Capture the atmosphere of big scenes like music concerts, art performances and athletic games. Event photography gives you a way to remember and relive big moments, for either personal or commercial use. As you bring your camera to a live event, have a strategy for shooting amazing quality photos.
Here are nine ways you can optimise your opportunities to get live event photos:
Shoot in RAW format.
The main advantage of RAW is it retains all the image detail in the file as it utilises all the pixels on the imaging sensor. Exposure, sharpness, saturation and white balance can then be changed in post processing software without losing too much image detail.
Avoid using flash and use a fast aperture.
Most entertainment venues are quite dark and taking photos from a distance can be a challenge. If possible to get the best shot in these lighting conditions try two things. First, get as close as possible to the stage and second use a lens with a large aperture. For instance, if you use the Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 wide open (at F1.2) then the lens will be able to gather as much light as possible therefore providing you with a faster shutter speed, negating the need for a flash.
“Atari Teenage Riot,” by Tilman Jentzsch Fujifilm X-T1 + XF16mmF1.4
Use fast shutter speeds for action shots.
If you want to capture an athlete’s gait or a singer’s croon, then you want to time your shot to the perfect millisecond. Use fast shutter speeds, even if that requires using a high ISO setting. For music and performance art shots that may contain noise from using a high ISO, try changing the shot into black and white for a timeless aesthetic.
Illuminate with help from spot and beam lights.
Concert and theatre venues are often dimly lit, but you can use spot and beam lights for the brightness you need. Time your shot so that oscillating or flashing lights illuminate your subject, and see how different colours in venue lighting affect your subject’s appearance. Shoot straight into the light source for a striking effect.
“RedFoo,” by Tilman Jentzsch Fujifilm X-T1 + XF16-55mmF2.8
Click, click, click that shutter.
Your time to get photos is limited, and your attention has to be on the action. Don’t check your camera display after each shot to critique your previous image. Keep shooting and take many more shots than you think you need.
Move with your feet, not with your lens.
It is easy to feel timid about moving through a crowd to get the best image and to instead rely on your zoom. But no zoom makes up for a great angle, so move your body to the right shooting spot.
“Confetti walk” by Kevin Belson, Fujifilm X-T2
Show up early and stay late.
Another way to get close shots without a competing crowd is to arrive for practise or rehearsal. That is an easier time to approach subjects and to witness their candid and personable expressions.
Know which moments matter.
Capture action from significant scenes. Get the basketball player dunking, not dribbling. Get the singer shouting into the mic, not waiting for the drummer to start the song. Capture the biggest moments for the biggest impact.
“Samuele Zanella / The Two Romans,” by Tilman Jentzsch, Fujifilm X-T1 + XF16-55mmF2.8
Take caution with photo rights.
If you want to sell your images from an event, then select images over which you have legal rights. Copyright law gives athletes, musicians and other public figures the right to seek compensation from you if you try to profit from their unlicensed likeness.
By following these best practices, your event photography will tell the best story from the big scene.
For music & concert photographers, restrictions have meant it’s become harder and harder over the years to get those great shots. So seeing the Fujifilm XF100-400mm lens come into the fold is a very welcome addition to the Fujifilm lenses lineup.
Along with bad photography contracts thrust upon us as we collect our photo passes, and image right grabs on the pictures we capture, we’re now being forced further and further back within a venue, which restricts what we can actually capture due to the distance we’re expected to shoot at. This makes the XF100-400mm essential to achieving good results.
Bruce Springsteen – Manchester
With Bruce Springsteen performing in Manchester, I looked forward to using Fuji’s new beast of a lens the 100-400mm. Even though we were expected to shoot from the ‘Golden Circle’ barrier at around 50 meters (164 feet) from the stage, it’s still quite a distance.
The size & weight of this new lens was inline with all the Fuji X series cameras/lenses, well made, light in weight and weather sealed.
