a photog.

    For example, you might agree to shoot their promos in exchange for their agreement to serve as models for other projects/shoots of your choosing.

    Before you start working with the band, clearly establish what the expectations are for the shoot, both for you and for the band. Do they want web images, full-res files? Are you being paid, and what what rights are you granting them for usage? Etc.

    Good luck.

  138. Cedric

    Hey Todd,

    Maybe this isn’t gear related but I wanted to ask whether you edit your photos (a lot)? Compared to mine (who look more like those you posted on flickr from page 110 onwards), your current pictures are so much brighter and crisper – they simply look real! Is this because of the great light shows on bigger gigs, combined with top gear (full-format noise-free high-dynamic-range cams, razor-sharp high-res lenses etc.) and the know-how of the photographer (obviously), or does the post process play an important role nevertheless?


  139. Joe

    Hi Todd,
    I recently purchased a sigma 28-70mm f2.8 lens but i see a lot of use of 24-70mm f2.8. Have you any advice as to whether the focal length of lens i bought will be adequate enough seeing that im compromising on about 4mm on the wide end!

  140. Alan Newton

    Just found your website. I love shooting concerts, having to produce whatever the performers or spotlight gods choose to do. My most valuable lens is 300 2.8. I am a Canon shooter and most of what I shoot (Sweet Honey in the Rock, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Martin Sexton, Brett Dennen, etc.) are first 3 songs/no flash and shooting from the perimeter only. I noticed that you didn’t mention any longer primes. Is this more of a reflection of the type of band you shoot?

  141. Jim

    Hey Todd – love your site. Have an upcoming chance to shoot my first Photo Pass show…Queensryche. New venue in Flagstaff, so no idea of what I’m getting into up there.
    I have seats in 2nd section, maybe 50 feet off stage, center. I believe in front of me is GA – so I can probably fight my way to the front since I can’t see any pit from their venue photos.
    Not knowing leads me to the following dilemma. I have my only lens for my 20D a 28-135 f3.5/4.6 and can only afford to rent one lens. Do I go 70-200 so I can shoot from my seat or wide and pray for front access? 24-70 or 50-150?
    What are your thoughts?

    • Todd

      Hi Jim,

      It sounds like this is a fairly large venue, so I’d be surprised if they didn’t have some sort of dedicated area for security and press. I would only assume that they have a pit, so I would say that the 24-70mm would be fine for you.

      Since you have a photo pass arranged, ask your contact what the ground rules and setup for the show. That will inform the lens choices. Also, find out how tall the stage is, which should help inform your lens choice.

  142. Dennis71

    Hi Todd,

    I use almost the same gear you do. How do you consider the quality of the 70-200 compared to the 24-70?
    I have the idea that a follow-up of the 70-200 is needed. The nano coating makes a big difference.
    I also use a 300mm 2.8VR and it is much faster and accurate than my 70-200. Strange cause they both have a SWM.
    Thx, Dennis

    • Todd

      Hi Dennis,

      Overall, I’d say that the 70-200mm is in the same league as the 24-70mm. The latter has a slight edge in terms of clarity for me, but the telephoto is still a great lens.

      I didn’t care for the 70-200mm on the Nikon D2x, but on the D3, I think the lens is a joy to use. While I was really hoping for an update to the 70-200mm before the D3 was released, I’m not really all that anxious for its revision right now.

      However, I can see that with the D3x, just like the D2x, the failings of the 70-200mm might begin to be more pronounced.

  143. Justin

    Hey Todd,

    Thanks much for the site and good advise. I just purchased a Nikon D40 (not the x), and I’m going to shoot a small venue show; bar replete with shoddy, weak lighting, and small stage. So I’m looking to take a lot of gritty shots–as opposed to many of your sharp, big-venue pictures. Any advice on equipment or otherwise? For background, I have the standard D40 kit (18-55, f/3.5 and 55-200, f/3.5). I rented out faster glass, the 55mm, f/1.4.

    Thanks much,


  144. Kera

    Hi Todd- Just looking through your site today and I’ve found it very useful. I’ll definitely be checking back for more tips. And excellent shots – you give me something to strive for in the future :0)

    I’d like to know if you feel there is a distinct difference in working with a 50mm f/1.8 and a f/1.4, besides the extra f-stop? My friend lent me her Canon 50mm f/1.8 right now and is willing to sell it to me at a affordable price, but I’m wondering if I should just wait until I get more cash and get the f/1.4 instead. (Price difference is quite a lot..) Also, if you could give me some links to examples, that would be great.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Todd

      Hi Kera,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      You can read the full article “Choosing Lenses for Concert Photography“, but here’s an excerpt with my thoughts on the 50mm f/1.4:

      I recommend this lens over the slower and less expensive f/1.8 lens for a few reasons, including better wide open performance, more light gathering ability, and better build quality. Any way you slice it, this is still the cheapest f/1.4 glass you’ll buy.

      One show where I recently used the 50/1.4 quite a bit was for the Plain White Ts.

  145. Bobin James

    Hi Todd,

    Do you use any earplugs during concerts? Have had particularly bad bouts of ringing ears a couple of times and am seriously looking to get some earplugs. Would you have any recommendations?


  146. Paul

    Hey Todd,

    I’m just getting into concert photography and I need to purchase a new lens for my Nikon D5000. I was considering about getting a prime lens with out auto focus to get a large maximum aperture, faster shutter speed, and generally higher quality photos with out breaking the bank. I don’t have photo passes so I figure I’ll be sneaking my camera in to clubs and other larger venues. I was considering the Nikon 85mm f/1.4. How close do i have to be to the stage to get a decent photo. I figure I can snake my way up to the first couple rows in large venues and get right up front in smaller venues. Any advices would be appreciated.

    • Peter Horn

      The 85/1.8 will do. I love that lens. It is less expensive and less bulky. If you shoot people in action from shorter distances using f/1.4 would be too risky for the small DOF.

  147. occula

    Hi, Todd,
    I don’t have a specific question – just wanted to thank you for all the info you put out there. After seeing you in action at the Pageant (especially Truckers and Big Head Todd) and probably elsewhere a few times, I ran across a story or profile of you somewhere a couple of years ago – probably the IT – and came here to see your pics. not to sound like a stalker, but there’s so much info and it’s so interesting that I’m now following you on twitter and checking out flickr from time to time.
    I’m a beginning amateur recently upgraded to a sony H50 P&S. My husband’s a guitarist, and I shoot most of his band’s shows and do some promo shots for them. I love taking pictures at concerts as a hobby and am just about to do my first promo shoot for a local band my husband is NOT in. :) anyway, again, much gratitude for all the tips, info, and conversation.

