Hi, my name is Sonja Rodríguez, a concert photographer with over a decade of experience, specializing in the intense landscapes of Black and Death Metal. When I started (with a Canon 600D and the starter kit lense) I got looked upon in the photo pit by the so-called star photographers with their suitcases full of gear. Let me tell you that YES good gear - especially when you go see black metal bands with only 3 candles on stage as all their lighting - is important but not everything. If you have a feeling for the music and the performance and an eye for the right perspective you nearly got all you'd need.
I support all new and upcoming concert photographers and I honestly never kept any secrets if someone asked me for advice. It doesn't take anything away from my art to compliment other photographers, share their work or help them out. Anyone who thinks I am competition has not understood anything about me, metal or life. We all start somewhere and I give you the most crucial advice that would have saved me many tears along the way when doubting my skills and/or confidence. You will never ever be criticized in life by anyone better than you, it's the jealous-fearing-your-potential people, simply don't listen to them.
It took me ten years (with several breaks) to get recognized in the metal scene so nothing comes over night. Be patient. And practice. A lot.
Meanwhile enjoy my 10 short 'tricks' for concert photography that I follow every single time I'm shooting:
Master Low Light Environments: Embrace the darkness by understanding your camera's low-light capabilities. Invest in fast lenses with wide apertures to capture the essence of metal concerts in dimly lit venues.
Fast Moving Objects - High Shutter Speeds: Metal performances are dynamic; set your shutter speed high to freeze fast movements. Aim for a minimum shutter speed of 1/80s to capture crisp shots, especially during headbanging or drumming moments.
Challenging Lights and Spotlights: Adapt to fluctuating lights by adjusting your camera settings quickly. Experiment with exposure compensation to balance extreme lights and shadows, ensuring details are retained in both.
Crowded Spaces and No Photopits: Navigate through crowded venues by positioning yourself strategically. Be agile and move with the energy of the crowd. If there's no designated photopit, find elevated spots or shoot from different angles to avoid obstructions.
Perfect Timing - Anticipate Moments: Develop an instinct for anticipating key moments on stage. Understand the band's performance style, and be ready to capture those intense facial expressions, guitar solos, or crowd interactions.
Pre-Visualize Shots - Know the Setlist: Familiarize yourself with the band's setlist to anticipate moments that might unfold. Pre-visualize shots for specific songs, giving you a better chance to capture the essence of each performance.
Adjust ISO Settings Judiciously: Use a balance of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to capture well-exposed images in challenging lighting. Understand the trade-offs between these settings and find the optimal combination for your gear.
Capture Crowd Reactions: Don't just focus on the artists; capture the raw emotions of the crowd. Zoom out occasionally to document the energy and passion of the audience, providing a comprehensive visual narrative.
Embrace Post-Processing Techniques: Learn post-processing techniques to enhance your photos. Adjustments to exposure, contrast, and noise reduction can bring out the best in your shots, especially in challenging lighting conditions.
Stay Invisible Yet Engaged: Blend into the background as much as possible to avoid distracting the performers or audience. Stay engaged with the music to anticipate and capture the genuine spirit of the metal scene. (OK I do realize running around with two immense zoom lenses looking like going to war does get me some attention sometimes :D)