Someone asked me how do I decide which shows I will photograph. The short answer is “I shoot as many as I can.” There are a lot of people out there who see a big name artist coming to town and think they’ll just show up with their camera and get some great shots. I suppose it could be possible for that to happen, but it’s also possible you could win the lottery on the way to the show. Both are unlikely.
I remember one show I was photographing where a friend of one of the band members went and bought a camera the day of the show because their friend got them access to the press area. Before the show, he was putting the batteries and memory card in his new camera and asking the pro photographers there what settings he should be using. We all tried to help, but have different takes on the best settings for shooting a show. We did, however, all agree that you want a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the action, but slow enough to let in enough light to actually get a usable image. We learned after the show that he didn’t understand what we were talking about. He set his camera to 1/5000 of a second in Shutter Priority mode and every shot was so underexposed that he didn’t get a single usable image.
I recommend shooting as many shows at as many different venues as possible to get the experience of shooting in different environments and thinking on your feet. It will help you know when you need to change camera settings when house or stage lighting changes and will also help you learn how to get the best angle for the best shot. Also, don’t just go to shows where you already know you like the music. Photographing bands you don’t know is a great way to meet knew people and to discover great new music. In April, I photographed Wiz Khalifa.
Prior to shooting this show, I had no idea who Wiz was. I’m glad I went and was able to photograph the concert. His music is vastly different from what I normally listen to, but I still enjoyed most of what he played. He also had great stage presence and a lot of energy. Once he started, it was clear to me why the venue was sold out and people were being turned away at the box office.
The show was at a venue I had never photographed. The stage set up and lighting were top notch, which helped produce some amazing photos.
If you’d like to see the rest of the photos from this show, check out my website: John Shippee Photography.