Concert Photography Settings

Last Updated on March 16, 2021

In order to take jaw dropping shots of your next concert you have to understand your settings and how to best implement them for the conditions of the concert you are shooting.

After reading this ultimate guide to concert photography settings you will know exactly how to set your camera for taking amazing concert pictures.

Concert Photography Aperture Settings

concert photographer

The aperture setting of your camera is very important for achieving incredible concert shots. Aperture refers to the opening in the lens that light travels through to the image sensor of your camera. The aperture setting changes how large the opening is. A larger aperture will therefore allow in more light while a smaller aperture will let in less light.

The aperture setting is noted with an f number. If you’ve seen and had no idea what the f number means, don’t you worry it is easy to understand when you understand that the number refers to the size of the hole light enters your camera.

The actual number following the f refers to the ratio of the diameter of the lens opening compared to the focal length of the lens. If you’re still a little unsure what this means no worries.

The key to remember is that the smaller the f number, the larger the lens hole opening is. That means that a wide open lens will have a low f number. So when someone refers to having a larger aperture they are generally referring to an f number of 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, and 5.6. When you hear someone talking about a small aperture they are usually talking about an f number of 8, 11, or 22. So a wide open lens is a low f number and a stepped down aperture has a higher f number. It’s really easy the more you look and play with your aperture.

photographing a concert

Another term you will hear about aperture is full stop. This is a one stop increment change in your f number. An example would be changing your aperture from f/2 to f/2.8. This change makes the lens opening smaller by half the size. If you then change the aperture from the f/2.8 to f/4 you are reducing the amount of light that enters your image sensor by half once again. Just remember each stop you change your aperture either up or down makes a half light difference up or down respectively.

Aperture settings are incredibly important for taking awesome concert shots as the lighting conditions are challenging and require the right aperture to let the right amount of light in through the lens. Because concerts are notoriously dark you will want a wide open aperture, meaning a low f number. This will allow more light to enter your lens and make it to your image sensor.

Depth of Field for Concert Shots

Aperture also performs another incredibly important aspect that impacts your image quality and that is Depth of field (DoF).

Depth of field refers to the area of your image that is sharp and in focus. If you look at professional photography you will often notice that only a small portion of the image is sharp and detailed while the rest of the image is out of focus. This highlights the particular portion of the image that the photographer wants you to notice. This happens because of when shooting an image everything in the image that is on the same horizontal plane is in focus while everything in front of and behind the plane of focus is blurry. This effect is called bokeh and it produces amazing and impact full images.

Depth of Field Tips

  1. Aperture impacts depth of field tremendously. A large aperture, which is a smaller f number, will decrease the depth of field of your image. This larger aperture will result in a shallow focus area resulting in a beautiful blurred background and foreground. So remember that a smaller f number will create a smaller depth of field.
  2. The distance of the subject from you plays a large role in your effective depth of field. This means that the closer you focus on your subject the shallower your depth of field will be. Because concert photography can be shot at any distance being aware of your distance effects on depth of field is very important.
  3. The focal length of your lens also impacts you depth of field. Simply put, the longer your lens’s focal length the shallower your depth of field will be. That means that the shorter your focal length is the deeper you depth of field will be. Simple right?

Concert Photography Aperture Wrapped Up

So what does all this mean? The first take home is that you need to invest in the fastest lens you can for shooting concerts. Check for the best lens for concert photography picks to help you get the perfect lens. A fast lens is one that has a small aperture setting. The fastest lenses will have apertures of f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2.8. While not all concerts require this fast of a lens, the vast majority of the time you will shooting concerts with one of these aperture settings. Remember that most concerts are very low light venues meaning you will need that wide open aperture to get enough light to your sensor. This aperture setting will also give you a shallow depth of field which will blur out the non important parts within your image giving an awesome and professional effect.

Shutter Speed for Concert Shooting

Now that you understand your aperture settings it’s time to get your shutter speed right. To get high quality concert shots you need to have your shutter speed dialed in. The shutter is located inside your camera and it opens in order to allow light to enter your sensor. The shutter speed refers to the how long the shutter is open.

You can find the best camera for concert photography in this article.

The shutter speed setting allows you to control how motion within your frame and how it effects your images. A faster shutter speed will “freeze” the action while a slower shutter speed will capture more movement resulting in a blurring effect. Think of those images that scream motion and you are looking at a shot where a slow shutter speed was employed.

Shutter speeds are noted in whole numbers and you will often see 60, 125, and 250 for your shutter speed options. These whole numbers refer to a fraction of a second. Therefore a 60 setting refers to a shutter opening of 1/60th of a second while a 125 setting is faster at 1/125th of a second. Depending on your camera, you can have a wide range of shutter speed settings to choose from, but it is key to remember that the higher the setting number the faster the shutter speed and faster shutter speeds freeze the action better.

When shooting concerts there is some adjustment required depending on your subjects but the majority of the time you will be shooting with a shutter speed of 1/200. This shutter speed will allow you to freeze the action of a moving musician without too much blur except on fast moving objects such as a strumming arm or a drummer’s drumsticks. This produces some truly epic concert photographs. But use this as a guide, experiment with your shutter speed as you can find some truly awesome results depending on the speed you use.

ISO Settings

Last but not least, your ISO settings will have a big impact on your concert photography results. ISO refers to the sensitivity of your image sensor. This means that the higher you set your ISO the less light will be needed for correct exposure. One important thing to remember though is that the higher you set your ISO the warmer your camera will get which creates more noise in your images.

When shooting concert photography you will generally set your ISO to at least 1600. This will allow you to get the right shutter speed for the low lighting conditions of a concert. The goal is to keep your ISO set as low as possible while shooting. Because aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are interconnected it is important to note any settings changes you make as it is likely that you will have to adjust your other settings as well.