As I've said in recent blog and facebook posts, I've been having some fun teaching some friends about photography and how I do things. One area a few people are interested in is live music photography, which is great because (as you can tell from my website's first point of action) I love shooting live music. I will start this post the same way I start all of them by saying, I'm not the best live photographer in the world, my word is not gospel but this is just how things have happened for me.
One of the biggest problems I run into teaching my friends is their confidence. When I take a friend to shoot a band, through the show I'll look over and see how they're doing, give them hints or advice if they need it but mostly make sure they're having fun doing it. A lot of the time the issue of low confidence comes after the show is done and even when it's time to edit, once they have a chance to step back and think about how they've done and sometimes what they should have done differently. This is something I still do myself form time to time but is also something I take on board and try to apply next time. But, being new to photography as most of my friends I help out are, this can be more disheartening than educational, which is what I'd like to try and remedy.
I have been shooting live music since 2009 (been doing it okay since about 2012 haha) and have grown into the style and developed the techniques I now have all through trial and error. As I've said before, I did not go to school for photography and have not been mentored in this, so everything I know has come from making mistakes and trying not to make them again. So, to help my friends feel a bit better about their work, I'll now show where I started and how i grew from there (prepare for grainy images). I'll also be showing the gear I was using at the time of each section for those of you who are interested.
The first band I ever shot was Pinwheel, a group of guys consisting of two former members of a high school band I was apart of.
Gear at the time: Canon 1000D with kit lens (I forget the size... but probably something like 18-55mm 4f or something)
Shooting with my first camera and using built in on camera flash (i learned my lesson early on with that one) I shot their first bunch of shows. Now, the one thing I did get right (after the 1st show) was to swap my camera out of auto and start to learn about what happens when I control the camera myself. As I've said before, I did not learn about ISO till much later down the track but in this stint I learned about shutter speed and what range would give me a result I wanted. In terms of editing, I didn't have a style yet. I knew how to use photoshop relatively well but not how to make an image a better representation of itself. I did have a lot of fun playing with custom frames and odd editing styles (including the "Selective colour" technique i hate so much)... but didn't delve into proper editing until Pinwheel split up.
2. A FEW BANDS IN BETWEEN
As Pinwheel came to an end, I started to reach out to a couple other acts as I started to really enjoy live shots at this point.
Gear at the time: Canon 7D, Sigma 50mm f1.8 & 24-70mm f2.8
With these bands, I started to learn more about composition, timing and a little more about editing to make an image better and work with the other shots from a show. I'd also started to upgrade my gear, which meant that the quality of my shots were starting to improve. There were not many shows between 2011 and 2012 that I covered as I was mainly shooting for friends bands whenever they had shows.
This is where I had the opportunity to grow as a photographer.
The first time I met any of the band was after the first gig I shot them at, which in itself was a big deal. I'd finally shot some people who were not already my friends (eventually they would be but that's beside the point). I shot for Pandorum for just shy of 3 years, during which time I went from knowing very basic techniques to understanding my gear, learning to edit "properly" and of course gaining confidence around musicians and their performances. I learned what kind of lighting set up was good/bad for live photography, if the band is having a good show or not and most importantly what ISO is (thankfully early on). Meaning that from 2012 to 2014 there is a noticeable difference between my last shots and first.
2014 is where I began shooting for more and more bands, both friends and people I'd never met. It was after becoming friends with the members of Pandorum that I was introduced to the wider family and small world that is the Melbourne music scene. The saying that "everyone knows everyone" couldn't be more true when you look at the amount of people, bands and acts I've met just from knowing one. Which lead me to learn a VERY important lesson, NEVER talk shit about another act... there are little birds everywhere.
Current Live Gear: Canon 5dmarkIII, Canon 70-200mm F2.8II (my baby), Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art, Canon 16-35mm F2.8 (sometimes), Canon 600ex-rt Speedlite, 2X Pocket Wizards & Flex Clamp Mount (dono what the brand is), I also sometimes to backstage or random promo shots and for that I couple the speedlite with the Westcott Rapid 26" Octa Softbox
Since meeting and finishing my time shooting for the band Pandorum, my client base (and friend base) has grown exponentially. I now not only shoot live gigs for local friends, but do promotional shots, music videos, have been a lead photographer for a festival, shot well known and successful bands (such as Circles, House Vs Hurricane and more) as well as grown as a photographer.
The whole point of this blog post (for those of you still reading) was to show the people I've been having a great time teaching that everyone needs to start somewhere. There is no shame in making mistakes that you learn from and at the base of it all, just enjoy what you're doing. I've said this to one of my friends before and I think it bares repeating, "At this point, I'd rather you go to a show, have a rad time shooting the band and come back with blurry, shitty photos and learning from it than take an amazing shot of a show that you absolutely hated. Because the only way you get better is to learn, the only way you will be willing to learn is if you enjoy it".
I've enjoyed my experiences taking photos for bands over the last 7 years which is how I've been able to turn my work from this...
Keep at it and have fun.