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10 Tips to Start Shooting OnStage in Concert Photograph
10 Tips to Start Shooting OnStage in Concert Photography!
Hello, everyone. For those who don’t know me, I’m Ignacio Cángelo, a Concert and Advertising Photographer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. From time to time I love to write about Photography, that represents my hobbie, my life, my work! I hope you would like to share it with your colleagues!
In case you want to publish the article in your web, blog, etc. please contact me so I can help you.
Here are my links in case you want to know about my work, you are welcome!
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Rata Blanca - Buenos Aires
In this opportunity, I want to bring you a new article about this as lovely as controversial activity.
Lovely because, you know… there’s music, there’s photography, and how could it get any better? Controversial because it might be the photography specialty most done for free, so it becomes harder to charge for it. A little bit harder every day. Oh, now I remember how could it get any better: as a job, a paid one, of course.

This time, my article is about Shooting OnStage during a concert and how to be better prepared for your first chance to do it. This article it's for all Photographers dedicated to get better every day. If you like this article, I would love you to read another one that I wrote some time ago, about becoming sensitive to light when you shoot venues, this way you could reach the goal of Shooting ISO100 in Concerts, in case you find this interesting to give a shot.

As you must know, the rules for Shooting a Concert usually are “3 songs, no flash” for most cases (sometimes, 2 or even 1 song), and it might be enough for having some register of the concert, although we don’t like that; we would love to shoot the entire concert! I’ve always been very careful when shooting onstage, I’ve learned a lot over the years and I want to share it with you.

For most Concert Photographers, Shooting OnStage is a higher level that we like to achieve! Covering the Entire Venue from every angle, with a pass for the Stage! It requires that producers and managers have total confidence in us, and they trust in our work and believe in the work we do. The Absolute Priority is the Show, and it is as delicate as the incredible feeling of thousands of people.
Although the stage will become, in part, our place of work, it is a very delicate and risky area where someone can appear from out of nowhere and warn us about anything, and we must be prepared to take care of ourselves and the rest of the crew that is working there. If you mess up, it could be much more than just making a fool of yourself; it could have a negative effect on the band, which is exposed to thousands of people.
Interrupting a show can turn a wonderful experience into a huge disappointment when people are enjoying at the top of their excitement. A concert is like a big ritual, where lots of energies are interacting, and becomes even sacred for everyone. Some of these pieces of advice might sound repetitive or redundant, and that is due to the fact that all of them are interrelated. All these are tips and suggestions, not exactly rules.
So here we go:

1) Be Extremely Careful: Shooting onstage could be a very delicate activity. You have to go unnoticed, because there’s so much to ruin. So, sharpen your senses and be aware of everything that is happening all around. Apart from the musicians, an assistant could appear out of nowhere to immediately fix anything related to instruments or connections and you might be blocking their way. Be careful with cables, with each and everyone one of them. You don’t want to trip over a cable or disconnect it by accident.

2) Forget about Flash: Seriously, this time forget about using flash. Of course there are exceptions, but most venues will require that you don’t distract the people watching the show. You know that you could be annoying the musicians, and you’ll be exposed as a photographer that doesn’t know how to shoot concerts. I insist, and I think it's key: we must go unnoticed when we work onstage. It doesn't matter if no one warned us about this, we must not wait to be warned to start doing things the right way -and this applies to life, as well-. We must remain hidden because people are watching. In some cases this might depend on each band’s style, their relationship with you, and the freedom they give you to create. But it's not certain that this is going to happen the first times. If you want to use flash anyway, you still have the picture of the entire band at the end of the show if they give you the chance.

