Leave your concert photography questions as a comment and I’ll do my best to answer, no strings attached. Please indicate if you would like my response to be public or private.

*EDIT* – Please skim the comments to see if your question has already been answered!



  1. New Blog Post: Have a question about concert photography? Ask me, I dare you. http://snurl.com/9z683

  2. How do you deal with the frustration that nobody cares about you and your photos only because none of the bands you like is popular? You have to be really good to get great shots in those small bars / local youth centres and basements where there is never any good light at all. And even if you do – everyone will be impressed by some other guys images just because there is some international super star on it, taken from a fine photo pit and with more light in 1/250s then some other band has on an entire tour?

  3. Fantastic idea :)

    Totally not concert related, but I know you do some event photography too – any tips on using a speedlight on camera in extremely dark environments when there is nothing to bounce it off of? I do my best to balance, and I use a plastic diffuser with reduced flash output… but anything else? Any gizmos that are a “must have”? There is little I hate more than flashy photos.

  4. HELLO!!!! first of all CONGRATS!!! you guys rock!!! i’m a musician converted to photographer, from Caracas, Venezuela, i have just one question regard concert photography…. do you charge the band??? the promoter??? the veneu?? i have problems when a promoter call me for work, and then the band want the photographys also…. sorry for my english!!!


  5. Hi Alfredo,

    I think you should charge The Band, The Promoter, and The Venue. Your work has a unique value to all of these people and since people generally pay for things with value, you have a right to charge them whatever amount you feel is justified.

    I have sold the same photo to the band, the publicist, and a magazine. Good luck!

  6. Ben

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for taking the time to help others out. I was hoping you might be able to help me out a bit with some solid advice. I’d prefer if you would reply privately via email.

    I’ve been shooting shows in Los Angeles for almost a year now and have a pretty good reputation among local acts, bloggers, and concert goers. As of the new year I’ve decided to spend all my time exclusively on photography (at least until SXSW which I’m going to attend). Whereas last year I might only shoot a handful of shows in a month, so far this year I’ve been trying to go out every night and photograph as many shows as possible, especially larger shows in larger venues with larger bands. Trying to make the transition from hobbyist to professional is difficult, which is okay because I’m up for the challenge and the hard work, but I’m also in the dark on how to accomplish a lot of different things.

    1) One primary question I have is about publishing rights and costs. How do publishing rights work? Is there a good place I can beef up on this? What should I expect to charge bands, media outlets, venues, promoters, labels for my photographs? What kind of terms surround these sales? And then also, similarly, what’s a reasonable fee to charge an artist or their representatives for publicity stills or concert coverage? I don’t need to know what you charge per se, but rather what’s common place in the industry.

    2) How is the best way to promote yourself and garnish work? With the new year I created a new website to showcase my work http://yyyikys.com hoping that it would help build momentum and increase visibility around my photographs. But what’s the best way to contact magazines and other publications? Should I be sending out postcards or emailing photo editors? For example, I’m going to be at SXSW and would love to cover part of the festival for a publication, either online or in print. What would be the best way to try and set something up like that?

    3) How do you a sell a photo that you’ve already taken? I’m loosely familiar with photo agencies like Wire Image and the like. So you use a photo agency to help get placement for your work in publications. How do you sell photos that you’ve already taken? And on a related note, do you have an agency or management company that represents you to labels, publications, and other companies that are looking to hire photographers.

    I guess those are my main questions, it’s a lot of stuff I know. My primary goal is to simply work really hard over the next three months to improve my portfolio, shoot larger shows, and to network with more people. But come April I feel that I need to be at a point where I’m getting paid and am not sure how to transition to that point.

    Thanks for you time.

    Best regards,

    Ben Hoste

  7. John


    Fantastic quality photos my friend :)

    I started photographing concerts last year and drew up a list of all the bands that were coming to my local area that I liked.

    Surprisingly, I managed to blag a pass for my first concert and got some decent photos. From there on in I managed to shoot practically everyone on my list, but without magazine representation.

    It costs me on average, £15 ($30) petrol to get to each gig I shoot, but I made the decision to shoot right through from March until December off my own back in order to build up my portfolio.

    My question is this:

    I’m obviously at a point where I want to start selling my photos, but I dont know where to start. I’ve had enquiries from bands/managers asking how much I charge, but I’m stumped at what to ask for.

    Having researched it, its frustrating. Everybody seems to say – “well, you need to consider who its for, what they are using it for, how much this, how much that”. The fact is, everybody seems to mention umpteen variables but not give any examples of some pricing :(

    I’m also very interested in working for local (and hopefully at some point, national) newspapers/magazines, but again the first question they ask is – “how much do I charge?”

    I know its should all be done on an individual basis, but I just dont know where to start.

    Any help appreciated mate!

  8. Hi John. Thanks and thanks for writing.

    1) What to Charge.

    I recommend two books to almost every aspiring concert photographer:

    Best Business Practices for Photographers
    http://snurl.com/a1elw [www_amazon_com]
    Pricing Photography
    http://snurl.com/a1eom [www_amazon_com]

    I also recommend Fotoquote which is an industry standard for photo pricing
    http://snurl.com/a1pci [www_cradocfotosoftware_com]

    You can always ask “what’s your budget for photography” and see what they come back with.

    2) Magazines, Newspapers, etc. Typically, publications will pay a set amount for an assignment or photo. They quote the price up front and then you can negotiate, accept or decline. All you need to do is get in contact with them and get on their radar.

    I hope this helps! Followup questions are welcome.

  9. Hi Chris,

    I’m asking a question based on equipment.
    I see you’ve jumped around with Canon and Nikon and I was curious to what you started shooting low-light with and if you thought early on that your brand choice was detrimental to future growth.

    Mainly concerned I use a Pentax K20D currently and have the AF to be quite horrible in low-light and am thinking of even just completely switching Nikon before I spend lots on top of the line Pentax lens’ that will most likely still hunt a lot. I’m highly thinking of going large with a D700 but settling with a 50mm lens (which is what I have now on the Pentax).

    Have you come across other photographers who use Pentax at concerts?
    I suppose I haven’t shot a lot and haven’t shot in a proper lit stage yet but I really don’t think hoping into bed with a dormant beast is an option. Rather I think I should go out and find the best piece I can get and pay full price and be set for the the next few years.

