Learn The Ropes Of Live Concert Photography With David Bergman

Ever wanted to know what it takes to make great photos of concerts, band tours, and live performances? Now is your chance to learn the ropes from seasoned concert photographer and Canon Explorer of Light David Bergman and his Shoot from the Pit Workshops. With more than 25 years of experience with live concert photography, he certainly brings a lot of industry know-how to get you started in the business.

While we don’t usually cover workshops, we like catching up with our friends in the photography world and see what they’ve been up to. David, for example, is among the photographers that some of our editors have worked with for some shows and projects. When he mentioned that he has an upcoming workshop, we thought of asking him to tell us more.

The latest of these workshops is the Pitbull Cruise, happening from March 2 – 5 with Pitbull, Flo Rida, Becky G, and other live acts. Now in its second year, the cruise is set to sail from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas, and give photographers another unique experience to learn the ins and outs of concert and live music photography. In this multi-day workshop, participants get to learn from a more immersive music festival environment under David’s direction.

In this quick chat with David, we asked him to tell us more about what attendees of his workshops can expect, some myths about concert photography, what sets his workshops apart, and what’s in store for Shoot from the Pit.

Photo ©  2010 David Bergman / www.DavidBergman.net—Hanson FIVE OF FIVE shows at the Gramercy Theater in New York, NY on April 29, 2010.
Photo © 2010 David Bergman / www.DavidBergman.net—Hanson FIVE OF FIVE shows at the Gramercy Theater in New York, NY on April 29, 2010.
Photo © 2016 David Bergman / www.DavidBergman.net—Andy Grammer performs at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, CA on September 12, 2016. Photographed during David Bergman’s concert photo workshop.

Can you give us an idea how your Shoot from the Pit workshops typically go?

In general, there are two types of workshops I offer.

The first is a single day workshop at a concert with an artist who is touring from city to city and usually playing at arenas or large theaters. I only accept 3-5 photographers since it would be impractical to have more than that in the photo pit. The days start in the morning when we meet backstage at the venue. Throughout the day we will have lectures about proper photo gear for concerts, nailing exposures with concert lighting, the photo business, getting photo passes, setting up remote cameras, how to work with the crew and celebrities, and so much more. We also scout the entire venue and make a plan for that evening’s shoot. Right before the show, we eat with the crew at backstage catering and when the show starts, we get to make pictures! Throughout the show, I work with the attendees to look for unique angles and make sure everything is going smoothly. It’s a long day, but really fun and rewarding.

The other type of workshop I offer takes place at a multi-day music festival and is even more intense and immersive. Because we have more time together and more events to photograph, we can get deeper into all of the topics covered in the one-day workshops, put those techniques into action, and go back to edit and critique those images. Then we learn from the edit and shoot more! Also, we can do a full section on portrait lighting and, since these events are usually more casual, we can often get one or more of the artists to pose for us. There is also some social time together and we really get to know each other on a personal level.

I currently have two multi-day festival workshops scheduled. One is a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas with Pitbull, Flo Rida, Becky G, and others. The other is a 4-day festival with my good friend Pat McGee and about a dozen talented musicians in the beautiful outer banks of North Carolina.

Photo © 2016 David Bergman / www.DavidBergman.net—Andy Grammer performs at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, CA on September 12, 2016. Photographed during David Bergman’s concert photo workshop.

Are there any common misconceptions or myths about the industry that you want budding concert photographers to dispel by attending your workshops?

People assume that backstage at a concert, it’s all sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Well, it’s rock and roll, but that’s about it. Whether you’re a musician or a photographer, this is a BUSINESS and everyone takes it very seriously. I don’t really want to be a big fan of the artists I’m covering because it will be a distraction from my work. I often become a fan because I appreciate the hard work that they put in and I enjoy watching talented people do their thing. But if I’m too wrapped up in the music, then I can’t concentrate on apertures and shutter speeds.

For my workshops, there’s no meet and greet with the band. If you’re looking for that, buy a VIP ticket and leave the cameras at home. I want people who are serious about improving their photography. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun environment and I love it! But this is a photo workshop, and the concert is just an incredibly awesome palette that we get to work with.

Photo © 2016 David Bergman / www.DavidBergman.net—Andy Grammar soundcheck and performance at the Pavilion Stage At Bethel Woods Center For The Arts in Bethel, NY.
Photo © 2016 David Bergman / www.DavidBergman.net—Andy Grammer performs at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, CA on September 12, 2016. Photographed during David Bergman’s concert photo workshop.

In a nutshell, what makes Shoot from the Pit workshops different from other workshops of its kind?

Not a week goes by that I don’t get an email from photographers saying that they want to shoot concerts and asking if they can carry my bags. There are a lot of experience-based photo workshops out there, including some for sports, travel, and headshots. But very few have ever existed for live concert photography.

As I started to think about it, there are very few people who can pull this off. You need someone with a lot of experience as a photographer, who has taught many workshops, and has connections and an excellent reputation in the music industry. I’ve been a working photographer for more than 25 years, am a Canon Explorer of Light, often lead workshops and speak at big industry events, and have toured with many bands as their official tour photographer.

After talking with my contacts in the music industry, I started these workshops. Now anyone can shoot a concert with me and they don’t even have to carry my bags!

Photo © 2016 David Bergman / www.DavidBergman.net—Andy Grammer sound check at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA on September 13, 2016. Photographed during David Bergman’s concert photo workshop.
Photo © 2016 Jeff Pittenger / Pat McGee’s Ocean State of Mind music festival on October 2, 2016. Other artists performing were Patrick McAloon, Jonathan Williams, Ellis Paul and Colby James.

Lastly, can you tell us what’s in store for your future Shoot from the Pit workshops?

I’m working on having workshops offered in every city on a concert tour. Photographers all over the country can then have the opportunity to learn how to shoot in this fun, unique environment and put those skills into practice during a real event. We can eventually expand to other countries since many bands travel around the world. I want everyone to feel what it’s like to “shoot from the pit!”

Visit http://www.shootfromthepit.com to learn more about the Pitbull Cruise and David Bergman’s other upcoming Shoot From the Pit workshops.

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