Recently, I have been getting a lot of questions through my website about the basics of concert photography. From what gear to use to how to get a photo pass. There is a great resource for concert photographers, one I am particularly proud of. All Access: Your Backstage Pass to Concert Photography is a book I wrote to help others avoid all the mistakes I made when starting out.
The covers a lot of material that I believe any one starting out in concert photography can use. Each chapter also has a little bonus guest section so that you get information from others in the concert photography business, from musicians to photographers and even a lighting director. The chapters are as follows:
Introduction. This is a little bit about me and how I got started with concert photography and hope this book came about.
This chapter acts as an overview to shooting concerts and the issues that make it one of the more difficult types of photography. The changing lights, limited time and access all make capturing the thrill of a live performance rather difficult. This chapter also has a pro tip from the one and only Billy Morrison. Guitar player for Billy Idol, Camp Freddy and the newly formed Royal Machines. Want to know what a musician looks for when they see photos of themselves playing, the answer is right here.
This chapter deals with credentials. Who to ask, when to ask and what to ask for. There rare two pro tips in this chapter from two band publicists. The firs tis from my longtime friend who worked from many years as the publicist for the Grateful Dead, Dennis McNally. Can you imagine how many requests he had to deal with in that job? The second is from another friend and publicist I have worked with many times in the past, Heidi Ellen Robinson-Fitgerald who has worked with bands like Anthrax, Slayer and Rick Rubin and more. The insight from these two on what to ask and who to ask is worth looking at if you want to shoot bands.
This chapter is all about how to act like a pro in the pit. I have to tell you that recently I have seen a lot of people who could really use the information presented here. Acting like a pro goes a long way when working in very close proximity to other photographers. The pro tip in this chapter is from long time Atlanta-based concert photographer Allen Ross Thomas. He has been shooting for a long time and not only adds his wisdom to this chapter, he acted as tech editor for the whole book. The second pro tip in this chapter comes from Maile Hatfield who has been a band manager and tour manager and gives you the inside scoop on what she expects from photographers covering her bands and tours.
This chapter is about cameras and lenses. I get a lot of questions about gear and this chapter answers them as best as I can. Since the book was published a few years ago, my gear has changed, but the ideas behind what I use hasn’t. The pro tip in the chapter comes from Scott Diussa who works for Nikon NPS but who has taught concert photograph at the Live Concert pre con with me at Photoshop World since 2009. Lots of great information.
This chapter is all about exposure and getting the right exposure in the difficult lighting during live concerts. This is the basics you need to know when shooting a show and the pro tip here is from Drew Gurian. Drew has been in bands and has photographed bands for years. He has been published in Rolling Stone and does a ton of work for Red Bull in the studio.
While chapter 5 deals with exposure, chapter 6 is about composition. What to look for when shooting the different interments and angles. The pro tip in this section was supplied by long time concert shooter and photo editor Hali McGrath. Want to know what a photo editor looks for when picking out images for a website, Hali has the answer.
This is the first chapter on shooting in specific locations, this time it’s in a bar, the worst light combined with the best access. Most concert photographers start here or at least should start here. The pro tip here is from Bob Minkin who is a long time Bay Area photographer and who currently shoots a ton of shows at the newly remodeled Sweetwater in Marin. Bob is the master of getting around in a crowd always getting the best angle.
One step up from a bar is a club. This is the place that I still shoot a lot of show. Want to know about the right lenses, the right light, and the best exposure settings for these venues then this chapter is for you and the pro tip comes from Susana Millman. A concert and dance photographer, Susana has been covering bands for many years and covers shooting in low light at venues like the Fillmore and the Warfield.
These venues are bigger, brighter and much harder to get credentials for. The pro tip in this chapter comes from lighting director Groove Pirrone who has worked as a “LD” for bands and venues. He has traveled the US and Europe with Gogol Bordello as a lighting director and shares his views on lighting the band here.
This chapter covers the big shows, those with the best lighting and most difficult access. These are the shows that everyone want to shoot but few actually get to. The pro tip in this chapter is by Billy Idol tour photographer Charles Jischke. Charles has photographed at some of the biggest venues and shares his settings and post production workflow.
One of my favorite things to shoot is the all day music festival. Tons of bands, good lighting and usually good access. But shooting all day can really take its toll without proper planning. The pro tip here comes from Chelsea Lauren a wire service photographer who covers lots of festivals. She shares her gear and tips for getting the shots needed in the crowded festival environment.
No concert photography book would be complete with dealing with shooting on stage and backstage. For this chapter I asked Jay Blakesberg for his insight and advice when it comes to shooting these types of shots. From gear to building trust, Jay covers it all right here.
Different types of music can take different approaches and that what this chapter is all about. Its packed with tips on shooting different types of bands from jam bands to heavy metal. The pro tip here is from Brad Moore who has covered a variety of bands in his years as a concert shooting in Florida. Get his take on what he looks for when shooting bands, and if it is better to shoot just the bands you like.
In this digital age, post production is an important part of my concert shooting. This chapter covers the software I use from Photo Mechanic to Lightroom and even some of my favorite plug-ins like Silver Efex Pro 2. The pro tip here is from good friend and fantastic guitarist Mark Karan. I have worked with Mark for years and to get his to give the final pro tip in this book meant something special.
The Appendices… This book has three appendices that cover accessories, registering your images with the copyright office and some other resources for concert shooters. I think of these as bonus sections,a little encore if you will.