Location, Location, Location and then some more Part II

Hello Everyone,

Continuing with the dissection of venues I take photographs at (I could have totally said shoot at and saved myself a few key strokes but with all the gun violence around I feel like somehow i’m promoting it. Weird I know) todays candidate is The Danforth Music Hall.

With a capacity of nearly 1500 souls it’s one of my favourite music venues in the city.

Below is an approximation of what the layout looks like:

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 5.39.56 PM

The legend goes as follows:

The little man its YOU!!! Those are possible spots where you could be standing. My favourite is (A), the photo pit, whenever there is one that is.  If there is no pit and there is enough space to move around I’d like to employ a technique called “Shoot around the clock“.

Typically I’ll start in either (B) or (F). Take a few shots and move to (C). Take a few shots and move to either (B) or (F), depending on where I started. Repeat ad nauseum until your three songs are over.

If the place is sold out, and based the homework I’ve done on the band, I may choose to stay in (F) or (B) for two songs and then move to the balcony.

The balcony, YES!!!!!!! The Danforth has a balcony that gives your shots a unique perspective. I recommend, that when possible, your last 30 seconds are spent shooting from either (D) or (E).

Normally by the time you are done at the Danforth you will feel like you just did the London marathon. Bring water. No, really, bring water.

What gear do I bring?

  1. Nikon D810 and D750
  2. Cotton Carrier light belt with two camera setup. Like it better than the alternatives out there.
  3. Memory cards: 3 Lexar  SD 64Gb and one Lexar CF 64Gb.

If there is a photo pit:

  1. 70-200mm on the D750. Heavy lens, light body. Mainly side shots and drummer.
  2. 24-70mm on the D810.The D810 will be my main camera in the pit.
  3. Think Tank TurnStyle 20 camera bag.

If there is no photo pit:

  1. Stool to stand on (trust me it does make a difference). Use the stool while on (B), (C) and/or (F).
  2. 70-200mm on the D810. Wide shots of the band plus single body shots of individual performers.
  3. 200-500mm on the D750. Mostly for portraits and extreme close up of the performers.
  4. Manfrotto 3N1-25 Pro Lite Backpack

What are my camera settings for this venue?

  1. D810 set to Manual,  1/200, F4, Auto ISO (6400 max) to start. I will change it on the fly depending on the circumstances i.e how much light there is.
  2. D750 set to Manual, 1/500, F4, Auto ISO (6400 max) to start. As above I will change the settings on the fly as needed based on the circumstances. On the D750 I will go up to ISO 12800 if needed. Who is afraid of the noise? Not me.

Below are some examples of images taken in this venue.

  1. 200-500 From (B)

for blog (2 of 5)

2. 70-200mm form the back of the room by the soundboard (C)

Indie folk band from England, DAUGHTER performed a sold out show at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. In picture: ELENA TONRA, IGOR HAEFELI, REMI AGUILELLA

3.  70-200mm from the balcony (E)

Indie folk band from England, DAUGHTER performed a sold out show at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. In picture: ELENA TONRA, IGOR HAEFELI, REMI AGUILELLA

4. 200-500mm from (B)

for blog (3 of 5)

5. 70-200mm from (B)

for blog (1 of 5)

I hope you enjoyed this article. Stay tuned for more eventually, on a computer near you, at some point in time.



Location, Location, Location and then some more

Hello chaps and chapettes,

One of the most daunting things ever experienced by a “new” live music photographer has to be arriving at a new venue and not having the foggiest clue as to where the hell you need to be in order to get the best images possible or what gear/settings will work best.

Well fret no more!!!! In today’s post I’m going to go over one of my favourite concert venues and open up its secrets for you all (mandatory disclaimer:  This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the photography community out there in the wild. In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time…I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind).

Ok, so with that out of the way, LET’S GET ON WITH IT!!!

Today’s venue is LEEs PALACE

Below is an approximation of the layout of Lees Palace.

Lee's Palace

The legend goes as follows:

The little man represents YOU!!! Those are possible spots where you could be standing. My favourite are (A) and (B). They are elevated and put you above the crowd on the dance floor. Gives you great side shots that can become frontal if the performer moves around. Plus there are columns here that help maintain a steady position when shooting at low speeds.

