Music Photography Tips 6: Best lens for concert photography

Music Photography Tips episode 6 tells you what the best gear for concert photography is when you're just starting out.

Matthew James Oxlade
Updated on

Music Photography Tips episode 6 answers the most common question I get asked – what equipment should people be buying to see the biggest difference in their concert photography work? So here is my opinion on the best lens for concert photography.

Episode 6 tells you that while there is no quick answer for what gear you should buy, I can share with you what I would recommend you start with when shooting concerts.

The best lens for concert photography is equipment that lets in a lot of light, not necessarily an ultra wide angle lens or zoom lenses with the biggest price tags. To capture as much light you need to have a lens that will open up to the maximum aperture of around f2.8 at the very least.

The width that a lens opens by is referred to as the aperture. The smaller the aperture number, the more light will pass through, but the shorter the depth of field will be. Like everything in life, there’s always a compromise you need to make when shooting.

You’ll need a lens to open wide so you can use fast shutter speeds. Fast shutter speeds are required for music photography, and a maximum aperture possible will allow you to achieve them in various light conditions.

Episode 6 of Concert Photography Tips tells you what aperture range you should consider and what the common, inexpensive options are for lenses that open to f/1.8.

What’s the best lens for concert photography?

One of the most common questions I get asked is what gear a starting out concert photographer should invest in to see the biggest difference in their photos. Should they invest in a full frame camera, or will an aps c camera do fine? Do they need image stabilizer features? Will a kit lens be of a good enough build quality to shoot bands in a rough environment?

The gear a photographer uses is important, but it’s important that you acknowledge that gear isn’t the only thing that will make you a better photographer. You need to practice, figure out what works with trial and error, and find an editing style that works for you.

I can’t recommend you buy one lens over another, but I can help you make some of your investment decisions a little less complicated.

So we already know that capturing light is the hard part in concert photography. If we think about what limits the light from hitting our sensor, it’s the width that the lens opens and how our camera body processes the sensitivity to the light. You can learn more about this stuff here, but in terms of gear, the quickest way to see a notable difference in your photography is to get a lens with a wider aperture.

Any lens that can open to a maximum aperture between 1.4 and 2.8 will let in much more light and make things easier for you to achieve faster shutter speeds when shooting at a venue that doesn’t have a huge lighting setup.

These lenses are often more expensive, but both Canon and Nikon have cheap prime lenses with an aperture of 1.8. They are both 50mm lenses which can make things a little tight in some venues, but they are great starting lenses for live music photography. Lenses with weather sealing and image stabilsation features are nice to have, but it’s a wiser to invest in a prime lens when you start than be blinded by these features or an expensive lens from a zoom range.

As you shoot more and have more money to spend, look at the Canon 24-70 – 2.8 lens or Sigma’s Art Series of lenses, which are all open to around an aperture of 1.4.

This photo was taken with a Canon 24-70 lens at 2.8.

Best lens for concert photography example

This photo was taken with a Sigma 35mm Art lens at 1.4.

Best lens for concert photography example

This photo was taken with a Canon 50mm lens at 1.2.

Best lens for concert photography example

There really isn’t one lens that will do everything you need, but investing in even a cheap, wide aperture lens will make a huge difference in the photos you take and reduce the amount of time editing in Lightroom or Photoshop.”

Last episode’s shout outs

Here are some of the kind words you shared about Concert Photography Tips Episode 5 over on Instagram:

Great tip! Thanks mate – @dadplayscook

these tip videos are a work of art in themselves haha! so well done. love anty rocking @artoftrog – @jakedigity

Thanks for the tip! Will put it to good use when I see them support The Living End early 2017! – @xander85

These are super helpful thanks so much! – @laurenleaseburgphoto

Thanks for the tips @mattwarrellphoto I’ve encountered this before and simply used the servo function to hopefully grab a shot. This is much better and less to cull. Appreciate it! ? – @der_sebastianauer

Again, your feedback means the world to me! Thanks for everything you guys are doing to support the Music Photography Tips video series!

Keep on shooting!