I'm totally hooked with music and photography. I didn't expect that the fusion of both will give me the passion that I've been searching for. Music photography won't work if you are not into music, to some it might be boring but to many it will be interesting, imagine watching your favorite band up close for free and having the rare opportunity to photograph them. I have attended several music event and covered countless artist/band in years but I still panic when I stepped inside the photo pit.
I have gathered few points to share if you are into music photography.
- INVEST IN BODIES. I highly recommend two bodies when shooting music event. One for wide shot and another for close up. I started shooting music event with the use of one body, it is a good start because it will train you on how to change lens in an instant. You will understand the reason behind this when we reach the other essential points.
- RESEARCH. Research the artist, be familiar with his works, his songs. Google his or her concert images, Getty images has a lot of great images in their library. Visit the artist's website, view their galleries, it will give you a hint on how the artist perform. Know their famous songs. If in your research shows that the artist do some interactions with the crowd or do crowd surfing, be alert and familiar yourself on spots where you can have a good vantage point.
- SHOOT 'EM ALL. The vocalist is not the only member of the band, they also have a guitarist, pianist, backup vocals and more (just a reminder). I like shooting the drummer, the energy and excitement is always tempting to capture, however, most of them were always hidden or covered with their instrument, so find the right moment and vantage point. Find a way to shoot everyone, every member of the band deserves a good photograph.
- SHOOT DETAILS. Shoot interesting details and scene. I shoot uncommon things, scenes that are hardly seen by the crowd.
- THE FIRST 3. It’s a normal thing to shoot inside the press pit for the first 3 songs, some event will let you shoot only 30s of the first 3 songs. The worst, they will let you shoot from the soundboard which is way, way, way too far, so prepare yourself to use your 70-200 as your wide angle lens.
- THE FIRST 3 AND YOU ARE OUT. In addition to the last point, there are events that let you shoot the first 3 songs but only in one spot – left or right wing of the stage, no shooting at the center. And the most promising of them all is – they will kick you out of the venue after the allotted time to shoot. No chance to shoot from the crowd’s perspective and no time to wander and spend few minutes to be a fan.
- GET OUT AND SHOOT. There are events that allow you to shoot in the press pit the entire show, well, that’s good but don’t be lazy to shoot outside of the pit and look for a more picturesque vantage point. It happened to me, I shoot the entire show inside the pit, later on, I regret having no photos from the crowd’s vantage point. I had the chance but never took it.
- LEAVE THE WHEELS. Using a roller bag for your gear is very handy, but not for an outdoor music event. Have mercy on your expensive roller bar, dragging it on a rocky or sandy ground or carrying it on a steep stairway of the elevated VIP area. Not only that, bringing a roller bag on a crowded gig is inconvenient, it will slow you down, imagine bumping your bag to every people standing your way. I preferred using a messenger bag, my Think Tank Retrospective 30 is a perfect partner for me. You can customize the divider inside to fit 2 full frame bodies with 24-70mm & 70-200mm. Placing the 14-24mm lens in the middle will separate the two bodies on the sides and protect the bodies from contact, trust me, not following this tip will end up scratching your bodies and even your lens (which I had, and it haunt me till now). The external pockets can be used for flashes or a small lens like my 16mm fisheye lens.
- THE FLASH. Bring a flash but never use it in the press pit. It is a mortal sin to shoot the artist with the flash.
- SHOOT ME. Whenever I leave the press pit, I make sure that one of my camera is fitted with a good portrait lens with a flash . Expect that when you leave the pit with your camera hanging on your shoulder, expect a lot of people will poke you requesting to take their photo. You can refuse but I'd rather give this people a quick shot and leaving them with a good smile on their face. This people will add traffic to your work, so do not forget their details or share your link to your work.
- SHOOT YOU. For themed event, expect some concert goers wearing fancy clothes, they are tempting to shoot and they will love to be shoot. Just be courteous enough to ask for permission.
- THE CROWD. My gallery will not be complete without a crowd shot, specially if it is a sold out gig. Bring a lot of patience when it come to a crowd shot, you need to wait for the perfect timing where the stage lights hit the crowd. You just don't shoot, you need to balance the exposure of the stage and the crowd, perfect timing is the key to get a pleasing crowd shot.
- Eye to Eye. Very hard to capture, unless you are with the band and you know the artist. The photo is so compelling when there is an eye contact with the subject.
- Candid. Lastly, I love shooting candid and interesting gestures from the crowd.
Here's my shoot list for music events:
- Close up shots of every band members.
- Elevated shot of the band on stage from the press pit.
- Wide angle shot of the artist, camera pointing upwards.
- Silhouette of the artist with lens flare.
- Interesting details on stage, uncommon scene.
- Crowd shot - wide shot of the crowd fronting the stage.
- Crowd shot - bird's eye view from the press pit vantage point.
- Wide shot of the stage with the crowd's silhouette on the foreground.
- Crowd shot with the stage on the blurred background.
- Wide view of the venue.
- Artist's interaction with the crowd.
- Interesting crowd scene.
And here's my wish list:
- Backstage, but if you will be given a backstage pass to shoot, you might miss shooting the artist on their first 3 songs. Allot enough time to be at the press pit before the call out time.
- Meet & Greet (M&G) l Meet the Press (MtP).
- Shooting from the stage vantage point.
- Shooting the artist from the stage with the crowd, of course it will be cool if the artist is facing my camera.
- And lastly, selfie with the artist or band.
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