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Photographing Live Music: Part 2 - At the Gig

Ok – you have made it to the gig. You have camera and lenses and you are at the venue. Now what? As you start photographing live music, what do you need to watch out for?

As I write I have Covid 19 and I think this blog is going to have to be a short one. I want to deal with typical gig lighting and the best settings to use etc – but that aspects will have to wait until next time. Here are some basics you need to think about first.

See here for Part 1 – Before the Gig

Andrea “Mama” Martin on stage at Linton Music Festival

Photographing Live Music: Looking after yourself

The first thing to think about when shooting gigs – especially rock – is yourself. As a photographer you will want to be close to the stage, but many of the best shots come by working from the side. That often means standing in front of speaker stacks – in the first shot of the two below I was leaning on a stack, my ear inches from a speaker. At a gig where decibel limits are being pushed anyway, you are going to do yourself conserable damage without earplugs. I always use them for rock gigs – for maximum protection I recommend the soft wax ones that form to the shape of your ear canal. Black Dog at the Coach and Horses, Stevenage could not have been photographed without them!

Photographing Live Music: Looking after your gear

It’s all very well choosing and taking great kit but it isn’t much use if it all gets nicked at the gig. Photographing live music can be very expensive unless you take a sensible approach to security. This is an advantage of shooting music by invitation or commission – you can generally find a fairly secure place to put your stuff. If you at least know the band it is often possible to put your gear with theirs – often at the back of the stage in smaller venues.

Sometimes you don’t have these luxuries.  You certainly can’t count on being able to revisit your kit bag frequently. Be ready to use very basic gear, that you can carry while shooting. Something long, and something wide.  And if you can take only one lens, make it a bright one!

One of my camera bags – a Lowepro – has a single strap which allows it to be moved round to the front of the body and opened to access gear without putting it down. This has proved useful in lairier surroundings!

Rothko (later, Twin Brother) at Latest Music Bar, Brighton

A packed and frenetic gig – Bastille at the Komedia in Brighton.
I used one SLR body and two primes – I pocketed the one I wasn’t using and moved freely around the place.

Photographing Live Music: Looking after others

Gigs are about the music, not the photographs! Still more, they are about the musicians and the listening public, not the photographer. This may seem obvious, but the way some togs behave at concerts, you would doubt it!

Wear dark clothes. Move between numbers whenever you can. Move purposefully and quietly.

Show respect for musicians and public. Never get in the way or impede the performance.

Show your appreciation for the music and for the privilege of taking your pictures. You will win more friends by being generous with your pictures!

Just be sensible and have a great time!

Ronald Waiksnoris conducts the New York Staff Band of the Salvation Army

For a round up of my musical photography, please see my main web page here. To contact me to enquire about photography for your band or event, please use my Contact Form or just text (07983 787889) or email me at

Photos © copyright Andrew King Photography

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