I’m not a big fan of (D) and (C) because a) you have to be there early or shove yourself to the front to get to the spots and b) I’m not a big fan of the “I can see up your nostrils” image since there is a distance of about 1.5 meters in height.

(E) is good to get full band shots. Depending on how crowded it is you may have to rely on the benevolence of the paying public. Be nice, don’t linger..get the shot and move on.

(F) is a little bit of a gamble but you can get some great side shots form here. Just remember to stay on this side of the room. You are not allowed to go past the line. Don’t get banned for being an idiot. Don’t go past the line. Don’t screw up your fellow photographers.

The little people going up and down stairs are just that: Stairs.

What gear do I bring?

  1. Nikon D810 and D750
  2. 70-200mm on the D810. It allows you to get full body shots and zoom in for portraits shots. The D810 will be my main camera while on (A) and (B)
  3. 24-70mm on the D750. Mainly for crowd and full frontal band shots where I want to capture more of the atmosphere in the venue.
  4. Stool to stand on (trust me it does make a difference. If you haven’t got one, grab one of the bar chairs. Just be careful, they are not very stable. Use the stool while on (A) or (B). Not recommended for (C) and (D) for obvious reasons. But hey if you want to win a Darwin Award, be my guest.
  5. Cotton Carrier light belt with two camera setup. Like it better than the alternatives out there.
  6. Memory cards: 3 Lexar  SD 64Gb and one Lexar CF 64Gb.
  7. Think Tank TurnStyle 20 camera bag.

What are my camera settings for this venue?

  1. D810 set to Manual,  1/125, F4, Auto ISO (6400 max) to start. I will change it on the fly depending on the circumstances.
  2. D750 set to Manual, 1/160, F4, Auto ISO (6400 max) to start. As above I will change the settings on the fly as needed based on the circumstances. On the D750 I will go up to ISO 12800 if needed. Who is afraid of the noise? Not me.

Below are some examples of images taken in this venue. Images 1, 2 and 5 are taken from (B). Image 3 is taken from (E). Image 4 is taken from (F). Images 1,2,3 and 4 are taken with the 70-200mm. Image 5 is taken with the 24-70mm.


I hope you enjoyed this article. Stay tuned for more eventually, on a computer near you, at some point in time.



I hate you so much right now!!! But in a nice way

Hello Chaps and Chapettes,

As promised in my last post, today’s post is all about that skeleton in the middle of the room people don’t like to talk about: What to do when your images are used without your consent.

There are as many opinions on this subject as there are MB in my D810. My personal opinion and choice is that I don’t stand by when I see it happen and I will take it as far as necessary in order to protect my creative work.

On an earlier post I gave you a brief insight as to what to do if your image was found in the most popular social media sites.

Today I’m going to share with you three real life examples and how I went about to tackle them. Remember, this is how I chose to deal with them, not how you should. One size does not fit all, I’m afraid.

Example 1

The first example is the classic example of a site using your image yet there is no record of the image having been licensed for that particular use.

Blog_Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 12.49.33 AM copy

In this case you could argue that since my watermark was still in the image there was no real damage. WRONG!!!! The image was still used without my permission to promote an event. I wrote a quick email to the offending party and the image was promptly removed and another image put in its place. Everyone is happy and we all live to see another day.

Example 2

The second example involves an actual modification of my image. To the left the modified image (Who the hell is TNS?). To the right, the original.

BlogScreen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.40.35 PM copy.pngContract photographer

Can you spot the difference? I mean REALLY?!? Can you spot it???? Yep! Someone went to the trouble to actually photoshop my watermark out. That, ladies and gentleman, is outright theft. Once again, a quick email to the offending parties and even though I didn’t get a response back (When did common courtesy become a thing of the past?), when I checked a few days later the requested changes had been done.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 7.59.19 PM.png

Example 3

Example three is probably the most personal one. You see, the other two I was dealing with faceless people. People I will probably never meet. Names behind an anonymous e-mail address. This example deals with your own backyard.

I was invited as media to a show in a local venue. Photographed the bands, provided the images to the organizer as per the agreement and proceeded to post the photos as usual in my social media sites. Then, by chance, lo and behold the lead singer of one of the band posted one of the images in  their instagram account (one that I’m actually pretty fond of, the image that is), heavily cropped, with no watermark and no credit. This individual should have known better so after requesting credit and not getting it, I decided to apply my own advice as per this post.

