The Pogues @ Terminal 5, NYC - 3-15-2011 (13)

Concert Photography FAQ

January 21, 2010 | Concert Photography

Over the years, I have been asked a lot of questions from newcomers. While I don’t mind answering each e-mail that is sent to me. I figured it would be more helpful to just have all the answers all in the same spot. If the question isn’t below, then send me an e-mail and I’ll try my best to answer it. Below you’ll find the Concert Photography Frequently Asked Questions:

How did you get started in concert photography?
I just started attending small ska and punk shows where you were allowed to bring a camera. I started off with a crappy point & shoot camera, then got a Nikon film camera for a college class and shot with that for many years. I’ve only been shooting digital for about 6 years now. I’m glad I started off using film, that way I understood how the camera operated, and could appreciate photography as an art form. Now anyone could pick up a camera and just snap away, delete images so easily and alter things to death in Photoshop.

What kind of camera do you have?
I used to have a Nikon D70 camera and Nikon D300. Now I shoot with a Nikon D800.

Who do you shoot for?
I shoot mainly for myself (my own websites ReadJunk.com and SkaPunkPhotos.com). In the past, I’ve shot for Prefixmag.com, BrooklynVegan.com and NME.

How do I purchase a print on your website?
E-mail me the link of the page and what photo you would like to purchase. Then I’ll write back with the estimate of the print, shipping & handling, etc. Please note: not all photos are available for purchase.

I like your concert photography work, how would you like to shoot for our website/publication?
Sure, do you offer any type of compensation?

Can I use your images for my website/publication?
Yes and no. If you’re a big website or publication, I’d like to be compensated for something like that. If you’re a very small zine/ blog, etc. I might let you use a photo for credit and a link back to http://www.skapunkphotos.com. It depends on the situation really.

What lenses do you use?
I use a few different Nikon lenses. 24-70mm f2.8, 70-200mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4 lens and sometimes the 85mm f1.8 lens.

What lenses or cameras do you recommend?
If you got the money, I’d recommend the Nikon D3 and lenses 14-24mm f2.8, 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8. A great lens that’s only $100 bucks or so is the 50mm f1.8 which is perfect for low lighting.

Do you ever rent equipment for shows?
I haven’t yet but I just don’t see the justification of it if I’m not getting paid for the show to begin with. Perhaps I would rent certain lenses or lighting if a good assignment came up and it paid well. Lens Pro To Go seems like a good place to rent from.

What camera stores do you recommend?
Bhphotovideo.com and Adorama.com

Do you shoot in RAW?
YES! I used to shoot in just jpg but quickly learned that was stupid. If you ever mess up your exposures, or anything like that you can just fix that stuff in post-production using your RAW files. Pretty sweet right?

What camera settings do you usually use?
It really depends on the situation. I use AF-C for auto-focusing, and use auto focus when shooting. I sometimes use manual focus when the lighting and subject gets too erratic. I usually stick with ISO 1600 or higher and shoot the widest aperture on my camera like f2.8 or f1.4. For white balance, I used to shoot on cloudy and other settings like that but found just shooting on auto-WB is the best for live shows. Besides, you can always change the white balance while editing your RAW files.

Do you use any flash at shows?
I started out using flash because I didn’t know any better but a lot of the time, flash isn’t allowed at concerts. I’ve learned not to use it unless I’m allowed and have no other option. Sometimes a club has such crappy lighting that you have no choice but to use flash. I don’t like using flash because it’s also very distracting to both the band and the audience. It gets obnoxious when some photographer continuously pops off their flash every 2 seconds.

How do I get a photo pass or shoot in the photo pit?
Your best bet is to shoot for a website/blog, publication or newspaper. You can always do what I did, start your own website or blog and build up your content and eventually ask for passes. Once people see you have worthy content, they will dish out the photo passes! Sometimes you can get a photo pass just because you want to build up your portfolio but don’t count on that for bigger acts.

Who do I contact for a photo pass?
There a lot of people that can issue photo passes. Basically you have contact either the band, the bands’ publicist, their record label and if all else fails, their management. It also depends on what country you’re living in. Some Non-American countries, you have to contact the promoter of the show (i.e. Live Nation). I’d suggest Googling the band’s name and see what contact info comes up. Google is your friend.

