Critique the Community Episode 18: Concert Photography

A few weeks ago, we asked the Fstoppers Community to submit their best Concert Photography, you all rocked out! It took us a little longer to get the Critique back in front of your eyes with Lee Morris' wedding and finishing up the new Joey Wright Swimwear tutorial, but we finally have it ready for you. We selected twenty of our favorite images to review. Take a look at the selections and add your thoughts in the comments below! 


























If you missed your chance to submit your images for critique, keep an eye out for future submission opportunities for "Critique the Community."

The Fstoppers Community Rating System

If you have an Fstoppers account, you are able to create your own profile and portfolio directly within the Fstoppers Community. Once you have a portfolio uploaded, you can browse images in the community and rate the photos of your peers. Even though art is usually a fairly subjective matter, we wanted to create a rating system that was as objective and unbiased as possible. This way if one of your images has been rated 50 times and has received an average rating of 2 stars, you could feel confident that maybe that particular image is not up to par. Below is a simple chart explaining the Fstoppers Community Rating System.

1 Star - The Snapshot

1 Star ratings are limited to snapshots only. Snapshots are usually taken to document a time or location but little to no thought has gone into the creation of the image. If an image has been "lit" with external light (besides a direct on camera flash) it is at least a 2 star picture. The majority of 1 star images have had no postproduction work done to them but do often have an "Instagram style" filter added to them. The average person these days snaps 1 star images every single day with their smartphones. Most 1 star images that pop up on sites like ours are images of flowers, pets, landscapes, sunsets, objects around a house, etc. If you read Fstoppers, you should not be sharing 1 star images for any reason.

2 Stars - Needs Work

All images, besides maybe 5 star images, always have room for improvement but 2 star images "need work" before they should be included in your portfolio. As photographers we are snapping thousands of images per year but only a few of those images should ever be shared or put into our portfolio. A photographer who has taken a 2 star image has put some thought into the composition, exposure, and postproduction but for some reason has missed the mark. A 2 star image should not be in the portfolio of a full-time professional photographer, and amateur photographers should strive for something better. Even complete amateurs who don't understand photography at all are capable of taking 2 star images from time to time.

3 Stars - Solid

A 3 star image is an all around good image. The photographer has a solid understanding of the basics: composition, color, focus, subject matter, and postproduction. A 3 star image is "good" but it's not great. Most part-time professional photographers have mostly 3 star images in their portfolios. Usually a level 3 image would have been rated 4 stars if it had been shot in a better location, or with a better model showing a better expressions, or there was better postproduction. A photographer capable of taking a 3 star image is capable of taking 4 and 5 star images if they would simply pay more attention to the details. 

4 Stars - Excellent

4 star images are fantastic. In most cases, 4 star images have a certain style to them that links them directly to their creator. A 4 star image usually requires planning and attention to extreme detail. It's almost impossible to shoot a 4 star image by getting lucky. 4 star images have almost flawless conception, composition, lighting, subject matter, and postproduction. If you have any 4 star images in your portfolio you should be very proud of yourself.

5 Stars - World Class

5 star images are flawless and unforgettable. The amount of time, energy, and talent that goes into the average 5 star image is staggering. In many cases these pictures require a team to produce including a professional retoucher. The concept, lighting, subject, location, and postproduction on these images has to be perfect. In some cases the jump from 4 to 5 stars may be as simple as changing the unknown model in the picture with a celebrity or bringing in a set designer or stylist to make the image slightly better. Although there are always exceptions, most 5 star images take days, if not weeks or months to produce.

Strengthening Your Own Portfolio

Even with our objective rating system, people are going to disagree with what they like because ultimately art is still a matter of opinion. However, we believe once an image has been rated over 25 times it will have a rating that is pretty fair and honest (we hope to deter trolls by giving negative Karma points when a vote is more than 1 star away from the community average). If one of your images in your own portfolio is rated lower than what you personally feel it should be rated, we would urge you to try to look at the image from an unbiased angle. Step back, erase your memory of the photoshoot itself, and try to imagine an art buyer, stock agency, potential client, or local gallery as they decided if they wanted to invest in your services. Would your image make the cut?

Chelsey Rogers's picture

Chelsey Rogers is a commercial video editor. She's done work for Walmart, Hallmark, and many other Fortune 500 companies.

Log in or register to post comments

There is no video in this post! I looked it up and it is on youtube so here is the link for anyone who wants to watch..