  148. Michael Stein

    I am in the market for a new gear bag. I shoot concerts/sports. I am currently using a Lowepro slingshot 200 and find i do not have the room. I was wondering if the: Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home would fit the bill? I currently lug around:

    Canon 1d mkii Body
    Canon XS Body
    Canon 24-70L 2.8
    Canon 70-200L 2.8
    Canon 1.4exii extender
    Canon 580ex flash
    plus minor accessories
    may add another small lens in the future?

    So the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home (which i want, but dont know if it will hold all my gear) or what do you recommend?

    Thanks for help with this and all things concert related on your blog!

    Michael Stein

  149. Libby

    Hi Todd,
    I currently have a D60 and do a lot of indoor/small venue gigs with a local band. I used the nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF which, as you know, does not autofocus on the D60. I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and shot wide open. My problem is that many of the pics came out blurry. Yes, it’s a rock band and the guys are fast moving, so I feel as though the manual focus is a liability(and I’m blind as a bat in dark settings). I just purchased the 35mm f/1.8 AF-S so I could get the auto focus AND a wider angle of view. Any thoughts on this lens’ performance in low light with FAST moving subjects? Any tips or advice? I’m fairly new to photography, so give it to me in laymen’s terms, please! Thank you so much for your time!!!

  150. Chelsea

    Hey, I was just wondering if you can help me. If been researching DSLR’s for a few months now, and im having a rough time deciding. I’m down to 3 camera’s as of right now. Its the Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Nikon D5000, and Nikon D90. Which one would be the best choice for me to choose, because im looking for the best camera but not that costly, for concert photography. If you have anyother camera suggestions please let me know!

  151. Sarah

    Nicole, If you can afford it go for the 50D, I work P/T in a camera shop and the 500D isnt really that much of an upgrade from the 400D (Rebel XTI) a few extra mega-pixies and Video but the 50D is much more solid and gives you much greater control.

    Hope that helps!

  152. Jo

    Hi Todd,
    Great website – informative and entertaining! I was wondering if you have had the chance to try out the Panasonic LX3 in a concert setting yet. I am lucky enough to be going to see Nine Inch Nails in Los Angeles and am bringing my LX3 but am not sure what the optimum setting would be for a dark indoor show. Thanks!

  153. Mark

    Great guide. Although, I have to put in my 2 cents regarding the Tokina 12-24 f/4. As you stated, it’s a quality lens, built rock solid and quite useful, however using this lens frustrated me to no end – to the point that I sold it less than a year after buying it – because of the insane amount of flare I got when shooting at nighttime, coming from lampposts and the like. I assume you’ll find the same nuisance coming from concert spotlighting.

    Or maybe I just had a defective unit, I don’t know.

  154. john

    just found your site, it’s great. trying to crack in to this type of work. about to upgrade my d100, what in your opinion would be the maximum iso for clean files with the d300, as compared to the more expensive options, if you can help, thanks in advance. john

  155. Johan

    Hi there, Like you r blog. Have a question about how you use the autofocus on the d3/d700 while at concerts? Do you really have the time to move the focus point using the thumb joystick or do you just lock it down to center position and move the camera instead? Also, does auto.iso really work in practice? What iso settings do you generally use for say the 24-70 at f2.8? If you have some time, please share your insights on autofocus in general while at concerts. //Johan

  156. Nazrin

    Hiya Todd!

    Firstly I found this site while blog-hopping. Lucky i found it because i love your shooting style. The pictures you take are really great.

    I am using a Nikon D90 with a 18-105 lens. I’m doing gig shots too. I feel that the 18-105 isn’t doing enough for me. What lens would you say i should get. I was thinking of the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR but can’t figure out what i really need. Besides the two lenses costs quite the sum.

    Thanks in advance!

    – Naz

  157. Mick Buston

    Firstly, thank you for so generously sharing your knowledge, time and images with those of us who are at least a few leagues down from you. The work you have put on here is truly inspiring – thank you very much.

    Okay, now to pick your brains if I may with a very different choice from those others in this thread.

    I have left a well paid job that frustrated the hell out of me in order to follow my passion for photography. Through a very circuitous route I have decided to concentrate my efforts by spending the next 12 months working purely on building a strong portfolio of music photography.

    Some of the work I will be producing will need to pass strict control limits set by stock libraries so I have a question regarding kit choice.

    I am trying to make a choice between the following:
    Canon 5DMKII + 24 – 70 or Leica M8.2 + 35 mm and 50 mm prime lenses.

    I will be primarily shooting in small venues with poor lighting and recording studios with restricted space and, again, low light.

    To summarise my questions:
    Is it possible to shoot stock quality images at high iso?
    Is the Leica a potential alternative for use in music photography?
    Is it feasible to shoot using primes as opposed to zooms?

    Really appreciate any / all advice you can give

    Regards and kind wishes


  158. Nicole

    Hi Todd,
    I shoot with a Canon 30D. Most of my assignments are concerts/gigs for print and web. I’ve been surviving on a 17-55mm 2.8. What do you think should be my next investment in terms of lens? maybe the 70-200mm 2.8? I could go for a cheaper 3.5/5.6 lens but would you recommend I splurge for the 2.8 instead? Could I survive shooting say Soundwave Festival with just a 17-55mm 2.8?


  159. Gregg

    Todd: Your work inspires! You have talked a bit about your concert gear, any go to lenses that you like with the portrait stuff? Do you use your own lighting package? On a side note, is there a band you really want to shoot??? thanks

  160. AmyP

    Todd, this is my first visit to your site! I’m a hobbyist as well and I enjoy photographing songwriter rounds in Nashville or shows of my favorites at smaller clubs or historic theatres. My goal is no flash so I’ve acquired fast lenses for this purpose. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  161. Lisa

    Hi Todd,

    I’m about to invest in a 50mm prime for a D300s. I’m reading about Nikon’s 1.4G and the newer Sigma f1.4. Do you have an opinion to lend on which you prefer? I’m leaning toward the Sigma based on reviews and test shots I’ve seen.


  162. Lisa

    Ok, so I think I may have the cash to invest in the D700, the 14-24mm, 24-70mm, and trying to decide on a prime. Do you suggest the 85 f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4 as a first pickup?

    Thank goodness for annual bonuses!

  163. Jim

    Hi. My name is Jim. I take pictures at small venue concerts, and I’ve been struggling to get the lighting to look the way i want it to. Most the stages I am shooting have some can lights, LEDs, Pars, whatever…but nothing massive.

    I have a Canon 30D, and the max ISO on it is 3200, and when I take pictures at this ISO, with the shutter speed as fast as I can get it without blurring too much, the pictures come out all grainy. I am using a 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 zoom lens, but I also purchased a 50mm 1.8 lens. The 1.8 aperture does a little bit better, but not much. And i can’t zoom, so framing the shots is challenging.