It didn’t go down very well


So much hate contained in such a small space. You could say that I was actually being bullied at the time. No that I gave a shit. Been there, done that and bought a T-Shirt.

My response was a very simple “Thank you for your note. I wish you all the best in the future.” There was and there is no need to engage someone that reacts to a reasonable request in such a disproportionate way.

Was it worth it? Yes. As photographers we already give away too much for nothing. We give our time. We give our money (Hey those parking tickets aren’t paying them by themselves), we give our savoir faire (fancy french words meaning “to know (how) to do”) to make these bands look like a million dollars (Anyone ever heard the phrase “An image is worth a thousand words? I rest my case). The least they could do is return the favour.

Needless to say I have never photographed this band again and I will never will. As for the threats, I’ll let you be the judge of that. A younger photographer without a solid financial position may have fallen for the bravado and somehow even apologized for having the boldness of asking for credit. Don’t. It’s not worth your integrity as a person first and as a professional photographer second.

And that is it folks. On my next post I’m going to go over my favourite venues in detail. One at a time. A sort of “Venue Manual”.

Until then stay strong and keep shooting.


PS: Careful what you post in the internet….it never forgets…the internet that is.

It just wasn’t built in a day

Hello!!! Its been a while since the last time I posted anything. I could lie to you and tell you that my mega busy schedule got in the way. That I had to save the world from an impending alien attack. That I got abducted by the gnomes living in my cupboard and was whisked away to far far worlds in a galaxy far away. I could, but I won’t.

Basically I just got lazy. Yep good old laziness got the best of me. So what changed? What changed indeed. Well, I realized I still have things to say and share with all of you. So lets get sharing shall we?.

In earlier posts, you probably noticed how I didn’t paint a rosy image about becoming a live music photographer. Well that image has not changed. It is still the same.

I see a lot of sites popping up trying to sell you the dream. “Follow my online course and you will become a concert photographer”, “Buy my videos and you will be a pro and get in to concerts” etc. The thing is, when you dig deeper you realize that most of this people always show the same handful of images that somehow made them “famous”. They are good images, meant to woo you, but there is no evidence of progression. Its as if they just stopped there and now want to reap the easy money by selling the dream to others.

While you may be able to learn something there is no secret magic potion number 10 to become a concert photographer. You should spend your money in the things you really are going to need. Things like gear, books, etc. You should become a photographer first and then branch out to your favorite subject.

All you need is the willingness to go the extra mile and to get up when you fall. And trust me, you will fall. Oh yes! You will fall many times. Put this (Chumbawamba – Tubthumping) on your music player and just get up and keep on moving. And if you feel like you can’t do it on your own, reach out. I’m always happy to help and listen.

Find yourself a mentor. Someone local who is willing to teach you. Someone who is still out and about shooting live music. I did. I found the amazing Igor Vidyashev. I didn’t sign immediately for his classes. I studied his work. Spoke with him whenever we met. I saw what he did and how he did it. I saw progress. I saw someone that I could/would learn from and continue to learn from for years to come. I ended taking his photography lessons and I haven’t look back since. I invested in my future.

Find a photographers meet up. Join a club. Do something! Stagnation is your enemy.

At the end, Its all about hard work. And hard work does, eventually pay. I started on this lonely road on a cold night on the 14th of December 2013. Two years and a bit later and I have just had my first published Photograph in the polish edition of Newsweek.


How did I do it? It wasn’t easy. I got rejected multiple times by press agencies (see sample below), blogs, etc. Brought me back down to earth in such a brutal and clear way that left me with no doubt that what I was doing was not up to the standards that the industry was looking for/needed regardless of how many likes I got on Twitter or Instagram.


I must have sent several hundred e-mails. I got maybe 4-5 responses that were all too similar to the example above. I didn’t give up though. I said to my self that every year, on that same date I will send a new batch of e-mails.

“Guys who want to shoot concerts are a dime a dozen”. It hurts eh? But its true. I printed the above e-mail and put it in a place where every time I went out to shoot I could see it right on my face and it would remind me that I didn’t want to be part of the dime a dozen bucket. I wanted to be in the $100K a dozen bucket. It became and still is my motivation to go out there and be the best I can be.

