Hello there fellow photographer, thanks for being here. I’m going to talk about my experiences as a band photographer here in this article, sharing some of my knowledge about becoming and being a band photographer.
Now, since starting photography a few years ago I’ve always dreamt about being a band photographer. There is definitely a huuuuge attraction towards that lifestyle.
This blog article focusses on the actual band photography, but pretty much the same skills also apply for any type of event/music/concert and festival photography. So, what makes a good band photographer?
Here are my TOP 5 SKILLS:
1. Be brave, be confident
That’s going to sound weird, but jumping into the world of music photography can be a brave step. Not all photographers, but many of us (including my personality), tend to be more introverted personalities. Musicians (as well as pretty much any artists as well) often share the same personality type, lot’s of them also tend to be introverted. Sounds understandable so far?
Now, introverts and introverts together should usually work out quite fine, right? Let’s see what happens when artists jump onto a stage. There is a big change of personalities going on, the person on stage is that outgoing and super extroverted rockstar. What about you, as a photographer? It takes some balls to get out onto a stage, to work on your craft, your images, in front of a big crowd.
Jumping onto a stage with 10.000 people is a big thing. It’s going to feel uncomfortable first, but remind yourself: You got this, you know what you’re doing. You spend hours and hours of practicing, of getting better in what you’re doing. Get out there, be proud of what you’re doing, and get these shots!
2. Make your personality fit to the band members
Living on the road together with a bunch of musicians plus their crews is an exciting thing. But, as with anything, there are some downsides here.
A musicians life consists of 5% showtime, 25% waiting time, and 70% road time (that’s at least how it feels -> correct me if I’m wrong). The waiting time is the time where their crew is setting up the stage. Band members either help with setting up the stage, or they get ready for the show. The road time is the time where you get to know everyone quite well. Spending 5-10 hours per day on the road is a fairly normal amount of time (so joining a band during the summer festival time from Thursday to Monday you’ll spend around 15 to 50 hours in a car/van/bus).
I am a fan of joining the bands in their bus or van as you’re going to get to know the guys very well. On top of that, lot’s of fun moments happen along the road. Moments you can capture with your camera.
It’s important to adapt your personality to the bands chemistry. Or vice versa: Find bands that fit to your personality. You’re going to spend a lot of time with these guys, so make sure you’re getting along quite well.
From my talks and experiences to band members it’s of a very high importance for them to have crew members and photographers/videographers that “fit”. Have in mind that bands are going to choose their photographers according to their personality.
I’m a person that can easily adapt to any surrounding. But the most fun and the best moments happen with bands that share the same ideas, that have the same vibe.
3. Be fast
This one goes hand in hand with all your technical knowledge as well as knowing your camera gear. Be ready to shoot pretty much anytime! Having your camera ready and set up with the correct settings is the key.
Shooting concerts and festivals is a huge thing. There is so much going on at any given time. If you’re following along a band as their photographer you’re on the hunt for fun moments, for moments outside the usual routine. Bands usually create a lot of these moments, but they also usually don’t wait for their photo and filmcrew to capture them. So be ready to shoot anytime.
4. Forget all your technical knowledge, go for the moment
Remember what I just said at point 3? Know your camera gear, have all the technical knowledge, and be fast.
Wait, what? Yes, forget everything you’ve learned about the technical aspects of photography (well not all of it, but most of it). That was a really hard one to learn for me, as I’m always aiming for the best technical photo possible.
But: What if you’re missing out of a great moment because a) you’re settings are wrong b) the light is too dark c) the light is too bright d) you got the wrong lens e)…
We photographers tend to pay a lot of attention to the technical aspect of an image. Bands and their fans don’t. They look for moments. Let me repeat that: The people that are going to watch your images look for moments.
After about 50/60 shows it totally clicked for me. The moment matters, not my personal understanding of technical photography. That totally changed my whole understanding of creating photos, especially for artists. The light situations are quite often (horrible) not the best ones, but the moment’s matter. My approach after learning that particular lesson changed to shoot any moment. It pushed me a 100% to read the light fast, set up the camera in manual setting really quick, and trust the process. That means:
Shoot that moment with an ISO 15.000, just do it. It hurts (still hurts me every time), but the moment photography you’re getting out of imperfect images is amazing!
5. Be a ghost
Last but not least, my favourite one: Be a ghost.
Now, human beings tend to put their “camera face” on once they see a camera pointing towards them. That rule pretty much applies to anybody on this planet. Bands are the same, their dynamic changes as soon as a photographer or videographer is around.
That by itself is not a bad thing, but it does not give you the opportunity to shoot “raw” moments, to take fully authentic photos.
What solves that problem? Be a ghost. Bands know that I’m around (that’s why they book me), but they sometimes don’t see me for a longer time. I quite often take myself back and shoot out of a distance. During shows I wear black clothing so that neither band members nor fans can see me on stage. That gives me the opportunity to shoot authentic photos as band members and their crews do not have their camera face on, they are normal human beings.
6. Bonus point: Know what’s going on – Ask!
Going through my database of photos to share some of them here in this blog post, I realized another very important point. Know what’s going on. Know the setlist, know if the band interacts with the crowd in a specific way (like band members going into the crowd for example).
It’s also good to ask the tour- and the stagemanager about the shows. I had shows where the tourmanager had some special effects (for example a special pyro-show) planned without telling the band members. Having that knowledge will allow you to plan out some of your photos.
That’s it for today, hope you guys enjoyed the TOP 5 SKILLS for band photography.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments, what are you experiences with bands?