Most music photographers across the world would agree to some level that their love for music is what's started their career. The feeling of being up close, in front of the crowd, capturing moments that feel like an exclusive understanding between you and the band: "make us look cool."
As a musician myself, that's been in front of many amateur photographers' lenses, I can attest to one thing: it's VERY easy to get caught looking like a fucking lunatic, and not in a good way. Hundreds of shows, I recall seeing the photos after the fact and being like "Umm... is that really what I look like?"
It's hard to capture individuals in ways that they find appealing. It's extra hard to do that when they're sweating, sticking their tongue out, looking like a dumbass, etc. But in the midst of all of the chaos, dancing, and hundreds of shitty, out of focus photos, it's possible to find some diamonds in the rough.
Here are a couple tips I have for those just starting out. I am not going to get into how to book shows, how to get press passes, or anything like that yet. This is me assuming you're bringing your camera to every local gig and learning in the trenches.
1. BURST MODE!!!
My camera (sony a7II) has a mode that can rapid fire the shutter off if I hold the shutter button down. It's important to preemptively anticipate the moment you'd like to capture, aim your camera, and shoot 5-10 photos of that moment, so that you can pick out the one with the best expression, composition, lighting, etc.
2. Use a Fast Shutter Speed!
Too often do I see people who put more effort into focus and composition, and forget that these subjects are moving VERY quickly, in scenes that change lighting drastically, VERY quickly. Pump up that ISO (I shoot around 800-3200 at shows), crank up that shutter speed (I shoot around 1/160-1/250th) and go to town baby!
3. Learn how to use a flash
It's possible to shoot at a very slow shutter speed when using a flash. The ambient light that the slow shutter picks up is cut through with supreme clarity as the flash happens. I'm not sure if that made any fucking sense at all but I'll include a photo below of what I'm talking about.
4. Know Their Music!
It's REALLY important to know what you're shooting! What songs to they enjoy performing? Which parts will they show the most energy? You'll be able to anticipate their movements more when you know when changes in the song are happening. It's always fun to anticipate the guitarist jumping (or something, idk), and catching it perfectly.
5. Make Friends With the Band Before Your Shoot
It's so much easier to be early to a gig, meet the band, share a few jokes/drinks/smokes, whatever, and get more comfortable with each other. Prepare them for your shooting style, ask if flash is OK, tell them to fucking ROCK HARD when you're pointing your lens at them, etc. You'll notice a huge difference in how people behave in front of your camera when they are comfortable with you.