Sunday, May 6, 2007

Concert Photography

Hollywood - Shooting a concert sounds like a great gig. Getting paid to shoot legendary artists from the front row. It's not bad, but there are a few caveats.

Saturday I was at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theater in Hollywood to shoot Hullabaloo, a benefit concert featuring Edder Vedder of Pearl Jam fame and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Any photographer who shoots concerts knows the drill. First you can't shoot the whole concert. Back in the day, early 1980's you could hang out and shoot and watch the whole show. Now you can shoot certain songs. Some artists allow you to shoot the first two or three songs. Some stipulate an odd arrangement of songs in the middle.

Eddie Vedder only wanted photographers to shoot the fourth song. The Red Hot Chili Peppers wanted only the first two songs to be shot. I have shot U2, and they allowed the first five songs. A couple of weeks ago at the Ricky Martin concert at the Staples Center, you were allowed the first two. The other thing during the performance, is no flash photography. Available darkness only.

I don't really know what changed in the mid-80's. But it became standard for concert photographers.

Here are some tips on shooting concerts.

First bring ear protection. You could be shooting right next to a stack of speakers and the last thing you want is to lose hearing on the job.

Second, bring a flashlight. When the performance starts, its pitch black, a flashlight comes in handy if you have to fiddle with camera equipment or just find your way when your escorted out after the shooting time expires.

The third thing is to make sure you have the right lens in advance of the concert. A small club venue like the Music Box Theater, a wide-angle and a medium telephoto lens is all you need. But at the Staples Center and other 20,000 seat arenas, they might put you back behind the sound board, which could be 200 feet away from the stage. You better have a fast 400mm lens or you will basically shooting wide shots of the whole stage instead of dramatic shots of the lead singer.

The last bit of advice is understand that you will have a very limited time shooting so have a plan of action in place. If you need shots of the drummer or bassist, make a mental note before the concert. Plan on shooting some wider shoots along with tighter shots, two or three cameras make sense, you don't want to waste time changing lenses. Shoot very heavy, the lighting changes a lot during most concerts and you want to get as many photos as possible in that short amount of time.


Anonymous said...

Us video guys had to shoot from the way back. Hence some of the shaky camera work.

Here's a link to 16 videos from that night.

We have an recap piece with an interview with Flea that we should have up pretty soon. But for now enjoy these songs:

Red Hot Chili Peppers:

Dani California
Scar Tissue
By The Way

Eddie Vedder, Flea, Jack Irons:


Eddie Vedder, Flea, Steve Jones, Jack Irons:
The Kids Are Alright

Eddie Vedder:

No More War
I Am Mine

There's also Mickey Avalon videos if you are interested.

Christopher Blunck said...

How did you get started in concert photography?

I'm trying to get started in sports and I'm finding it very difficult to get passes to shoot (even if you're offering to give the photos to someone for free in exchange for the pass).

Do you have any advice on how to get started?

Francis Specker said...

Getting access to events is not easy. When I first started photography in college, I worked on a student newspaper where I could shoot sports and concerts through the newspaper. My suggestion is to get affiliated with a local newspaper to get access. Many times local newspapers are inundated with assignments that they can't cover. You could be the go-to guy for all sorts of assignments. If the pay is bad, try to leverage some of the access to events by hooking up with either a photo agency that can sell your photos, or if your are shooting youth sports, try selling prints to parents. Pro sports will only deal with publications that cover the team already. Many times a smaller newspaper will have a writer at events, but not a photographer. Seek those publications out.

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David said...

I try to shoot from the crowd some after getting my few songs in the pit. Angles can be good and encores often lend to some good opportunities. Got lots of new concert photography galleries up on my site.

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