The one thing that did concern me though as I arrived at the City of Manchester stadium was the weather…… It was absolutely pouring down. I knew this would be a good test for both this new lens and my Fuji X-T1 camera!
Once in position, I had 3 songs in which to capture images from the ‘Golden Circle’ barrier. Even from here it was difficult to gain a vantage point above the sea of waving arms, mobile phones and homemade signs that swam through the crowd as Springsteen performed.
Even though it is a larger lens than other Fuji lenses in their range, in comparison to Full Frame it’s still relatively light and having to shoot without a mono pod (as I was constantly moving to dodge the arms blocking my shot) I was able to do this and keep my camera steady without much shake.
The camera and lens handled the heavy rain perfectly, no problems there, and I also found that the lens focuses very quickly and especially when Bruce was standing directly in front of the big video screen (which can be challenging for cameras).
Once home and after a bit of time spent editing the pictures, I was extremely happy with how the 100-400mm lens performed.
It helped me capture some great moments in the allotted 3 songs slot I was given to shoot in, and the distance the lens covers from 100mm to 400mm was a massive plus as right at the end of the third song Springsteen stepped onto the lower stage and I was able to capture that moment too!
I am in it for the music. I am a photographer, but first and foremost I am a dedicated fan of
music, particularly the electronic genre. Photographing music is how I find belonging in its
When I look at the work of other music photographers, I often don’t see the passion for
music, nor “hear” it in their images. I hope to help change that with this e-book.
I shoot electronic music exclusively, which means all my experience comes from this type of
event. I believe a good part of this ebook will be applicable to any kind of music or event
shooting, but there are also things in here which are specific to the electronic music scene.
In this book I talk about how to get started, preparations, what’s in my bag and of course,
how I shoot events. This book features many examples of my images with analyses of how I
made them, anecdotes from the shoot, and the gear and settings used. I assume readers are
familiar with technical terms such as exposure, ISO, aperture, exposure value (EV), and how
to adjust these settings.
I have made the transition from making pictures for myself, to shooting paid gigs in
Denmark, very quickly. I have learnt an enormous amount in that time, and I hope to pass
this on, and inspire you to make better music pictures.
I am lucky enough to get to shoot the events I would go to as a regular fan. And I hope my
passion can inspire your music photography. You have to love it all: the music, the artists, the
people, the long nights, the loudness, the chaos, the photography.
Channel that love into your images.
How to buy this eBook
The eBook comes as a 220-page PDF and can be purchased and instantly downloaded from Flemming’s website below:
I went down with a crash. Almost immediately the mud started to seep through my trousers which were already soaked by the rain. I had cradled the two X-T1s in my arms as soon as I felt my feet sliding away from me. The rain had no affect on them, it just collected into droplets and ran off. The rain that fell on me however seemed to go into my bones. I sat up and looked around. I was surrounded by thousands of people all bent on having a good time – and succeeding. I looked down at the rain soaked cameras, it was then that I realised what I had become. How on earth did this happen?
But first, a bit about me.
I first became interested in photography at the age of 8 or 9. My parents bought me my first camera as a birthday present shortly afterwards. As my interest grew I went to the public library to learn about processing and printing. I managed to acquire a second hand enlarger, a developing tank, some dishes and had managed to blackout my bedroom by hanging all the clothes I possessed over the window. This was well before the days of central heating, and I had a wall mounted infra red heater that glowed red which I used as a makeshift safelight when printing. Surprisingly this rather makeshift approach worked and the experience of seeing a print gradually appear as it was gently rocked in the developing tray was magical. I still have that sense of wonder when I look at prints today. The technology is different but the magic of creating a record of a moment that makes up life’s experiences remains. It gets even better when I can create an image that goes beyond straightforward recording something and which connects with other peoples emotions from when they saw or experienced something similar. That’s the reason I love combining travel and photography. It creates so many privileged situations and I find it increases the possibility of creating the types of images I love.
