I’ve always had an interest in being a tour photographer for a musician. Starting off college, I was a music business major and a photography minor in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music. However, my love for concert photography originated at The Bluestone, a local venue in downtown Columbus that hosts a number of country artists. That was the first concert venue where I took my beat up old DSLR to photograph Hunter Hayes a few years ago. Looking back, I can’t say I am happy with my results. As you can see below, I didn’t get one decently sharp photo (due to poor choices in ISO as well as shutter speed). It could’ve also been due to my outdated and slow camera. With many new cameras on the market, I’ve had a lot to chose from over the past few years, but I’ve been the most happy with my results with the Fuji X-E2 and its fast and reliable performance as a compact mirrorless system that, in my opinion, functions better as a live performance camera than the DSLR I usually carry around. You’ll see a huge difference in quality from these pictures (below) and the Fuji X-E2 (end of post).
Once I got to Nashville, I promised myself I’d get better at concert photography and practice whenever I had the chance to. Thankfully, the Nashville music and photography scene welcomed me with open arms. I found myself doing photography sessions for musician friends and getting the opportunity to shoot at my college’s music showcases. As the year went on, I progressively saw a dramatic difference in my concert photography as I learned the power of ISO in low light situations and what made the perfect composition. The pinnacle of my work came when I got the opportunity to shoot at the CMA Festival in 2013, specifically for the band, Florida Georgia Line. Since then, I’ve moved back to Columbus and I have not had many opportunities. Also, I find that most venues unfortunately have photography limitations (tip: ALWAYS ask a venue about their photography policy before the night of the show). Having had success with photographing country musicians, I began looking for some country artists that might be playing in Columbus.
Recently, I had heard one of my favorite Nashville musicians, Brett Eldredge, was going to be playing at The Bluestone. Remembering my Hunter Hayes experience there, I thought it’d be a good test to compare my work from over 3 years ago to my concert work today in the same place, just with a different camera. I wanted to try a more compact camera body and lens seeing as my DSLR’s weight gets bothersome, especially while standing, shooting at a concert. I chose to use the Fujifilm X-E2 for this concert and instantly fell in love. I have heard great reviews of Fuji’s newer mirrorless systems and I thought it’d be a good challenge for myself to learn this system while shooting the concert. I didn’t have much difficulty learning the settings and the system performed flawlessly with a fast shutter and good low light capabilities. The continuous shooting mode was the most impressive, shooting approximately 8 fps when shooting RAW. I wasn’t expecting for there to be a huge difference in the weight and size compared to my bulky DSLR, but when I was enjoying the concert and not shooting, I could barely tell it was there. I remember shooting the CMA Festival and getting neck pains just an hour into the performances and having to deal with heavy lenses. For being packed like sardines with a ton of strangers at a sold out show, this camera was exactly what I needed. I stuck with the Fuji 35mm F/1.4 R lens for most of the night and being already close to the stage, it gave me detail I wouldn’t have imagined getting with any other lens.
Overall, this may be some of the best concert photography work I’ve done to date as well as my favorite concert.