3 Essential Tips for Improving Your Hip-Hop Concert Photography

While my main focus since graduating college recently has been writing, I've also become interested in photography. Namely, I've been wanting to flex my chops as a concert photographer. I figure that I go to so many hip-hop shows already that I might as well put that time to better use and also learn a new trade. Since the photo bug bit me over the summer, I have worked tirelessly to study up on everything I can to make sure my photos are up to snuff.

And in doing my research—and practicing whenever I get the chance—I have come up with three tips that I think are beneficial to both amateur photographers and even the more seasoned ones out there. That's especially true if you're looking to transition from more traditional photography to concerts, because there's a world of difference.

Image retrieved from Larry McAllister II's Flickr page.

1. Research the Venue

There's an old adage, and a funny one at that, about not wanting to be caught with your pants down. Well, in the case of photography, that basically means showing up to a venue ready to shoot only to learn that the lighting is terrible. You might be able to get some decent shots out of it, but you'll also be incredibly frustrated over the amount of editing and tinkering you'll have to do to make the photos "decent."

This doesn't mean that you should necessarily avoid certain venues, because that can lead to you missing out on too many opportunities. Instead, visit it once just as a fan, study the lighting and the area where you can shoot, and go from there. And as IShootShows recommends, make sure you're in manual mode when shooting in those locales with terrible lighting. At least that way you will have more control over your levels and the way your photo will look.

2. Move Around

I learned this tip in a round about way while reading about photography in this tutorial at Photo.net. Steve Mirarchi wrote that if you're photographing a rap, punk, or similarly hype show, you should have the right equipment to handle the job. In this case that means a lens that has a very flexible lens to ensure that you capture the energy of the performance.

But that being said, you also shouldn't be afraid to move around a bit. What that means is you should find two ideal spots close to the stage that you can get your shots. This will allow for more diverse photos once it's all said and done, too. It might seem more comfortable for you (and other concert-goers) to stick in one space, but don't worry: anyone you bump into will forget about it within a minute or so.

3. Don't Stick Around Too Long

This tip is a little difficult to abide by at some shows because you may never know when the opportunities comes to get a great shot. But the rule of thumb, for those who don't know, is to only snap shots for the first three songs of an artist's set. After that, you should retreat to the back of the crowd, take a load off, and enjoy yourself. You can always sneak up closer to the front, of course, just make sure to keep your camera secure and out of the way of everyone around you.

Hopefully these tips will help make your next concert photography experience go at least a little more smoothly. And once you have your photos nice and edited, you will need to decide exactly where and how you want to display them. There are plenty of options to do so online, whether it's Flickr or your own personal website.

But I've personally found that it can be fun to show them off during parties or get-togethers with friends, just so they can have an idea of some of the work I do. That's especially true if my parents are around, haha! Basically I just throw a good amount of photos on my smartphone and hook it up to my TV using an HDMI cable—you can see how to do that yourself here. You could also always put them on a tablet, like an iPad or whatever you might own, and hang one of those on the wall for a "framed photograph" effect. You could also ask to borrow a friend's (or two) to line your walls with 'em to make it like a mini-gallery showing.

Happy shooting!

Kevin Gannon is a recent college graduate with a degree in journalism and a passion for music. He enjoys writing about trends in music and technology and learning more about music industry.

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