I continued to dabble with photography into my 20’s but life gets busy and a career in Public Service refocused my priorities until much later in life. Now with that career behind me (and contrary to public belief Public Service can have high job satisfaction and be fun) I have reengaged with photography and am now building a second career.
Why indeed. To be honest it all came as a bit of a surprise to me as I considered myself to be a Canon shooter. I did buy an X100 when they first came out. I was seduced by the look and feel of it. The handling reminded me of and old Leica I used to own. I loved the simplicity, the clear controls and small size.
Unfortunately it did not work out for me. I found the focusing too slow and the camera stayed in a draw for a few years. In time the X100s was released but I was still not tempted. Eventually someone told me that Fuji had released updated firmware for the X100. It took me another few months before I downloaded it and gave it a try.
What a difference! It became the camera I thought I had bought in the first place. What impressed me more though was the fact that Fuji made the firmware available for the X100 rather than withholding it in order to get more people to to buy the X100s.
I thought that it was remarkable that a company would show such loyalty to its existing customers, especially in this day and age where incentives are only offered to new customers. I was so impressed with the improved handling that, when the X100t came out I bought one. I took it with me that same day when I took the dog out for a walk with the intention of trying it out. Nothing spectacular, just a nice shot of sheep and lambs in the sunshine on the Dorset coast with the sea as the background.
I was wondering if I could use the WiFi app to simplify my news workflow so, just to test things out, I used the Fuji app to put an image on my phone and from there uploaded it to the news agency. It was only when the license fee arrived some months later that I realised that the image had been published on the Telegraph Online website before I got home. I love the simplicity and size of this camera, and unsurprisingly, my Canon 5D large and heavy by comparison.
I had a trip to Spain coming up and I really wanted to reduce the weight of the gear I was carrying in the backpack, so I decided to buy the X-A2 with the kit zoom lens and the 10-24 f4 lens. Although there were clear limitations compared to using the 5D kit there were also wonderful benefits. It was not just the weight either, I was less “visible” as a photographer. I could hand hold at lower shutter speeds, the electronic screen was wonderful in dark environments, the lenses were sharp and significantly I found that I was using the Jpeg files with little or no tweaking rather than the RAW files which resulted in less time in front of a computer screen. The GPS tagging via the Fuji phone app helped enormously when it came to captions and keywords. Overall a considerable saving of time.
It’s a slippery slope. I went and tried out an X-T1 with the idea of trading in my 5D mk 2 but keeping the 5D mk3. The logic being that I would have a lightweight travel kit and shoot news stuff using either the X-A2 and the X-T1, or the Canon 5D mk 3 and the X-T1 depending on the circumstances. On trying the X-T1 out, I found I loved it as much as the X100T, and it has the same WiFi capacity. I also found out that Cactus make some speedlight triggers that will allow Fuji cameras to use canon speedlights using the Cactus transmitter to control the power of the flash. That was it then, I bought one and a 50-140 f2.8 lens. I was intending to use it and the Canon 5D mk 3 a couple of weeks later at the Glastonbury Festival where I was one of the team of accredited photographers. As I prepared the kit for the event I wondered if those nice people at Fuji would lend me another X-T1 and a couple of lenses so I could cover the festival using only the lighter Fuji gear. Well-they can only say no.
They said yes, which is how I came to be sitting in the mud in the company of 175,000 festival goers, countless volunteers, specialist staff, police, performers and somewhere on the site, that nice Mr Eavis. As I wiped the rain off the cameras and checked them for damage I realised I had become a “Fuji shooter”.
So how did it go?
Well it all went rather well, which was pleasantly surprising considering that the X-T1s were a new camera to me. The firmware in the cameras was 3.11. I had been hoping that version 4.0 with the significantly improved focusing would be available by the time the festival began. Unfortunately it wasn’t. Despite that, the focusing on the X-T1 was better than I expected. In most conditions it worked well and was accurate. I struggled with it a little in low light though and it was too slow for some fast moving situations. Having said that, I changed my technique over the course of the festival and my results improved.