    I have a flash, but I don’t like the way pictures look with it. Should I upgrade to the 50D which has an ISO that goes up to 12800, or should I get a more expensive lens? (17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM)? or is there something on the camera that I am missing?

    -Jim (silkolive on flickr)

  164. Albert

    Hi Todd,

    I’ve been following your tutorials and guides whenever I could. and its very helpful and effective in the field. :)

    Just wanted to ask your recommendations. Im using D90 with 17-55mm f/2.8 and Im thinking of upgrading a new one, based on your topics, in my view, Im looking at 24-70mm, but my body is a DX, will i going to loose significant factors in mounting FX lenses in my DX body? The reasons was, at 17-55mm range, its very hard for me to get a nice head shots or closer shots, but the wide end I really loved, i can get a shot of the whole crowd, the stage with all the components there.

    Any views with this?

    Thanks So much.

  165. Rachel

    Hey Todd,

    I recently just found out about you. I have never been so blown away. I find you as my new inspiration. I am only 16 a junior in high school. I plan to go far in concert photography with my main focus on live shows and maybe some band promos.

    I am saving money up with my new job. I am planning to get a Canon XTi. I wish i could get a camera insanely incredible like yours. Although this is my first camera and my mom suggests I save up and get a cheaper camera and get to the camera well.

    So I was wondering if a Canon XTi sounds like a good starter camera for live shows? Your opinion on what camera would be good for a starter with a budget no higher than one thousand dollars, would make a huge effect on me.

    I spend hours on your site just looking close to your photos and I have learned so much. Thank you so much. :)

  166. Jenny


    So glad I came across your site and like everyone says, you shots are just beautiful!

    I’m not a gig photographer but my fella plays in several bands and so it’s nice to come home with good shots we can use for our web sites and promo. I went out with my D300 and AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR to shoot one of the gigs and of course I was disappointed to say the least with my results.
    I shot on Aperture priority, raw, auto WB, matrix metering and was within 4-6-8 feet of the band. ISO from 2000/3500! Only two shots are worth snapshot standard, all the rest were so blurred or too dark and blurred.

    I brought the lens with the camera eight months ago for traveling which has been amazing but I’m not going to get anywhere am I at gigs with this lens?

    What would you recommend for the D300 and any tips to go with it?

    Would you go fully manual as opposed to AP and perhaps spot metering?

    It would be great to hear from you.

    Many thanks and again your site is just wonderful.



  167. Willaim

    I own a D5000 and need a decent recommendation(s) on a starter lens for shows. Being I’m just starting out and money is tight, I figured you’ll steer me right.

    I have an opportunity to shoot a band up and coming called “Black Berry Smoke” Local venue and I’m really not sure about lighting at the moment.

    BTW…you work is just INCREDIBLE! Thanks for putting every bit of this together!

  168. thai

    Ah Todd
    Impressive work!
    Lucky you, i just get to shoot in middle class clubs, where the nerve of the struggle are these average not really pro lights…
    I’d love to have some quick feed back if you have a second to drop on my site!
    Great job anyhow, really happy to see what you do, and set myself some challenges!

  169. Benni Leitz


    i have a question: i’m about to purchase my first dslr. Until now i’ve only been borrowing a friends one.
    since i’m a high school student my budget is extremly limited. I thought about getting either a Nikon d3000 or a Canon rebel xs.
    BUT: it’s really bothering me, that the entry-level dslr of both brands DONT have a buil-in autofocus motor – i dont wanna be dependent on their AF lenses.
    My question: what is the “cheapest” nikon(/canon) model that has one. or at least, what would be an affordable camera with a built-in motor.

    Lol a D700 is totally out of my league.

    I hope you can help me.

    • Todd

      Hey Benni,

      I think the Nikon D90 is the lowest model with a built-in focusing motor, which will let you use any Nikon AF lens. With Canon, all their EF lenses (and EF-S) are compatible with their DSLRs without an in-camera focusing motor.

      If you want to help support this site, please consider buying through my B&H (NYC) affiliate link here:

      Good luck!

      • Benni Leitz

        Wow. thanks you so much for your quick answer. i really admire how you manage to answer all question, help interested people and fans, even though you have a life and a job. that’s pretty awesome.

        Mhm… dang, that’s pretty expensive. At least for me :)
        I doubt i can afford that.
        What do you think, for me as a newbie, would the d3000 or the rebel xs be alright?
        which one would be better for me?
        I know the d3000 doesn’t have a live-view mode (the rebel does, but i like nikon in general), and it sounds kinda helpful for a concert photographer?!
        I know, those cameras aren’t really suitable for good-quality concert-photography, but i’m a newbie and poor :D, i’m afraid their permormance in ISO 1600, might even be a little to poor.

        I’m sorry that i have so many questions ;) i don’t wanna be annoying, but i really enjoy having a professional opinion helping me.

        • Todd

          Hey Benni,

          Between the Nikon D3000 and Rebel XS, I’d go with the D3000. I’ve handled both cameras and I prefer the D3000 – it’s just a little more robust. Surprisingly so, actually, for an entry-level camera.

          I think either should be just fine at ISO 1600, it’s the upper sensitivities you have to worry about. Good luck.

  170. Corinne

    Hey Todd,
    Why do you say that “the D300s is a great option for soundboard shoots and festivals with high stages.” ?

    I’ve got a D300s and coming up from a D70 its quite a brick, do you say that cos its lighter than the D3/D700?

    • Todd

      Hey Corinne,

      I say the D300s is a great option for soundboard shoots and festivals because of the crop factor, giving a 1.5x multiplier to your focal length. So, your 200mm is going to have the field of view of a 300mm compared to a full-frame D3 or D700.

  171. chuck tuck

    Your D300s has better high ISO than the D70, and the D300s has the 1.5 crop which allows for further reach than the D3 or D700.

    I use my D300 for shooting from the mix but rarely rely on my D700 if I’m shooting from there even though I have the 200-400 vr

  172. Heather

    Hi Todd,
    I never thought that I would say “Oooooooo” to every picture I look at..LOL. You have such a gift.

    My personal favorite, besides my admiration or your work has been Linda McCartney’s work; it’s a HUGE influence over my photography and one the BIG reasons why I started–her pictures were simple yet so profound…

    Music is my passion (singing mostly) though i don’t have the confidence to get on stage myself…photography has kind of been my outlet to that. I have a Canon 50D..I love my photos, but with anything lighting at a live show gets tough. Is there a specific lens that you would recommend to me for this body of camera?

  173. Jeff

    Hi Todd –

    Wonderful website you have and it’s very informative. Curious on your thoughts on the Nikon 105mm 2.8 lens for concert photography – I didn’t see it on your list. I’m looking to purchase one because I’m thinking it will be lighter to carry around than my 70-200 2.8, plus I just love the quality of prime lenses. I already have a 35mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.8.

