More Light on a Concert Photography Presentation

On Friday November 12, Emma Jean Herlihy and Bryan Farley presented at the JEA Fall National Convention in Kansas City. Emma is a junior at Sacred High School in San Francisco, California; Bryan Farley is a Bay Area photojournalism educator.  Nearly 200 attendants squeezed into the 160 person capacity room, risking being shooed out by the fire marshal who had done so during other sessions.

Many people in the audience wanted to know how to get press passes. We were also asked how many photos we take each concert. We probably answered these questions adequately, and if not, we will follow up in future articles. There was one question we did not feel that we answered as well as we hoped.

How do you deal with light?

This is a difficult question for many reasons. First, the question about light is a something every photographer must answer. In some ways, this question is deeply personal; it is also philosophical and technical.

At concerts, especially outdoor festivals, light is situational. Light changes constantly. During our presentation, we could have shown the challenges a photographer can experience in one day. A photographer can shoot in direct sun and shade. A performer can take the stage before dusk leaving some of the band in the dark.  Oh, and concerts are really noisy and musicians usually move very fast.

Look at the galleries below from the 2010 San Francisco Bay Area Rock the Bells Tour at the Shoreline Amphitheater. My photos are the first gallery. Emma’s photos are in the second gallery. (If your district or school blocks the Photoshelter galleries, you may need to view them from home.) You can also view larger images by clicking on the concert photo hyper-links.

JEA Concert Photography Presentation 1 – Images by bryan farley

We included these photos so that viewers can see explore the different light, color, and shadows. Also, notice how the light looks on different colors of skin and clothes. Some outfits reflect better than others. Some colors absorb light. If you are not experienced photographing diversity (diversity of people, light, angle, color…), you may struggle at concerts.


We began shooting around 11:00 am. I stayed until around 10:00 p.m. At this festival, there were only two stages. We have attended concerts with five stages.  Each stage has different lighting challenges. Also, Emma shot the Miranda Lambert photo at the top of this post during another challenging lighting condition ( not at Rock The Bells), and the photo at the end was from the Vans Warped Tour.

So, back to the original question…

How do you deal with light? In as many ways as possible.


Emma Herlihy using the sun to enhance the photo at the 2010 Vans Warped Tour




Bryan Farley

Bryan Farley is a visual art educator from California. Primarily a photographer, Bryan also studies and teaches how to use new media to communicate personal stories about people he considers invisible.

Bryan Farley has 13 posts and counting. See all posts by Bryan Farley