    Good luck in 2009.
    Time to shoot a show.

  10. Hi Chris!
    Great idea and thanks for posting this.
    I’m glad you are taking the time to answer some of our questions.

    I actually have the exact same questions as Ben Hoste asked you.
    About publishing rights, selling your work and promoting yourself?
    I’m very interested in the way on how to contact magazines, publishers and photo editors.
    What is your advise on all of this?


  11. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the worldly response.

    Well I jumped at the idea of the D700 with the 50mm today.
    I got the f/1.8 though as the build quality was roughly the same and I couldn’t register any difference in IQ or sharpness that made a few hundred dollars for the the 1.4 viable.

    I think I’ll just eye a 28-70mm in the next little while.

    All in all I’m amazed at the greater level of camera you get for not too much more in $ than what I have now. Oh and here in Australia Nikon is raising the price by 20% – 30% from February.


  12. Hey, great post you got going here. I guess my first question is how do you keep up with all these, or how much coffee do you drink? Haha.

    Anyway, I wanted to ask: what is your take on noise-reduction setting when shooting at high ISO (1600 or above let’s say)?

    I have a D300 and at first I was shooting at ISO 1600 with default NR setting, then I realized that a lot of my shots appeared “smudged”. So I tried lower NR or no NR at all but I just couldn’t achieve good consistent results. Using a bunch of consumer-level lenses probably doesn’t help, but I was wondering if you can share any good tips & tricks?

    Do you use NR at all when you’re shooting at high ISO? Do you use the setting from camera, or do you just shoot RAW and not worry about it (apply NR later on computer)?

    Thanks Chris!

  13. Jennifer


    I am very new to photography and I really want to take some great shots like yours. I have a canon 40D, with EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. I am purchasing the Canon 70 200MM F2.8 and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. I am clueless as to settings. I recently shot a show a concert. I wound up shooting in auto because I had no idea what to set the camera for. Any help?

  14. hey Chris,

    Thanks for all your answers here, they’ve been great.

    What are your tips for shooting in very dark red-lit situations, other than the obvious converting to b&w in post?

    I recently shot in such circumstances (http://www.flickr.com/photos/stillpixels/sets/72157612751493276/) and while they’re “okay”, I’d like to improve in this area as it’s a very common situation.

    many thanks,

  15. John Burrows

    Haha and its always me :D

    When you say dial up or dial down your exposure, you mean like when you put exposure compensation on? I know its easy to do if your shooting manual, but I guess what I’m saying is in concert halls that are really dark and I’m already pusing ISO1600 (my cameras max) at f2.8, I havent really got that much room for manouvre?


  16. My Concert Photo Q&A has covered – self promotion, getting assignments, dealing with red lighting, etc. – http://snurl.com/9z683

  17. Hy Chris,
    I’m photographing concerts using my Canon 5D with the AV-Mode…
    Yesterday I read the user manual more precisely and I determined that the exposure measurement only takes the central AF-point in spotmetering?? So if I focus manually on the above AF-point in portrait format at the face of the artist – the exposure measurement would be taken from his belly???

    Do you have any experience with this problem?

  18. Lode

    Hi Chris,

    I have a question about your website.
    About your sidebar to be precise.
    I’m making a new website and I’m playing around with wordpress.
    I’m going with a simmiliar theme as you, but how did you get “recent images”, “upcomming shows”,.. above the sidebarright and sidebarright?
    And what kind of widgets did you use.
    I’ve been going true all the php but I cant seem to find it.

    Hope you can help me.

  19. Hi Chris

    Thanks for replying to my previous comment about red lighting.

    I’ve been reading through the other answers and saw you use Noise Ninja for noise reduction when required. How do you prevent your noise-reduced photos coming out looking soft? I find Noise Ninja “over-smooths” my photos.


  20. Paula

    Hi there,

    Your pix of KoL are awesome, pin sharp and just excellent!!! I wanted to ask you something, not as a photo geek cos I don’t know anything about cameras – hope you’re not offended – but would you have any idea of the best compact digital to take photos at gigs??? I’ve been researching and I get the idea that no compact is gonna do it – noise, motion, low light, etc but thought I would ask you for your best bet?? I’ve been pointed to Panasonic TZ5 and Fuji models for low light but don’t know which to go for?? It needs to be small so I don’t get stopped as I’m not planning to get in the photo pit or anything but want to get the best pix I can.

    Many thanks if you can help, although I appreciate it’s not really your area.


  21. Hi Paula, thanks!

    No compact is really going to do it. However the Panasonic LX3 might do a decent job. It’s good in low light and the lens/body design are great. The Fuji F50 would be my second choice.

    This is obvious, but I would only try using these from the first couple of rows.

  22. Your tip of the day today reminded me…

    I can read histograms for standard studio/outdoor-type shots. I understand the science behind it… but for dark shows, with little backlight, the histogram is generally going to be left-heavy, even when properly exposed, correct? When your shot is predominately black to begin with, how do know what the proper exposure looks like? I suppose the same could go with extremely back-lit shoots, but with the histogram favoring the right, in that case.

    This is more for curiosity than anything else, since I’ve generally trained my eye for metering, and rely on it more than any visual aid on the camera, so don’t spend TOO long answering… but if you have a short answer, I’d love to know. You and your bro are WAY more technical-minded than me, and I just can’t figure out a reliable way to read it in concert settings.

  23. I have to thank both of you guys. I never really used histograms, but I tried this weekend and was surprised to find out how inaccurate my eyes can be. Still need lots more practice, but I’ll definitely use histograms (and highlights) more often!

  24. Paula

    Thanks Tasha for your help, you and Chris are definitely tempting me towards the LX3, I might have to start saving for it!! Your settings info is much appreciated too – I’m gonna try the Fuji F50 (got one I can borrow from work) and see how I get on but might come back to the LX3 if I’m not happy with that. Cheers.

  25. Hi again,

    Just wondering how you deal with contracts in terms of putting work in your portfolio and here on your site. Do you leave out showing those bands with strict contracts?


