Professional Photographer to the Rescue: live music photography made simple

Professional Photographer to the Rescue: music photography made simple

We can buy the best cameras, read the best photography magazines and follow the best photography tips, but often the quickest way to improve your photography is by watching someone else. In another new series here on Digital Camera World we’ve found photographers like you who are struggling with some of the common photography problems in every genre and don’t know what to do. To help them along we’ve found a professional photographer in the field who works against these challenges on a daily basis.

In our first instalment of Professional Photographer to the Rescue, music photography pro Laurence Baker guides enthusiast Heather Fitsell through the common headaches of dim indoor lighting, slow shutter speeds and high ISOs at a massive Whitesnake and Def Leppard concert in London’s Wembley Arena!

Professional Photographer to the Rescue: music photography made simple

Our Professional Photographer


Laurence Baker
Pro photographer Laurence, 42, regularly covers big gigs and festivals for Q, Classic Rock, Guitarist and other major music magazines and photo agencies. He also does lots of backstage and studio work with bands, as well as a variety of other commercial photography projects. 
See more of Laurence Baker’s photos.

Our Apprentice


Heather Fitsell
Heather, 28, is a quality control executive from London. She’s tried shooting pub gigs but struggles with indoor lighting, shutter speed, ISO and other headaches, so she’d better learn fast if she’s to survive Wembley Arena’s dog-eat-dog photo pit!

Music photography tips: shoot raw + JPEG

Before the first band came on, Laurence checked out Heather’s settings and made some time-saving suggestions…

Shoot Raw Format and JPEG
“Heather was only shooting in JPEG, which is risky for gigs. You normally just get to shoot the first three songs, so you can’t afford to waste shots. She should switch to the Raw+Large JPEG setting. You can tweak Raw images for the best possible results, but you
also have the shot in JPEG format if it doesn’t require much work and a customer needs it quickly. You’ll need to have a big memory
card for this, though.”

Shoot in Manual mode
“I noticed Heather was using Auto mode. I always use Manual because of stage lighting. Bright backlighting, that’s constantly changing, will defeat any SLR’s Auto shooting mode, period. Shooting manually means that I set both the aperture and shutter speed – so I can concentrate on the bands and getting the lighting right. Oh, and Heather should set her camera’s White Balance to Daylight, too!”

Use a lens hood
“I swear by my pro lenses,” says Laurence. “They’re solid enough to reduce camera shake when shooting handheld and they seem to control that washed-out milky look you sometimes get when shooting into bright light. I always keep the lens hood on at gigs. It stops stray light getting in and prevents the lens getting banged or scratched when you’re jostling in the photo pit down at the front!”

PAGE 1: Meet our professional photographer & apprentice
PAGE 2: During the shoot
PAGE 3: Final tips from our professional photographer


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