Should You Be Using a Smartphone and DSLR Combo for Concert Photography?

Should You Be Using a Smartphone and DSLR Combo for Concert Photography?

Music Photographer Rui Bandeira tells us why he connects his smartphone to his camera while shooting a concert, and the benefits it brings him.

It all began when Bandeira saw photographers ditching their laptops and touting tablets instead. While the idea appealed to him, “a tablet was not practical for me to carry all around the pit.” Upon picking up a Canon 5D Mark IV, he couldn’t find any good use for the Wi-Fi connectivity. However, when he downloaded Canon’s app he began to realize that he wouldn’t need a tablet.

Enter the large smartphone. Banderia is rocking the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, a real workhorse of a phone. The battery is insane (4,000 mAh) and its 6-inch HDR display is a decent substitute for a tablet. Thanks to bezel-less design, the phone isn’t too big in the hand either.

This was edited on a smartphone by Bandeira, allowing the client to immediately share it.

Why Use a Smartphone?

Aside from the obvious (remote control of a camera) that could be useful at a gig, Bandeira has another problem he runs into on shoots. The issue is that promoters and the communication department of a festival want photos as the action is happening. They want to be able to post it on social media channels as soon as possible, which means the photographer either needs a trusted assistant (which takes up space in the pit) or a Wi-Fi-connected cellphone.

“When they get images right in the beginning of the show, that opens a new communication opportunity to them and they just love it,” Bandeira explained to me. What’s happening here is that Bandeira is filling a gap between a cheap Instagram Story and properly-edited photographs that would be ready hours after the show. While editing JPEGs on your phone isn’t ideal, it’s better than a social media manager shooting on their smartphone. “When touring with bands it’s still something that they are just starting to discover,” Bandeira said. ”It's normal to see the band road manager making some live feed to Instagram Stories and to Facebook and they will use the still images after the show.”

Ditching cables means you can edit on the fly, but still keep the camera beside you.

The Workflow

First, Bandeira makes sure that he’s able to get a cellular or Wi-Fi connection in order to send the photos. There's no point in editing your images on the fly when you can’t send them. Next, Bandeira prepares custom PNG overlays in order to watermark the images. If he needs to apply this he has a separate app that he can drag all the images through in order to put the festival's logo on the images.

Before applying watermarks, he opens his images in Adobe Lightroom CC for mobile. While it obviously won’t beat using a laptop and the full-fledged version, it does the job in a pinch. “I don’t use presets, I just make some fast edits on contrast and color and then I export it with 2048 pixels on the longer side,” said Bandeira. The process would work with raw images, but Bandeira uses JPEGs to make sure that nothing slows down (I can’t imaging raw photos being a huge issue though).

The risk here is that you’ll miss part of the show. He realizes this, telling me, “the trick is to try to get the feel of the show, so I can anticipate what is going to happen.” Makes sense, but of course that can only get you so far. When a client is looking for immediate photos, they probably care more about the first song than the following two or three songs. This is the chance that Bandeira gets to edit the images.

If you’re thinking about recreating this workflow, Bandeira has further details on his website. Does anybody else use a similar workflow in other areas of photography?

All images used with permission.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

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I often use the wifi on my D750, D500, D850 to transfer photos to my phone for light editing and posting to social media. The process with the recent purchase of 500/850 has gotten way easier as the 750's connection method and app were arcane. I usually shoot RAW at the event, process a JPG in camera and then transfer that JPG to the phone via the Nikon app. I'll use any number of APPs to edit up to and including LR mobile, but usually just VSCO or instagram's native photo editing (for shame). Anyways the process is a little tedious, but I think the DSLR photos same day as the event or even mins after the event are a draw for engagement on the different channels.

If you don't have Wi-Fi on your DSLR, a good workaround is using an OTG cable + card reader to connect your SD/CF card to your cell phone and offload/edit photos that way. I've been using that method for several years now with my Canon 5D Mark III. Not ideal for getting "instant" photos, but it's an easy way to quickly process on site.

yes, but in the PIT during a show that method can be tricky

In the topic of wireless transfer. I'm still using an Eye-Fi in a D850!

So this photographer is in the middle of the photo pit editing photos on his phone during first 3? That to me is terrible etiquette. The amount of time during the first 3 songs is precious. You're typically with a number of photographers and the amount of space is often tight. If you're going to edit a photo on your phone, please get out of the pit. You're taking up space that another photographer might want to get an angle from.

We're given the privilege to be in a space most people don't get to be in to take the best photos of a performer we can. Standing around editing while we get to be in that space seems disrespectful to other photographers who would kill to be in there and also a bit disrespectful to the performer as you're not paying attention to them on stage.

This photographer doesn't stay on the midle of the PIT wile editing.
This photographer stays out of the way of other Photographers, obviously.
If you take the time to read my article you will see that i do this whe the festival promoter or the band manager asks me to do it, they ask me because im there as the official photographer, some times when i do this im the only photographer allowed on the pit.
3 songs is more then enough to do the regular images for press.
If i was disrespectful to other photographers and bands i would get hired to shoot.

I have to agree. I say use what works best. To be honest, how many different angles of 4 people performing a typical rock show can one get? I get lighting effects, screens, etc. However, I believe if a photographer was allowed to shoot the entire 2 hour set, 80% of the shots would look quite similar. Especially drummers.

in my case, i usualy work for the bands and i have AAA including doing some on stage images, so i can get mor diferent angles and make the best of the time

Hah! When you have a photographer from your hometown, featured on Fstoppers!
This kind of technology is pretty useful even when shooting models on location. I use my ipad mini for this, with the EOS Connect app. Kinda cool the reaction you get from the models while seeing their shots on a "big" screen. And yes, way better to deliver these shots, than smartphone noisy ones.

hi Paulo nice to see another Portuguese here, we are a few here
hope to see you one of this day in our lovely town

I do this at a lot of shows I do. Just this weekend I was the main photographer for an entire concert. The company putting on the even logged me into their instagram before the show. After I'd get a few good shots Id leave the stage area and edit a picture or 2 and put it on the IG story. They loved having me do that for just the reason stated in the article, it looks a lot better than a video someone took on their phone. Its quick and easy and only takes me away form the entire show for a few moments

Parabéns ao Rui pelo artigo!
Acompanho o trabalho dele e é espetacular.

Thank you Ricardo
Do i know you? online or in person?
I know one Ricardo Silva, but i dont know if its you :-D

Choose your cell phone carefully, the one mentioned in the article has various security risks. A quick google search concerning security risks can give you more info.

That is just US propaganda.
Us cant alow anothe non US company to do better than Apple
And lets be honnest can annyone trust the US Gov, NSA, CIA,FBI ? i dont think so

While I have zero trust for said organizations, I do have trust for the various entities that have tested said phones and tell me to avoid the one mentioned within the article. But hey it's your skin.