  26. Sheryl

    Hey Chris… I have a ? for you… attending concerts and always struggling to get a few decent shots but can’t figure out my settings on my camera(Panasonic Lumix TZ1) Not sure really how to manually shoot in low light settings , so I set it on auto or sports mode hoping for better control of blurriness, but still can’t seem to accomplish much. What do you suggest for amateurs?? Please speak in layman’s terms as I need the dummy book !! Also… what is RAW… I’ve read online about people suggesting ‘shoot RAW’ and am cluelss !!

    Thank you,

  27. Hi Chris,

    Thank you so much for the Q&A section and photography tips! They’ve been quite helpful.

    One problem that I’ve been having is clarity. Your shots seem to be so clear and sharp, even after noise reduction while mine tend to come out not so sharp. I do have my AF setting set to “fastest”, is this whats killing my shots? Some of the pictures look great if I lower resolution after post-processing, but this isn’t a proper solution.

    Any advice is welcomed!


    PS: Nikon D300, usually use the 18-200 VR lens that came with the kit, though I also have a 35mm f/2 and 50mm f/1.8, but I tend to be too close for those focal points

  28. Zack, saw your post and wanted to put a few cents in. . .

    Depth of field will be something you want to keep in mind when you are shooting. With an apperature that is wide open, and the fact that you are very close to a subject, your distance from the focal point that is in clear focus is going to be dramatically reduced. You could have less than an inch depending on the settings.

    Also, what is your method of focusing and metering? If you are just shooting several shots rapidly, you’re not allowing an environment to set up your shot, which could create the softness you refer to. . .Use settings to lock your focal point and metering prior to shooting (some cameras have predictive focus mechanisms as well) and wait for the subject to fall in your zone of focus with the ligting you are set up for (this will get easier with practice). If you know your Depth of Field distance, you will understand what shots you can execute of the subject that will remain in focus with your locked settings. I strongly suggest reading and practicing up on the concept of panning, this will really help you nail that perfect concert photo. . .even if you are practicing in good lighting.

  29. mari

    First, thanks for all the insightful information.

    My question is, have you ever used a Sigma 50-150 for concerts? I am in need of a zoom lens for shows but the Canon 70-200 is just too heavy and will end up hurting my wrists.

    Also, all the cameras I have are rebels. Do you suggest I upgrade and to what camera body to take pics at concerts? Any suggestions welcome.



  30. Hey Chris,

    First of all I gotta say you’re my new photo hero. I check your site everyday for a lil’ bit of inspiration before I leave the house. These last few months I really started making an effort to get my photos seen, as well as attending just about every musical event humanly possible with my camera here in Oahu. (I read some of your advice above about that) Kinda learning as I go, if you will. I’m fortunate to know just about every band I shoot as well as work on a local music zine to get me “in” at larger venues.

    I’ve been shooting with my trusty ol’ Canon Rebel XT and my lil’ 50mm.

    So I got a few questions that have really been bugging me:

    Do you have any recommendations as far as lenses go? I’m consistantly in low light, the 50mm works fine in most situations but feel like its time to up the equipment a bit so I have more composition options in low light. I’m not a big fan of flash either. Its kinda a personal rule for me not to disturb the fans or the band. I’m looking at moderate in terms of price range. Not too cheapy but I don’t want to go overboard as well.

    I’ve slowly established myself as that “crazy photo headbanging guy” at every show. I’m at crossroads now. I can get in at just about any show here due to the zine and knowing promoters and such, BUT they kind of all expect me to just GIVE away my high-res photos to them as a part of an (assumed) agreement for letting me shoot the show.
    How do you go about dealing with this? I’m still new to the world of event photography, so I haven’t officially been paid for any of the shots or commissioned to shoot for anyone. I just put them in my own publications and sites.

    Any tips about being published or the follow through if it ever happens? I love helping promote local acts as well as telling stories about some of the national acts I’ve seen. But I often feel like I’m talking to a brick wall, even with an insane amount of resources and images behind me.

    Sorry for the long e-mail. Any advice would be EXTREMELY APPRECIATED!

    Keep rockin!

  31. mari

    In a nut shell, could you tell us what your steps are when you set up an exposure (and metering) for shooting at a concert?


  32. Quick one for you. I cant seem to figure out the best metering on my D90. (im assuming its the same as D3)

    What situation do you use the different metering options. (spot, area, and Matrix)

    Also, do you know if the D90 meters from different focus points or only from the center? It seems at a Korn Concert last night the spotlight was so bright, and I completely blew out the face even though spot metereing from the face. My NEF Files were TOAST. So pissed!

    (Jonathon Davis form KORN hates pictures, so I heard he purposley has the spot light turned up as bright as possible and flashes it around to ruin us photographers. He even smiled at me a few times becuase I kept going to him and leaving right away. I could not get a good shot for the life of me!)

  33. Ok this question may be more complicated than I think it is, but here we go.
    I shoot with a cannon 5d. I have been reading everything I can because most of my shots are pixelated, too red and grainy, I came to realize I have been shooting EVERYTHING in Jpeg (LG-FINE).
    I dont really understand RAW but I am making the switch this week, my big shoot is coming up in August. Here is the problem, I shoot at music festivals and i always run into the same issues, no flash, slow lens…blurry pictures, grainy shadows.
    What are some ways to get better shots? These are the settings I have come up with to try out, if you have anything else let me know:
    ISO 200 or 100 if i can (outside) 1600 (inside)
    F4 (as fast as my lens gets)
    Neutral Picture Style (WB)(sharpness +3, Contrast +1, Saturation +1)
    Continuous Shooting Mode (burst photography)
    AI Focus (I have no idea why this is better than Servo but I have been told it is, so I am going to try it, I shoot fast moving heavy metal rockers)

    My next question is this, how do I quickly switch my WB on the fly? Outdoor concerts have such drastic light changes when clouds move in and out, I have heard of using a White or Grey card, but I dont know how to use it, do I shoot the whole picture, with the card in the frame then use the card later to set the balance? Do I only have the card in the frame? If I am shooting in Raw does it matter as much as it does with Jpeg? And how can I use the card in the middle of a concert, its not like someone can hold it up while they are singing.

    Thanks, email me if you can I will 100% forget about this thread, Im a disabled vet with a Tramatic Brain Injury, I forget lots of stuff LOL.

  34. Rhys

    Hey Chris,

    Maybe I haven’t looked throughly through your site, but, I was wondering what kind of workflow do you go through to get these great images from camera to online?