16 - is that 'her'? I thought this is a guy.

Aren't they all snapshots?? The photographers didn't light or direct the musicians. They simply captured what was in front of them.

Never tried band photography yourself?

I prefer the term "rapid composition" to snapshot :)

I would say that you are correct in the technical sense, but not in the language of photographers. Sure, it was a shot of what was already going to happen, and it was taken with a "snap shot", but in popular language, a snapshot is something taken by an untrained person to commemorate a personal moment.

These shots are anticipated, composed, technically prepared by the photographer, and worked in post production to bring out their values (just as photos always have been by professional and skilled amateur photographers). To dismiss them simply because they "captured what was in front of them" without manipulating the subject would also disqualify landscape photography, street photography, photojournalism, concert photography, and wedding photography (and I'm sure I'm missing some).

It's a whole different but related skill set to studio or "prepared" photography, but it is still a valid skill set. I am a studio/commercial photographer, and there is no way I could get these photos; my mind just doesn't work at that pace.

A snap shot for us means a photo taken with no consideration of camera, lens, composition, or timing. Basically it's an image that anyone in that situation could have taken including your mom (that wasn't a mom joke).

We differentiate a 2 star image from a snapshot in that the photographer clearly used a specific camera and maybe a fast aperture lens, attempted at capturing a specific moment, and possibly attempted to process the file after the photo was taken. Most people with a phone or basic DSLR won't fall in this category. But as Lee (and many others have shown), you can produce 3 and maybe even 4/5 star images with a cell phone and minimal processing so don't think you have to do all those to gain a higher rating.

I would argue that great concert photographers are using professional cameras, fast lenses, have worked hard to get privileged access, are quick with their reflexes and timing, proficiently crop and frame up their subjects, and take care to process their images in post. So even though they don't necessarily wear the "director's hat" that many other types of photographers have to wear, that doesn't diminish them as snapshot photographers.

You might be able to make your same argument with sports photography, but trust me, if you handed me a D5 and a 400mm f2.8 lens and told me to capture any big play that came down my sideline, I'd probably completely screw it up.

I would say #15 would be perfect for liner notes, a poster, or magazine layout. As a designer, that kind of image is the holy grail; a story being told on one side and plenty of textured white space on the other.

Great point and I totally agree. The tricky part comes when you put it in your portfolio without all the graphic design. On one hand, it shows people like you what is possible and that image might even be better than a tightly cropped photo. On the other hand, without considering any text or graphic design, a photo will generally look more pleasing tightly cropped with action in most of the entire frame. I would usually recommend displaying the tighter crop in your public portfolio but sharing the looser keeper frames with your client so they have a choice for text and graphic design. Great point though

I would like to add to that, actually. The photo has the potential to be a very strong image, but I would (with what I know now), have probably tried to up the exposure only on the guitarist in that image. Overall, the image feels way too dark and it doesn't work too well. I also have to say that I agree with the comment you made about my image (the linkin park one) that the head should go and maybe make it longer. This is definitely something I will try and would love to get some input from you once I do it! Thanks again for the solid input! You've definitely given me some insight, and like I said I would love some input once I've done it! OH! Will you guys be doing photojournalism portfolio reviews? I Would love some input on mine!!

I shot #13... Gotta say, kind of a kick in the teeth there.

Chin up fella

After watching the full video, kinda not fussed, they seem more focused on what can make money rather than what is a good photography. I'm not doing this for money, I have a day job for that. I'm doing it cause I have a blast. money comes later.

Hey Luke, I totally agree with the idea of taking photos for fun and because it's your passion. No harm there and many many people create their art for no one other than themselves.

We strongly encourage our readers to create a strong portfolio because a large demographic of our readers are professionals or are trying their hardest to making photography a career. That's why we seem to nit pick so many aspects of these critiques like model choice, production, hair and makeup, post processing and other elements that can easily be overlooked by the person approaching photography as a hobby.

I think your photograph is fine for what it is and I'm sure you enjoy shooting your local bands and treating it all as a hobby. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. But when your work is compared to the work of others and potentially used to decide if someone wants to hire you or another photographer, I think that particular image still needs work (I can't speak for your whole portfolio). I hope that makes sense without completely kicking you in the teeth...that is never our intention.

I don't think it's a bad shot at all Luke. Considering the venue possibly the fact you had to shoot this from the crowd I think it's pretty good. If I were to suggest anything though, it would be to re-crop the photo to a nice tight portrait orientation.

