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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Lenses for Concert Photography?
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12/26/2007 12:15:37 AM · #1
Hi everyone! I have the opportunity to shoot at my favorite band's gig on New Year's Eve and I'm wondering if it might be worth it to add another lens to my arsenal. I'll admit, I've done little of this kind of shooting and never in a venue as large as the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center Studios (3000 people, standing room only.)

This is what I have now:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 EX DG for Canon
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro for Canon
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

Of course my first impulse is to say, oh no, I need the 70-200 2.8L! Unfortunately the pocketbook won't allow for such a purchase at the moment. Would any of these be worth adding?

Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM Medium Telephoto AutoFocus Lens
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard AutoFocus Lens

(I know the 50 duplicates something I already have, but I'm wondering if the 1.4 would be significantly better than the 1.8.)

I'm so excited both for the show and the chance to shoot, so I want to make sure I'm not handicapping myself by not having the proper gear for the task.
12/26/2007 02:47:04 AM · #2
Do you know whereabouts you will be in relation to the band? If you're going to be stuck in one position, then I wonder about the value of a prime. I would venture to suggest that, if you're in among the crowd, then changing lenses would not be such a good thing. The Sigma sounds to be a good thing, just up the ISO.
12/26/2007 03:25:20 AM · #3
I have seen this band in concert before, and although I am not a fan. I remember them staying pretty still. Correct me if im wrong, the dresendolls are two young women, that sing, and play piano?

Is their a barricade at the venue? If so it would be best to bring a wide angle and a telephoto, as well as that fifty. You can shoot their faces with the tele, get some nice shots of the whole stage with the wide, and the 50 is good for full body shots. Hope that helps, goodluck!


12/26/2007 03:46:17 AM · #4
I shoot bands all the time, usually more in the hardcore or metal scene though. I did have one opportunity to shoot KT Tunstall when she came through Pittsburgh last year, which was a total blast.

Shooting bands really depends on your access to the venue and to the band. If you have access to the "pit"(the area between the stage and crowd), you'll be able to get up close and personal which will result in some awesome photos. With bigger bands, photographers are usually limited to 3-5 songs, kneeling down in the pit only. With some smaller, more indie bands, you're able to get away with full stage access. By stage access, I don't mean standing beside the singer. But rather standing on the wings, behind the PA(depending on how the stage is setup) or behind the drummer off to the side.

Your access to the band really depends on what type of gear to use. When I shoot, I usually use my tamron 28-75 2.8 or my canon 70-200 2.8 IS. More than likely, I'm using the tamron though. I save the 70-200 for closeups of the drummer if I'm in the pit or if I don't have very close access to the band. If you have good access, use your 28-70. If you can't get very close, I'd go for the 100 f2. The difference between 1.8 and 1.4 is so minimal that you wouldn't really notice. If the band is really rocking out, 1.8 is going to be hard enough to keep them in focus. Like MR_Pants said, if you're in the crowd, stick with one lens. You don't want the dude you're squashed next to sweating in your (camera) body awhile you're switching lenses, if you're even able to hold onto more than one lens being in a crowd.

Just keep your ISO high and adjust everything accordingly. You'd be surprised how bright some of those lights can be, and then in a split second how dark it will instantly be. Shoot on Aperture Priority and watch for any patterns the stage lights may be flashing in so you can sort of predict when you'll have good light.

Also, be sure the band/venue allows flash. Alot of bigger bands don't allow flash. Of course, check out the ambient light before you mess with flash too; you can get some really awesome effects from the stage lights themselves. If I have a good relationship with the band, I often set up two or three Alien Bees(AB800's) and create my own lighting effects. You can find some examples of that on my myspace.com

The best advice I can give you is to shoot until every card you own is full. Oh, and watch out for crowd surfers; they're brutal. I had one rip the flash right off of my 20D once. Good Luck!
12/26/2007 10:20:26 AM · #5
Thanks guys. I hadn't even thought about the difficulty of changing lenses. The most chaotic things I usually shoot are nonprofit events and there I can always can duck into a corner to swap.

Mr_Pants - You make a very good point. I think I will stick with the zoom. I'm not yet sure where I'll be-- I'll have a photographer's pass, but I'm not clear on what sort of access that gets me. I emailed my contact to ask and hopefully I'll find out prior to day-of.

Elmakias - Close. One woman who sings and plays piano and a man who plays the drums. They are pretty stationary, but definitely rock out in place.

coryxmorton - Your shots are awesome! Thank you so much for the tips. It gives me a much clearer picture of how this all works. I'll know more when I know what exactly my pass will get me access to. I tend to avoid flash during events of all sorts as I feel like it can take audience members and performers out of the moment, but that is probably a relic of my days shooting theatre. I'll work with the ambient light, push the ISO and remove the noise later. I am a Pittsburgh ex-patriot myself, went to college there, awesome city. Where did KT play that you were able to shoot her? She seems too popular for places like the Shadow Lounge and Club Cafe, but not big enough to fill the Post-Gazette Pavillion.

I guess I shouldn\'t underestimate the Sigma. I was able to shoot this photo of Simon Le Bon with it. Of course, it was a charity event and I was right up against the stage. The "mosh pit" was full of sixty year olds in tuxes. Not exactly the hardest crowd to navigate through! I'm imagining that the Dresden Dolls fans are going to be a little more vivacious and energetic.
12/26/2007 10:28:22 AM · #6
Hey Hey!

I've shot band shots before and you'll need to use a fairly fast shutter speed to capture all the good stuff without blur or getting too dark. I'd keep to about 1/60, 1/80 with a low ap. I'd take the F 1.8 lens with ya and get close and personal.

Good luck!

p.s. lobsterbobster is a pro in band fotog. I'd check his stuff out!
12/26/2007 12:20:32 PM · #7
Originally posted by Rooster:

Hey Hey!

I've shot band shots before and you'll need to use a fairly fast shutter speed to capture all the good stuff without blur or getting too dark. I'd keep to about 1/60, 1/80 with a low ap. I'd take the F 1.8 lens with ya and get close and personal.

Good luck!

p.s. lobsterbobster is a pro in band fotog. I'd check his stuff out!


That would be ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', '/') + 1) . ' BobsterLobster
12/26/2007 01:18:29 PM · #8
Originally posted by literaryradical:

coryxmorton - Your shots are awesome! Thank you so much for the tips. It gives me a much clearer picture of how this all works. I'll know more when I know what exactly my pass will get me access to. I tend to avoid flash during events of all sorts as I feel like it can take audience members and performers out of the moment, but that is probably a relic of my days shooting theatre. I'll work with the ambient light, push the ISO and remove the noise later. I am a Pittsburgh ex-patriot myself, went to college there, awesome city. Where did KT play that you were able to shoot her? She seems too popular for places like the Shadow Lounge and Club Cafe, but not big enough to fill the Post-Gazette Pavillion.


Thanks a ton! KT played with Kevin Devine at Mr Smalls, in Millville. This was after her first album. I don't think she's been anywhere near PA since then. She could probably fill up the PG Pavillion now-a-days. Don't feel like you need to avoid flash. A flash takes up only a fraction of a second, and especially during a concert, the crowd won't notice. Bands use strobe lights, don't they? As a photographer, you have to do what you have to do to get the shot. Even if that means pushing your way to the front, you've gotta do it. Plus, everyone usually wishes they have your view of the band anyways. :)
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