    I mean like what programs you use for batch work, like Adobe Lightroom or Aperture? Or perhaps editing with automation in Photoshop? Maybe a couple of tricks you use in editing? ;)

    Techniques for archiving images so to keep track easily perhaps?

    Keep up the good work.


  35. Hi Chris!

    Thank you for all the info and your article, it really helped clarified many questions I had. But I still have one that I don’t have an answer for. Could you let me know what are the base prices that you could charge say I am doing a concert in a big venue with multiple artists some of them big others not. This would be my first time, actually charging. It all will take 2 hours. After reading your website I understood that I have to keep the rights for my photographs etc. what would you consider a good creative fee for starters? I look into the software that you recommended but unfortunately I cannot afford it at this time. I am looking to getting the book



  36. I will start by saying this is just a expenicve hobby. For now at least. I started a few years ago with a point & shoot fuji. I just now upgraded from a Nikon D80 to the D300.

    My question is what do you think is better, prime lens or zoom? I’m sure that years ago (film days) that prime was the way to go, I’m thinking that zoom lens have come a long way. Being that I upgraded cameras I can be “that guy” with two cameras. Being that you get the first 3 songs at the bigger places in can be a bear swithing lens. I want to get the best shoots I can.

    this is what I have.

    Nikon D300
    Nikon D80

    30mm sigma 1.4
    50mm nkion 1.4
    80mm nikon 1.8
    105mm nikon 2.8 vr
    150mm sigma 2.8

    24-70mm Sigma
    80-200mm Nikon

    What would you carry into a show

  37. globesearch

    hey my name is ty and im new to photography and i take more pic of the citys more then anything else but im wondering do I have a decent camera it is a fujifilm finepix s700 i had it for a year or so never really used it so lost my manuel and dont know exactly what the functions do just go by hand and if it turns out then cool but i am starting to get intrested in it so again can u tell me something if u know about my camera

  38. Jax102082

    Hi Chris!

    I have a quick question for you. I am in the market for a zoom lens. I am trying to aquire all the basic lenses right now since I just got my first digital SLR a few months ago. At the moment I can only afford one so I was wondering which one would make the most sense to get first. Which one will I use the absolute most? I shoot pretty much everything, bands, portraits, landscape, animals yada yada yada. I'm quite new at this and right now and it is my hobby so I take pictures of everything, trying to perfect the talent I have. I just want to get a zoom that will be a good first zoom.

    Thank you for your knowledge!

  39. Hi Don,

    I like to be in total control of my framing and thus I carry exclusively f/2.8 zoom lenses resorting to primes only when the light is too dark.

  40. Hi Jackie,

    I would need to know what kind of camera you have, what lenses you currently own and your budget before recommending anything.

  41. Jax102082

    I have a canon rebel xsi and the standard zoom lens that comes with. I have a 50mm 1.4 prime. and a 60mm macro. So I just want to get a good zoom to start with.

    thanks again!

  42. wilson333

    Hi Chris,
    I am interested in getting my work “out there,” to the masses, more or less. Can you offer any advice on going about that? How can I get the right people to see my work so that I might be able to earn a little money doing something I love?

    I have been shooting for an online city guide/publication (sfstation.com) for four months. Started out as an intern but am now getting paid for my galleries! The site is based in SF and has 400k registered users as well as 60k daily hits. The exposure is great but it is not generating any business, which is the direction i'd like to pursue.

    My galleries can be seen at: http://www.wleephotography.com

    I don't maintain an actual website or blog and am currently in school thru Spring 2010. Again, your wisdom is appreciated… thanks

  43. Hi Chris,

    You've stated before that your workflow includes NX2 for RAW conversion. Can you briefly describe any additional steps in post you use NX2 for? (ie sharpening, color correction, etc) I am considering implementing NX2 into my regular workflow and I am curious to know what it's best uses/features/applications are. I used it to convert my last gallery to jpeg PRIOR to editing in LR which was a weird transition.

    I am still a bit confused as to why you convert to jpeg BEFORE post. Wouldn't that workflow toss out valuable image information thus giving you less to work with? Or is it because post processing the jpeg itself gives you as close the the “end” result as possible?


  44. Crystal

    Hi Chris..
    This will sound dumb.
    I am in advanced photography and need to do a report on a photographer and I really like your work! I was wondering if I could somehow interview you and if I could, how?
    via phone, email. whatever would work for you!
    and if you couldn’t I totally understand!
    Thought i’d ask anyways!

    • Hi Crystal,

      If you could send the questions to me ahead of time (so that I could have some idea of what you need), we could arrange a phone meeting this week/next week.

      Send me an email at chris@onelouderphoto.com

  45. Hello brother Good night.I am agree with your blog opinion about that but i found something strange that i felt you didnt know the main problem before you posting this so i want to ask :where do you know about this dude ? Regards owner of photoshopvideotraining.com bye

  46. Hi Chris,

    I’m LaJean from Louisiana & I have another concert show for August 13 in Fayetteville, Arkanasas. This will be my first time for shooting in MANUAL MODE, Could you please give me a few good tips. It’s @ the Arkansas Music Pavilion,around 8:00pm, which is outside, but under a roof. I’ll most likely be up @ stage to just a little to the right of the artist, that’s where I’m always at anyway & try to get exact same spot every time, it just feels right. lol

    There are several different shades of lighting going on, I’m confussed about my settings for my WHITE BALANCE….don’t know the exact lighting to set my camera on. Whould it be VABOR LIGHTS?

    NIKON D-90
    Lens 18-105
    Lens 55-200



  47. Hi Chris,
    Big thanks for the site and loads of great imaages and practical informations, they are very useful for me.
    It’s great that you can earn money on making concert photos, in my country it’s pretty hard to do (almost impossible if you have no connections, or if you are not a friend of a friend, if you know what I mean). I live in Poland, and the mentality of our media is kind of irrational. We have some music oriented websites or printed magazines, but only very few of them want to pay for photos. Most of them just offer you an accreditation, or even not – just an e-mail address in their domain, so photographer must write for photopass on his own. And the few media that pay for photos have their constant photographers, so they won’t buy imgs from you. That’s why I treat concert photography rather as my passion, than job. Maybe it’s in some way good, ’cause I do it for myself and try to put all my heart into it.
    I would be honored if you’d like to see my pictures on my website http://www.fotokoncert.blogspot.com and tell me how you like it, maybe give me some clues.

