My Life as a Concert Photographer

This also happened during another show with soul star Anthony Hamilton, who is one of my favorite soul singers. The show was way smaller than the Tom Petty gig, but nevertheless, the atmosphere of the place was wonderful.

After two songs, my memory card was filled with great close ups and pictures of his band, so I basically just forgot about photographing and listened as he played his great songs. After my three songs, I wasn’t thrown out, but instead I could enjoy the show together with my girlfriend, who also had her name on the guest list.

Anthony Hamilton

However, even though this seems like a sweet life, there are still some things one should take into account before devoting yourself to concert photography, at least in Sweden. It won’t make you lose interest, but there are some things that you should know before the show:

  1. Roadies kind of hate you. Once, Britney Spears’s sound mixer bashed me in the head because I was in his way.
  2. Security guards are always watching you. One rule broken, and you are thrown out… or worse.
  3. The terms and conditions of the gig can be very restricted. Sometimes photographers refuse to sign the artist’s contracts and just walk away because the artist might have contracts that are too strict.
  4. The shooting place is not always in front of the artist or band. Sometimes you have to take your pictures from about 50-60 meters away.

Again, this might be different in other countries, but these are some challenges a Swedish photographer is put up against.

The Equipment

The equipment that I normally use is:

  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon D90
  • Nikon 50mm 1.8 Ai
  • Nikon 70-200 G ED F2.8
  • Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105 f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
  • Tamron 24-70mm F2.8
  • Nikon SB-900

Everybody who has been to a show and tried to take pictures with their Nikon Coolpix or Canon Ixus cameras knows that it’s difficult. Sometimes you get lucky and get a great shot, but very often they end up all blurry and dark.

The reason why a concert photographer needs a high quality camera is just because it can handle low light situations better than the compact cameras can. It’s not just the camera that has to be light sensitive, but also the lenses that you use. All my lenses for my Nikon D700 have an aperture of f/2.8 or lower.

The lower the light, the harder it gets to take great pictures, but like I said before, that is also one of the things that I love the most.

When the light is low, you have to change the settings on your camera very fast and experiment with ISO sensitivity, aperture and shutter speed. A skilled photographer knows their way around the camera and can make these adjustments faster. But since many gigs are different from each other, you never know what type of lightning the stage will have, so you have to be prepared for anything.


10 Responses

  1. This was fascinating to read about. Keep up the great work!

  2. amy says:

    how do you deal with venues you’ve never been to? Or do you just carry all your lenses around? xD

    • Peter says:

      @amy, I actually do carry most of my equipment with me since the rules are different from gig to gig. I invested in an good backpack (Lowepro 400AW) and my back thanks me for it :)

      • amy says:

        @Peter, I have one obstacle that you don’t have. When I go out with my camera, I have a high percentage of getting mugged. LOL So I prefer not having to carry all my equipment with me xD

        Maybe I should do a “My Life as a Peruvian Concert Photographer” hahaha

        • Peter says:

          @amy, Haha, yeah that sound like fun! Maybe you can have your equipment list like this:

          – Nikon D700
          – Nikkor 50mm Ai 1.8
          – Magnum 57
          – Kevlar vest
          – Tamron 28-75mm 2.8

  3. Holger says:

    Thanks for the great and honest read, Peter.
    I really enjoy your photos here and on your website!
    Keep it up!

    • Peter says:

      @Holger, Thanks a bunch!

      I like you pictures as well, especially the HDRs. Are you going to take more pictures of that band you shot earlier? It was nice pictures.


  4. Holger says:

    thanks mate,
    I did another band shoot last week. The bands feedback was: “nice try but not a single one is of use to us”. ;-)
    I’ve asked them to come up with a shooting vision of what would be of use and we’re working on that.
    I have a few concerts scheduled in the next weeks – trying to build a portfolio and hopefully find a way to affiliate with a magazine/online mag as well to shoot for them.
    that’s nice, at least so I read ;)

  5. Peter says:

    Haha, thats pretty harsh. But sure, its hard to know what bands look for in a shots from the show. My experience is that bands often want pictures of themselves with the audience but also pictures that show the atmosphere of the gig…but often its just full profile with cool and raw expressions on their faces.

    Nice to hear that you are shooting more shows. I bet you will have a nice concert portfolio to display soon.

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