It’s hard to believe that I’ve been a professional photographer for nearly 30 years. The camera has been my all-access pass to historical moments and hundreds of championship sporting events around the world.
But some of the most fun I’ve ever had is as a concert photographer, where I’ve traveled on tour buses and private jets, and stood on stage in front of 100,000 screaming fans.
I’ve toured with a number of amazing musicians over the years including Bon Jovi, Barenaked Ladies, and Sarah McLachlan.
I’m currently on the road with new country superstar Luke Combs and am having a blast. I try to capture the shows in a new way each night while also documenting life on the road for Luke and his band.
I also run a series of “Shoot From The Pit” live concert photography workshops where I take five photographers backstage, teach them everything I know about photographing big-time concerts, and then they shoot the show from all around the arena.
It’s an adrenaline-filled, once-in-a-lifetime experience to be in the photo pit in front of 15,000 people, and I love bringing people into that world through my workshops. More workshop info here.
As a former sports photographer, I shoot concerts like sporting events and run thousands of frames though my cameras every single night. The gear I use has to withstand the enormous pressure I put on it, and becomes an extension of my hands and eyes.
I carry three of these bodies on the road with me.
Two are on my shoulders all night as I walk around the pit, the stage, and the rest of the arena. The 1Dx2 is built like a tank, shoots 14 frames a second, and handles high ISO’s without a problem.
I use the third 1Dx2 as a remote camera that I sometimes place up high in the lighting trusses or in other locations that aren’t easily accessible during the show. Its LC-E19 battery lasts forever and I don’t have to worry about it being dead before the show starts.
Canon EF 24mm-105mm f/4
These are the two lenses I use on my handheld bodies. It wasn’t that long ago that I would only shoot a concert at f/2.8. However, since I can easily shoot 6400 ISO on the 1dx2, I can now use f/4 or even f/5.6 with the long lens and still have enough light for a fast shutter speed. That gives me a focal length range of 24-400mm hanging from my shoulders.
It’s a game-changer to have that long throw with me at all times. I can get in tight on the drummer or even back up more at a stadium show and still make some great images.
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4
I’ll usually put this lens on my high angle remote. It’s a beautiful, rectilinear view that’s great for a wide, overhead shot either looking straight down or out at the crowd.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
I use this smaller body as a second remote camera. I usually place it on the drum platform before the show.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
This is the lens I most often put on the 5d4 drum remote. On the Bon Jovi tour, I’d use the 11-24 here since Jon Bon Jovi often stands right next to the drum kit. Luke Combs’ stage is set up differently and he doesn’t get quite as close, so I’ll usually have this lens zoomed to the 50-70mm range.
Canon EOS R with BG-22 vertical grip
Canon RF 28-70mm f/2
Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R
I have the new Canon full-frame mirrorless on tour as my “backstage” camera. I’m new to the mirrorless world and have enjoyed using the body, but the truth is that I’m really in love with the incredible Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 lens. It’s the first f/2 zoom in that range and is like having three prime lenses in one.
Because I can shoot in very low light, I carry this setup with me backstage during the day to capture candid moments using only available light.
I have the adapter just in case I want to use the R with one of my EF lenses.
Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT Shoe Mount Flash
Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT
I always have at least one flash on the road with me and often bring two. I use it for the band’s official meet and greet photos, but can also make a simple one or two-light portrait using the wireless transmitter if the opportunity arises.
ThinkTank card wallet with ProGrade Digital memory cards
I have many different ThinkTank card wallets and have recently been using a fun, limited edition version that I was given at a photo trade show. I stuff it with numerous cards from ProGrade Digital. My go-to is the 512Gb CFast card, and I use their SD model in the EOS-R.
Using those with the ProGrade Digital card readers has exponentially sped up my post-processing workflow. The cards are rock solid and crazy fast.
G-Tech 2TB external drive
I always have multiple hard drives on the road with me for backup. This one is a bootable clone of my internal drive (using the Mac program SuperDuper). If I have a computer failure, I can boot from this drive and keep working without missing a beat. I carry two other drives with me for temporary image backup until I get home to move everything to my larger archive (on external hard drives and off-site to my Photoshelter account).
Holdfast Gear Money Maker double camera strap
This is my new favorite camera strap. I had a back injury last year and have found that the black leather “Money Maker” from Holdfast is the best way to distribute the weight of those two big cameras. I can walk around with them for many hours and have no soreness the next day.
Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm with Camera Platform
Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp
I’ve been using this combination of super clamp and magic arm to mount remote cameras for more years than I can remember.
When I shot sports – first for The Miami Herald and then for Sports Illustrated – this combo was the gold standard for mounting remotes. I’ve brought that to my concert work and will use it hang cameras in lighting trusses above the stage and in other hard-to-reach places.
I always have a safety cable, but have never had one of these setups break on me during a show.
Platypod Max Plate Camera Support
This combination is for my drum remote. When I toured with Bon Jovi, I would clamp the magic arm to a mic stand in Tico Torres’ kit. But Luke’s drummer Jake Sommers has mics that are attached directly to the drum heads and there are no stands to clamp onto. So I bought the Platypod Max floor plate and, with the Syrp ballhead I already owned, I am able to simply place the camera on his drum riser wherever I want.
PocketWizard Plus III and PocketWizard Plus IV Transceivers
I use PocketWizards to trigger my remote cameras. I won’t use any other brand because these things have never failed me. Using their “long range” mode, I have triggered my remotes during a show from the opposite side of a football stadium.
I wear a Plus III on the photo pass around my neck and manually trigger it when I want, and can also put in on a hotshoe if I want to fire it at the same time as one of my handheld bodies. I like to put the Plus IV model on the drum remote camera because it’s lower profile.
A big roll of gaff is always helpful to have on the road. I prefer gaffers tape because it doesn’t leave residue like duct tape and is easy to rip. I tape the zoom ring down on my remotes, attach my lens hoods so they don’t fall off, and use it to hang the fabric projector screen for my workshops. Never underestimate the power of the gaff.
Jerry Harvey Audio custom in-ears
This is my secret weapon. I might be the only concert photographer who uses the same high-end, in-ear monitors as the musicians.
They are custom molded for my ears, and I have one of the band’s wireless packs attached so I can hear everything that the musicians do. Not only does this allow me to clearly hear the show no matter where I am in the venue, but I can also hear the musicians taking to each other. This helps me to anticipate photos because I know everything that’s going on.
www.DavidBergman.net | @davidbergman
Check out these 8 essential tools to help you succeed as a professional photographer.
Includes limited-time discounts.