    Best wishes,

  48. Hi Marc,

    I think the answer depends on a couple of things:
    1) Your goals as a music photographer.
    2) The people who look at your work.

    RE: Your Goals
    If your goal is to shoot only artists you like then the best audiences for your photos are other fans, the band, the band’s record label and magazines that follow the band. Some of my most boring photos are of the most famous people and yet those are the ones that get automatic praise. I’ve accepted the fact that the average person on the street will notice celebrity first and the quality of the photo second (if at all).

    If your goal is to be widely recognized for your skill as a music photographer, you might need to shoot a few more popular bands and work for more popular media outlets in order to garner praise from the average person on the street. It’s sad, I know.

  49. Hi Tasha,

    Assuming we’re talking about a big black box there are a few things I do:

    1) I change the white balance to something warm, like shade. This helps take away that cold “flashy” look.

    2) I use the Joe Demb Flip-It bounce card to send light into the room and towards the subject. I use the “big” model.

    3) Shoot manual. I kick the ISO up to 800 and drop my shutter speed down to as low as 1/20. This lets in as much ambient light as possible and leaves the flash to freeze and expose the subject.

    4) I use a second slave speedlight on a lightstand in the room that triggers when the flash on camera fires. This creates ambient light for me. It also helps to put a warm gel on it.

  50. Too true.

    One thing to consider though is that viewers of photographers don’t understand th eidea of lighting and light sensitivity at all. They see a photo and if the lighting is bad, they blame the photographer.

    They see us as having the same light as the next photo because they don’t understand just how hard or easy it can be depending on what light we are given.

  51. Hi Ben, I just replied over e-mail. Good Luck!

  52. Thanks so much, Chris.

    I do the manual and expose for ambient thing, and I normally can’t set up a second flash… but changing the WB is absolute GENIUS. I will definitely try that. I think I’ve heard you mention the Flip-It before too, so I will check that out!

  53. John Burrows

    Thanks a lot Chris, I’ll definitely be looking into the suggested reading material :)

  54. Hi Matthew,

    You ask a VERY good question. I started shooting low light with a Nikon D200 and although I liked the ergonomics of the camera I was given an chance to switch to the Canon 1D Mark III for no money down and I took it. I didn’t like the egro as much but the quality of the files so vastly better than the D200 that it didn’t really matter. Then came the D300, D3 and D700 – cameras with excellent file quality throughout the ISO range. Since I know I’ll be using the D3 for the next two years I switched back.

    Your experience with Pentax is EXACTLY why I do not recommend brands other than Nikon and Canon for low light. (No one I see at the big shows uses anything but Canon or Nikon.)

    It’s not that Pentax, Olympus, and Panasonic don’t make decent cameras. It’s simply that concert photography is one of the MOST demanding types of photojournalism and those cameras aren’t built with that in mind. All of those brands were slow to develop digital SLRs after film and their technology is behind the curve.

    I like your current D700 + 50mm f/1.4 AF-S plan a lot. The D700 is the most versatile camera for your money right now. The AF is dead-on fantastic, the build quality is wonderful, and files are totally beautiful all the way up to ISO6400.

    Hell, I pushed an underexposed ISO 3200 RAW shot to an effective ISO 9600 (+1.5ev in post) and there was almost no increase in noise! INSANE!

    If you bought that combination, I don’t think you’d ever look back.

    The only reason not to buy Nikon right now is if you love shooting with prime lenses. Canon is, and will remain for a long while, the prime lens king.

    I hope this helps! Followups welcome. Best, Chris.

  55. Hi Lode,

    The three resources I recommended above are a great place to start for practices and pricing:

    Best Business Practices for Photographers
    http://snurl.com/a1elw [www_amazon_com]
    Pricing Photography
    http://snurl.com/a1eom [www_amazon_com]

    Fotoquote (industry standard for photo pricing of all sorts)
    http://snurl.com/a1pci [www_cradocfotosoftware_com]

    As far as promoting yourself,contacting magazines, publishers, and photo editors my advice is extremely simple:

    1) Make a comp card. It’s a four color post card of normal size with your best image and contact information on it. It can be one sided or two sided, it doesn’t really matter. It only matters that your work looks good.

    2) Go to the bookstore, pick up the most recent copy of the publication you want to shoot for and find the name the contact information of the art director or editor.

    3) Send the comp card to that person. Do this for a few months and if you haven’t heard from them give them a call and make sure they got it.

    That’s about it. Good Luck!

  56. Hi John,

    Good question. I shoot RAW+JPEG(fine) 100% of the time. I like to maintain as much of the RAW capture data as possible. This means I turn noise reduction off completely at any ISO, high or low.

    I feel that third party noise reduction software is more skillful and more customizable than either Nikon or Canon’s in-camera noise reduction. Personally, I use the Noise Ninja plugin for photoshop.

  57. Cool, thanks for the feedback!

  58. Hi Kristen. You’re welcome!

    First of all, I find it helpful to keep in mind that concert photography isn’t any different from any other type of photography when it comes to quality of light.

    If the light falling on a subject is low quality, the picture will show it no matter how expensive your camera or lens.

    There are basically 5 things that come to mind with red lighting:
    1) Know that you’re going to convert everything to B+W and shoot accordingly.

    2) Learn to love the red lighting. When shooting look at your histogram to make sure that you’re not blowing the red channel on the skin of the performer. You want to preserve as much detail on that channel as possible. After all, it’s not like any of the other photographers there are getting anything better.

    3) Set up your own lights. I don’t have many opportunities to do this in NYC, but in other cities, you may be able to set up two or three wireless flashes that can help you to improve the quality of light.

    4) Ask the lighting designer to use white light from the front. If the band has hired you to shoot you should be able to request a lighting scheme that will produce the best photographs.

    5) Shoot RAW. As long as there is enough data in all three channels, you might be able to get a more neutral white balance in post by shooting RAW.

    Finally, you might want to consider looking for venues with better lighting. For instance, there is one specific venue in New York that books some amazing bands but has horrible lighting. I avoid shooting shows there unless I have my flash or the assignment is too well paying to pass up.

    I hate to say that the quality of the photos is more important to me than the band but in many cases this is true. Unless you absolutely love the music, why knowingly suffer through shit lighting?

