More On Shooting Concerts

by William Lulow

A couple of days ago I had tickets to see a concert with Dead & Company, former members of the Grateful Dead with some new additions. I had shot the original band back in 1972, in Boulder, Colorado. Since I was shooting for a local media outlet as well as the concert promoter himself, I had unfettered access to the band as the stage was being built, as well as backstage during the concert itself. I was hoping to try to get some press credentials to shoot them again, but access to these kinds of events is much more difficult in a market like New York than it was in one like Denver/Boulder. In addition,  there are many more photographers out there today than there were back then.

Nevertheless, I was determined to see if I could get some usable shots from the general audience. Luckily, we had some “decent” seats with only several hundreds of people in front of us. In addition, these kinds of venues don’t admit the general public with a lot of “professional-grade” photo equipment. So, I had to pare down to just one camera body and two lenses. I also couldn’t use the monopod that I normally do to shoot performances, so I had to hand-hold every shot. Since this is often hard to do with long telephoto lenses, I mostly used my 85mm, f/1.8 lens. As I usually do with stage performances, I upped my ISO setting to around 2000 or so which enabled me to shoot at 1/125 of a second at something like f/5.6 or f/8. This would give me acceptable sharpness. I wound up having to enlarge the images quite a bit in post processing, but a few were really good.


This was my vantage point. This was one image:


This image was, as I mentioned, a good sized enlargement from the original frame and yet most of the details are fairly sharp. Also, some of these shots were made by holding the camera above the crowd, not even looking in the viewfinder! I had the autofocus select just the center spot so I was pretty sure that anything I aimed at was going to be in focus.

These are just some of the things one might need to keep in mind when shooting in less than optimal conditions.

Another image: