Monday, March 7, 2011
How To Photograph Concerts—03/07/11
Six pro tips for shooting live music\
1. Start Small
Todd was able to photograph his first show because it was not a mega band at a mega venue. It was a smaller act in a smaller club and they didn’t hassle him for having a camera. This is key, as bigger acts usually hold much tighter control over photographer access. "A lot of people want to start off shooting their favorite bands in big clubs and arenas," Todd says, "but this often isn't practical. The photo pass and camera restrictions as these venues present a barrier to entry, so a lot of people get discouraged. What I always recommend is to start shooting at smaller venues. In almost every city there are venues without camera restrictions, and these are great places to shoot and build a portfolio. I shot my first concert in a tiny, smoky club at the front of the stage with a 50mm f/1.4. Cut your teeth in venues like that, and shooting arena bands is easy by comparison."
2. Get Access
When you’re ready to get serious with bigger bands, you’ve got to get approved access. It can be tricky to shoot from the cheap seats, so try contacting the venue, band, or promoter to gain access to the photo pit. This usually enables you to photograph three songs—the industry standard. A week after Todd’s first show, he decided to contact a band’s manager about photographing an upcoming show at a large venue. That resulted in his first photo pass. "After that, I was hooked," he says. "The same time I set up my first photo credentials I also got in touch with a local music magazine. Within a few weeks I was contributing to the publication as a freelancer and pitching assignments at every opportunity. Shooting for a print publication—even if it was only a small street press—granted a tremendous amount of connections and access to the workings of live music."
3. Branch Out
"If I could do it all over," Todd says, "one thing I would have done differently would have been to shoot more indiscriminately early on. At first I was primarily interested in photographing bands that I listened to, and it was only after a year or so that I started to branch out. Now I'll photograph anything and everything if it involves music, from metal to acoustic folk, pop stars to punk." The more you shoot, the faster you’ll improve your work. And if you’re taking the photography seriously, it doesn’t so much matter which famous musician is on the other end of the camera. After all, you’re not there to rock so much as you’re there to shoot. Todd says it’s experience that teaches you where to be and when, and that’s what leads to the best photos.
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