    I know this wasn’t the answer you were looking for, but there’s no magic bullet that I know of. I’d be happy to take follow up questions if you have any. Best, Chris

  59. John Burrows


    Great reply to Kristens questions, but one of you answers leads to a question of my own:

    “2) Learn to love the red lighting. When shooting look at your histogram to make sure that you’re not blowing the red channel on the skin of the performer. You want to preserve as much detail on that channel as possible. After all, it’s not like any of the other photographers there are getting anything better.”

    I have this problem! I see your photos and although the background itself is red, the performers often arent and it seems that im ‘blowing the red channel’ like you say on the performers skin.

    Newbie question I know, but how do you stop this from happening?

    Cheers mate,

  60. Hi John,

    I knew someone was going to ask!

    Regarding photos with a red background with neutral performers – there’s no magic. That’s how the lighting was. At most, I simply shot RAW and made a slight WB correction for the performer’s skin tones.

    If the background is red and the performers are red. There’s nothing you can really do to separate one from the other. You simply have to make sure that the skin of the performer isn’t a solid red mass with no detail.

    The technique takes some careful practice that depends on what camera you use.

    On Canon, make sure you have Highlight Alert (Enabled) and Histogram set to RGB in the Playback menu.

    On Nikon, make sure that Highlights and RGB Histogram are (Enabled) under Display Mode in the Playback menu.

    When everything goes red at the show shoot a test shot and check the Highlight Warning Histogram to see if anything on the performer is blown out. Blown out areas will blink on and off. To confirm how band you’re blowing stuff, use the RGB histogram to see if the red channel is slammed up against the right side of the scale.

    If the R channel is slammed to the right, dial down your exposure. If the lighting you see is red and the red channel is all the way on the left side, dial up your exposure.

    I’ll be posting images from Streetlight Manifesto later today. There was a lot of red lighting. I’ll make sure to post at least one image that’s totally red.

  61. If you’re shooting manual (which I highly recommend), you dial down (let in less light) your exposure by:

    Lowering the ISO
    Increasing Shutter Speed
    Increasing your f-stop

    When you dial up (let in more light)

    Increase ISO
    Decrease Shutter Speed
    Decrease your f-stop

    If you’re shooting shutter priority or aperture priority, you should use exposure compensation to do this. +EV makes the exposure brighter -EV makes it darker.

  62. Hi Thomas,

    It’s sad but true. If you have spot metering turned on, manually focus, then press the shutter, the camera will spot meter the person’s belly. Spot metering on the 5D cannot be moved or locked without additional steps. Here’s how to fix it.

    You must do one of two things in order to lock the metering.

    (Method #1) – See page 95 of the 5D Manual

    1)Spot meter the person’s skin
    2)While the meter is still active press the (*) button on the back of the camera. This will lock the meter reading allowing you to recompose
    3) recompose and focus
    4) press the shutter

    (Method #2) – See page 152 of the 5D Manual

    1)Change Custom Function 04 to option #1. This takes autofocus activation away from the shutter button and moves it to the (*) button. It moves the metering lock to the shutter button.

    2)Spot meter the performer’s skin

    3) While the meter is still active half-press the shutter. This will not lock the metering.

    4) Recompose and focus while holding the shutter button halfway down.

    5) Press the shutter button fully.

    It’s a little more work, but this should solve your problems.

    When you’re ready to buy a new camera body, make sure that the camera can move the spot meter to whatever AF point is active. This will basically remove the need to recompose so much.



  63. Thanks a lot!
    One little other question: Do you think the AF will work faster or it’s better in general to take the autofocus activation away from the shutter button and move it to the (*) button ???

    Independent from the Spot metering “hack”…

  64. The AF will not work any faster if it’s taken off the shutter. It may be slightly slower because it separates AF activation and shutter release into two distinct actions.

    I happen to like having independant control of AF and shutter because I don’t believe having the camera re-focus every time I press the shutter button is always a good idea.

    While I wouldn’t recommend this on a 5D at all, I normally have my AF set to AF-C (servo) using a single AF point. I use the rear AF-ON button to activate focus as needed and press the shutter whenever focus is locked. Success with this style of shooting depends greatly on the AF performance of your camera in AF-C Servo mode. The Nikon D300/D700/D3/D3X are all superb in this regard. I think this would work well on the 5D in AF-S (single) focus mode.

    I touched on this in my recent post on the D3.

    I hope this helps!

  65. John Burrows

    Thanks Chris,

    Any tips for shooting manual?

    Currently, I shoot shutter priority – I’ve got an EOS 400d (not a great body I know), but invested in the Canon 10-22 3.5-4.5, 24-70 and 70-200 2.8 IS.

    I was shooting aperture priority wide open, but I was still getting a fair amount of blurred shots – so I switched to shutter priority and shoot at 1/80 on the 120-22 and 1/120 on the 24-70, both at 1600. I havent quite figured out what I can get away with yet on the 70-200. By shooting shutter, the beauty is that the blurred shots would be blurry anyway, but obviously I can get a greater depth of field if its available.

    I’ve never made an attempt at shooting manual before, where would I start in a low light environment?

    I’m not being lazy by the way, I’ve had a read about and tried – but it seems daunting and when your on assignment theres not much chance of trying things out :(

    Thanks again mate :)

  66. Hi John,

    I would recommend going back to basics. Start shooting manual in good light and go on from there.

    Once you’re comfortable, you should start shooting manual when you’re not on assignment. Go to small shows where they don’t care about cameras and you’re not under pressure to deliver.

    Read up on aperture, shutter and ISO to make sure you know exactly how they effect exposure and then just get out and shoot stuff you can play around with. If you still run into problems, send me an email.


  67. Hi Lode,

    I don’t use widgets at all. The “recent images” are from the Flickr WordPress Plugin and the “Upcoming Shows” list I code by hand. I inserted them manually into the sidebar.php file in my template.

  68. Hi Chris,

    Ben asked some great questions, I would love to get your take on question 3. I’m looking for some suggestions on selling photos I have already taken, along with getting in the door with out the backing of a publication. From the list of upcoming shows it looks like you are shooting every night, are you shooting for a mag/web/band or have you built the reputation with the venues in your area that you can call the promoter to get the photo pass?