3) Don’t Demand Anything from Musicians: Well, in fact, it depends a little bit on the relationship the musicians have with you and the musical style of the band, but in general terms we can’t expect, ask or require anything to a musician during the show, just let them play and take the best photos of the best moments. Of course, it’s amazing when musicians pose for us, but we know and understand that in most cases these are situations of maximum concentration for them (and for us, too!). So, the best we can do is, as I said before, be aware of everything around us, with all senses sharp to capture the perfect moment. We must receive what they are able to give without interfering with them. Don’t make any sign that could distract them, nor try to talk to them. I, particularly, sometimes I offer my thumb up to tell them that I have the picture when they pose for me.
Sonata Arctica Final Shot - Buenos Aires
4) Dress in Black: This is one of my favorites. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you or notice it. Sometimes you want to be well dressed for the situation and use your best T-shirt, but it’s not necessarily the most adequate outfit for the venue: Dress in Black! We must avoid being noticed shooting on stage, the attention of people should be focused only on the musicians. Of course people will see us, but let’s keep it at a minimum. The quality of the work we do a lot of times is related to acting before any suggestion. It’s convenient to pay attention to the tidiness of the projects of our clients, even if they don’t notice it.

5) Lights Can be “Dangerous”: We all know that lights onstage are usually overhead, but a lot of times lights could be on the floor and other places. If you never had one of those lights nearby, believe me, they might scare you the first time. They can get really hot, and if you get scared you could make a sudden movement and cause problems. So, be aware, ok? Lights might not hurt you if they touch your arm only for a second, but being exposed more than that could be a different story. Things could also get unpleasant if one of the lights accidentally points directly into your eyes. Also, if there’s a cool design of lights on stage, you don’t want to be the one to ruin it with your body.

6) Be Stealthy: You have to be agile, but stealthy. Do not make sudden movements that might attract anyone’s attention. Hide behind the amplifiers. If you’re going to be watching, do it from the sides of the stage, where nobody can see you, and not in sight of the audience. You’re not part of the show. You don’t want to be warned or asked to leave, let alone be dragged off by the neck. Be invisible. You’re not the star of the show. People is not there to see you. You have to be like a ninja. I’m sure you can pull it off!
Massacre - Buenos Aires
7) Plan Ahead: If there is any photo you might want to take, and you have it planned beforehand, I recommend that you suggest it before the start of the show. Trying to communicate with the musicians during their performance is not a simple option. They are in another dimension in that moment. They might be willing to do it sometimes, but it should depend on them. Be sure to discuss in advance whether the final photo will be in front of, or facing the audience.

8) Use wide-angle lenses: This might be a piece of advice, but also a matter of personal taste, It even depends on the camera system you are using [ASP-C or Full Frame]. Even though this also depends on the dimensions of the venue, I would say that in most cases, shooting onstage lies more on the use of wide-angle lenses and short focal distances than on the use of teleobjective lens. Using one does not prevent you from using the other, but I would advise you to go up on stage with a versatile zoom instead of a long and fix lens. Wide angle lenses will be more useful in most cases. Switching lenses on stage can have a certain degree of difficulty. Of course, it's cool to use two cameras!

9) Do Not Wear Ear Protection: Ok, this is the one piece of advice that might sound controversial. But the truth is that on the stage, the sound is not as loud as in the other side, in the photographer’s pit. If I had to give you some advice, it would be that you do not nullify your hearing, as you have to be aware of everything that is going on around you. In case, of course, you're not doing stages all the time. Your ears wont be hurt shooting one show from time to time.
Rata Blanca - Buenos Aires
10) Be respectful: There are other people looking after the stage, like Stage Managers and Assistants. Be aware of everyone around you, because they represent a higher instance in this field. Respect any indication or suggestion they might make, just like you might need to fight for your place at some point, and explain why you are there. Humility is essential. Making a blunder could result in managers and producers not wanting photographers on stage in the future. Including a photographer should be an extra solution, not a problem.

Now that you are ready to Shoot On Stage, I would love to see your pictures from now on, just send me links or low resolution photos to or contact and follow me though these links:
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I would like to thank Alejandro Fernandez for helping me translate the article, well done, Sir! Alejandro is an amazing and talented singer and rules the stage like a boss, I recommend that you listen some of his Art!
Tarja Turunen - Buenos Aires
10 Tips to Start Shooting OnStage in Concert Photograph

10 Tips to Start Shooting OnStage in Concert Photograph

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