    Also, speaking of weight – do you ever use a monopod at the shows? – even when you’re close to the stage to provide that extra stability at lower shutter speeds?

    Thank you so much!

    Cedar Falls, IA.

    • Todd

      Hi Jeff,

      I don’t use a monopod at shows unless I’m shooting with a supertele from the soundboard or another relatively distant spot. For the most part, a monopod is too cumbersome to use in the photo pit, and I prefer a little more mobility.

      With regard to the 105/2.8 VR I have used the lens, but not for concert photography. Even though the 70-200mm is much larger and heavier, the flexibility is really hard to beat. I generally only shoot primes when the light is very poor, since concert photography has enough constraints as it is – the flexibility of f/2.8 zooms is worth their weight to me.

      Hope this helps.

  174. Peter Horn

    As a low-cost body I’d choose the D90 anytime, definetely. It has the same high-ISO performance as the D300. The 5000 is too small to hold and costs almost as much as a D90. About Canon I won’t talk, I am a Nikon guy since my early days as a photographer.

  175. Rene

    Hi Todd,

    I’m new to your site. Hello! I’m about to finish my photography digital I course and am contemplating taking a photographing musicians course. I have had success gaining access to some venues in the NYC area — for the price of a ticket, of course — with a Canon Rebel, but none at others. They tell me union rules Rule! What advice can you give an amateur who loves the art, but is unable to use a dslr at most concert venues. Note, luckily I carry my Canon SD850 as a back up. Perhaps I need to upgrade that? Your advice is welcomed.

    Great website!

    Thanks in advance,

  176. Tom McKean

    Hey Todd,

    I sent you a separate Email about pricing and lo & behold your answer was already here in these replies from awhile back.

    Hey great site. Cool info. Am a shooter getting back into the music photo game. Your tips and stuff is already helping me get started.



  177. Daniel Ducote

    Hi Todd,
    First off I wanted to say very nice article and I like how you comment back to all of your comments. That is very classy of you to do. Instead of asking a question, I wanted to help some of your viewers in the equipment decision process. I have been a Professional Portrait Photographer for the past five years. All of my work is location work where the lighting is constantly changing and my equipment helps me control that light. When it comes to equipment I have tried it all. Like you I don’t get into the debates about what company is the best. There are things I like and dislike about every camera and lens manufacturer out there. With that said I wanted to give some of my personal tips when looking into equipment before buying. First off don’t get into the megapixel race, the more megapixel you have the bigger your prints will be. But there is a down side to that which is more noise in your images. I personally look at a camera for its resolution and the amount of detail it can produce. My personal choices in cameras are the original Canon 5D, Fuji S3 or S5 Pro, and Nikon D3 and D700. Also when it comes to lenses remember that your camera can affect the focal range depending on the sensor size. For instance if you have a 17mm-55mm f/2 on a camera with a 1.6x crop factor like the Canon 50D. It is like having a 24mm-70mm f/2 lens on a full frame Canon 5D. The crop factor cuts out part of your frame thus changing your focal range. For novice photographers that are not aware of this if you were planning on buying a 24mm-70mm lens for your camera and you have a camera that has a crop factor then you wont be working in the 24-70mm focal range. The biggest part in buying lenses is to know how your camera balances exposure and what part your lens plays. Your ISO is the film sensitivity to light just like in the old days of film camera. The higher the ISO the more noise but also faster the shutter speeds you can produce in low light. The faster the shutter speed the less blurry your images will be. To achieve this you must have the right lens especially in low light situations. To understand your lens you must understand what the f/ number does. The lower the f/ number (i.e. f/2 or lower)the more light it can take in and the higher the f/ number (i.e. f/4 and up) the less light it can take in. So if you are looking into shooting in low light situations you want to look for any lens that is f/2 and under on the f/ stop number on the lens. To me it don’t matter if you use a lens by the same manufacturer as your camera or a third party lens as long as it has that requirement. I hope this helps some of your viewers in their buying adventure.

    Thank You,

  178. Benni Leitz

    Hey todd,

    i posted A LOT of questions a while ago about the right entry-level camera.
    Well, now ifinally got enough money to buy the nikon d5000 which – as i read – shoots good quality pictures even in ISO 3200 AND supports ISO 6400.
    But i just found the PENTAX k-x which shoots pics with ISO values of up to 12800.
    I know there’s not as much astuff out there for pentax products, but the k-x offers a high ISO value for the same price.

    Would you still recommend the d5000 or do you think the k-x is worth the price?

    • Peter Horn

      Forget about those numbers, go with the pro brands. And why a D5000? – It is a plaything compared to the D90 (similar price range). You’ve got to handle those cameras in order to get an idea about what I mean. Go to a shop. And check out! Good luck!

    • Todd

      Hey Benni,

      I’d definitely go with the NIkon D5000 over the Pentax. Nothing against Pentax, but I do support going with either Nikon or Canon – for concert photography, they have the best lineups and proven performance for low light work.

  179. Mark

    Hi Todd,

    I am planning to buy a 85mm 1.8 for my D80 and was just wondering if this is a good lens for concert photography as a startup.


  180. Garry

    Hi Todd
    Great site and Info
    I am looking at getting a mid range lens like your 24-70mm. I saw this one locally (the UK) AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR 28-70mm f/2.8D IF-ED
    What is the difference between this one and your 24-70mm.

    Also just wondering about flash, I have stopped using it at gigs since i went from point and shoot to SLR and the difference is brilliant with a 1.4 or 1.8 lens. Other than studio portriats, why would anyone use flash if there is enough natural light. I see a lot of photo journalists on tv using flash in the middle of a sunny day, i don’t see the point?.
    Garry (a beginner)

    • Todd

      Hi Gary,

      The older 28-70mm is a solid lens, but I prefer the new lens for a few reasons – namely the wider angle of 24mm and the much improved ergonomics. Lastly, the Nano coating gives a really fantastic look to the images – it’s more like reality than seeing any artifacts from optics.

      Regarding flash, it can be useful to fill in shadows for daylight shooting. Having “enough” natural light and having “good” natural light are two different things.

  181. William

    Todd i am going to a George Jones concert mid july in pigon forge,Tn.I will be seated 6 rows from the stage with an aisle seat,the stage will be approximately 30 to 40 feet away from me.I shoot a d300s and i have a nikon 17-55 & an nikon 80-200 2.8.I’m just wandering which lens would be best to use.I am a amateur but i get pretty good shots some times.Also would like advice on weather to use auto ISO or set it to around 640 or 800. the vinue is not realy that dark. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

  182. Jackie

    Hey Todd! Love your work!

