Skip to main content

Getting Started in Music Photography with Red Bull Photographer Todd Owyoung

Lesson 10 of 24

Using Speedlights

Todd Owyoung

Getting Started in Music Photography with Red Bull Photographer Todd Owyoung

Todd Owyoung

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

10. Using Speedlights


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Live Music Photography Duration:13:40
3 Camera Settings Duration:09:34
5 Research & Preparation Duration:06:20
6 Challenges & Pain Points Duration:00:40
7 All Access Duration:16:29
8 Shooting for Editorial Duration:03:15
9 Capturing Music Festivals Duration:03:58
10 Using Speedlights Duration:07:44
11 Photographing Drummers Duration:07:44
12 Gear Duration:25:39
13 Location Scouting Duration:19:57
14 Artist Portraits Duration:06:56
15 Artist Portraits - Stairwell Duration:06:48
16 Artist Portraits - Outside Duration:12:04
20 Getting Started Duration:10:15
21 The Photo Pass Duration:19:38
22 Photo Pit Etiquette Duration:06:29
24 Post Processing Workflow Duration:26:02

Lesson Info

Using Speedlights

Now we are getting into using speedlights in live music photography. And this is something you can do usually when you only have all-access, you're shooting for the promoter, you're shooting for the band. And you have this special access to place remote flashes, speedlights, around the stage to either supplement or augment, or replace stage lighting. You know, and if you're shooting a small tour, a small band in a really, divey venue the lighting may be very poor. It may not be sufficient for you to capture the images you want to capture. Using speedlights can allow you to either create the lighting you want. And it again, supplements or replace stage lighting. And the two main strategies, either mimicking the house lighting and this is positioning speedlights where the lights are already are in the venue. So, if its in the rack front of house position, kind of up and above in front of the band, at the rear kind of using the existing lighting trusses almost. If you can get access to th...

ose. Or otherwise placing the lights where you would expect them to be. The second strategy would be making the lighting you want. One thing I love doing is putting a speedlight under the drum kit. Because when you have that effect it lights the drummer up. It makes the drum kit look like its glowing, and can create for a really dynamic shot. Here is that shot of The Dillinger Escape Plan, and for this I had a flash that was, just kind of, off camera to the right. And here I was trying to balance between the stage lighting and having a little bit of speedlight light to just kind of pop the subject out and provide a little contrast. You can see that on his face and on his hand on the neck of the guitar it's a little more contrast, because the lighting was so warm it had a more uniform look. This is a shot of the band, Underoath. And this is a, small venue at Pop's in Sauget, Illinois. A venue I shot at a lot when I was coming up as a music photographer. And the lighting can be really, really rough at this venue. And for this show I think they were using a lot of strobe lights actually. And you can see, if you look in this image, none of the stage lights are lit up. So, this is an instance were it's lit entirely by speedlight. This is a light that is stage-right you can see, and then a light that was behind, underneath the drum kit. And then I believe, another light that was stage-left, that's lighting up Spencer here. And its another opportunity using speedlights to freeze motion like you are here. Because not mixing ambience and the speedlights I can shoot, and because the flash duration is so short it's gonna freeze that motion I'm shooting, even if its just 1/200 of a second at the same speed. So, this is Bower this photo for Redbull, and again this is a small venue in New York, and it wasn't tremendously well lit. But I am balancing the lighting of the venue and speedlight. So, this was a speedlight right behind Bower, and because of the haze in the venue it kind of lit up the shot pretty nicely. And I love working in venues where we have that haze for the production and the speedlights. It's kind of like, you know, lighted up and it kind of blossoms in the background. Which is a really beautiful effect. This is an artist who's photographed at Baby's All Right in New York, in Brooklyn. And an instance were I was trying to balance the natural stage lighting and just supplement a little, because the front lighting was very minimal. And Baby's has this beautiful LED wall at the back where these kind of glass fixtures that light up, change colors, and I wanted to preserve that. And so this was an instant of just kind of dialing the light in so that the exposure for the back lighting for the lights and the exposure on the former were balanced. And this is a single light that was just stage-right. This is The Dilinger Escape Plan again, and an instance where I was using one light that's positioned behind the symbol, because shooting with the flash directly into the lens might produce lens flare, or undesired effects. This is an example of kind of hiding the flash in between an object and the lens where you can still get the benefit of the flash without any of the negative effects, like flare or ghosting etcetera. Again, this is the same venue in Brooklyn, Baby's All Right, and an instance were I'm balancing the ambient light and stage lighting. Here the lighting levels were a little lower so you can see a little motion blur and a color shift on the fingertips especially here, but without this front lighting it would have been a much more challenging shoot that wouldn't result in the kind of impact you have in this photo. And so an instant of just kinda popping the subject out using a little bit of flash. Again, Baby's All Right, this is the Lion Babe. Shot at a Redbull Sound Select. And here the lighting, again, was from the front really minimal. And so using a speedlight that was positioned in front of the house for a little bit of accent was enough to get that definition that I wanted. Enough for that contrast against the background. This is Skrillex, this is part of his takeover series in Brooklyn. And an instance where shooting for the sponsor who had full access of the stage. I was able to place a speedlight behind Sunny here. and have him look pretty natural still and kind of like an effect you might have as part of regular production. But, because there is almost no front lighting such a key element and there is a flash both behind Sunny and also and front house to give a little lighting. And here is another example from the same show. Kind of look, showing a wider kind of view. And again there wasn't really much front lighting here. You have a disco wall that's being illuminated. That's shot with a Nikon 14 to 24. Right in with the crowd, you see there is no photo pit, but an instance where having the ability to place speedlights into the production was a real life saver in coming away with usable images for the client. Then another instance of you know just balancing, speedlights and the ambience production. Trying to capture and keep that blue light in the background whilst having a little bit of, kind of, edge lighting you have a light both from stage-right and stage-left. And in the background you can see these amps are lit up a little more than they usually would. That's kind of a casualty of speedlights, and having lights splash on a little bit more. You can kind of shape it to a certain extent, but you have to be mindful of how its hitting the stage and so forth. Here is another instance, shot for Redbull again. This was a Sound Select. And this was in the basement of a venue and there was almost no lighting. You can see there is almost like a dropped ceiling. Almost like, kind of, like a cool cult venue, and it was a tough show. And if I hadn't been using speedlights there would no been an image to walk away with from this performance. And you can see, I was dragging the shutter. You can see the light streaks here even from the exit sign, the light that were there, but an instance of speedlights really saving the day and allowing me to come away with a unique photo that otherwise would have been a real challenge. And again, I a love shooting with speedlights and haze, its just a beautiful effect when the haze can pick up that light beautifully. And kind of create these kind of like light beams, and like dimensional effects. And here is another instance from the same show showing that this is like a hugely atmospheric show and you can see the speed lights pretty clearly. There is one on the drum kit. There is two at the back of the stage kind of, at about 45 pointing in. And just creating this very hazy atmospheric affect by lighting up that haze.

