Sherilea Gaspar of GAS Photographic complained about noob photographers’ lack of etiquette recently. It reminded me of this article that was left having a party in my Drafts folder. I decided to finish it for the sake of veteran music photographers all around the world.
I went one step further and will be straining my brain to give out handy dandy bits of info that will help anyone get better in this field. This guide comes to you from the perspective of a pit photographer with some unconventional advice.The Basics
I’m actually going to start with the kind of personality you need to do concert photography. You must be a social anti-social person. You must be social enough to network with the other photographers, PR people and managers that you might find at concerts. However, you must be anti-social enough to deal with the extended periods of time where you’ll find yourself alone shooting shows. This happens because you’re on assignment and likely won’t have a bestie photographer friend who is working too.You’re going to need to know your camera pretty well to engage in music photography. I will not go into camera settings or actual gear choices because I believe that they form the basis of a photographer’s shooting style but I will tell you to learn to love shooting in Manual. This applies especially if you’re working with a camera that has an APS-C sensor because it struggles in really low-light situations. That whole thing of not being able to take great photos because of your gear is a lie. In fact, one of the images in this guide was taken with a Canon T1i Rebel (500D) and a kit lens. Can you tell me which one it is without checking the EXIF data? You need to work with a series of trade-offs. You have to work around your camera’s strengths and weaknesses.Your camera doesn’t do so well in low light?
Make a portfolio of shooting great images during the day, get a lens with a wider aperture, learn to make ISO 800 or 1600 your light sensitivity playground or learn how to edit noise out of your photos.
You don’t have a fancy zoom lens?
Start shooting concerts at your local club because you’ll be right in the musician’s face.You often won’t be allowed to use a flash from the pit, so get over it. It’s distracting to the musicians and it often makes your photos look like hell because there are smoke machines going off everywhere.
The last point of The Basics is ear plugs.The photo pit is normally right in front of one of the main sound systems. If you like your hearing and don’t care for pre-mature deafness then make sure you take along some ear plugs.Etiquette
With international acts you’re typically going to get to shoot the first three songs, it is a minimum of 6 minutes. If you need more than 6 minutes to get a decent shot then you don’t know what you’re doing. Learn to work quickly.
I’ve been in photo pits that have been crazily packed and those always suck because there is the danger of falling with all your camera gear or ruining someone’s shot. I insist that you should always aim to be polite in the pit. If you’re really gunning for an angle then get there early to get a good position but don’t hog that position, move around once you have your shot. Give someone else the chance to shoot from that position.Another thing that bothers me is when photographer reach. An arsebadger will stick their camera right in the artist’s face with their long arms or a monopod. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that it’s my life’s ambition to take photos of your camera in the artist’s face. Put the camera down.
I also don’t like the media people that run into the photo pit with their iPhones and giant Samsung things, especially when space is a problem in the pit. Your blurry Instagram photo of the band is not the most important thing in the world. The most amazing Tumblr exists to expose people like this. You can check out Assholes In The Photo Pit.The last thing regarding etiquette is a sense of professionalism when you’re shooting in the photo pit. Maintain your p-p-p-poker face even when you are experiencing your favourite act in the world. I’ve watched photographers put down their cameras and dance in the pit and it doesn’t look good. I’ve also seen angry fans who have been standing waiting in the front for their favourite act for six hours chuck cans, cups, liquids and those damn inflatable balls at photographers because they think their view is being blocked for no reason. Shoot your songs and then go cry from joy or dance in the back.Your Shots
Composition plays a big role in image making. In terms of music photography, you’re going to look for images that don’t include the artist chowing their microphone. You can take these images when they lean away from the mic. Another thing to note is that you shouldn’t cut off the head of the guitar in your photos. It’s almost like the guitar maker’s calling card and you can use that to your advantage one day. Other advice tips here include not forgetting to shoot the drummer and the crowd reactions. There is so much more to consider, a concert isn’t just about the acts. Tell a story with your images.This was my minor rant and attempt at collectively lowering the blood pressures of music photographers all over the world. If you have any suggestions then just lay them on me in the comment section.