Brad Williams And Shooting Live Bands

There are so many forms of photography, and each of them offer something unique.  Whether it’s capturing a majestic landscape, shooting a family portrait, or playing with light trails, they all require different sets of skills and knowledge of both your camera and your subject.


One of my personal favorite things to shoot are live bands.  First, I should explain.  I myself have been a musician for nearly 20 years.  At least 10 of those years were spent playing professionally, or semi-professionally, in bands that traveled a lot across the Midwest.  About three years ago my wife and I learned that we were having a baby! Suddenly the thought of traveling all the time, being out late in bars, etc., lost it’s appeal.  My Daughter needed a Daddy and I needed to take a break from music so she could have one.

laylasmileDaddy’s Girl

But what to do to keep my creative juices flowing?  Well, I’ve always dabbled in photography.  Heck, even as a kid when my parents would hand me a disposable camera, it was never good enough for me to just snap off a picture.  I had to lie on the floor, or jump up on a chair, anything to make my picture look “different”.  I decided to start taking my wife’s Kodak Easy-share with me and see what kind of shots I could get.  The most logical place for me to go shoot was at concerts by old friends from my music days.  This way, I got to practice my new passion and still stay involved in my old one!

Sister LucilleInternational Blues Challenge semi-finalists, Sister Lucille

At first, the shots I was taking were nothing to write home about!  I felt like I had a natural eye for composition, but I was still shooting on Auto Mode and had no clue about adjusting my camera for the low light conditions of most concerts.  But here and there, I would luck in to a good one, and that was enough to make me want to get better.  I became obsessed with learning how to really use the camera.  Luckily, that little Kodak had a Manual Mode and proved to be a fine little teacher for the basics of achieving proper exposure.

Mojo RootsEarly attempt with Kodak Easy-share

In the next series of articles, I hope to help you understand the fundamentals of shooting live music.  From the equipment, to the settings, to what to look for from the musicians on stage, and where to put yourself to get interesting angles in your shots.

And don’t think you need the most state of the art equipment to capture great low light shots.  It wouldn’t hurt to have that stuff, but it’s by no means necessary.  In fact, there’s a good chance you already have better equipment than mine!  I currently shoot with a Nikon D3200 with Nikon 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses, as well as a Nikon 50 MM 1.8D.  With this humble rig I’ve been able to capture, what I feel (and hope you agree), some very nice shots of both local and touring acts in my area.  Hopefully I’ll be able to give you some tips on how to do the same!

Tommy CastroBlues Legend, Tommy Castro

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