Yaazkal Photography

Photography portfolio and blog

What I've learned shooting a Grammy rock band

I'll like to share some thoughts about concert photography and my experience shooting a big band. This band is a Colombian rock band called "Aterciopelados". To summarize they were nominated to grammys in 1997 and 1998 and won latin grammys in 2001 and 2007. From Wikipedia: "In 2001, Aterciopelados was recognized by the writers of Time magazine as one of the top 10 contemporary global bands (those bands located outside of the United States.) The list included U2 and the Rolling Stones."

So,

  • Don't be afraid to ask permission about shooting a big band. Maybe you will be lucky and can find kind people that let you get into the gig and let you do your work. And remember to make them an image. It is another way to say thanks.
  • Do it technically right but don't be afraid of doing it also creatively (slow shutter speeds, different compositions, etc).
  • Direct light will make some flare. Don't be afraid of flare, some times that will add some kind of wow factor to your photos. And believe me, you're gonna get a lot of flare in a concert specially if it is well illuminated.
  • Don't worry about your camera and your gear. High ISO is a myth in festivals and big concerts; there is enough lighting in the scenario. I shooted all in ISO 800 with a 6 year old model camera (Nikon D7000) and two cheap lenses: Nikon 50mm 1.8D and Nikon 24mm 2.8 AF (not even a D series). Oh, that camera is a crop sensor one. I don't care, is what I have.
  • Curiously you will need better gear on small venues, because generally speaking the light is horrible and poor.
  • Anyway the last two points can be discussable because also it will depend of the artist. If they are like monkeys jumping, running and going all around, maybe you will need high ISO to use faster shutter speed. If they are on a chair or make casual movements, 1/80s can do the job, even 1/60s
  • That’s why you need to also make some investment in researching the artist. Knowing their movements and usual expressions can help you to anticipated the action.
  • Try to find who created the lighting schema and who operates it and THANK them. Not even they make your photographies possible, they go to more gigs than you and it is an opportunity to get you know and recommended.
  • Always wear ear protection. You're health is more important than anything else.
  • If you get a big band to publish your photos on their social media you will not be famous even if they tag you and give you the proper credit. If you are doing the photos just because of that, you’re gonna get disappointed. I made it because I enjoy it, I admire the band and I want to have a nice portfolio. People don't care about who shoot that photo. This band published my photos on their facebook page, instagram and also the leader and vocalist published 2 of my photos on her instagram tagging me. Guess how many followers I got? 1111111, You read it right. One one one one one. JUST ONE.
  • If a big band tell you to shoot for free with an argument about your exposure and recognition, thing twice. That is not true. If *you* want to shoot them for free for whatever reason you want, go ahead; but if you are going to do it *because* of that argument, you're doing it wrong.
  • (about earlier point) This was not my case, because I contacted the festival organizer and tell her that I'll like to shoot them for free and I'll share them photos to be published in the festival social networks.
  • After shooting the band and publishing my images, I contacted the band by mail and send them a link with the photographs and letting them know that they're free to publish that photos on their respective social networks. They answered and even published them tagging me. yay! nothing extraordinary happens as you can read on earlier points. They got many likes, etc because THEY are the real protagonist, not you. Thousands of people are following them, not you.
  • What I did (not everything's for free) is that I made emphasis (both to the festival and to the band) that the photos was going to be for social media only (so, slow res images) and in jpg; also that they can only publish them without cropping, color changing or even making some instagram filters; also by giving me credits. So, this maybe will be a "work for free" thing but you will have an advantage.
  • Now, as I gave them low res images and only permission for social media publishing, if they want high res and want to print them or make a CD, a calendar, merchandise, etc with my images, that is going to have a price then. You have and advantage, see?
  • Send them printed images as postcards (not to everyone, of course). I will, and I guess that is going generate some kind of remembering about you. You know is not the same on screen in slow res than printed when you can see every detail right. I don't know what are they going to do with them, If they're going to hang it to a wall or if they're going to throw it to the trash. But anyway there is a hope that they will keep it and maybe someday, someone are going to see those images and maybe will like to contact you for a paid job.
  • Keep working. You still don’t make that so great shot. Remember that the new ones are better than the old ones, so you are now shooting bad photos for the future. The good news is that good ones are coming.
  • Keep the great moment in your mind. Have time to enjoy the concert also. Keep calm and watch every movement of the artist.
  • Not everything that is published on the internet is true (also this post). The rule of “you will get permission to only shoot the first three songs” is not applicable to every gig or even every country. There are so many variables that every concert is unique about restrictions, permissions, etc.
  • So this is like every other job, read the circumstances, adapt, work with the limitations you have, smile and enjoy because not everyday is perfect. You will have a great excitement because you did that great image and then you can make a crappy image 2 days after. Do not worry!
  • Of course, never forget to take photos of all the band. Drums, guitars, piano, etc.
You (and I). Us still have many things to learn.

This is my selection on flickr if you want to see it (not same images referenced here): https://www.flickr.com/photos/yaazkal/albums/72157677368676646

TL;TR: Shooting concert photography will make you pretty happy and then depressed because you still need to do work a lot. Don’t be afraid of big bands. Is not enough to know your gear, also know the artist and make the most of your limits. Always use ear protection. Be happy making this job! My selection on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yaazkal/albums/72157677368676646