Lens Guides

Favorite Lenses for Music and Concert Photography

As of this year, I have dedicated fourteen years of my life to the music industry. None of which could have been possible without the right gear at my side helping me through each and every guitar riff, mosh pit, stage dive, and wild show! From concerts to backstage portraits, album covers to magazine spreads, the SIGMA lenses at my side make all of this possible.

When it comes to packing gear for music gigs, I am always focused on the lenses that give me the most amount of versatility. The more gear you have on you, the harder the job becomes – quick maneuverability and squeezing into small spaces has become a requirement in the field. Pair this with minimal time to accomplish a lot… and carrying extra weight is definitely stifling.

Although each venue, tour, and band photo needs will frequently change – my list of gear seldom does. Since switching to mirrorless cameras a few years ago, these lenses have become my tried and true companions… optics that I can truly rely on!

SIGMA 35mm F1.2 DG DN | Art

If you’re a dog owner, you probably have a “heart animal”. If you’re a horse owner, you have a “heart horse”. Well, as a lens owner, I have a “heart lens” and it’s the SIGMA 35mm F1.2 DG DN | Art. This lens lives permanently on one of my Sony cameras.

The ultra-wide aperture of F1.2 makes concert and low-light backstage portraiture a breeze – the amount of light that this lens lets in is incredible. I also appreciate that super shallow depth of field, which helps the stage look a lot less cluttered by focusing on one subject at a time. Between cables, multiple band members, amps, and so much more – using the shallow depth of field to isolate your subject amongst the organized chaos helps keep the viewer focused on what matters most.

Equally, I have found this lens to be a brilliant workhorse. Durably constructed, it has certainly survived the various crowd-surfers, beer-spills, and tight-space bumps that have been thrown at it (it’s just part of the music photography game). Years of use, and it’s still as beautiful and tack sharp as ever. Even at its widest aperture, you can still see every in-focus detail sharp and clear. I also like the aperture ring, which helps me narrow down that aperture quickly when F1.2 is a little too shallow.

For portraits, it has handled every subject with ease. Whether we are shooting in night time streets, urban landscapes, backstage, in the studio… every location becomes magic. The location itself is less important, the colors and bokeh texture are what matter now. I’ve even happily used this lens for music video behind-the-scenes images, creating a cinematic feel for BTS shots. All content is good content for musicians, especially with how much social media plays a role.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art

I have a lot to say about this particular lens, so bear with me, humble reader! The SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art has been everywhere with me, festivals, tours, and all.

For starters, the 85mm focal length is traditionally known as a portrait lens – and for good reason. Being a telephoto lens, the focal length allows for subject compression; flattering your subjects and making them look even better than they did before. The wide F1.4 aperture is a perfect depth of field to push the subject off of the location and create a creamy, whimsical bokeh around them. As such, whether I am taking portraits on stage or “out in the wild”, I know they’re going to look phenomenal.

Second, the ultra-fast autofocus is such a big win. Communicating natively with my Sony cameras, it’s so easy to ensure my shots are tack sharp on my subjects despite sporadic lighting and ever-changing scenarios. The durable construction is also a big plus, since this gets bumped around like the rest of my gear. Weather sealing galore is also helpful! Plus, the smaller stature makes it easily maneuverable.

Third, I absolutely love this lens for capturing on stage action. Yup, you heard me, this lens is fantastic for action photography. When I’m not photographing music, I still use this lens for various kinds of high-speed action photography!

Although this is on the shorter side for telephoto lenses, I don’t often find myself reaching for something longer. I work directly for bands more often than not, so my access does grant me much closer distance – so the 85mm is a pretty perfect length, even for photographing drummers.

SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art

Having a really good wide-angle zoom on you as a music photographer is pretty fundamental, I would say! The SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art was my greatest asset when photographing Heilung, as this band has a lot of members on stage at once (often forming ritualistic circles as a part of the performance). 14mm is wide enough to capture a full stage, and the always-versatile 24mm helps tighten up when the moment is just right!

Although most of my lenses are wider aperture than F2.8, if you’re whipping out a wide-angle, then you’re going to want more of the scene in focus. F2.8 is perfect for this, being fast enough to maximize the ambient light, yet still be able to focus on multiple subjects at once.

This lens is also a lot of fun to use in the studio, with the wide-angle effect being a great technique with rock and metal artists. Wednesday 13 here had a blast playing to the 14mm range in this lens.