September last year I became part of ZUMA Press, one of the world’s largest independent press agencies and wire service. This year I got approached by CityPress24 and I have become part of their team. They are big in sports (Ice Hockey, football (soccer)) and that is a field that i’m keen to branch out. New things to shoot and learn from.

And two days ago I shot my first photo-shoot. The Canadian premiere of HBO’s new TV series VINYL.

However I haven’t let all of this get to my head. I’m still a nobody in the photography world. I still shoot for the local blogs. I still shoot small local bands in places with horrible to no lights. Its important not to forget where you came from.

I’m building my castle brick by brick and all I’ve done so far is lay the foundations.

On my next post I’m going to go over how to deal with hate mail. It doesn’t happen very often but when it happens, you should be ready.




All roads start somewhere. Mine is no different…………

Yep. While all roads used to lead to Rome they had to eventually start somewhere else. My journey on this road, I’ve chosen to name “The Adventures and Misadventures of a Live Music Photographer”, started by being in the right place at the right time.

My mate Jim was covering a concert for his blog Danger Canadian Content. He needed someone to take photographs. I love music and photography and never shy away from an opportunity to have a good time, particularly when I was being bribed with unlimited free beer, so I told him I’ll do it. Didn’t think much about it. I mean, how difficult could it be?

The day of the concert, a freezing December night, I showed at Lee’s Palace with the kit shown below:


– Nikon DSLR D5200

– Nikon DX 35mm 1.8

– Nikon DX 18-140mm 3.5-5.6

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: “WTF!!!! I mean seriously mate?”. Well yes. It was all I had at the time and guess what? Because I was unaware of my limitations I didn’t fret about it and just did what I was supposed to do: Take Photographs.

And these are some of the results:

White Cowbell Oklahoma - Lee's Palace - 14-12-2013  White Cowbell Oklahoma - Lee's Palace - 14-12-2013

The above were taken with the Nikon DX 18-140mm 3.5-5.6f ISO 3200 No Flash.

White Cowbell Oklahoma - Lee's Palace - 14-12-2013

This one with the Nikon DX 35mm 1.8f ISO 3200 No Flash.

Sure my composition could have been better. Sure my cropping and post processing could have been better. Sure a “pro” could have done better. But you know what? I don’t give a monkey’s ass. I was happy and so was my mate Jim. And that is all that matters.

It was just the beginning. You don’t have to shoot like a pro from the get go. I mean, what does that even mean? Shooting like a pro?

After the above show Jim “hired” me to be his blog photographer. I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve studied those doing the same thing I wanted to do. The likes of Igor VidyashevBobby Singh, Stephen McGill and many others. I’ve received valuable guidance and constructive criticism from Curtis at Aesthetic Magazine and the continuous support from Alicia at AMBY and Sean and Sarah at Live in Limbo.

So what is the moral of the story and can you just get on with it and stop your ramblings please? Ok, ok. The moral of the story is that if you really, really want to do this all it takes is just a first step. Hopefully the first one of many on you own road to the amazing world of Live Music Photography.

Maybe our roads will intersect one day. If they do, I hope to learn something from you.

Until then, keep shooting.


Three Templates, No Flash…well actually really only one.

Ok so here it is. Feel free to use it or modify it for your needs and no, unlike my photographs you don’t have to give me credit when you use it.

1) Letter / E-mail to request for photographs

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 6.43.36 PM

It is very clear and there is no room for – Opps!! I didn’t know I could not put your photograph in T-Shirts, sell them and not tell you – type of situation.

Although if you use the above you may be accused of and I quote:  “You are the most difficult and overly formal photographer I’ve ever met. Your “packages” are over priced and your emails are filled with so much legal jargon that I’m not surprised to see none of the bands I play with using your work.

We’ll talk about pricing another day but if you get something similar to the above, you are doing it right. Remember, people that want you to not use legal jargon or not be formal, and by that I read professional, will only take advantage of you.

On the next post – Don’t ask me when that is going to be, I’ll be going over my early days. You know gear, settings and so forth. I got a message from a reader asking me to show what kind of gear did I use when I got started. Its a good thing I kept it all.

