There can be little more exciting in life than sticking bits of yellow foam in your ears, flashing the hallowed press pass and setting up camp in the pit at the very front of the stage in front of your heroes. That said, if you are only allowed to shoot the first three songs (and sometimes less), with no flash, and you are competing with other photographers for that one special shot then there is little room for error and a firm grasp of your camera and what it can do for you is essential.
So – what are the very basics? In no particular order:
- Be prepared. Make sure you have the relevant paperwork or pass to get your gear into the building, let alone the photo pit.
- Have the initial settings dialed in to your camera before you enter the pit, and if you don’t have a top light on your camera ensure you remember to take a small torch (just don’t shine it towards the performer or other photographers).
- Wear earplugs, and take plenty of spares. You will not be allowed in the pit without them and it’s not the job of the venue to provide them. Remember, they are used to save your hearing – they are not there to make you look professional! Basic earplugs can be purchased very cheaply, but some regular pros will invest in much more expensive custom fitted plugs.
- If you have the chance, always shoot the support act. This will give you time to make changes to your camera settings to adjust for the lighting in the venue. It will also give you a good idea of where to stand for the best angles and the length of lens required for particular shots.
- Be polite to everyone – from the band’s agent and crew to the venue staff and other photographers. And don’t forget the fans – they paid to be at the gig and are hoping to see their heroes close up, not the back of your head!
- Take plenty of memory cards and always shoot RAW (more on that in a future post).
These are just a few of the basics that spring to mind. I will post soon on bodies and lenses and settings common to gig photographers. That said, if you find a different way of delivering a mind-blowing portfolio then feel free to stick with what you do. There are no hard and fast rules in art, and those that break the rules are the ones that become the trendsetters. I will also break down my settings for some of the shots in the galleries to give a very clear idea of what I did on the day, issues encountered, and what I could have done better.