A Basic Guide To Success in Concert Photography

As a 20-year old concert photographer, one of the questions that I get the most is: “How did you manage to land a touring job so quickly and at a young age?” Here are a few tips that I used when navigating my way into the concert photography industry.

Don’t be afraid to send that email or Instagram message asking to come capture an event or show. When I say this, I do not at all encourage repetitive emails that will be viewed as spam. Remain professional, reach out one time to the artist’s management, and pitch your services to them.

Be prepared to be told no. One of the things that discouraged me the most when reaching out to artists and managers was being told no. It took me a while to shift my thinking when it came to this. Instead of viewing these responses as defeat, think of them as being one step closer to someone saying yes.

Adapt to being around fame and artists. One of the things that I see all too often are photographers who are wondering why they aren’t getting hired for shows or tours. At the same time, those individuals are trying to be the artist’s biggest fan on social media or in person.

One of the most important things to an artist or manager when selecting a photographer is trust. They must be able to trust that you will accurately convey their thoughts, feelings, and message. More importantly, they must be able to trust you in their personal circle. You must learn to adapt, respect their privacy, and make them feel safe with you in their personal lives. Trust is key in these relationships. Artists and management don’t want paparazzi on their team, they want trustworthy photographers and content creators that they are comfortable with.

For beginner concert photographers in particular, below are a few more tips to help you succeed:

Remain aware of your surroundings. It is very easy to get caught up in the moment trying to get the perfect shot. Remember that there are many external factors that you must remain aware of while shooting. Remain aware of the camera operators and their need to move quickly. Remain aware of if you are blocking a fan’s view, and quickly get the shot to give them their view that they paid for. Remain aware of what’s happening in the room, not just on the stage or what’s in front of you.

Select your focus points for the moment. During shows, I am constantly switching between focus modes to ensure that my subject is in focus. When using the autofocus setting, ensure that your camera is on AI Focus mode to better follow your subject that is constantly moving.

Use burst or continuous shooting drive modes. Many times in a concert, your subjects will be moving very fast. By setting your camera to burst mode, you can increase your chances of getting an in-focus shot by simply holding down the shutter button.

Get creative. Sometimes it can be very hard to keep the creative aspect flowing when capturing the same show several times. I incorporate lens and lighting effects into my photos to help discourage a creative block mid-tour.

About the author: Cole Elder is a 20-year-old touring photographer, content creator, and social media manager. Cole began touring with some of the largest artists in Contemporary Christian Music at the age of 17. He was on track to go to medical school before he felt God’s calling for his life was in music photography, and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. He is currently the tour photographer and social media manager for the Christian group MercyMe and has worked with many of the largest names in Contemporary Christian Music. More of his work can be seen on his website and Instagram.

The opinions expressed are soley those of the author.