Somehow, in very polite terms, he didn’t believe that you can get started unless you spend $$$$ (that is emoticons for “mucho dinero”).

Until then, keep shooting away.


Heaven came knocking on your door……..

Well not really…I know it seems like it, but unfortunately you are not there yet cowboy.

What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Didn’t you just receive an e-mail from a band asking, requesting to use your photographs?

ZOMG I is famous!!! A BAND LIKES MY PHOTOGRAPHS!!!- you are thinking while dancing around naked or not in your room. What to do? What to do? You ask yourself. Well slow down cowboy. I’m not about to rain on your parade. Well I am, kind of. Of course its great a band asked for your photographs. You probably got something similar to this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 6.32.16 PM

Probably right now would be a good time to tell you about copyright. It all comes down to this: YOU OWN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS (unless you signed your rights away, but you are cleverer than that, right? right? RIGHT?) and you grant a license for others to use your photographs. However please bear in mind that I’m not a copyright lawyer and that you should contact one if you need absolute certainty. I did.

So what can you do with them? You can only do non-commercial stuff. And by non-commercial I mean commercially mass produced products e.g. posters for sale, t-shirts, clothing, hats, glassware.

However you can sell them as limited edition art prints (no more than 200 prints). Yep! “limited” being the key word here. You can license them to bands/management for a fee or even for free (with certain conditions of course). Yai!!!! Welcome to the “for free” world. You can display them in your portfolio and once you become famous you can sign up with press agencies and get paid every time someone uses your photos for editorial usage.

What can you NOT do. As mentioned above, commercial stuff. You can not put them in T-Shirts and sell said T-Shirts (change T-Shirts for any other commercial item). You can not sell them to a third party for them to use them i.e. Beer company wants to use them in an advert. For all of this you need the band’s permission as they will want, justly, a cut of the pie. If only you also got to eat from that pie.

What can bands do with your photographs once you have given them permission or licensed them to use your images? They may only use the photograph(s) for non-commercial personal use, or to promote the band by, for example, using the photograph(s) in flyers or posters (so long as they are not being resold), on their website or social media pages, or providing the Image(s) to venues, record labels, publications, promoters or representatives, so long as your watermark and copyright information is not removed and the photograph(s) is(are) not modified or altered.  If modifications need to be made to the photograph(s), the band needs to engage you and discuss them with you directly.

Any use of the photographs that is not a listed above (the list is by no means complete) is an infringement of your copyright and the band will/should be held responsible for such infringement. However you will soon find that some bands are above and beyond all that and the moment you contact them about them using your images without permission, you will accused of being a very, very, very evil being. Let me quote you some of my favorites so far: “I don’t like the way you do business, you’re selfish and have no interest in supporting the music community” followed by “your emails are filled with so much legal jargon that I’m not surprised to see none of the bands I play with, using your work”.

I used to contact the bands personally whenever I was alerted/became aware that they were using my photographs without permission but it became so much work that I ended spending more time dealing with this type of issue than taking photographs, so now I just file a DMCA notice and be done with it. For Facebook go here. For Twitter go here. For Instagram go here.

Don’t let a few haters stop you from protecting your intellectual property. Just realize that in the food chain that is the music industry, unless you are a famous photographer, you are the only one working for free and you need to protect your work. And why should that be? Well, If a band wants to use your photographs is because they see value in them. Used properly, photographs can be a very effective marketing tool that could bring more people to their gigs so they can gain fans and ultimately earn more money and street cred (is there such a thing as street cred?). So why shouldn’t you benefit also? And bear in mind that I’m not solely talking about money here. Goods exchange work too.

Imagine the following conversation: “Hey! we saw you taking photos of the band, here is our latest LP or T-Shirt. Would it be ok if we use your photographs? Of course! Thank you very much.” There you go! That wasn’t difficult, was it? These are the bands you want to work and develop a professional relationship with. There are not many, so whenever you stumble upon a band like this, cherish them like you would your most precious possession. Grow with them and you will both mutually benefit from the symbiotic relationship.

