Becoming a music photographer is the holy grail for many professionals. Backstage access to the biggest bands, plenty of travel and – for the successful – fame and fortune that’s only beaten by the subjects of your shots.
You’ll need plenty of things to make a success of being a music photographer – a way with bouncers, PR people and band members in varying degrees of disarray to name a few. You’ll also need the ability to think creatively while being jostled by over-excited fans – photo pits are relatively peaceful, but expect to spend plenty of time in the crowd in the early days.
You’ll also need the right glass. Gig photography is a difficult one to pack for: a super-long lens for tight portraits of the lead singer? An ultra-fast wide-angle to capture the excitement of the crowd? A one-size-fits-all walkabout lens?
Join us on a rummage through the OLYMPUS kit cupboard and prepare to update your Christmas list – these are the lenses that every music photographer should have on their shortlist.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7‑14mm 1:2.8 PRO
Wide-angle lenses are phenomenally handy for music photography. If you’re shooting a band with lots of members you’ll definitely benefit, and don’t forget to turn around every once in a while to see if the crowd’s doing anything interesting.
If you’re on a budget, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9‑18mm 1:4.0‑5.6 gets a lot of things right. Zoomed out, its 9mm focal length gets plenty in the frame, while its f/4 maximum aperture means you can get enough light in to keep ISO levels under control.
Spending more cash? Have a look at the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7‑14mm 1:2.8 PRO – its constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 means it doesn’t get darker when you zoom in.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40‑150mm 1:2.8 PRO
A telephoto zoom
Not all great music photography requires a lens that resembles a bazooka, but there are definitely times when a lens that can pick out small details comes in handy. Think a lead singer lost in song, a guitarist’s hands or – festival snappers – outstandingly strangely-dressed crowd members. Allow us to recommend…
A great place to start is the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40‑150mm 1:4.0‑5.6 R, a super-sharp, affordable telephoto zoom that doesn’t break the bank and that won’t weigh you down. It weighs under 200g, so if you’re allowed to stay beyond the first three songs your shoulders won’t feel like they’re about to give way.
Weighing quite a bit more is the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40‑150mm 1:2.8 PRO, a pro-quality piece of kit that will keep your image sharp in virtually any light thanks to its constant f/2.8 aperture. This is a lens that needs to be seen to be believed – dust, splash and freeze-proof means the moshpit will need to be unusually violent before it starts to show its true mileage.
Want to go prime? Look at the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm 1:1.8, a gorgeous, fixed-length telephoto prime whose extra-large maximum aperture makes the most out of portrait photography, with gorgeous bokeh.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm 1:1.8
A jack of all trades
Sometimes, using a lens that specialises in one thing or another can be restrictive, so it’s worth looking for lenses which will keep you going whether you’re shooting the crowd, the band, or the venue.
Take the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14‑150mm 1:4.0‑5.6 II, for example. Topping out at a truly telephoto 150mm, it zooms out to a wide-angle 14mm, allowing you to shoot both wide and close-cropped images from a single lens. No more lens changes mid-song, or carrying two bodies everywhere. Weatherproofing means you’ll fall apart before it does.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑100 1:4.0 IS PRO
Alternatively, OLYMPUS’ pro range includes the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑100 1:4.0 IS PRO. Not quite as long as the 14-150mm, it nonetheless will frame up musicians beautifully tightly, or can widen to include amazingly wide-angle scenes. Alternatively, if you’re after an extra stop of light – and therefore twice the shutter speeds offered by the 12-100mm, take a look at the legendary M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑40mm 1:2.8 PRO. Built like a tank with superlative image quality, it might not get as close as some, but is easily sharp enough for your images to withstand a bit of cropping.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑40mm 1:2.8 PRO
Finagled your way to the front of a gig? Bribed a doorman? We want to see your finest music images. Everything from portraits to abstracts is welcome in our Flickr group, or you can tag us with #OlympusUK to catch our attention over on Instagram.