Focus on the music

January 7, 2010

Photo Tips

Previously I covered shooting concerts using spot metering and using manual mode. With this post I want to discuss the different focus modes that I use when shooting live shows.

The first thing is to make sure that your camera is set on the Continuos Auto Focus. This is where your camera will continue to focus as long as the shutter button is pressed half way down and is best used for moving subjects. Since musicians are usually moving all over the place, this is the mode to use. The next thing is to set the Auto Focus mode. When it comes to my Nikon D700 there are three AF-Area modes; Single point, Dynamic-area and Auto-area mode. Now my choice here is one that I have found works for me. Others may find that different settings work for them, and even my PhotoshopWorld Concert pre-con teaching partner, Scott Diussa, uses a different setting than me. I use the Single point Auto Focus setting which means I need to track the subject and make sure the focus point stay where I want it to.


For this shot of Jason “Jay” James from the band Bullet For My Valentine I made sure that I had the focus point right on his face as he went into the head banging routine. Had Jason moved to the left or right, I would have had to track along with him. When it came to shoot Flavor Flav, member of Public Enemy I was caught unawares as he leapt into the air, but since he didn’t come forward or backward the shot was still in focus. One reason that I prefer the Single point to the Dynamic-area Auto Focus is that the camera will at times focus on the closest object and when sooting musicians this can mean that the focus will shift from performer to the microphone stand in front of them. If you find that the focus of your images isn’t where you thought it was, try a Single point setting.


All images shot with a Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens on Lexar media. I will be teaching at PhotoshopWorld 2010 in Orlando in March including a Pre-conference live concert shoot workshop. For more information click HERE.

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- who has written 10 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Alan is a concert photographer based in San Diego. Alan strives to bring the energy and excitement of live shows to his images as he captures concerts 3 songs at a time. Alan teaches workflow using Adobe Bridge, Lightroom and photoshop. You can follow Alan on twitter at

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3 Responses to “Focus on the music”

  1. Greg Taylor Says:

    Great article. My concert photography rule of thumb is know your camera, know your settings, experiment with settings and trust your instincts and have fun!


  2. Paul Tortora Says:


    Great post and wonderful shots. Can you tell me how you have your e1 and e3 settings configured on your D700. I love to shoot concerts but really have some focus issues at times. I’d appreciate it if you could tell me all of your focus settings that you feel are relevant.




  1. […] My third concert post just went live over at Digital Photo Experience. This one is all about picking the focus thats right for you and the music. You can check it out HERE. […]

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