So that is pretty much your “101 Copyright DYI” introduction. Since this is your first request, chances are that the band has less money that you do and probably have not heard the term “Photography budget” before. As mentioned above, some bands will exchange T-shirts, CDs and even precious vinyl for your photographs. This is a good deal. Trust me. Particularly at this stage of your music photography career. Other bands will only give you the dreaded “credit”. It sounds like they are doing you a favor. They aren’t, really. You have “credit” the moment you press that button. But hey! its probably better than nothing or better than the alternative i.e. them stealing (lets call it what it is) your images outright.

On our next chat I will give you some templates that you can use to communicate with bands. So much talking has left me parched and I need to refill.

Waiter!! Can you give me the same please mate and thank you.

Its just the beginning……..

Well done mate!!!! Last time we spoke you had just edited 50 odd photographs, trim it down to your best 10-15 and………. Yep! now what?

Well you could start with buying me a pint. Yep Guinness will do nicely, Thank you much fandango.

Sorry what? Ah yes, what to do with your precious photographs? Well you could keep them for yourself or you could share them with the world. By the way by “the world” I mean the band and anyone who follows you on twitter and facebook not your mates down the road or your immediate family. They don;t really count. And you did create your social media sites, didn’t you?

I normally share them in my Facebook page, my twitter feed, my flickr site and the bands Facebook page. Sometimes I mention the promoter’s on twitter if I know who they are and if I have enough space.

Because I’m all for efficiency I actually have all the templates ready and that way I just have to change the band’s name, the band’s twitter address (if they have one. I know in 2015 there are still bands out there without a twitter feed.) and the venue’s name and twitter feed or Facebook page.

Here are some real life samples:


Photographs from the 27th of March concert @ Gladstone Hotel – KINK –> http://goo.gl/ZHK0wP

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 10.14.21 PM

Photos: @kinktheband at @GladstoneHotel –> http://goo.gl/ZHK0wP cc: @dccintdot @MusicPhotogs

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 10.15.27 PM

You are probably wondering three things now: What is that funny www adress? why is there a cc in the twitter feed? and who are those other @’s in the twitter message?

The funny www address is an url shortener. I normally use google but there are others.  The cc is from the old days of typing machines and you use it when you want to copy others that are related to what you are posting about. In this case @dccintdot is a music blog and @musicphotogs is a site dedicated to Music Photographers.

And that is really it. Hopefully the band will re-tweet and “LIKE” your facebook post. And if you are very lucky they may even approach you and ask for your photographs. But more about that once I’m done with this pint and the next one.


And now comes the………

So here you are. You have just finished photographing your first gig. Its 2am and you are so keen to see the fruits of your labour, you just can’t wait.

You get that memory card out of your camera and insert it on your personal computer and begin to copy your files over. The whole 50gb worth of images.

You don’t pay attention to the size but you are annoyed that it will take 35 whooping minutes. Still you stoically wait…and wait…maybe make yourself a cup of tea…..and wait. 35 minutes later you are ready to start.

You fire up Lightroom <insert other editing software> and start going over your photographs. Initial surprise soon gives way to puzzlement followed by horror.

What on earth is this crap!!! Where are all those amazing photographs I saw in the LCD screen of my camera? Why? Oh God, why?

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 8.29.26 PM

Whoa!! Steady old boy. No need to worry because this is how its going to be until you get to shoot in Tier3/4 venues with adequate lights. Tier 1/2 venues have very basic lighting. The dreaded red spot light. The disturbing blue spot light and sometimes the petrifying “shooting in the dark” spot light.

However with a little bit of tweaking in your editing software of choice, the top image can become something that you can frame and hang on a wall like the image below.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 8.32.48 PM

See the difference? How did we get here? Well we use “presets“. Since the purpose of this post is not to spoon feed you but to make you self sufficient i.e. go get your own fish ’cause I’m not fishing for you, I’m going to let you click here and find out about presets by yourself.

It took me many trial and errors until I was happy with the end result but now I have a collections of presets that pretty much mirror what I want to see when I’m pressing that shutter button. You can see a sample of presets on the image below that I use for one of the venues I shoot at. I have a set for every venue.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.04.45 PM

Next post we’ll go over: “What to do once you are done editing”.



What does it take…….

Hello again.

Today we’ll be tackling the “what does it take / what do you need” aspect of music photography.

Before you embark on this road you should get rid of any notions that you may have that somehow makes you think Live music photography is a glamorous hobby/job. It is not. At least not at the very beginning.