Shooting the Pyramid Stage at night was the most difficult environment because of the rapidly changing lighting and the continually moving musicians. I ended up using continuous focusing, with the pre focusing switched on and the drive set to continuous fast. I also ramped the ISO up more than I would normally do and stopped the 50-140mm lens down a bit rather than using it wide open. To keep the speed up I shot Jpegs. With this combination, the number of sharp images increased dramatically. Unfortunately so did the overall number of images shot resulting in taking considerably longer to edit them. Up until then I had been shooting Raw and Jpegs intending to use the Jpegs and have the RAW files for anything where the Jpegs were inadequate. It’s a credit to Fuji’s technology that, despite some challenging lighting conditions the Jpegs remained superb throughout. With exquisite bad timing I picked up an email as I walked out of the festival on the Monday morning saying that Fuji just released the significantly improved version 4 Firmware!
The camera’s handled well and sat in my hand nicely with most of the controls easily accessible. It was a bit tricky at first to change the focus point with the function buttons on the back, but that improved as I got used to the camera. Even so replacing the OK/Menu button with a joystick control that would perform both the OK/Menu control and move the focus point would be wonderful. Like all these things though, its about getting the right balance and I am aware that such a change may not be possible without compromising the size and style of the camera body.
Having the shutter speed, the ISO setting, the drive and the exposure compensation easily accessible via dials on the top of the camera was wonderful. Perhaps it was because I spent my early life using cameras with that sort of arrangement but I took to it immediately and it felt more natural that having to go through a menu system, especially with the ISO setting. This ease of access combined with the Electronic Viewfinder meant that I could accurately assess difficult lighting conditions and make the necessary exposure compensation without having to take a shot and play it back on the LCD to check the histogram.
The combination of one body with the 16-55 f2.8 and the other with the 50-140 f2.8 worked really well. Most of the images were created with these two lenses. It made working fast and easy. Given small size and low weight of the kit it also made swapping between cameras fast and easy. I don’t like changing lenses when I am working in this sort of environment as I have to work fast and upload news pictures soon after they are taken. Dust on the sensor slows down the processing stage enormously. When I did change lenses though, I did not get any dust problems, or if I did the built in sensor cleaning mechanism got rid of it. I don’t know if I was just lucky of if the design of the Fuji sensor made a difference but it was a refreshing change.
After a couple of days using the cameras, when I had got to the stage of not having to think about it I began to really enjoy them. The fun and experimentation of photography seemed to be coming back and I really enjoyed using the tilting LCD screen which made it easier to shoot from unusual angles. I also was not getting the aches and pains I was used to in these sort of environments. Given that I was on my feet and working from about 7:00 am to 1:30 am the next morning (with a short break sometime in the afternoon) I felt remarkably relaxed.
As I enjoyed this new found freedom it all went wrong..
I had found somewhere to sit and have a coffee. As I stood up I realised that I had lost a camera. As the knot in my stomach formed my mind tried to work out where I had been and where I could have left it. My pulse rate went up as I started to take straps belts and bags off so that I could find out if I had lost my camera or the one Fuji had loaned me. Neither, they were both still there. So what had I lost? I checked the other lenses, the Speedlight, the other accessories. They were all still there.
All that had happened was that I had got used to using the cameras and had forgotten about them. I had stood up, and being used to carrying two Canon 5Ds with L series lenses attached, the load I was carrying was so light that I thought I had lost a camera. This happened a few times over the subsequent days, that sudden feeling of panic followed by a feeling of relief, then foolishness.
One final thing worth mentioning is the viewfinder. Its fabulous.
One of the reasons I bought full frame cameras in the past was that I had used the C type sensors and was not impressed with the size of the image in the viewfinder. The X-T1 viewfinder with its magnification factor and “Full” mode is a joy to use. For me it was a game changer.
