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  • toby wray

Photography at Gigs for beginners

Took some unofficial pics at a friend’s gig recently and had a blast but it wasn’t as straight forward as you’d think. So thought I’d offer some tips to anyone doing likewise.

Preparation is Everything

Do some test shots first with the same lighting etc if you can. I noticed some severe banding which was ruining my shots. LED stage lights have this effect and you may have different makes in the mix which really limits what shutter speed you can use. With some experimenting I soon determined the best shutter speed was 1/100 so everything else, F-stop, gain had to take second priority. It did mean I lost some shots as people were moving (or I was) but most were ok and blurred hands on a guitar can be quite pleasing. The depth of field looked best at F5.6 meaning when focusing on one band member the others were nicely blurred as well as any audience. Luckily modern digitals have a great range without getting too grainy so I could shoot with an ISO of 4000 quite comfortably.

Camera set up

My camera is a Sony A7Siii with a Tamron 28-200mm zoom lens. I’d like to upgrade the lens but it’s a great all rounder with good macro functionality too, plus if I have any spare money (a rare event) I’ll be spending it on prime lenses which are great for film making too. The camera has great low light capability too though so with my test shots done I was ready to go.


I didn’t have any special credentials or positions as I was essentially an audience member but people are usually forgiving if you look the part and don’t stand in front of them long. I moved around covering various band members, getting to know where they were likely to be, what they would do. I found a good spot by the merch sales stand steps at the back. They didn’t mind me blocking their view as presumably they’d seen the band a few times. At one point the singer asked the audience to make a circle and he came onto the floor and did a number amongst us. I pushed to the front and crouched so people wouldn’t mind as I moved around for the best light, got one of the best shots this way I think.


You have to be harsh with yourself, lots of shots that are nearly great have to be dropped as nearly great isn’t great is it? Many were ruined by too much smoke, lights flaring straight down the  lens, an audience or band member’s movement or expression. Besides editing is the best way to improve your work. Out of 100 shots I'm happy if I’ve got 5 good ones.

Let me know if you have any tips or experience photographing bands in the comments.

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