How To Take… Concert Photography

Novice photographers are often disappointed with the shots they get from their cameras at concerts and other low-light situations. This is usually due to the fact that, if left to it’s own devices, the camera will decide what ISO speed to use, and can also insist on using on-camera flash.

If you’re at a concert, using flash can be enough to get you thrown out of the venue (to say nothing of it being pretty rude going off in the artists’ faces). It also results in very harsh, flat lighting, which completely drowns out any of the colourful stage lighting, ruining the atmosphere.

In order to capture the colours to full advantage, turn your camera to manual – or at least, alter the ISO-setting to the highest it will go – 800 or 1600 if possible, and turn off the flash. This should force the camera to choose a wide aperture and fastest shutter speed possible, which will help capture the colours and action on stage.

[The Rumble Strips – stage lighting effects are good to capture with the wide angle lens]


Alexandra Palace, for a private gig by The Rumble Strips. Because it was a private show, photography was allowed, but this isn’t always the case at concerts. I was right in the front row, so no-one’s head was in my way!


  • Canon EOS 30D set on ISO 1600 and Programme AE
  • Canon 17-85mm f4-5.6 EF IS lens for wide shots
  • Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 EF IS lens for closeups/portraits


Try to get the musicians “doing something” or at least, appear to be in the middle of singing!

[Tom Garbutt on bass, with a green spotlight picking out some highlights]

[Henry Clark on trumpet, with a magenta spotlight backlighting]

If you can, try and fill the frame for some interesting shots of the instruments:

[Closeup of the poor old battered guitar Charlie was strumming]

It’s always good to be right at the front of the crowd, to get the best pictures. And if you can turn off you flash and wind up the ISO sensitivity of your camera, you’re likely to get more interesting pictures than the bloke next to you holding up a camera phone!

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