    I’m interested in buying the Nikon D3s but currently have a Canon Rebel XSi with a F/3.5 18-55mm kit lens. I do what i can at concerts and sometimes shoot ISO 400-800, which clearly will show noise, sometimes do long exposures when I can catch a musician not moving too much. So I purposely have used high ISO to make up for the low light, and long exposure which is trial and error for me because I will get blurred motion. I know I’m limited with my XSi and have been saving up for a Nikon D3s. So far I’ve just saved about $1,600.

    I’m a student in college and work only 2-3 times a week, $9.00 an hour, so I don’t make too much. Which leads me to my question; I’d like to get your advice. I still plan on buying a Nikon D3s in the future, but I know it won’t happen any time soon. So I’m considering purchasing the Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8 lens, it seems like a great lens! Unfortunately, it will eat up most of the money I’ve saved. My only concern is that the lens won’t be worth purchasing because I will be using my Canon XSi and not a better Canon camera. I don’t want to upgrade to a better Canon camera because I plan to purchase a Nikon, and I probably won’t be able to sell my equipment. I planned on buying the lens this weekend but am now having second thoughts. Would you recommend I go ahead and buy the lens? I fear my camera will still greatly limit my photography despite the great lens.

    I really would like to buy the lens but I’m not that experienced; I don’t really know if it’s going to make that big of a difference with my current camera. I shoot mostly small venues, but occasionally get photo passes from local bands I know. I’ve been able to shoot at the 9:30 Club (Washington DC) which usually has great lighting. I actually plan to shoot there next week for another local band I know that is headlining.

    Sorry for rambling, but I will appreciate any advice you can give!

    Thank you!!

    • Todd

      Hey Jackie,

      If your goal is ultimately to save for the Nikon D3s, I think you could go a few ways.

      1) Invest as little as possible in your Canon system, going with third party alternatives, or getting a few cheap primes to hold you over. Think used lenses, too.
      2) Just get the Canon 24-70mm, treat it well, and plan to resell when you switch. The 24-70mm is going to be a huge improvement over the kit lens you’re using, especially at the much faster telephoto end of the range. You won’t have quite the wide angle, though.

      If you go on the cheap, you can’t really go wrong with a fast lens like a 35mm f/2 or 50mm f/1.8, the latter of which is super cheap.

      Hope this helps!

      • Jackie

        Thanks so much for taking the time to give me some great advice, and so quickly too! I noticed on your twitter that you were shooting last night. I really appreciate the quick response considering your work schedule.

        I went ahead and purchased the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L. I was considering the primes but I know this lens will give me much more range, and it will still be a great lens for other situations.

        Thanks again, and take care!

  183. Renai


    Your work is inspiring!

    I have an obvious eye for photography and I’m ready to take it more seriously. I’m seeking to purchase a Nikon or Canon dSLR with the following qualities:

    *High continuous speed
    *Image stabilization
    *Shoots great in low light conditions
    *Fast multi-point autofocus
    *External flash options
    *HD video
    *Runs on rechargeable batteries/charger

    Could you kindly recommend a body, a lens, and a flash all under $2000? I am presently shooting concerts, fashion, and portraits with a Sony DSC-F828 and would ultimately like to purchase a Nikon D3 with all the bells and whistles once finance permits. Thank you in advance for considering.

    Peace & Prosperity,

  184. Iñaki

    Hi Todd!

    First of all, I want you to know that you’ve been a huge inspiration in my work over the year I’ve been shooting concerts.

    I’ve decided to get some gear and try to go pro, and my budget is about $1,200. What are your thoughts on the Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro Lens? I also plan on getting the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, but I saw you feel it’s kinda tight on an APS camera (I shoot a D5000).

    Any help from my role model would be awesome!



  185. Zahra


    I have an Olympus E-410, which doesn’t get much exposure on sites for help, I was wondering if you knew anything about shooting for concerts with my camera…?

  186. Garry

    Hi Todd

    I will have access to shoot at a small showcase festival in october, various venues mostly 50-400 people, with stage heights varying from 0 to 4.5 feet high.
    I currently have.
    Camera – Nikon D90
    Lenses – Nikon 50mm D 1.4
    Nikon 85mm D 1.8
    Tamron 18-55mm 2.8
    Nikon 70-200mm VR 2.8
    I am thinking of either hiring a D700 (D3s is probably going to givr me similar results?) or the Nikon 24-70mm 2.8. I would hire both but the hire shop charges per item and will not combine the value of both. I am tempted as i could then use 2 cameras.
    Anyhow, what do you think.
    D700 (or even D3s) will give me full frame over the D90?
    24-70mm lens, good for such small venues, in most cases i can stand as close to 10-12ft from the drummer.


  187. Todd Owyoung

    Hey Garry,

    From the number of people attending at these venues, I'd say go for hiring the Nikon D3. It seems like your 50/1.4 and 85/1.8 are going to be pretty nice for those kinds of smaller clubs, and the high ISO performance of the D3 is going to help you out a lot if the lights are low.

    • Garry

      Thanks for the reply. Yeah i think hiring the D3x will be better, got plenty of lenses. I will have my d90 and the rental D3x and not have to change lenses.


  188. Benni Leitz

    Hey Todd,

    its me again, the newbie whos always asking questions about those newbie level cams :)

    So i got the Nikon D5000 now. The D90 was too expensive and had – i think – the same lowlight-performance as the d5000.

    Next month – next paycheck – I’ll make some pictures at a small venue in my city, but i still gotta get a lense.

    My question:

    The 35mm 1.8 or th 50mmm 1.4?
    Im afraid the 50mm PLUS 1.5 cropfactor will be a little too narrow, what do you think? Plus its more expensive.

    On the other hand Its one stop faster and i heard its simply a way better quality, is that true?

    • Todd

      Hey Benni,

      I’d personally go for the 35mm on the D5000 or any DX camera. The reason being, I find 50mm just a little too tight on APS/DX camera to be really general use.

      It can be very nice for portraits, though, as long as compression isn’t needed.

  189. Troy

    Thanks for all the great tips. I just rented a couple of lenses (50/1.4 and 80/1.8) based on the recommendations, for an upcoming event. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  190. Rachael

    Hey, do you mind helping me out? I’m looking for a camera with a “high zoom” feature. I was looking at Nikon P90, however it is slightly over my budget. Can you recommend any other alternatives? Thanks!

    • Todd

      Hi Laurenz,

      I don’t use the Wacom Cintiq, but if I were doing heavy retouching for portrait work, it would certainly be on my short list. I just use the Intuos 4 for my work, and it’s fantastic. Personally, I find the coordination of the pen, tablet, and screen just fine. Also, I normally use the Intuos in mouse mode, rather than pen mode (so tracking is as if I were using a mouse, rather than tying the pens tracking to the exact real estate of the screen, like you’d use the Cintiq).

