music photography, iphone, take better photos with iphone, iphoneography, mobile photography, concert photo

Having had an interest in the arts from a very young age I had always been on the lookout for a creative outlet of my own. Before discovering iPhoneography I toyed with the idea of being a musician. The only stumbling block was my complete lack of any musical ability. Although this doesn’t seem to have stopped a lot of the ‘artists’ currently infesting the upper reaches of the charts. Even though I have given up on my dream of rock stardom in favour of photography I still love music of all kinds and as a result I am always on the lookout for ways I can combine the two.

music photography, iphone, take better photos with iphone, iphoneography, mobile photography, concert photo

Shooting Live Music with an iPhone

Almost every smartphone owner has taken out their phone at a concert to capture their favourite band in action and wondered why their photos don’t look anything like the photos they have seen in the music press. Usually the problem is that they are trying to capture their musical heroes rocking out on a huge stage hundreds of feet away. Professional music photographers are usually in a pit at the front of the stage with super fast zoom lenses whereas the rest of us are in Row Z with an iPhone that has a barely functional digital zoom. This will, obviously, have an effect on the images that they get.

When shooting in a larger venue you should try to concentrate on capturing the overall atmosphere of the gig. Most modern bands will have spectacular light shows or else the venue itself could be worth capturing. It is all about building memories of your experience of the night.

The first photo here was taken at a festival that takes place at a castle in my home town each August. It’s a spectacular venue. There are a number of stages and one of them is in an old courtyard. I remember being there watching the sun set behind the stage thinking it doesn’t get much better than this.


In this second example, taken at another gig, I was too far away from the stage to get a good shot of the band but the lights shining through the dry ice around the venue reminded me of the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. So I just took loads of shots on burst mode and hoped for the best. When I was reviewing the shots the next day this one stood out and perfectly capture what I had experienced the night before. Burst mode is very useful in these situations as the lights will be constantly changing and it will be very difficult to time your shot with the lights.

A far better option if you want to use your iPhone to shoot live music is to go to gigs in smaller, more intimate venues. You will have a far better chance of getting close to the stage. You can also mingle with the crowd at the front of the stage and capture the overall excitement of the gig. Always bear in mind that the iPhone is not great in low light conditions so you should try to use the bands lighting to your advantage.

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In this shot I was only a few feet back from the stage in the middle a few very enthusiastic fans obviously enjoying the night’s entertainment. This where music can be at it best. Small venues with true fans completely caught up in the moment.


As I mentioned earlier, burst mode can be very useful when shooting live music as the scene can change so rapidly in front of you with the constant movement of the band, the audience and the lights. You can end up getting ‘lucky’ shots where all these elements come together. I like this pic I got at the same gig as the image above. It looks like this particular fan is so caught up in the music he is attempting to join in by playing the keyboard.

Arrange Proper Photo Shoots

The main problem with shooting musicians in a live setting is how random everything is. You have no control over their movements on stage or the lighting so luck is a big factor in getting any shots that you might be happy with. By organising a photo shoot you have far more control over the look and mood of the images you get. There will always be up and coming musicians in your local area looking for a break. By offering your services to these bands or musicians they can end up with some unique photos and you will get invaluable experience in the process.

In these two photos, a local country and western singer/songwriter asked me to do a few shots for him. He wanted something a bit different from the usual photos you would normally see in that genre of music. The advantage of someone coming to you and giving you carte blanche in terms of the overall look of the photos means you can pick the location and the style that you want to go for. The end result was something I don’t think Garth Brooks would’ve been too happy with but I liked them.

But you are not always going to have that level of control. A friend asked me to get a few shots of his band in the middle of a video shoot. In this case the video director had picked the location and set up all the lighting. I had to fit in a few shots between takes. Even though I didn’t have control over a lot of the elements when shooting these photos I could still try and pose the band in a way that suited the surroundings.


As you can see there are many different approaches to using your iPhone to capture your passion for music. Don’t be afraid to experiment. And you don’t always have to use black and white but it can be effective.


Got your own Killer Concert Photos tips? Share them in the comments below!