Feature: The Life And Misconceptions Of Being A Gig Photographer

Thought I would share a post with you all, around these photos. Just to maybe give a little insight into the life of a gig photographer (scroll past photos for article)

These photos of Wednesday and the band came about quite naturally. I have taken photos of most of Wednesday’s shows since 2010, and also interviewed him a few times. Sometimes you just build up a natural rapport with artists.

With Wednesday, I made an off the cuff comment which is in the interview along the lines of “Hey we should take some photos of you guys getting ready”, which he thought was a good idea, so the wheels were put in motion behind the scenes from both sides.

On the night the boys got ready at their hotel, so were pretty much all made up when they arrived at the venue, so it was more some final prep photos that you see. It was still amazing to witness how they go through their own routines before they go on stage, each band member in their own world.

Its not common place for a photographer to be back there, unless they are on the touring staff, so you are in a unique position. You need to remember, its their dressing room, not yours, to make sure you are out of their way as much as possible, and to also make sure they are cool with what you are doing, if you don’t have their permission, you just don’t do it.

A photographer (and media) having an AAA pass, is not common thing at all. They would have it for a specific reason. But it also doesn’t mean you have an “Open Bar” so to speak. Don’t go help yourself to their food and drink, unless you are invited. Stay out of their personal space, unless invited, and especially, stay off their stage and surrounds, unless invited. Its not a hang, do what you are there to do. But that’s the same as the 3 songs no flash rule. Unless I have permission from the band, management, promoter etc., you wont see me shooting after the first 3. So unless you have been given permission, you don’t wander in the crowd or up on a balcony to get more shots. You do the first 3 songs and put your stuff away.

When media is allocated a shooters pass/ticket and or a reviewers ticket, these are tickets they could be selling. With phones being used so much at shows, media isn’t as needed as they used to be, so be grateful you are there, and play by the rules.

Lately when I am at a show, many other shooters and media outlets seem to be very concerned with the type of access I have. Most of the time, I have exactly the same as them, sometimes I have something different. This could be for a number of reasons. But that’s between me and the touring parties. But to put this in perspective, I shot my first show in November 1996. That’s a long time ago. Since then, I have made amazing connections, and through those connections, I have been introduced to new people and made more connections and on and on. I am lucky to have amazing friendships and connections, but you know what, they didn’t just fall in my lap, I worked hard to build them and work each and every day to build them, and that never stops.

So to my photographer friends, All ill say, is spend your time working on what you have and what you do, as opposed to wasting your time worrying about what I have, or someone else has. It really isn’t worth your time or energy. And quit worrying about being a “Freelancer”. Be thankful for the outlets you shoot for as you are at the show because of them.

There is a big misconception about how much money we make as gig photographers. We don’t. Its pretty simple. If you get into this to make money, you are going to be disappointed. While I have had a few paid assignments to do Meet N Greet photos for promoters and the occasional shoot for a band, its probably been less than 20 times over 27 years. I never expected to make money, it was always just a fun hobby for me and I have always had a day¬† job to pay my bills. I think keeping it as a fun hobby I am lucky to do, works for me, but everyone should do what works for them, and on that, Unless the band has given you express permission or you have a deal, don’t sell their images, its a total dick move

I think I have ranted enough, but I hope I have given you a little insight into my world. And if you are looking to get into gig photography, here are some helpful tips

* Don’t contact Artists directly to get access to them unless you have a prior relationship other than just being a fan, contact your outlet editor and go through the right channels

* Shoot all kinds of artists. You will have more chance of making connections and networking if you do not close yourself off to new opportunities. Be a gig photographer, not a genre photographer. If you open yourself to new music and experiences you may make new connections which can lead to great places

* Learn to shoot using your view finder not your rear screen, the pit is a limited space environment, continually sticking your arms out blocks access for the other people in the pit.

* Keep your arty accessories at home and not in the pit. The glass spheres, triangles and plastic fractals may add to the images, but they are not representative of the show. You are shooting for an editorial purpose, its your job to present the show as a crowd member would see it, not your own interpretation.

* Remember shooting shows is a privilege, not a right

* Worry about what you have, rather than what you don’t have

* If someone has different access than you, don’t be jealous, instead be happy for them and focus on what you can do to improve your networking

* Please, please, please wear deodorant in the pit. Its small. Its confined. We smell you. Its not fun