- Rock Photography and Concert pictures. Part 2 : Be a music photographer and get into gigs
Rock Photography and Concert pictures. Part 2 : Be a music photographer and get in to gigs.
We've recently updated our blog with 2 guides on live music and concert photography, written by our resident blogger and music photographer Ashley Laurence.
You can read our guides here:
- How to get into concert and live music photography
- Live Music Photography Guide - Recoomended Settings and Kit
The Libertines taken by music photographer Ashley Laurence, originally shot for Brighton Source magazine
My exploration of rock photography continues. How to gain a photo pass and gain experience in band photography and Rock music photography
This article examines my personal presumptions about gig research, starting to take concert pictures and even a bit on how I think people working on permission should behave.
I know most people reading this don't need me lecturing them but I've met more than a few photographers who really dont care about this bit.
Maybe they have taken one or two nice shots, happen to be at a concert with a camera and then think it's Ok for them to point their camera at whatever they like, when they like and essentialy ride rough-shod over the promotor, band, venue, publication and fellow music photographers.
They often presume they aren't doing anyone any harm but they may well be
I've worked in music studios and the live environment professionally and have also employed professional sports photographers regularly.
In my view the photographer needs to stay on the best side of people.
Its not THEIR event, it's not THEIR day, they have'nt PAID to be there, no one really WANTS to see them.
So in short the event should not be effected by their presence at all and when they go they even own the shots..... Not such a bad deal is it? So why push thier luck?
Rock Photography step 1. Gain access, get into gigs and take music pictures and concert photos .
Which gigs do you want to turn into concert photos? Researching.
So......... you've got your photography equipment- check
you've got the inclination - check
you've got some idea of the gigs you want to go to - -er, no.
I'm afraid its homework time and you're going to need to build a list of upcoming gigs that you want to go and shoot.
So what do you do?
There will be lots of websites providing information about upcoming gigs in your area. If local promotors have a mailing list you could always join that.
The problem is it comes in all sorts of formats, what you need to do is get it into ONE format.
To do this I have built an MS Excel spreadsheet. this includes lots of different sheets for dates, band managers, music promotors, venues etc etc etc... Simply populate it with your local venues, your local promotors etc,, and then on the gigs sheet you can set the dats... you get a clear idea of whats on when... it will make planning your gigs and approaching the pass holders much easier.
I dont mind sharing this if I know who's got it. Please email meaand ask for it by contacting me through my online concert pictures and music photography portfolio at flickr
Want to take concert pictures . Why not just buy a ticket?
Rock photography is something many people would like to play at. What makes you a music photographer?
Everyones a music photographer! You can hear their minds ticking..."Rock photography is easy", .... " its all about being there with a camera" and "I'm about to take the best concert photos ever"!! ... And then they get home.
Lots of people at a gig with a compact camera in their hand love to think they're going home with the best concert pictures possible. Maybe sell them. The reality is MUCH worse.
In Part 1 we learnt no-one is going to get a photo pass to shoot 'The Who' because of thier expensive camera (sorry all you dad's out there). This hasn't been the case for 50 years. Back then Phil Townsend shot the Stones and actually wandered into a room to sit with the Beatles and just started shooting. No pass, no questions... These days are gone..
Photographers , are considered a nuisance these days. They are kept away from artists unless they arel known and trusted and they want them there for some reason.
Not only that but these days passes are like giving away a free ticket. Due to health and safety regulations buildings have maximum capacities. The more staff, guests, photographers and hangers on, the less tickets they can sell. If it's a sell out gig (as many are these days due to marketing through common user groups like facebook and fan clubs websites) guests are at a minimum because it actually costs them.
Passes are granted because they want a photographer there to allow acces for local publications, local magazines and to keep these review and more importantly preview publications on-side. Thats pretty much it. Tour managers, managers and promotors also want to control the level of publicity their band gets. They will often not want you shooting the whole gig because it doesnt help them entice people in if you've taken a photograph of the best part of the show that they were hoping word of mouth was going to sell them more tickets. They also like people with experience. I reently saw a photographer and journalist wander down tot he front of a seated quiet low key gig at the start of song six, beers in hand and hope to be able to shoot away.
With that in mind and the fact that promotors are extremely busy and do not have the time or inclination to do favours for unknown individuals. What go you really think your chances of getting a photo pass are? It's down to the music photographer to do the leg work. I started to wonder about how effective this is as a use of my time. Fortunately I absolutely love it and am prepared to get knocked back 99% of the time.
