Concert Photography Gear: Getting Started

Who doesn’t love being close at a concert? Answer, no one. This might be why concert photography has grown in popularity in recent years. The opportunity to not only be the closest person to an artist, but also get to take photographs of them is an unbelievable experience. So, what will you need to get started?

A poll of concert photographers gave insight as to what the most popular cameras and lenses being used are.

Concert photography implies shooting in low light situations, so you’ll need a lens that’s able to handle less than desirable lighting. The photographers who participated in the poll suggested using lens with apertures reaching at least f/2.8. The overwhelming favorite lens of the bunch was a 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4. Both Canon and Nikon carry affordable versions of this lens.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8

Briar Burns, photographer for Don’t Bore Us, a popular online media outlet, said “You’ll want something that is wide and quick to focus. The most popular ones tend to be 24-70mm f/2.8, and 35mm, 50mm, 85mm f/1.8 primes. You don’t want to venture above f/2.8 unless it’s a show with great lighting.”

So what is a prime lens and aperture?

Prime lenses are defined by B&H Photo’s website as being, “…optimized to a specific focal length or purpose. This means that optical performance is generally much better and that the lenses can be made with larger apertures while still maintaining a fairly compact size.”

Essentially they are lens that can’t zoom in or out, and they usually have a low aperture, making them perfect for using for live music photographer.

According to Nikon’s website,  aperture is  “The opening of a lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops and is generally written as numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The lower f/stops give more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, while the higher f/stops give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures.”

Basically, aperture refers to the small hole in the lens that lets light into the sensor. The smaller the number of the aperture, the more light will be let into the lens.

It was also recommended that you use a full frame camera body because of the sensor capability and high number of megapixels on the bodies. However, a crop sensor camera will do the job. That being said, most photographers polled who use crop sensors said they would like to upgrade in the future.

Photographer Mya Tolliver said, “Honestly it’s not in my budget to upgrade to a professional body and my Canon t3i still kicks ass for what it is.”

The most popular full frame bodies that are seen in the photo pit being used by concert photographers are the Canon 5d Mark III or IV, Nikon D750/D810, or Sony A7 III, according to Burns.

So if you decide you’d like to get your start in concert photography, make sure to prioritize getting a lens with a low aperture and then focus on getting a camera with a high megapixel sensor to handle low light. From there you’ll be all set to photograph your first show.



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