Music Photography Gear Guide

For anyone interested in pursuing live music photography, AKA “low-light environmental action portraiture,” the issue of the most appropriate equipment is an inevitable question. Below are my recommendations for the best cameras and equipment for music photography.

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What's in My Bag — Cameras for Concert and Music Photography

I shoot with two cameras for my music photography work. The reason is that it cuts down on lens changes immensely and this efficiency allows me to focus more on capturing the moments I want to. I almost always prefer to use two identical cameras at the same time, this is simply to have identical platforms — the controls are the same, the image quality is identical, and I can set up the cameras exactly the same as far as customization.

My current setup 100% mirrorless. I have two Nikon Z 9 that I use as my main bodies, and I have one Nikon Z 7 that I have as a supplemental camera. In addition, I have a Nikon Z 50 in my kit as a personal camera that's a super compact option that does 4K video.

Nikon Z 9

My main camera is Nikon's flagship mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z 9. This camera features an exceptional balance of speed and resolution, with a max 20 fps in RAW (up to 120fps in JPG) and a 45.7 megapixel sensor. Add in blackout-free EVF and exceptional next-gen autofocus and the Z 9 is easily the most powerful mirrorless camera Nikon has ever released.

Nikon Z 7

My secondary camera these days is the Nikon Z 7. The 45.7 megapixel full frame sensor offers a very clean file even at high ISO and the maximum 9 FPS is fast enough for most situations. In addition, the compact form factor offers a great size to weight ratio it. The Z 7 and Z 7II are examples of excellent do-it-all cameras that excel at nearly everything.

Nikon Z 50

The Nikon Z 50 is the smallest camera in my bag, which is a fantastic walk-around option for me or for grabbing video on the go. I love the 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens for an ultra-compact camera that has a great 20mp sensor and 4k video capability. This camera packs a lot of features into an ultra small form factor, which I love.

Zoom Lenses for Music Photography

I use three zooms as my main lenses for music photography: the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. These lenses cover 14-200mm in a highly effective manner, all in a fast f/2.8 aperture. For concert photography, the constant aperture is a tremendous boon. These lenses rule the arena, amphitheater, and larger club shows.

With all of these three zooms, I never hesitate to shoot wide open if the situations calls for it; they offer excellent image quality at f/2.8 with no exception.

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8S

The Nikon 14-24mm offers an ultra-wide perspective that brings a very unique look to live music photography. This focal range has been a favorite of mine for years and made some of my most favorite images. I love using this lens up-close and personal for maximum effect.

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 S

The Nikon 24-70mm is my bread and butter lens, and the mirrorless S line lens for the Nikon Z mount is the best midrange zoom I've ever used. This range is utilitarian and covers wide angle to short telephoto, making it ideal for stage front photography.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8S

Right after a midrange zoom, I consider a good 70-200mm an essential piece of kit for live music photography. A must-have for close-ups and drummer shots at larger arena & amphitheater shows, as well as for festivals. This telephoto range brings the action to you.

Prime Lenses for Music Photography

Even though my zoom lenses are my real bread and butter, I still use prime lenses when light is extremely low or I want a shallower depth of field than f/2.8 allows.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8S

The 35mm perspective is a great general lens for live music photography in smaller venues. This lens is fantastically sharp and beautiful in low light with the Nikon Z 7.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8S

This new 50mm f/1.8S for the the Nikon Z system is a tremendous lens. The sharpness and contrast wide open even at the very corners of the frame make this lens a monster in dim lighting. A must have for the Nikon Z system in my book.

Nikon 85mm f/1.8S

If you're building out your prime kit, an 85mm f/1.8 is a great addition as it can be used as a short telephoto for stage photography and a portrait lens for artist portraits.

Essential Accessories

Here are a few of the accessories that are indispensable in my camera bag.

Delkin BLACK CF Express

Currently, Delkin's 128 GB BLACK CF Express cards are the very fastest that are available for the Nikon Z 9, with the fastest sustained read and write speeds you can buy.

Custom Earplugs

My custom earplugs go with me everywhere my camera goes. As a professional music photographer, I take my hearing protection very seriously, and you should, too!

Black Rapid Double Strap

I almost always shoot with two cameras at the same time for the concerts I photograph. The Black Rapid Double Strap is the best option for carrying two cameras with ease.

General Recommendations

Just starting out? Please see my article Choosing Lenses for Concert Photography first. Considering the ubiquitous low light of indoor venues, song limits, energetic performances, and the generally frenetic pace of rock shows, the proper gear can ease some of the intimidating constraints of concert photography.

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