      • Laurenz

        I’d like to use the tablet for doing digital sketching (architecture and automotive design) and retouching portraits (I’m also a photographer, although amateur)
        For the retouching part, the intuos seems fine.
        But I’m a bit worried about the eye-hand coordination while sketching…

        Best Regards

  191. john

    Hi Todd, just wanted to say, love your work and really appreciate the advice you’ve shared on here. I’m a newbie and may be getting a chance to shoot a fairly large show this week. Its an evening show and is being held in a covered outdoor venue.

    Here’s a quick breakdown of my equipment. I own a D70 and D90. My lens include a 85mm/1.8, a 50mm/1.8, a 18-70mm/4.5, 10-24mm/3.5 and a 70-300mm/4. Reading some of your other post has left me thinking about renting a 24-70mm 2.8. as well.

    Here’s my question(s).
    1. I would love to have 2 bodies at my disposal but am not sure which lens I should use on each camera. I’d prefer to not worry about changing them too often, if ever, so I was curious to know what setup you would recommend to start.
    2. should I rent a better camera?


    • Todd

      Hey John,

      Use your “best” camera (the one you trust the most) with the lens you expect to most. And if need be, change lenses to make that the case while shooting.

      I wouldn’t worry about renting another camera at this point, unless this show is of particular importance and you think you’ll be very limited by the gear you use.

      The paradox of live music photography is that the bigger the show, the worse gear you can use (the lights are brighter).

      • john

        thanks Todd,
        I like your point about available light based on the size of the show. That gives me some comfort.

        Being new to Concert shooting, Im just not sure which lens to rely on the most. I like what I’ve read and seen on your site about the 24-70, 2.8 but have never used one before.

        Is the D70 (6MP) camera even worth taking?. I thought maybe it would be fine with my 50mm lens. While using the 24-70mm or 85mm on my D90 (12MP). Plus, I keep thinking I need the fastest apertures I can get with my lens choice.

        decisions, decisions. haha
        thanks again,

  192. Derrick

    Hi Todd,

    I have just stumbled upon your website while trying to research for tips on gear and how to take photos in concerts and i must say that your website by far is the most informative. It is so rare for any photographer to share so candidly advice on gear and technique as you do, and also your story on your own journey into music photography.

    I would like to ask for your advice on both gear and technique issues.

    I am currently using a nikon d50 with the 18-55 kit lens that it came with, and i am planning on upgrading my lens. Following your advice, i will probably be going with a 35mm to start off with. What are your thoughts on the 35mm 1.8f dx lens in comparison to the 35mm 2f lens? I know the f2 lens is a bit more expensive and slower but as it is not a dx lens, if one day, finance permitting, i am able to upgrade to an fx camera, i would still be able to use it.

    Secondly, i have just recently shot my first show using my d50 and kit lens, i was wondering if it is not too much trouble, could you critique it and tell me where i could imrpove and do better? I understand that you must be extremely busy and its fine if you cannot, its just i do value your opinions. You can find those photos here – http:[email protected]/sets/72157624892698452/

    Thank you again for all the advice you have provided so far. Your website is now my bibke of sorts :)

  193. Ruben


    Autofocus stopped working on my Nikon D80… I’m planning to get a new lens…
    Would you recommend Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED for my D80?

    So far I only have 50mm 1.4 and the one that came with my D80.

    Is it too much lens for my Camera ? :-)

    Nice Site

    Thank you,

    • Todd

      Hey Ruben,

      Good lenses are never “too much” in my opinion. When I had the Nikon D70, I bought the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 – by all reasonable accounts, a fat lens for such a smallish camera. Still, I never regretted it. The image quality and speed of lenses like the Nikon 24-70mm is never wasted.

  194. Kristi


    First, let me say that your photos are amazing and inspiring to those of us who want to combine our passion for photography with our love for music! Thank you for sharing your talents with us!

    I am only a newbie and have been doing a lot of research into the best starter equipment and getting my foot in the door. I want to know your suggestions on the following:
    1 – best camera, lens, other essentials for a beginner (knowing the D3 is the ultimate goal)
    2 – I am following some local groups and visiting local venues to get a portfolio. Any other suggestions?
    3 – I have taken some classes and have played with cameras for years….do you suggest getting a photography certificate or looking for a mentor or???
    4 – any advice you can share on getting into the business? I prefer concert photography, music related areas and do not want to get into the whole portait area with babies, weddings, etc. Those are just not my thing.

    Your willingness to share is truly appreciated and I thank you for your time, talent and vast knowledge!

  195. Miguel

    Hi Todd,

    I see that almost all you fotography and gear concentrates on the artists. What would be the most appropriate lens for taking pictures of big crowds at concerts and festivals?

    Thank you


  196. Jay Yu


    Da picture u shoot in concert are much NICER than mine!!! Cool!
    (You can check out mine in my website if u are interested)

    Just a quick question – I have just get my Nikon D700 to replace my Canon 5D, what picture control setting do you use on the concerts? I never change picture style setting on Cannon……


    • Todd

      Hey Jay, thanks for the kind words. I shoot with all the standard picture control settings – nothing changed at all, really. Hope this helps, and I hope you like the Nikon D700.

  197. Jonathan

    Hi Todd

    I see you now travel with the Thinktank Airport International. What bag do you shoot out of during concerts itself and why?

    I shoot concerts too and can’t find a bag to fit all my stuff in and yet be functional at the same time. Its either 3 primes or 3 zooms at any time. How about doing a post about what you travel with, and what you actually shoot with at concerts?

    Thanks for being a wonderful inspiration!

  198. Kim

    Hey Todd,

    Enjoy the site very much. Fantastic photos.
    I just looking to purchase a Mac Pro for my Photography (and Music). Any recommendations on which one. Thginking about 3.2 (4 core), however, I really think the 6 Core 3.33 will be of more use. Also, Is the 27″ ACD OK for Photography. I have a Spyder Elite.

    Any insight would be very much appreciated.


  199. cameron

    So happy to stumble upon your site tonight. My son takes some pretty amazing concert shots . . . with my basic DSLR (Nikon D50). I want to buy him his OWN camera and a zoom lens for Christmas. I have read so many of your suggestions for beginners gear that my head is spinning. What do you suggest, in the $1500.00 range for a 17 year old who attends festivals and small club venues? He can often get a press pass thru the newspaper he works for, so he can get a decent camera into the venues. Also, is there a book that would give him some pointers- specifically for concert photography? If not…something for you to consider doing?? MANY thanks.