    I have done some web work for Paste Magazine, and local Philly bands. But I’m finding it very hard to get in the door for the larger shows unless I am photographing for a paper, magazine or the band.

    Thanks in advance and thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge with the photographic community.


  69. Hi Kristen,

    That’s a good question. I only use Noise Ninja to get rid of chroma (color) noise. I don’t typically reduce the lumininance noise or “grain” at all.

    I Auto Profile the image and use the following settings:

    Strength – 0
    Smoothness – 0
    Contrast – 10
    USM – 0

    Colors – 10 10 10

    I tend to think that chroma noise is a lot more offensive than luminance noise. Some of it is a matter of personal preference.

  70. awesome thanks Chris, I’ll give those settings a go.


  71. Hi Jennifer,

    Getting a good photo at a rock show isn’t much harder than anywhere else if you have a good understanding of your equipment. Essentially you need to crawl before you can run the 100 meter dash.

    Start by learning the basics of photography in no-pressure settings and then move from there. Once you have a good command of ISO, aperture and shutter speed start by photographing shows at venues that allow photography.

    Good Luck!

  72. Hi Joe,

    Sorry it took me a few days to respond. 90% of the time, I’m shooting on assignment for a paper/magazine/website. If you want access to larger shows you need proper backing.

    Your goal should be to reach out to papers/magazines/websites in that cover the types of shows you want to shoot.

  73. I’m a Pentax user for concert photography and I love it! While the Nikon and Cannon are great and do have some extra settins for lower light (better ISO, etc). I also think its in learning your gear and how it adapts to different settings, and really more about the lenses as well! While the no noise is great pushed that high (I’m amazed over here). . I think if you have a lower budget, the Pentax is absolutely workable. I’d focus more cash on quality lenses than the camera body. . .

    But, obviously Chris, your lovely work speaks for itself, so you know what youa re talking about when it comes to gear recommendations! I just see a lot of people (and even people I have helped in the past) that assume that buying the gear will make them good at this, it takes a TON of practice and learning, not to mention developing your own style. While different cameras offer different features in the SLR market, they are all workable in the concert arena. I’d say before switching out your gear and spending a ton of money, give it a little more time.

    And, to the fellow Pentax user (hello!). Everything on my site was shot with a *1stD and a K10D. . .its def. workable! I’d also try to stray away from a lot of AF work. . you end up with focus on the mic, guitar, etc, not the actual subject. . set up your shots with MF, and wait for the moment and capture. This skill will make you very powerful in the future!

  74. That being said, I have been recommending Nikon to gear buyers these days. . .Chris, most have been on a tight budget, so I’ve been suggesting the lower models and a better more versitile high quality lens (They are not nec. going into concert photography). If you are on a super tight buget, and just getting started. . the D40, D80 are great options, with a nice ranged lens. . .(Tamron makes a few nice 18-250,28-300mm that are great for various photography forms, and for concert there are several prime and ranged options!)

  75. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for your very thoughtful comment. All of what you say is true. To be sure, better equipment will improve the image quality of your files but will not improve your photography.

    To me, the most important thing in choosing what brand of camera to pick is to look at the benefits of the entire system from a technical (bodies, lenses, flash, support and third-party products) as well as personal (color and ergonomic) perspective and choose the system that fits best.

  76. Couldn’t have said it better myself! Looking forward to seeing your future shots. . its always great to find inspiring and friendly photographers in this field (and often rare!)

  77. I’ve got a TZ5 and it’s pretty sad for low light photography. However, it does take nice HD video albeit with terrible sound. If you’re in a pinch, you can take some video and get a 1280×720 screenshot from the video.

  78. Paula

    thanks mike, that’s sort of what i’d heard although a couple of shops had suggested it(independently) when we asked for their recommendation. i’d read that the sound was terrible and that was really putting me off too – thanks, i’ve got some more options to look into and you’ve saved me from buying the wrong camera!!

  79. Hi Tasha, Good question.

    For dark front-lighting:

    I generally push the exposure until I see small spikes on the far right of the R G B histograms and/or flashing on the highlight warnings. Then I back the exposure down a bit until the spikes go away. If there are lights in the background, I let those blow out, of course.

    For back-lighting:

    I make sure that there is some information in the shadows and that the “hump” isn’t crammed entirely over on the right. I look at the histogram first and then cross reference it with the highlight warning to make sure that I’m not totally blowing out the skintones of the performer.

    If the image on the screen looks okay and the person’s face isn’t totally flashing in the highlight warning, I usually leave it alone.

  80. man this guy is good.

  81. Ah-ha! Totally makes sense. I knew you would have an answer.

    Thanks! :)

  82. Hey Paula, I’m hijacking this question because I recently did a ton of research into it :)

    I bought the LX3 mainly for random snapshots, but also wanted to be able to use it at shows in a pinch. I recently used it at a Metallica show because of camera limitations and I was really suprised with how well the shots turned out, especially with the heavy cropping I did. The fast lens is wonderful. However, if you want a good amount of optical zoom, the LX3 is not for you, you definitely have to embrace wide shots.

    Video quality is great too. If you want, here’s a sample (warning – huge file size). That was taken in a very small basement, literally right above the drummer. It was LOUD. Also, it was lit only by a lightbulb or two (when shooting in there, I’m normally around 5000ISO, f/2.8, 1/100).

    I would also check out the Canon G9/G10, I’ve seen some great shots from that too and was a close runner up for me.

  83. Just wanted to add another note to the Pentax user, in case you give it a try again in the concert arena. There is a setting you can try changing, High ISO Image Correction (I think that is what it is called on the K20D, I think its option 17?). . change that setting to weak or weakest. . .You might see some improvements, especially on the ISO3200 range. . .the K10D only allows up to ISO1600. . so I’m debating on upgrading to the K20D for my own sake, though I’m in a debate on whether to upgrade, or to switch to Nikon so I can work on two platforms at the same time. . .Though, its a tough decision, bc I would rather not save up for another 70-200 f2.8 when I already have one for the Pentax!

  84. You’re welcome Tasha. Part of the reason I’m so technical in my shooting is that I strongly believe in doing as much as I can to “get it right” at the time of capture. Most of the time this means learning how to read the various kinds of feedback the camera is giving me at any given time.

