What does a music photographer do? What’s the workflow for a music photographer? How does a typical day/weekend look like for a music photographer?
Well, thanks for checking in here. I am trying to answer some of these questions here in this blog post.
First of all, there are a few variations of music photography out there. There are folks that for example shoot for festivals and their organizers. There are photographers that shoot for magazines and newspapers. And there are photographers that work for bands directly.
Shooting For Bands Directly
In this post I am going to look mostly into the third variation – shooting for bands directly. I have done and am still shooting entire festivals sometimes. Also spend a few years shooting for newspapers and online event galleries. But especially with working for newspaper there’s one thing that started to limit me – the 3-song rule. Having a media pass for a festival or a concert is a fantastic thing, but most venues and organizers limit the actual shooting time to the first three songs per band. That means – you only get the chance to be between the crowd and the stage area for the first three songs per set.
Working with the 3-song rule was a fantastic way to get started with band photography, as I was able to learn more about the light, about how artists move on stage, and so on. But, there is always that limitation in terms of angles and shots you can get. And then, at some point, I decided to go for more, to get out of my comfort zone, to get in contact with bands.
Fast forward, one of my favourite german bands – ANTIHELD – took me over as their main photographer for their live shows. We started off into a crazy year in 2019, with a tour before the festival season, then the main festival season during summer followed by another tour during autumn.
Working as a band photographer gives you one very big advantage. You’re part of the actual crew, you’re allowed to be everywhere where the band is. Aka – you can get on stage during the show. A big win!
Enough introduction, here’s how a weekend as a music photographer looks like:
We usually started our adventures Thursday morning, where the whole crew met in Stuttgart. It’s loading the vehicle time, all the equipment needs to get onto the car/van/bus (depends how the bands travels). And that is followed by the most exciting part of being a band photographer: the endless hours spend on the road (just kidding). Working in the music industry goes hand in hand with endless hours on the road. It’s a great time for a photographer to go through photos and do some editing on the road as there is not much to do.
Bands usually have to be at the venue quite a few hours before their show. That gives the time needed to set up the stage as well as doing the light and sound checks with the crew. A great opportunity for me to start working on some of the key shots. These are for example the light and sound check, photos of the crew and the roadies/backliners setting up the stage. My ANTIHELD boys were fantastic with the soundcheck, heaps of great photo opportunities there. Being on location early also gives me the opportunity to look for special angles, that way I can plan my photos better.
Showtime. Well, time to get some work done. Learning a bands chemistry and their setlist is key here, that will give you the knowledge of what is going to happen next. Time to work on more keyshots like photos of the crowd, photos of the band interacting with the crowd, portrait photos of each band members and so on. But the work does not stop after the actual show, there are more photos to be taken when the band members give autographs, photos with fans, more backstage photos.
Are you a person that loves a stable rhythm with your going-to-bed and waking up time? Congrats, band photography is your big jackpot. We had some shows in Switzerland where the guys had their show around midnight. Given the 90 minutes long set and the time to clear the stage plus load the van after the show plus a drink or two backstage sounds like a bedtime later than 3am. Take into consideration that your next show’s venue might be a 7-10 hours drive you see yourself waking up at 6am again.
That’s the hard part for me, a weekend off with the band usually ends up with a bit of a lack of sleep. Anyways, time to hit the road again. I am spending the next few hours going through the photos in order to get a few ones ready for immediate posting. That’s a really important one as bands can provide their fans and followers with fresh content pretty much on a daily base.
Things are on repeat now. Arrival at the location, setting up the stage, soundcheck, dinner, photos backstage, getting the key shots.
Showtime again. New venue, new crowd, new possibilities for photos. More photos after the show, photos backstage. In the mean time – charging the batteries. Having a set of spare batteries helps a lot. I’m usually trying to get my charging unit set somewhere on the side of the stage, that way I can swap my batteries easily.
Are you interested in more insights into the actual photography during the shows? Go check out my blog about the TOP 5 Music Photography Skills.
Saturday + Sunday:
Repeat the same madness another two times.
Back home towards Stuttgart. We either got back Sunday (if there wasn’t a show Sunday night), or we made it back home Monday. Time for some well needed rest. But also time for sorting photos as well as editing photos. I usually try to get my work finished as fast as possible, so that I can focus on different projects during the two days off – Tuesday and Wednesday – before the madness repeats itself for another weekend.
Is it super exhausting? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes! Travelling and taking photos with a band has given me so many new opportunities, it pushed my creativity to a whole new level. The moments around the shows, the energy on stage, the times backstage are just priceless. I am beyond grateful for every single moment I had so far as a band photographer, and I am looking forward for many more days of music photography.
A short note on the equipment that I use: I am shooting a Nikon D850 with a 14-24mm F2.8, a 50mm 1.8 and a 70-200mm 2.8. With these lenses I’m able to get the super wide angled crowd shots from the stage, but I’m also able to get portraits and close up photos.
I hope you guys enjoyed these insights into the weekend of a band photographer. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! I really hope to see you all out there again really soon.