Class Description


  • Learn how to price and license yourself as a music photographer
  • Work in even the darkest of venues
  • Capture variety with a band during a short set with limited space
  • Utilize speedlights within a performance
  • Work with performers to pose portraits that capture their music
  • Post-processing techniques to take your image to the next level


With the lights, energy and creativity behind each concert- it’s no wonder that music photography continues to be a dream career. In this course, created in partnership with Red Bull Photography, Todd Owyoung walks through how to get into the music photography business by working with bands, venues and albums. He talks through licensing and pricing your time and your images to publisist, venues, magazines and more. This course goes in the field with Todd and three different bands to walk through how to capture a variety of images in a small amount of time. He teaches how to set up and direct portraits with the band in green rooms and between sound checks. Todd explains how to make even the smallest and grungiest venue make a band look mainstream. This course will teach you composition, working with flash and natural light, directing the band and performers and things to never forget when photographing a live event.


  • Music Photographers
  • Event Photographers
  • Beginners


Todd Owyoung is a music photographer with over a decade of experience specializing in music lifestyle, musician/celebrity portraits, and concert photography. If it rocks, he shoots it. Based in New York City.

He’s obsessed with nailing those rockstar moments, the images that fans love to see of their favorite bands. Whether the venue is a 200-capacity club or Madison Square Garden, shooting for a major brand or on tour, his images place you in the front row.

His clients range from bands and festivals to magazines, lifestyle brands and ad agencies. In 2012, Complex Magazine named him #3 in their list of the "Greatest Music Photographers Right Now".

He’s a Nikon Ambassador for Nikon Camera


Alexandra U

I highly reccomend this class for any one who would like to get started or dip their toes in the concert photography scene. This class has many useful tips and trick for any level of photographer, not just beginners. I have been in the music scene for over 10 years and I was able to gather so much information in every chapter. Watching this video boosted up my confidence as a photographer because it validated that I am already succeeding in my concert career. Thank you for this amazing stream. It sparked my creative soul once again.

Kris Comer

Wow, this was awesome! I have been a concert photographer for almost 3 years now and I still learned some great tips! I loved that he covered different ideas for promo shots which is one of my weaknesses. Any beginner should definitely check out this course! It is straight and to the point with all of the most important steps.

a Creativelive Student

I have been taking Creative Live classes since 2010 and this is at the top with the best classes t I have taken. This may have been the first time Todd taught a class, but you would never be able to tell. He doesn't just brag about the high profile clients he has shot, he also makes sure to relate to the photographer just starting out. I really enjoyed the two live shows as well as the additional portrait shoots. His concepts on location scouting, playing with distortion, multiple poses in one spot, speedlights, etc. can be applied to all kinds of photography, not just music photography. Highly recommend!