  85. Hi Kristen,

    I’ve only signed one “rights grab” contact and I felt so sick afterward that I promised myself that I’d never do it again. The only kind of agreement I’ve signed since has been of the “no commercial use” type.

    The editors at all of the publications I work for know that won’t sign these things. Whenever I’m presented with a strict contract at the gig I politely request that the offensive lines be removed or I will walk away from my assignment. This usually leads to a phone call with my editor and or the band’s tour manager. So far, everything has always worked out. Be sure to keep the conversation polite and professional!


  86. thanks Chris.

    I’ve had quite a few contracts lately which state “only for use in the publication you are shooting for” (or similar) which makes me wonder if it’s okay to display the photos in my folio etc.

    They’re usually the bigger name arena shows with these contracts and therefore often higher quality photos, so it’s a shame to have to hide them away!

    Luckily I’ve never had one which seeks to take away copyright though.

    thanks :)

  87. Hi Sheryl,

    The TZ1 wasn’t really made for low light photography. My general suggestion would be to turn the camera’s sensitivity (ISO) to 800 or higher and shoot at the widest angle (zoom) possible. Whatever you do, do not zoom in. The more you zoom in the worst your photos will be in low light. Good luck!

  88. Hi Laura,

    As far as metering is concerned, I’m using spot metering. The lighting at these venues changes so rapidly, I don’t really have the opportunity to preplan most shots. The same goes for focusing most of the time. The performers have lots of energy and don’t really sit very still at all. So combining all the changes in lighting and the moving subjects and trying to capture them during especially “cool” maneuvers or poses makes for quite the challenge. This is the prime reason I use rapid fire mode. 7 shots in a second or so usually results in 1 decent to great shot.

    Thanks for the tips!

  89. Hello Zach, I saw your photos and wanted to chime in as well. I can be wrong but it feels like your photos are not too out of focus, but rather appear blurry because of slow shutter speed. I think the 18-200 VR is f3.5-5.6, right?

    I have a D300 as well, and tried some low light actions at that aperture range, and even with ISO 1600 setting it was a bit difficult to get the shutter speed fast enough because the lens just didn’t let in enough light. Maybe you can try faster lens that suits your focal length?

    Also, you probably know all this but, choosing continuous focus mode doesn’t allow you to have the AF assist light turn on. Most venues probably won’t like you using it but if you can, I think the AF assist light helps when you focus in low light. Hope this helps, but don’t count on me haha.

  90. I appreciate you taking a look at my shots and the insightful comments. I’ve definitely turned off the AF assist light for that reason: both artists and venues are not very…. happy about it :)

    I’m definitely using slow shutter speeds, but I also tend to go low on the ISO, usually 800-1200. Perhaps its just me (as I’ve noticed Chris using ISO 6400!), but I have a hell of a time with noise and noise removal. I use neat image for post processing of noise; maybe that’s part of my problem?

    Thanks again to both of you for your hints and tips; I look forward to hearing more and maybe returning the favor some day :)


  91. Hi Zack,

    re: Shutter speeds

    I tend to shoot no lower than 1/125 second with an absolute floor of 1/60 depending on whether the subject is moving and how steady I can hold the lens. Stopping subject motion is the most important factor is getting “crisp” photos.

    The trade-off is noise. I shoot at as high an ISO as needed to achieve the proper shutter speed even if this leaves the subject a bit underexposed.

    re: Noise reduction

    I only do chroma or “color” noise reduction. I don’t touch the luminance or “grain” of the photo at all. The main reason for this is that print media is very forgiving of grain and not so forgiving of color noise. Even if a photo looks grainy on screen, it will probably turn out fine in print. Do some test prints to prove it to yourself.

    The other reason my photos look so sharp is that everything you see on this website has been sharpened specifically for the web. My sharpening for the web is totally different from my sharpening for print.

    re: Lenses

    The 18-200mm is a real problem for live photos because it’s so slow. f/3.5 to f/5.6 isn’t fast enough for anything but huge arena shows where the lighting is basically like daylight. If you have decent access to the stage, I’d use a 30mm or 50mm prime lens with an aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8 instead. They will be sharper and faster focusing.

  92. Mari,

    Shooting in low light demands fast glass. All joking aside, I would recommend strengthening your wrists with a $5 exercise piece before buying the Sigma 50-150.

    Sigma makes a few decent lenses, but the three sigma lenses I’ve worked with didn’t focus reliably in low light. (I sold two of them and returned the third).

    On the other hand, if you buy the Canon 70-200, you’ll have beautifully, sharp shots, and a lens that will hold 80% of it’s retail value if you decide to sell it later.

    As I mentioned in the article, the only reason to upgrade your camera body or other equipment for that matter is if the stuff you’re using now is holding you back (creatively or otherwise).

    So, unless the camera can’t take the kind of photos you want, keep it.

  93. Raul,


    Invest in good glass. Most professional concert photographers end up buying f/2.8 zooms that match the brand of their camera.

    If you want to use Canon cameras I would buy the 24-70 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8 and 16-35 f/2.8 in that order.

    The zooms will give you the flexibility to compose your photos while standing still (instead of moving forward and back when using a prime lens) and they let in enough light to shoot concerts.

    Getting Paid:

    It sounds like the deal you have right now is free photos for access to the show. I think you either need to find other people to sell the photos to or you need to change the deal you have. I hope you’re not giving them the high-res files!

    Do you have a good enough relationship with the promoters to work out a deal?

    Getting Published:

    There is no magic bullet for getting published. It’s a need based relationship. If a publication needs the photos you have they will buy them. If they need them badly enough, they’ll buy them even if the photos themselves aren’t any good. The trick is that the publications need to know that your images exist in the first place – this means you need to form relationships with them.

  94. Taylor,

    While I may spot meter using the center point to get a general exposure, I don’t use the cameras metering at all when I’m shooting.

    I expose every shot manually. It took a lot of practice but I’m a much better photographer for it. If you’re making all of the decisions, you don’t need to meter the shot. The best light meter is almost always going to be your own eyes.

  95. Hi Rhys,

    I’ll be writing an article about my workflow, but it’s basically this:

    Selects in Nikon ViewNX
    RAW Processing in Nikon Capture NX2
    JPEGS sharpened and resized in Photoshop CS4

  96. Hi Summer,

    I replied via email.