    • Todd

      Hi Cameron,

      For about $1500, this is what I’d recommend:

      Nikon D3100 Kit
      Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
      Nikon 35mm f/1.8

      He can turn around and sell the kit lens that comes with the D3100, and he’s left with a solid f/2.8 zoom and a faster prime for the smaller clubs.

      As an alternative, you could get the Nikon D90, but that camera is older (though it will have better features than the D3100). The newer D3100 should have better high ISO performance, though, if I had to guess.

      If you buy through those links to B&H, it helps me support this site. But you can also buy through any of my affiliate retailers. As for books, there aren’t really any books on modern concert photography that I can think of – tell him to check out the articles on this site, though!

  200. Tonny Liautanto

    Hi Todd,

    I recently change to Nikon from Canon. I bought used D200 and 2 SB800 flashes. But still figure out what lens i should come up.

    Any suggestion? Thanks for replying.


  201. Jonathan

    Hi Todd

    I see you now travel with the Thinktank Airport International. What bag do you shoot out of during concerts itself and why?

    I shoot concerts too and can’t find a bag to fit all my stuff in and yet be functional at the same time. Its either 3 primes or 3 zooms at any time. How about doing a post about what you travel with, and what you actually shoot with at concerts?

    Thanks for being a wonderful inspiration!

  202. Jackie Valentine

    Hi Todd, I have a d3100 with some kit lenses that I’m borrowing from a friend. Since right now everything I shoot is excruciatingly dark I have been thinking about renting gear, if I ever get a chance to shoot a more important show than just the regular friends bands. Between a crop frame like the d3100 and say the full frame of a d610 is there a major difference in stops? Basically I’m wondering if I should be saving money and just renting some good 1.4 prime lenses to go with the d3100 I already have and that’ll be enough to brighten up my shots, or if from a light standpoint its worth the extra cash to rent the d610 and prime lenses.


  203. Bokeh Monk

    Just curious as to whether you’re planning a D810 into the kit? I’m hoping for a workingman’s perspective / camera review Thanks.

    • Todd

      I am planning on adding 2x D810 to the kit. I have been shooting with them for the last week and have another stadium show to shoot this weekend — so far, the D810 has been better in every way for shows compared to the Nikon D800. This shouldn’t be a surprise, just progress. It seems like high ISO performance is a stop better (give or take!) and the 5 FPS is a noticeable improvement. AF seems perhaps a little better, but not night and day.

  204. Devin

    I have the nikon d3, and thinking of getting the 14-24m, I like to know would the lens worth the money since it;s only 12.5 megal pixel?

  205. Cooper

    Great site – Great Photos – Great advice. Huge thanks for sharing your stuff. Appreciated.

    Having shot some concerts (Air guitar finals – hilarious) around 10000 years ago using a 70-210 on a Nikon D7000 – I’ve since largely moved over to Micro 4/3 for my Photography. Olympus OM-D E-M1 + primes.
    Given the good low light perf and fast high-quality optics now available – what would be our reservations (if any) about ‘lightening the load’ and carrying 2 Micro-4/3rd bodies? I can see immediate advantages in weight and portability.

    • Todd

      Hi Erin,

      Sorry, I don’t have experience with Sony cameras. However, I feel like the Sony A7 series is probably suitable for concert photography. The A7r is similar to the Nikon D800 I’m using now. The A7s is a super low-light camera if you don’t need resolution, while the standard A7 is likely a good compromise between the two.

  206. Bethany

    Would a Caon EF-S 18-135mm be good for music photography? I currently have three lens’ for my Canon 70D. 50mm f/1.8 II, the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM and the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM. I understand the 50mm are good for shots, but I was wondering about the other two when shooting in Academy sized venues here in the UK?

  207. Polly

    Hi Todd,

    Thank you for your amazing website. It’s been of great help for me, the best website of its kind in the Net. And your photographs are amazing.

    I’d really use some advice on buying a camera. I’ve never owned a DSLR and all the articles I’ve read are still just a theory which I haven’t experienced firsthand. I am on a tight budget, but still trying to save up for a decent camera that I would not have to upgrade for quite some time, and I’ve set my mind on Nikon 610. However, several times I’ve stumbled upon the opinions that there’s something not quite right with its AF and that made me doubt. Is it really that bad as some tell?

    Second question is the lens. I know good lens is paramount and I could get a decent prime but the price of Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom you’ve recommended here made me weep (another couple months of a deadly boring job).

    I was wondering, maybe there are other options or maybe you’d recommend which one is more important at the starters (the body or the zoom) and which one is easier to change in the future… or maybe I should really invest a bit more time in saving up and come out with a kit I wouldn’t have to worry about for at least a couple of years?

  208. Belinda Strømmen

    Hi Todd,

    This is my first time hearing about you, and I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t hear about you sooner. You’ve got lots of good advice here, it’s really helpful. I love your website!
    Any chance you could check out my website and get me some feedback? At anything from the photos, to the layout, the size of the font… The whole enchilada! Any constructive criticism would help.
    I’m working on coming up with a different and more ”internationally friendly” name sort of speak, and a logo, but I’m kind of stuck. Hopefully I’ll figure something out in a few months.

    Thank you!

  209. Jay Mogridge-Percy

    Dude, you have inspired me……..I’m due to do my first shoot tonight for a local band and your tips have really setteled my nerves! I’m so glad I found this web page. Your images are tops fella and I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll be using you and your images in my project research for college.

    Thank you for the advice Todd. Ill be back for more reading, real soon.

  210. Gareth

    Hi Todd,
    Absolutely love your work, and this site! I’m in a bit of a pickle about lenses, and I was wondering if you could help… I shoot shows using the Fujifilm XT1, and my current workhorse is the 18-55mm 2.8-4 IS kit lens, but I’m debating whether or not to go for the 16-55mm 2.8 lens… While this lens does offer a constant 2.8 throughout the range, it doesn’t come with Image Stabilization like the kit lens, so i’m not sure whether it’s worth going for… I mostly shoot bands who are moving around a lot. What would you recommend?

  211. Victor Peters


    I’m currently investigating a few options for expanding or upgrading my gear. I own a Nikon D3S body and the three 2.8 Nikon zooms listed above and would very much like to purchase a D700 to go with the D3S as a second body. However, for about the same amount of money and trading in my D3S I can purchase an unused D810.

    I have shot with two bodies until about 6-7 months ago, when I sacrificed this convenience to trade in one body and purchase an ultra-wide zoom. While shooting with only one body I found, that carrying less gear and weight around makes it easier to navigate through the crowd with my gear and still produce great photos despite an occasional missed moment on stage when I had the ‘wrong’ lens on my camera and couldn’t attach the ‘right’ one on it fast enough.