So in summary, as I said earlier, it all went rather well. In a couple of heavy downpours the cameras, the 16-55 f2.8 and the 50-140 f2.8 were unaffected, It seems that the weather resistance really does work. The X-T1 is a joy to use, handles well and is robust & light. The lenses are sharp and considering the max aperture, remarkably light. The combination of the 16-55 and 50-140 were used most of the time (although I must confess to having a soft spot for the 10-24mm). The focusing with the 3.11 firmware is not up to the speed of a DSLR but the version 4 firmware seems to be a considerable improvement.
So what next?
Well I have just started the planning for a 6 week trip to India and its definitely the Fuji camera’s that will be coming with me. And, if you would like to see more of my work please visit me at:
My style of photography is social and intimately in your face. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel close enough with my 18mm f2 lens. My goal is to capture your alter ego raging or to strip you of it to show a contrast between you and the environment. Depending on the parties, I aim to capture shots that one may never want to show their parents. I have heard a comment that my work is a cross between the board game candy land and blade runner. I love neo-noir and post apocalyptic films and I am a drop out toy designer so maybe that explains? Other inspiration draws from the 90’s X-Men cards by Fleer company, the color on those illustrations just popped.
My weapons of mass (“Oh god, can you please take down that pic! I don’t want my boss seeing that”} destruction!
I use Fujifilm X series cameras for all my EDM adventures. I shoot manual and control my flashes manually as well. I started out with a Fuji X10 because I loved the manual look and feel of the camera.
I soon followed with an X-E1 and recently to an X-T1. The X-E1 really gave me the results I was looking for and though the focusing was not as quick as it’s successor it still gave me satisfying results.
I currently use a X-T1 and the results are just art. This camera really gave me the courage to shoot on an ISO higher than 400. There are photos I do not have to adjust color or clarity. This camera is so on point that it locks on to the subject quickly and the results of the shots are crisp and clear.
On average my settings on the X-T1 are currently ISO 640, F5.6 at 1/4 on Velvia film simulation mode. My two flashes are set to 1/4 @ 23mm as my main light and my fill light set to 1/8 at 23mm (I set my second flash to 1/8 so the light fills the bottom of the portrait but not as bright as the main light on the subject). I always direct the main light on the upper body as one might usually do when shooting a portrait with an external flash. If the subject has an amazing outfit I set both my main light and fill light to f1/4. Mind you, these settings work for me in a dark venue that has disco lights and it also depends on how great the venue’s light is.
I use an assortment of light diffusers and pieces from old video rigs I have acquired over the years. However, nothing beats having an assistant to help you out with positioning lights.
I use X-T1’s new WIFI connection and use it with the Fuji apps along with an app called shutter snitch. I use these apps to beam a photo to my iPhone in which I can upload to instagram immediately. An event photographer is like a journalist and a club promoter. You can upload a photo to social media with a hashtag and convince people to say “This looks wild and crazy, we’re going there for the night.”
As mentioned earlier I shoot with an 18mm f2 lens and it’s really made me a better photographer than any 50mm on a crop sensor. The lens has made me get up close and personal with my subjects because there is not much room to move around with in a packed club or concert.I had a 35mm f1.4 but that was stolen off my belt one night during a DJ set. I used it only a few times for those moments where I had space to focus on a portrait. I am currently taking in donations for a 56mm 1.2 lens so I can achieve some “bokehlicious” photos and take my work to new places!
Shooting night life and what I’ve learned “so far”.
Night life is so fast paced, the emotions and energy people bring out with them are intense. What is not intense is their attention span.
Situations escalate and fade out quickly so pay attention because you may miss out on interesting photos.
You have at most 15 seconds to compliment your subject, tell them what you like about them, and be their friend. The faster you can relate with your subject and construct a relationship the better your love life might be (Just kidding, I mean your photos).
Also, get lost on tumblr, pinterest, soundcloud and see what is inspiring people to express themselves. This will also inspire you and your work.
Use a prime lens. You aren’t shooting wild life. Night life is a social activity, get in there and meet people.