SIGMA 24mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary

When it concerns producing content for rock and metal bands, this lens is definitely it. The SIGMA 24mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary is definitely my primary “let’s create social media content!” lens because it’s small, compact, and seems to just be the perfect focal length. The F2.0 aperture is great to separate your subject from the location itself while still providing enough context. Plus, this I series lens features all-metal construction, a nice touch when everyone around you is all-metal, all the time.

Honestly, nearly all of the impactful European portraits I captured of Finnish band The 69 Eyes during our EU tour this year were courtesy of this lens. It’s also a durable little thing, as we got caught in unexpected inclement weather multiple times while shooting (with no chance of getting cover because we walked to our locations)!

SIGMA 20mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary

Does 4mm make that big of a difference? Yes. Yes it does! Just ask Zeistencroix who requests the SIGMA 20mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary every time we shoot. I love the small stature and expansive angle of view of this lens. It’s great for bands who want some wide-angle fun thrown into their session, and great for me when I want to throw in an extra wide lens but not add much weight or bulk to my bag.

SIGMA 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary

Everyone is likely well familiar with the 24-70mm (which I also have)… but I actually find myself packing the SIGMA 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary into my camera bag more often for music photography. Being so much smaller, this is a great lens to just have around all the time – whether as your primary use or as a “hey, you never know what you’re walking into, let’s have this lens in hand just in case.”

I have caught myself in various scenarios of walking into a show and getting some sort of curveball thrown at me. Having this great “walkaround lens” on hand makes my internal worries dissipate. Plus, this lens is rather hardy, having survived all of the abuse I’ve put it through!

SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG DN | Art

The good ol’ nifty-fifty. A versatile beast, and probably the best known focal length out there. Although I actually stopped using 50mm lenses for something like seven years, rediscovering this classic once more made me feel so silly for not having touched a 50mm for half of my career. What was I thinking?!

Notably, this SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG DN | Art lens accompanied my six weeks of travel to Europe with Finnish rock band The 69 Eyes and performed splendidly each night. The venues seemed to be just the right size for this focal length. Check out my article with a huge selection of photos from the tour!

Much like my other lenses on the list, the wide aperture goes hand-in-hand with my shooting style and plays with the low light well. The focal length quickly adapts from concert mode to portrait mode, turning any location into my own personal portrait studio. Plus, the autofocus is top notch – the last thing I have to worry about are missed focus shots.

These SIGMA lenses truly rock!

Just like every musical artist is different, every photographer is different, and most music photographers will likely give you a very different list of equipment. But in my experience, the above seven SIGMA lenses have worked very well for me – and continue to come along on all of my musically-inclined worldly travels!

And no matter what style of photography you shoot, no matter what type of music you gravitate toward, SIGMA makes lenses that will come through with amazing sharpness, speed and durability. Check out the full selection of SIGMA lenses for your camera at sigmaphoto.com, and tell us in the comments which are your favorites!

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Comments (1)
  1. Troy Phillips says:

    I too am a live music photographer and videographer. I too am a Sigma fast glass fan . I have the art series and some I series contemporary glass .
    This fast Sigma glass gets dang heavy. Most of mine is the older dslr F mount glass adapted to Nikon Z . The 40mm Art that I’d love to use more is a touch slow at focusing sometimes. I do regret not getting the 35mm f/1.2 and never know I may get one . I recently got the Sigma Art 135mm in F mount for the Nikon Z . I knew Nikon was coming out with their Z 135 f/1.8 S . But I love the Sigma look for stage photography. I’ve been looking at this lens since it came out . It’s a great lens adapted to the Z bodies.
    On my Sony a7siii’s I shoot the Sigma I series 65mm f/2 and 90mm f/2.8 quite a bit . Absolutely Absolutely love love love their rendering of lighting in the background on stages . The 65mm is so versatile and what a stage storytelling machine. It’s so versatile like a wide 85 or a tight 50 . I’m a tweener fan . I have two sigma art 28mm f/1.4’s . The Nikon F and Sony E Mount versions .
    I love shooting live music with primes . It’s a lot of work but pays off mostly in the end . Fast glass , heavy packs and lots of lens changes in dark little corners. The life of the live music photographer.
    You have a good setup thanks for the article.

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