In my opinion the best way forward is to approach publications and ask if they need shots for upcoming events which they hope to review. Sadly many have no money for reviews but may consider a preview, for which they need shots for a gig that hasn't happened yet. So are you prepared to approach the promotor, offer to shoot a gig for free, go miles away to that gig, shoot it and GIVE the images to the promotor AND the publication? You need to be VERY driven and have the means to do it if you're hoping for early doors at major events and have spare days to organise and the self-esteem to deal with rejections.
Failing all this, the burning reality is to shoot smaller gigs as expressed in part one of this series. Start with local bands. Maybe you'll get noticed but regardless you're learning and you're also getting some exposure and you never know who you're going to meet. I shoot for a couple of publications now and Im still doing this bit because it' is not only a great way to learn and practice but a lot of fun and if you're serious and professional your bands and managers wil appreciate your efforts
Yes, become a music photographer, now. but be careful.
Rock photography is fun so just start taking music photos. Until your told to stop.
In the past I've just turned up and started shooting, totally hassle free ..... its better if you know the band they know you're there.
On small scale gige this can be OK, but its a fine line between this and trouble. Remember it only needs one busy body to notice you, especialy if you're being a pain and then cause trouble for you. Obviously keep yourself low key. Wear black, stay out of view of the crowd. Dont strut about. But if security collar you anyway, you have to put your camera away. And you will, because without consent you are on thin ice reardless of who you are in your day job, how much money your camera cost or whatever.
If thi shappens, put your camera away , no complaints. Be gracious. The promoter may have arrangements in place with others that you are contravening. They may have a policy that they HAVE to stick to. You dont know. Even instructions from the police regarding security. You don't know. Whatever the reason is they are more likely to try to work out something for you or be nice with you in the future if you are respectful of the rules, which they may well not personally agree with. But you can be assured that if you upset them, the venue the promotor or the management then its going to be difficult later on.
Security can be awkward with you any time they like, even if you are meant to be there. Scenario, imagine you are sent by a paper to shoot a big concert and then you get turned away because of your reputation. Always side with security and the rules. I will regardless, even if this means asking a promotor to confirm the arrangements by pointing out other photographers who are breaking the rules and about to ruin it for everyone.
Repeat the band photography at small gigs and start taking music and concert pictures, its worth it.
.... a cool little secret for becoming a rock photographer.
I started shooting local bands and doing what I could for them. If you like and believe in them then it's a lot easier because you dont mind giving them time and you will also be invited because you are known and they like you. From this position you will end up shooting them repeatedly and this is important because you will get a chance to develop your technique in turning a performers known moves into great images. You learn to prepare for a move, set the shutter speed for what you know is coming. It becomes part of your process. You can only practice this when you are shooting someone who you can predict a little.
Secondly, they know you are there. People know you are with the band and no-one asks you what you're doing or gets in the way.
Better still, when you walk in to a gig or venue for the first time you can sometimes feel a little uneasy if you arent sure whats what. This can lead you to wasting a bit of time and effort worrying where you fit in. But not if you're part of the gang, with the band etc... . Without this playing on your mind you can focus on the background, the test shots, get a feel for the venue and even plan some shots, knowing your subjects.
Thirdly, they might even buy you a drink, a slice of pizza, maybe even tell their friends about you, even possibly even pay for prints, and probably in precisely this order.
So you've shot great concert pictures.. show one concert photo and keep the rest back.
Concert pictures can be samey. Dont show everything. Keep it sweet.
I dont wish to be unkind but no-one cares about your rock photography, your music photographer hopes, your "concert pictures business", your expectations, your time, your gear or how much you've spent (sorry, invested). People only care ever so slightly more about your concert pictures and your willingness to please and be liked (sorry help them). They are busy and they know the pecking order.
With that said it become easier to note the importance of making it easy for people view your concert pictures. So keep your rock photography portfolio accessible.
I once shot an exhausting and all day event for a music promoter and the gave them all the good concert pictures. This was daft. The lovely lady who was helping me simply didn't have the time to popur through all the shots. So she just grabbed whatever.
After you've shot the gig, choose your best concert pictures and give them over, If you have similar shots then choose one concert photo and place the others somewhere safe.
For your portfolio, choose your best 30 or so photographs and get them seen. you can do more than this if you use an online service like flickr. I use a flickr pro account so I can hide, show, collect, and manage them saving untold hassle.
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