Intro: How to Shoot a Band Live Show
Courtesy of Robin Laananen
First things first:
Before you even leave your house, be sure you have your camera, fresh
batteries and film. If it's an arena show, you will not be allowed to use
flash the majority of the time, so bring fast film (800+). Arenas are better
taken with two cameras, one with a telephoto lens, another with a shorter
lens, otherwise you may miss a nice close up. Black & white TMX3200
contributes a more intense look to a darker band such as Nine Inch Nails,
etc. Otherwise, color is pretty, though plan on wrestling with the constant
change of stage lights.
If you plan to use your flash, a 400 or 200 speed film will suffice (I lean
towards 400 so I can switch the flash off for an occasional "rock lights"
If shooting digital, make sure your battery is charged, and your memory card
is empty and formatted.
Step 1: Setting Up
Be prepared to cruise to the front of the stage around door time and camp
out if you suspect it to be sold out...or if you're shooting almost any show
in Los Angeles or New York. (I don't like to be that person pushing fans out
of the way right before the band gets on stage, but maybe you don't mind and
can therefore take your time, grab a drink, make new friends).
Digital users, now is a good time to figure out your lighting situation. You'll have
to make adjustments once the house lights go on, but get familiar with your
I like to shoot so that people who missed the show can look at the photos
and feel as though they were actually there.
NOTE: One of the most annoying things to see is someone bringing a crappy
$50 digital camera or camera phone, holding it up blindly, taking photos by
chance. Why bother? Digital photography has given birth to laziness. I can't
imagine something more annoying to a musician than having a flash go off
straight in their face, you not looking through the camera, you looking at
the display to see what you got, most likely deleting it, then doing it
repeatedly. They're playing a show, and you're not in the band. The less
noticeable you are, the better.
Step 2: Watch the Show
Watch the show. Take your camera away from your face from time to time and
pay attention to what's going on around you. You'll be able to see good
shots approaching, and not to mention, you'll remember more.
Step 3: Watch Your Back
Watch your back. Often there are flying limbs, kids and beverages coming
from behind looking to destroy your gear in a split second. Eventually,
you'll grow eyes on the back of your head. People are there to enjoy the
show, get wasted, bond with their crew and have countless "remember that one
time" conversations for years following. Enjoy the show too, hopefully you
love music, and that's why you're standing up front as a target in the first