    I’m still not sure what to do. I like my D3S and would appreciate the option to shoot with two camera’s (and not having to switch lenses that often), but it’s a dated model with older technology on board and has for current standards a below-par resolution of only 12 MP.
    The D810 (introduced in 2014) has newer technology for image processing on board and allows for more/better cropping without too much loss of image quality due to its much larger resolution. You can shoot in DX mode and get 1.5x longer lens for free this way with still a decent 16 MP resolution.

    Are there other things to consider that I may have forgot, that might convince me to go for one or the other (or maybe a third) option?

  212. david

    hey todd, thanks for this post. love your photos! i’m looking to add a wide angle, either 24mm 1.4 or 14-24mm 2.8. i have 70-200mm VRII and 24-70mm. if you had to buy just one wide lens, which would you recommend? i only have budget for one.

    • Todd Owyoung

      Hey David, sorry for the late reply. The 14-24mm is going to give you that really unique, ultra-wide lens. Since you already have the 24-70mm and 70-200mm, I have no hesitation to recommend the 14-24mm.

      Optical quality is excellent, no real negatives other than that it is a larger lens. I wouldn’t recommend the 24mm f/1.4 simply because you already have the 24mm end at the midrange covered.

  213. david

    thanks so much for the response. yeah, someone else also had the same advice. 14-24mm is a great lens, i guess not for the 24mm end of it, but the sharp, get in your face 14mm end of it. can’t wait to save up and add it to my collection!

    • Todd Owyoung

      I don’t have a ton of experience with the D600 for shows, but I think that the D750 is an extremely solid choice for concert photography. I know several pros who use the D750 as their primary body for shows.

  214. Stephen

    Ready to upgrade my d7000 with 75,000 snaps. Kind of want the low light capability of a d750 but am intrigued by the d500. I’ve read your full review of the d500. I shoot concerts almost exclusively with a 35 1.8, 85 1.8 and occasionally a 14-24 2.8.
    Price is pretty close on these two. What’s your 15 second pause gut reaction? Thanks!

  215. wideeyedpupil

    just read your glowing review of the D500 but it aint on this list ;-) did you gild the lily a little on that review, can a DX sensor really match even the D610 full frame sensor?

    • Todd Owyoung

      This list hasn’t been updated in a bit, but this is a good reminder to update it. I would say the practical difference between the D500 and a full-frame DSLR like the D610 or D750 is marginal at this point. The FX cameras obviously have an advantage in high ISO performance due to the sensor and the larger pixel pitch, but the D500 has it’s own advantages: superior AF performance and layout, speed, etc. For actual image making, not just pixel peeping, try the D500.

  216. P. Sardinha

    Hi Todd!
    I’ve used a D70 with the kit 18-70, Sigma 28-70 2.8 and an old push-pull 80-200 2.8. Have stoped for some year, but I’m back. I have now the D7200 (on a budjet and prefer good glass), the kit 18-140 and the amazing 70-200 2.8 VRII. I looked at the Nikkor 24-70 (no VR) and the spects and reviews of the Tamron 24-70 2.8 VC. Have you tryed this Tamron? I’m asking because the VR seem a good choice and the critics are good, but the shooters that use it are not in concert, dance or theatre.

    I’m updating my flickr with bigger resolution images and need to delete some not so good ones, but you could take a look at

    I’m also considering the 16-80 2.8-4 to replace the kit 18-140.

    • Todd Owyoung

      I haven’t used the VR version of the Tamron 24-70, only the non-VR version, which was quite good. I think that for concert and live music photography, VR isn’t a massive help unless you’re photographing more stationary performers. You’ll often get motion blur before the benefits of VR really kick in, in my opinion.

      • PS

        Thanks Todd!
        I’ll go for the Nikkor. Today I played a bit with the Tamron and didn’t liked the size for a 24-70. The images are good, but not better that Nikkor.
        Cheers and keep your excellent photography work, I like it!

  217. Tom

    Hi Todd,

    Excellent guide, thanks a lot! And I am a huge fan of your work!

    I am an Amsterdam based amature concert photographer who wants to take the ‘next step’.

    Hopefully you can help me out with some questions:

    1. I shoot at small/medium size venues: Would you recommend the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS or the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II IS to start with? I want to shoot close-ups of the lead singer and each band member. Does the 24-70mm will be sufficient?

    2. Is an Image Stabiliser a huge advantage when it comes to concert photography? These lenses are much more expensive, but I shoot hand held and due to low light-difficulties I can imagine that IS could be a great advantage. Is it a necessity for sharpness?

    3. Do you know if the previous version of Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS (the ‘I’ version) also comes with Image Stabiliser? I cannot find anything on The Internet about this.

    Hopefully you have the time to read these questions. With you experience I hope you can help me out a bit.

    Thanks in advance!


    • Todd Owyoung

      Hey Tom,

      1) The 24-70mm would be better for smaller clubs, assuming you have stage-front access.

      2) VR/IS isn’t a huge asset for active bands — possibly for jazz or folk musicians if they aren’t moving as much, but for a band, image stabilization isn’t going to help freeze motion.

      3) I believe there are non IS versions of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 and f/4.

  218. Tom

    Hi Todd,

    In addition to my previous questions: I have a Canon EOS 600D. Will that influence the performance of for example a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II or a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II dramatically? If this is the case, what minimum standard Canon body would you suggest?

    And again, love your work man Keep it up!

    Kind regards,


  219. Stephen B

    Just got my d750. Huge jump over my d7000 in terms of overall image quality. Have three FX lenses: 50mm 1.5, 85mm 1.8 and Tokina 16-28mm 2.8. Certainly could use a little more reach, but most shows I’m shooting from the pit.

    My question is: do I change metering and focus settings on my new rig from my d7000. There is so much more to choose from. Right now I’m thinking single point highlight metering and single point focus. I’ve never used focus lock or 3d/Auto focus points. There is also the GrP option. I wouldn’t call myself a novice photog by any stretch, but the d750
    is making me think I need to do more research. It’s a complicated beast!

    • Todd Owyoung

      Hey Stephen,

      I shoot in manual mode exclusively and I use matrix metering, but only as a rough guide — I really actually just review the histogram and the image display to see that I’m ballpark on exposure. If I get within about 1/3-1/2 stop, I’m happy. I use AF-C single point most of the time. Hope this helps!

  220. Lesley

    Hey Todd,

    I’m trying to get into concert photography but have a vague idea of the kind of camera I need. I was thinking a Canon 400D dslr or a Canon 6D, but do you have any more recommendations that are a little more budget friendly? I want to purchase a lens or two to go along with it so what would you use?


  221. Leah

    What point & shoot camera would you recommend strictly for concert photography? I need some that is fantastic in low light of course but can also take nice sharp pictures and has great zoom. This camera is for the shows that won’t allow the “professional” camera into them.

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