Equipment Suggestions for a Beginner whose Target is to Shoot Rock Concerts

Started 4 months ago | Discussions thread
ChelseaPhotographer Contributing Member • Posts: 733
Re: Equipment Suggestions for a Beginner whose Target is to Shoot Rock Concerts

mostlyboringphotog wrote:

ChelseaPhotographer wrote:

shriekyphantom wrote:

Good day!

I was inspired to start studying photography after watching many rock concerts (live and Blu-rays) and seeing some pictures of those concerts which were taken by the official photographers. Unfortunately, I don't have any knowledge in photography but I have already started reading and watching some videos for the basic information.

As stated in the title, my ultimate goal is to shoot photos like those in rock concerts but I am not aiming to become a professional photographer. Just being able to shoot pictures like those is enough for me.

Here are some of the pictures that I was talking about:

With that being said, can someone recommend me a good camera and lens that will suit my current status? Right now, after buying a camera, I am planning to practice first on landscapes since they don't change much in a short period of time.

As for the budget, I really can't say exactly how much but as much as possible, I want it to be cheap but at the same time, I can use it easily for my ultimate goal.

Thank you!

You are going to get some conflicting advice on this. Be careful, because some of this advice will send you down the wrong path. I understand that the people giving you advice are trying to help you, but the wrong advice will hurt your efforts instead. These are some examples:

"Very little to do with equipment"

"get some entry level DSLR"

"Best easy-to-use cameras in 2020 in the Buying guide list some entry level cameras.

One thing you will learn first is that all those flash going off at a concert is totally meaning less..."

We are all trying to help - I took his statement that " I don't have any knowledge in photography " as the starting point.

Would you recommend Ferrari to someone who knows nothing about driving and explain how to counter steer if one is fishtailing? Just because someone has ambition to be a race car driver?

Do you think OP can find a faster than f/2.8 lens? Do you think OP understand what is "fill flash"? And the guide number needed at the distance? And would artist appreciate flash going off during the performance? Most venues, even if photography is allowed, flash photography is typically forbidden.

I am not disagreeing with anything you say below - I simply do not think most of what you say means much to someone who has no knowledge in photography.

What I said may mean nothing to "shriekyphantom", and everything I wrote may have been a wasted effort. But Original Posters are not the only people who read replies. Google often presents DPReview forum posts in its results, and if I were "shriekyphantom", I would make a note of what I wrote and maybe in a few months or a few years down the line, it might even be helpful to them.

Having said that, when people say "start with an easy-to-use camera", I think that might really hold the OP back, and in the end it might be a much more expensive route for them. The OP may get a little point and shoot, or a mirrorless camera with mediocre focus capabilities, and they may think that it's their fault if they don't get the results they want because they are beginners. But then in the back of their mind they may remember that someone told them that if they wanted to get good concert photos, the gear they use is actually really important... Who knows... but I rather tell someone how they can actually achieve what they want even if it all goes over their head...

And to answer your question directly, yes, I would tell someone who really wanted to be a Formula 1 champion that they are definitely going to need a Ferrari in order to win. But in the particular case of concert/stage photography, the "Ferrari" maters just as much if not more so than absolute skill.

I am a relatively skilled photographer, but I am not going to be able to capture some of the images that I get with my Canon G7XII, and even a good mirrorless camera like my A7RIV is going to struggle with all the backlighting that you get on a stage. That is why I recommending a Pro or a Prosumer DSRL to the OP. It is up to "shriekyphantom" to make up their mind about what advice they are going to follow...

However, Jacob has also given you some really good advice:

"The dark atmosphere of concerts, and the need to adjust focal length quickly would indicate pro-level F2.8 zooms

In most cases, you're looking for a good full frame camera of pro or prosumer rating. I'm familiar with Nikon, so you're looking at a Nikon D5/DS850/D780 in the DSLR range, and the Nikon Z7II in the mirrorless range.

In most cases you're looking for a set of F2.8 range pro zoom lenses. The typical 'trinity' set includes a 14-24mm, a 24-70mm, and a 70-200mm. For a typical shoot like you're taking you'd likely just be using the first two, and rarely the 3rd"

I do live events like these, and actually, if you know what you are doing, they are pretty easy to do, BUT you definitely need the right equipment. I'll tell you first about equipment and then about technique.


You need a really good full-frame DSLR (Pro or Prosumer) and you have to go with Canon or Nikon (Pentax won't cut it), so we are talking Canon 1DX (Mark I, II, III), Canon 1Ds Mark III, Canon 5D Mark III and IV, and I wouldn't recommend it because of the bad dynamic range, but the 6D Mark II should be able to do it too. The 7D Mark II will be able to do it, but you really don't want to go to APS-C. With Nikon the D5, D6 and the D850 will be able to do it without any problems. I wouldn't trust the D750 to do it. But the D500 will cut it, but again, I wouldn't do APS-C.

If you have a ton of money, the Pro cameras are great, but personally I would go with either the Canon 5DIV or the Nikon D850. I feel the Canon AF points cover slightly more vertical range, and at higher ISOs, I like the look of Canon better, but I prefer the dynamic range of the D850 and the much higher resolution.

In terms of lenses, you need really fast lenses: f/2.8 or faster. A few friends who shoot this kind of work use really fast primes, and they produce lovely work, but personally I prefer to work with zooms. You should note that even if you are not shooting at f/2.8, it is very important to have fast lenses, because the widest aperture is what the camera uses for focusing. And right before the photo is taken it closes the aperture to the one you specified. So an f/4 lens might not be able to focus, whereas an f/2.8 lens shooting at f/4 will.

The zoom lens that I use the most is the 24-70 f/2.8. You will also want a 16-35 f/2.8 for when the talent is right in front of you, and for when you are further away, you will need a 70-200 f/2.8. But start in that order.


I use fill flash in some of my photos (about 50% of the time). One advantage in very low light situations is that the flash will use its powerful focusing pattern to nail the focus. You can also use the flash to freeze the action and drag your exposure a little to let the ambient light give you a sense of motion. The lighting in these concerts tends to be very theatrical, and you do want your photos to reflect that. Very often my photos look like I didn't use flash, when in fact I did. But the flash exposure compensation is reduced a lot. From minus 2/3 to minus 2.

If you are not using flash, you need faster shutter speeds to freeze the action. But don't go super fast because your photos will be dark

Getting your ISO right is very important. In these stages, light changes super fast. Faster than you can react to it, so you want to shoot auto ISO, BUT don't let your ISO go too high. I limit my range from 100 - 1000, so if the lights get super bright for one second, the camera will immediately lower the ISO.

Dynamic range here is your friend. It is very tiresome to hear people in this forum tell you that if you get your exposure right, you don't need to push the shadows. But with this type of photography, it is very easy to blow out your highlights, so generally you will be underexposing. I tend to underexpose anywhere between 2/3 to 1 1/3 of a stop

This image that you shared shows dragging of the shutter speed, which can be used creatively to great effect:

Literally what the photographer did was capture the drummer and then move the camera around the stage while the shutter was still open. The face of the drummer is blown out, though. If you rely on your flash to do that, it will not get blown out.

If you would like to see some of my work, you can do so here:

I hope this helps you and good luck with your journey!

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