Understanding light is one of the most important qualities a photographer can have. If you analyze a few similar photographs and one is particularly stronger, it is usually because of the way the light is captured. Natural light (sunlight) is hard enough to capture; the time of day, location, cloud conditions, and many other factors all change the way the light is captured by the camera. When photographing a concert, however, all of these factors go out the window.
Shooting live music is a very unique experience. Unlike when you’re out in nature, the light is very inconsistent. Your reaction times must be quick. Although the light is controlled, the photographer is unaware of how it will change. It can be extremely frustrating. You may dial in correct settings for what is in front of you, and it completely changes a second later. If you’re using a camera in any type of automatic mode, it may have a very hard time producing a correctly exposed image.
Figuring out how to manage these variable light sources is something that takes time. After shooting and going to many shows, I have just begun to be able to accurately predict lighting situations. Being a step ahead is very beneficial. Knowing when and how long a strobe may be on or what color lights will be on next is very important.
Working with lights at a concert is just one of the unique qualities of shooting live music. Just like any art form, it takes a long time to get down. It is something that can never be mastered. There is always more to learn and there are always more experiences that will help your art progress.
Articles & Photos: Jona Block