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10 tips for taking great crowd shots

Def Leppard in Las Vegas
(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Louder has joined forces with image editing software company Affinity Phototo find the finest new music photographers the world has to offer.

Our photography competition takes the form of six challenges, all which focus on a different area of photography – live shots, portraits, shooting in black and white, etc. The images will be judged by an expert panel, and prizes will be awarded to monthly winners, as well as a grand prize awarded to the ultimate winner.

The winner's photos will also be published on Louder and in our magazines (Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog). You can find a full list of prizes, as well as information on how to enter, at the bottom of the page. 

The first challenge was live photography. The second is Crowd & Venue Scenes: new, original unpublished live shots of audiences. Below, long-term Louder photographer Kevin Nixon talks us through some pro-tips on how to capture the perfect live shot, alongside some of his own crowd shots…

1. Do a thorough recce of the venue

Is there a pit you can shoot from or a balcony? Try to get access to the side of the stage or shoot from the mixing desk. Be aware that many venues apply restrictions if you have a camera with a detachable lens and you may require a photographers shooting pass, this does not normally apply if you are using a small fixed lens camera or a smartphone.

live shot with confetti canon

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

2. Vary the focal length of the lenses you use

While you can obtain interesting shots with a longer lens, I personally prefer shots with a wider lens that show the context of the crowd within the venue. A fish eye lens can give you a very dramatic perspective and allow you to get much closer to the crowd. Having a basic knowledge of your camera functions will certainly benefit your photography. I would always recommend shooting in manual mode as this enables you to maintain full control so you can control your shutter speed and whatever depth of field you require. 

Def Leppard live in Las Vegas

The crowd interacting with the band (in this case, Def Leppard, live in Las Vegas).  (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

3. Try to get shots of the crowd interacting with the band

This can be particularly good if you have access to the photo pit. Performers often love to communicate with the crowd, shaking hands, giving out guitar pics etc. Occasionally some band members will climb into the crowd and even crowd surf, this always provides amazing photo opportunities. If you can get access to the drum riser with the audience and band in front of you can also provide a dramatic shot.

shouting bloke at gig

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

4. Remember: Music fans generally loved to be photographed

So if you see someone who has a specific look you would like to capture, don’t be afraid to politely ask if they mind having their photograph taken. Chances are they will happily pose away for you and, depending on the type of music you will always be guaranteed a smile, a thumbs up or the ubiquitous devil horns.

crowd at festival

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

5. Wait for the right lighting

Invariably there is little or no lighting on the crowd which makes getting clear shots quite difficult. At most gigs however the lighting man will at some point light up the crowd, this is always a good time to get wide shots of the crowd and the venue.

6. Forget the flash

Never use a flash for general crowd shots. The flash will only illuminate a few feet ahead of you, making the background very dark. It looks artificial and unflattering and will draw attention to yourself. This rule particularly applies if you are shooting from the pit where the mantra of ‘3 songs, no flash’ is the general rule of thumb.

crowdsurfer

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

7. Be careful!

In certain gigs, and with certain kinds of music, the crowd can become quite aggressive. Mosh pits and circle pits can spontaneously form where pushing and shoving the people either side of you, as well as flailing arms, are commonplace. If this happens when you are shooting, exercise caution – I have seen many photographers with bloody noses and broken kit during these kind of gigs.

8. Be respectful of the people around you

Quite often, shooting the crowd will mean holding your camera in the air. Be aware of who is behind you and if you are blocking their view. Don’t be the equivalent of the person who holds an iPad in the air for long periods of time! 

crowd

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

9. Festivals are great opportunities for photography

People are usually in a good mood and dressed to impress. Even the traditional inclement British weather can provide unique and interesting photo opportunities and at most festivals you will be guaranteed the ‘people wading in mud’ shot which everyone seems to love.

10. Don't be pushy – enjoy it

Photography is meant to be fun and gig goers are usually colourful and interesting kinds of people. Most people are totally cool about having their shot taken either posed or spontaneously. If someone does not wish their photograph to be taken, simply smile, politely apologise and move on to the next person who will be more than happy to give you the horns.

Enter our competition now!

The Affinity Photo New Rock Photographer 2020 competition is open now! All entries must be submitted using our online entry form and received by 31 November 2019. Terms and conditions are at the bottom of the entry form. General T&Cs are here.

A full list of prizes to be awarded to the winner are below.

Additionally, all entrants will be able to buy the award-winning photo editing software Affinity Photo, on PC or Mac, for less than half price - £23.99 instead of the usual £48.99.