3 Important Things Bands Need to Know About Music Photography

PerfMag-3

If you ever look down during a live performance, you often see some camera lenses looking right back at you.  They dart in and out of the crowd, aimed high, aimed low… Have you ever wondered what those photographers are thinking?

Contrary to fans who are looking at capturing memories for themselves with their cameras, a concert photographer is looking at capturing moments that will tell the story of the show.

Playing with lights, your movement and emotions, various focal lengths to capture the right moment…as it happens. 

PerfMag-2The Light

It’s one of the more important elements in capturing the image – at least technically.  We are looking around for nice, white light.  It provides the best skin detail.  We look for varying light colours that can add interest and contrast in an image.  Having lights on the background adds visual depth to a scene… and also lights the often un-photographed drummer (sorry guys, we love ya, but no light usually means no photo).

We avoid that nasty red wash light that kills all skin detail.  Sure, we have  tricks to process the image so it’s not as bad, and it does set a great mood for the fans (who are the reason you are there) but if you can avoid it for the first few songs, photographers would flock to your shows and you would be considered the new messiahs (OK, no promises 😉 )

On Stage

Your stage presence and emotions are what are going to feed our creativity.  If you just stand there and play, the images won’t be as compelling.  If this is you, so be it.  I always prefer someone being natural on stage and pushing me to make great images.  A choreographed show like say KISS, is fun to shoot… as fun as shooting fish in a barrel.  Fun for a few minutes then the lack of challenge makes it (and the images) repetitive.  Having an artist who is comfortable on stage is not only great for photos, but one of the reasons fans pay to go SEE a show :). So while being yourself is key, some smiles, gestures and a bit of movement can go a long way for us photographers.

PerfMag-1The Connection

Fans want to feel that connection to an artist when they see them live. Else they would just stay home and listen to the music. The same goes for photographers. I want to connect with an artist, either by hearing the music and beats to anticipate a moment, or an actual eye contact, even for a brief moment. The fans who will see the images after will also feel an extra connection if the artist is looking back at them.

PerfMag-5It is a musician’s job to put on the best show possible for the fans who are paying to see them. It’s a hard life. You do it because you love it. Same goes for concert photographers. We are a dying breed, slowly being replaced by camera groupies who just want free show access. Those of us who care about the art, also care about your image and care about your fans as much as you do. 🙂

During the Pouzza Punk Festival last year, I attached a GoPro to my camera to give people an idea of what we see and how we capture our images. While not portfolio-worthy images, the video does give a little glimpse into shooting a show.

(photos above: Airbourne, Alicia Keys, Matt and Kim, AFI, All images are copyright Pierre Bourgault, used  with permission)

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5 Comments

  1. Zero absolu

    August 27, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    we don’t play music for photographers, they have to deal with the circonstances.

    • kenspo

      August 29, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Then i guess you play in such a big and famous band, that you dont need good pictures and advertisment in the press for free? I work for one of the big ones when it comes to printed press. Please let me know what your band is called, so i can make shure you get dropped and overlooked if you show up in a gig we are covering :)Since you dont need the press i mean..

  2. farrah chadwell

    August 28, 2014 at 4:28 am

    I am usually a portrait photographer for children and families. I have been asked to go to a clients rock and take pictures. Could you give me some insight on what kind of settings I should use to capture the lights and the movements of the stage and the musicians? I thought about using a tripod but I can clearly see from the amazing shots in this video the photographer just free handed. Anxious to hear back from you, and thanks a million. Sincerly, Farrah

    • bubblejay

      August 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      Just experiment and have fun… in the beginning of shooting rock shows you need to be on your toes and click by instinct

  3. Nika

    August 29, 2014 at 10:10 am

    @Zero absolu: I dont think the article wants you to get the idea you are playing for photographers. It is just an inside information, how our “working day” looks like and what we find interesting or important.

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