Want to take a photo of a hot girl with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem too excited to be out? No problem! Respectfully make your intent clear that you would like a portrait of the lady followed by a photo with her boyfriend. This will almost work 99% of the time and smooth out any uncertain feelings.
Have a side pouch to store extra batteries, gum, mints, and SD cards.
Smile and look relaxed. If you’re nervous and timid this will reflect on your subjects and onto your photos like a mirror. Keep positive and remember that your goal is to get great shots of the night.
If you don’t want to take someone’s photo just tell them you’re out of film and walk away like you really got to reload film.
That’s all for now!
happy shooting and partying X-Toggies! <3
As an amateur photographer like many of you, I’m always looking for an excuse to shoot. Whether it be a day out, a wedding (as a guest), birthday party and the list goes on..
Because of this, the people close to me are used to me carrying a camera everywhere and posting out of context, random images to my personal Facebook wall on a very regular basis. I think as a result of this I have made it a bit of a personal responsibility to document events in my life and for others close to me. Maybe it’s so in the future I can look back happily nostalgic, or even to review my own photography, but for whatever reason it means that if you invite me to a party, gathering, or day out, you will end up with some images to remember it.
I think everyone has someone like this in their family or their group of friends and when I think back, my Grandad was that person. He would film all the family occasions with his cine-camera and every now and again we would have an evening to enjoy the images & film he’d taken on his slide projector.
These images are demonstrating exactly the kind of documentary photography that I have come to love. The opportunity came about when I was kindly invited as a guest to a birthday party. I even remember saying to my better half whether I should take the camera and “Do you think they would mind if I took images for the evening?” but then I answered my own question with “Why wouldn’t they? It’s capturing a beautiful moment in their life.” So I packed as light as I could, as after all, I was a guest as well as the unofficial photographer.
Once I arrived, I set up the basic camera settings that I would use for the night. In my case this meant classic chrome, ISO AUTO, shutter set to AUTO and aperture set to f/1.4 (to keep the ISO to a minimum in the low light environment).
I started by enjoying a snack or two (of course!) and then looking around the room for the best costumes (fancy dress theme was the letter ‘T’), best expressions and where the best lighting was in the room. As you may or may not know my favourite set up is the X-E2 with XF35mm lens, this night was no exception. I had only this gear with me and a spare battery just in case.
After the initial ‘Venue set up shots’ I began to focus my attention to people, being people – looking for those little moments and expressions that may otherwise be missed. From the happy & silly to the indifferent, any moment that could portray emotional involvement with the event would be snapped.
The evening was going well and mingling had just started to make good pace when something brilliant happened – a magician turned up! And what was even better? Simple, this guy was superb. He immediately had people huddled in small groups laughing and puzzling over his close-up magic wonderment. This was the perfect element for me to focus on, I wanted to capture the suspense, surprise and bemusement that followed after each and every trick.
My approach here was to keep an eye on where the ‘actual’ excitement was in each moment. For example it could be the expression of an individual, the trick itself, the movement in the image etc. These are some of my images hopefully showing just that.
I did occasionally stray away from the automatic focus and automatic shutter to help capture this fast fingered magician in motion.
What is the next essential part of any family party?…. Yes, you’re right, it’s dancing! 😉 And not just any old songs either, it had to be the ‘classic’ Macarena.
It’s all about those little moments that create one collage of memories and emotions caught in time.
And most importantly, trying to capture the single most significant moment that sums up the whole event. The shot below shows my best attempt at this. Here you can see the family coming together after a rousing speech and the DJ reflects perfectly how their emotion is shared outwards by others around them.
So the question is… are YOU that photography friend that everyone knows? Are you the one who makes it your passion to capture life as it happens for you and for your family? If so, I salute you! If your answer is no, why not give it a go? It will expand your skills, your confidence and very importantly it will develop your own style further. For me, if you haven’t noticed, I can’t help but shoot a lot of Dutch Angle style, rightly or wrongly, this is part of my style that has developed over time.
Please share your own experiences and thoughts in the comments below.