If I get a photo pass, does that include a ticket?
Most cases no. You have to request a ticket AND a photo pass. Some venues you can enter with just the photo pass BUT you might be kicked out of the venue after you’re done with the 3 song limit of the last band.

What if I can’t find a contact for a photo pass?
You could always try calling the record label? Or asking a fellow photographer? Other than that, you might be shit out of luck.

After I get confirmation that I got a photo pass, then what?
Print out your e-mail confirmation, ask for a number to call (tour manager, publicist) in case there’s a problem at the door (which there usually is). You don’t want to get there and have no one to call to help you out. Most cases your photo pass and ticket will be waiting for you at the Will Call booth.

Why must you only shoot during the first 3 songs for each band?
I don’t know, it’s a stupid rule but it’s the standard rule nonetheless. You usually can get what you need during that time frame. Sometimes, you’re allowed to shoot from the crowd after the 3 song limit which is nice. Other times they kick you out of the venue after the 3 songs if you don’t have a ticket.

If I don’t have a photo pass, should I sneak my camera into the venue?
I wouldn’t recommend it. Do you really want to get your camera taken away or get kicked out of the venue? Usually when I have a ticket and no photo pass, I’ll just enjoy the concerts as a fan.

What do you recommend for music photographers just starting out?
Start shooting local shows and getting experience that way. You won’t have to deal with photo pits or being stopped by security for using your camera. And just Practice, practice, and practice. Read photography websites or forums like Flickr Concert Photography, and even take a few classes on photography. It’s better than just taking your camera to a show and hoping some good shots come out of it. I also recommend getting ahold of some local bands to do promo shoots. When the bands make it big, they might even ask you to become their official tour photographer! Hey, you never know!

How do I get a photo pass at the Warped Tour?
Check out my list of tips and advice for beginners for the Warped Tour here:http://www.skapunkphotos.com/2008/05/28/warped-tour-photography-tips-for-beginners/

What happens if security deletes my photos off my camera?
Don’t shoot anything more after that happens! You can get a photography backup software to retrieve the photos if you don’t shoot anymore after that. I haven’t actually gone through that yet so I can’t recommend any software to use.

How did you get your shots so crisp and sharp? My photos come out blurry!
That’s because I shoot with a wide aperture (f2.8). You also need to shoot with a fast shutter speed, so it can capture the action. So I’d recommend getting some fast glass (lenses like the 50mm f1.8 to start)

Where do you stand in the photo pit?
I start off towards the middle, and work my way around the entire pit. I’m not going to sit in the same spot the entire time, that’s the beauty of a photo pit. Although, sometimes there’s video crews in there with you or too many photographers and you’re forced to pick a side/spot.

How do you conquer the horrendous red lighting at shows?
Still trying to figure that one out. Either knock down the saturation in post-production or just turning the photos black & white. That seems to be the easy fixes for me. I also find that if I under-expose a shot that has red lighting in it helps a lot. Then, not everything is blown out.

How do I get published?
Good question, and one I’m still trying to find the answer too. I haven’t been able to get published that often either. The fact of the matter is there are a lot of photographers out there now, and your shots have to really STAND out from the others. And just like other things, it helps to have connections as well. Once you establish a working relationship with a publication or someone that works at one, getting published is a lot easier (I think). But mainly, just get yourself out there and shoot as many shows as possible and make as many connections as you can. The rest will eventually follow (hopefully).

How do I get a cool photography website like SkaPunkPhotos.com?
Well if you don’t know how to do web design and coding, you can also hire me to make one for you! If you don’t have the money, I’d suggest using a website like flickr.com or photoshelter.com to host your files.

Can I be your assistant?
Nah, I don’t really need one at this particular time. There’s nothing to really assist with haha.

Can I shoot for SkaPunkPhotos.com?
SkaPunkPhotos.com is my personal photography website but my music website ReadJunk.com is always looking for photographers and reviewers. Unfortunately, since I’m just as broke as you are, I can’t pay you. But if you’re starting out and want to get some shows under your belt, please e-mail me.

I’d like to hire you to shoot photos of my band. How do I go about that?
E-mail me the details on what you would like and we’ll go from there.

How much do you charge for promo shoots?
Please e-mail me and we can discuss a fair price. It all depends on what your band needs and other factors like travel, location, how many hours, lighting, etc.

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