My Favorite Gear And Settings For Concert Photography

My Favorite Setup!


I’ve gotten some requests for info on my favorite gear and settings for concert photography, so here we go!

Most of my gear is listed over on the “Gear I Love” page, but I wanted to go a little more in-depth in this post. First of all, “It’s not about the gear” is a phrase that you’ll see a lot, and in most cases it really is true. I’ve had shots published that were taken with a Canon Rebel and a kit lens, so if you don’t have super-expensive gear, don’t let that discourage you! I’m not saying that a more advanced camera body and better lenses won’t improve image quality, but you’d be surprised what you can do with a basic kit.

The Gear

My current camera body is a Canon 6D. One of the things that really attracted me to this model was the low-light performance. I was looking at the Canon 5DmkIII, but after doing some research the general consensus was that the image quality and low-light performance of the 6D was on par with the 5DmkIII. In addition, there was a substantial cost difference as well. I know that the autofocus system on the 5DmkIII is pretty amazing, and I’ll most likely upgrade to that model at some point, but I’ve been more than happy with the 6D.

I own several lenses (check out my post on this) but my favorite is my Canon 70-200f4L IS. I love the quality of the shots I get with this lens, and the IS is really handy for slower shutter speeds. The zoom range is great for covering the whole stage, too.

The Settings

As far as my settings, I usually shoot in manual mode. I always start with my ISO, then aperture, then shutter speed. If it is a pretty well-lit show I’ll usually start with my ISO around 2000, my aperture at 4.0 (the max for my 70-200), and my shutter speed at least 1/320. I’ll bump the shutter speed up to 1/400 or 1/500 if it’s too bright or if I’m not freezing the action. If the light is too low for these shutter speeds, I’ll crank the ISO up. Like I mentioned, the 6D is great at high ISOs so I’m not afraid to bump it up to 5000 or higher. If it’s a particularly energetic band, I may even set the shutter speed up to 1/800 or higher to freeze the action. Of course I’ll have to compensate by bumping my ISO up.

I typically have my center focus point active since this is the most accurate one on the 6D. I lock focus and recompose quickly. I also use continuous focus at times (especially if the performers are moving around a lot). On a Canon, this is called AI Servo AF and on a Nikon it is AF-C. In this mode, as long as you hold your shutter button down halfway, the camera will continue to focus as you track a moving subject.

So to recap my starting settings:

ISO 2000



Center focus point active with single-shot autofocus

If it’s too dark, I bump my ISO up.

If I’m not freezing the action and/or it is too bright, I bump my shutter speed up.

Of course everyone has their own way of shooting, so you may want to use this as a starting point and then find what works for your particular style. For example – if you have a faster lens, you can start at a wider aperture.

I’m also assuming that you’ve got a handle on the basics of exposure (ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed). If not, I’m working on some more basic articles that will cover this.

Comment below and let me know what your favorite gear and settings are! Also be sure to check out The Photo Roadie Facebook page and post some examples of your shots for everyone to check out, and sign up on the email list if you’d like to receive occasional email updates and exclusive content.

Thanks so much for checking out the site and as always – comments and suggestions are welcome!

See you out there!

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About John Zocco

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6 Responses to “My Favorite Gear And Settings For Concert Photography”

  1. There were no surprises here except the high ISO you mentioned. Noise is not too bad with my camera at 800 but the jump to 1600 & 3200 increase noise significantly….TOO much in my opinion…1600 I can work with in Lightroom 5 but 3200 is just too noisy. Any tricks for processing noise?

  2. Hey Steve! I’ve really been pleasantly surprised with the high ISO images I’ve gotten with the 6D. Most of my NR is done in Lightroom – I just look at a 100% view and gradually raise the NR sliders until I like it. I try to keep it low enough where I’m not losing too much detail, and I don’t mind a little bit of noise. Sometimes I’ll use NIK Dfine for noise reduction. The NIK stuff is great because you can set control points to selectively reduce noise in specific parts of the image. What camera are you shooting with?

  3. I have a Canon 70D, 50 mm 1.4, 18-135 (kit) and a 75-300. Depending on the lights I start shooting at ISO 1600. I like to do some gear close up too.

    • The 70D is a great camera. I’m glad Canon has been updating some of their older models. The new 7D mkII looks really nice, too. How is the noise at higher ISO with your 70D?

  4. 70D It isn’t full frame but have an amazing 20 MP processor and response very well to high ISO. I choose it by the same reason that you: sometimes you don’t have very good light and you need to get a higher ISO. Sometimes, I like to use the 75-300 for the close ups, and at 300 mm the aperture value is 5,6, so I have to get a high ISO. This photo is ISO 6400 with my 70D.