This will help remove some of the dead space and distracting elements plus it will help give the overall photos a bit more of a punch.

Keep at it.


It was a Hardcore show in a 60 cap venue above a pub, yeah it was small and absolutely mental. I'm not a huge fan of the crop myself tbh, with I had panned down a bit to get all the guitar.

For me, this photo is not about the guitar at all but rather the expression on the guitarists face.

The instrument can be cropped... that won't hurt the image at all but not having the main focus of the image in a good spot from a compositional point of view will.

There's LOTS of good things going on in this photo, the crop just needs to be tighter to help bring it all together..


I actually think the crop is pretty solid on this photo. I would disagree with cropping into the guitar though. The guitar creates a solid leading line in this photo which is a strong point of this image.

I've just finished watching this video through and it might be against my better judgement but man, I'm giving this whole thing 2 stars.

Seriously, I don't know if either of you have shot a photo at a concert before but if you have it certainly didn't come across that way at all.

Your terminology and the lack of understanding of what it takes to get some decent shots at a concert fell way short of the standard I have come to expect from FStoppers.

It seemed to me that you based the majority of your critiques largely on whether or not you knew who the artist was in the photo or based on the size of the venue the shots might have been taken in rather than the actual quality of the photo itself.

As a concert photographer, I have experienced shooting conditions from the smallest of venues to the largest of arenas and I can attest that it can take some solid chops to pull off a good photo in a smaller venue, especially if there is no dedicated photo pit to work from.

Shooting from the crowd makes it look like a snap shot? Man, you have no freakin' idea of how hard it is to wield a camera (or two), get into position; compose yourself and the image all while being thrown around in a sweaty bar room mosh pit with bottles being thrown and beer being spilt by over excited fans on a wild Saturday night.

That my friends, can be some exhilarating and equally scary shit... but I'll be damned if it's not one of the best feelings when you can walk away knowing you nailed at least one solid shot.

You also mentioned the über talented David Bergman and the mega access he has to capture his mind blowing photos but then failed to explain how the average music photographer usually only has (a maximum of) three songs to get the shot before being booted out of the pit and/or the venue.

As an aside, that photo of Behemoth - Orion by Robert Zembrzycki is fckn killer.

The fact you didn't like this because of the camera tilt should have been when you stopped talking. The comments about it being "such a small genre and not being published all that often" was simply ignorant.

Behemoth is a Polish blackened death metal band from Gdansk, formed in 1991. They are considered to have played an important role in establishing the Polish extreme metal underground.

Not cool at all and to be honest, it was kind of disheartening to experience from my point of view.
Maybe stick to reviewing what you know?


I can respect your comments about our critique Matt. I've mentioned this notion above in the comments and a few times in the youtube comments and that is our goal for these critiques is to help photographers know what images should make their portfolios and which ones shouldn't. This idea is also rooted in the idea of making money in this field so that you can keep photography as a career. If you throw out the idea of making money on your work and having a tight, impressive portfolio to book you jobs then you can throw a lot of what we are saying out the window. Making photos for your own personal satisfaction is one of the joys of photography and should be completely separated from our critiques for the working professionals.

One thing that comes up A LOT with our critiques (even those featuring top level guests), is that if a photograph was hard to take or challenging to capture then it must intrinsically be good. Obviously "good" when applied to art is a bit subjective by nature, but I have found so many photographers fall into this trap of believing that because an image was shot at 1.4, with an expensive camera, during a once in a life time moment, and the photographer had to battle people, bugs, weather, and everything else under the sun, the resulting image is something to be praised. That's simply not true at all, and I think that if you believe an image belongs in your portfolio because it was hard to capture is a slippery slope to take often resulting in images that mean something to you but do not resonate with your viewer.

I have taken many, many amazingly difficult images in my career as well as several extremely complex photoshoots that involved a lot of money, lighting, and production only to walk away with an image that is mediocre that will never go into my portfolio or on social media. Sure the client might have been happy but it still didn't wind up good enough to go into a portfolio.

I hope that if you can combine these two ideas, building a portfolio for marketing and business and also that challenging situations do not equate with great photos because of the situation, I think you can at least see the direction Lee and I are coming from in this critique. If you want to make a living at concert photography, the true reality is people like David Bergman, Adam Elmakais, and Todd Owyoung are your competition and masters like Leibovitz, Haflin, and Marshall set the standards.