This is what you need to get you started:

1) A Camera. For the type of venues you will be shooting initially, any camera would do but a DSLR (entry level) would give you a distinctive advantage and ease your journey down the road; Make sure you have plenty of memory cards (32GB/64GB). Initially you are going to be shooting everything that moves. Expect 400-500 photos per band. This is normal. You are learning. As you gain more experience this number will begin to go down to as little as 80-50 per band out of which you will keep your best 15-20 photographs and then 1-2 for your portfolio. Of course if you are shooting a band that has an amazing stage presence and loves to play to the camera i.e. July Talk then by all means, shoot to your hearts content or until you run out of memory cards.

2) Basic knowledge as to how to operate your camera. You should know about ISO, Aperture, and shutter speed and how they each interact with each other. Knowing this could be the difference between a blurred photograph or a sharp one. Try to start shooting manual as soon as possible and always shoot RAW. Will make editing easier.

3) Ear plugs! Ear plugs! Ear plugs!. Did I say ear plugs? EAR PLUGS!!!!

4) Tier 3 venues close to you or within public transport reach. Ignore the last statement if you have a car. I’ll explain the venue tier system on an upcoming post but for now we are talking about small venues (30-40 people capacity) i.e. Holy Oak cafe. No, you are not shooting football stadiums yet.

5) Patience. Yep. You will be waiting….and waiting…and waiting a lot. The type of band you are shooting initially, will spend as much time re-tuning their guitars between each song as they will spend playing. Their gear won’t be reliable and will be prone to malfunctions and they will never start on time. Also you are going to end up spending a lot of time on your own.

6) An overall nice personality. Being a demanding arrogant fool won’t get you anywhere. How you portray yourself is your best business card. Don’t be that person; On the other hand know when to stand your ground. More on this in another upcoming post. This is very important as you will need to network with as many people as possible, you never know who might be a lead to your next shoot. As you are going to be shooting live performances 99.9% of the time, get to know the band (at this level they won’t have a manager yet), get to know the people that run the venue, get to know the sound/light engineers (they will become your best friends, buy them a beer). As an example I was shooting recently at The Opera House behind the soundboard, when the sound engineer noticed me and invited me shoot inside. This meant I was able to shoot without having fans in front of me and I got some great shots. I could have just said thank you and leave but instead I went and got him a drink. So start networking as early as possible.

7) A computer and editing software. I use Lightroom for 99% of my editing. I use very basic editing as I take a more photo journalistic approach to my editing. Cropping, burning, dodging, contrast and that is really it. But its your photographs so you can do whatever your creativity and technical skills allows you to do.

8) Social site(s). You can start with your own photography page in Facebook. I also recommend Twitter. Learn the meaning and use of ‘#’ hashtags for increased exposure. Also use your creativity to come up with a witty name for your site.

9) A check list. Yes. Once I did run out of power because I forgot to check if I was carrying a spare battery. I was very, very upset with myself because a simple check list would have avoided me the embarrassment and hassle. Plus it made me look very unprofessional.

10) A day time job to support your photography. Don’t expect to become rich by doing this. You shouldn’t be doing this for the money. There isn’t any at this stage. The bands you are photographing don’t have any money. And if they have any it is not on your photographs that they are going to spend it on. Actually that last statement will remain a constant for most of your live music photography career. Most of your meager income will come from selling limited edition fine art prints and the occasional band photo shoot.

Once you have all of the above now is when its time to call upon your confidence and start scouring through all the live act listings on your local newspaper/internet event site(s) and find bands playing at your Tier 3 venues.

Once you have chosen the act/band that you would like to photographs, try to arrive early. Buy yourself a drink and choose a spot that gives you a good view of the performing area. As with the real state market, location is very important.

Most bands/venues at the Tier 3 level don’t require that you ask for permission beforehand. However do introduce yourself to both, the band and the venue and let them know what you are doing.

Remember that you are not alone in the room. Some of the venue’s patrons also want to enjoy the show and seeing your on a constant basis is not their definition of enjoyment. Learn to take a shoot and move quickly out of their line of sight. Learn to be invisible. People shouldn’t even know you are there.

Once you are done shooting, thank the band (get their contact details), thank the venue. And get ready for the next step: Editing your photographs.