The Exciting Life of a Live Event Photographer

Exciting crowds. The thrill of working "LIVE" event. Great stage lighting provided by others. Artists doing what artists do.  All of these are great reasons why it is always interesting and inspiring to shoot live events. From small town school plays to large venue rock concerts. They all demand the best we have and usually will bring out the best in us. But there are some things we must do to insure the images will be great and the experience will match. We want to offer up a few things to think about as the summer concert series are in full swing and as you might imagine, your personal preparation is at the top of the list of things to do in order to guarantee your success.

 Lights in the background help set the stage for daytime shows and events, adding in a "little bit of Hollywood." (Zack Swon of the Swon Brothers)

Lights in the background help set the stage for daytime shows and events, adding in a "little bit of Hollywood." (Zack Swon of the Swon Brothers)

Preparation - This kind of work can be an amazing experience if you do your homework in advance. For example, if you are photographing a small local community play, talk to the director and get the "highlight scenes" in your head so you have an idea what will happen, when and where on the stage, and you'll be ready. Be sure to have the correct lens on your camera when that on-stage moment occurs so you aren't the one who missed and those in the audience with an iPhone got it.  If photographing a rock and roll type event, no matter the musical style, know something about the band. I watched the great Mike Corrado be the only photographer working to get a terrific image of a lead singer jumping about five feet in the air once and when I asked about it he told me he had watched a lot of videos of the band and learned that the singer always jumped at that exact same time during that specific song, each time they played it. He did the work and was prepared and got the shot. Also, do not go out without fresh batteries and clean CF or SD cards. You will NOT have time to mess around with your gear when you get into the media/press pit area.

 Work your angles to create interest. I watched these spot lights for a while to see where they might go next and moved into position and waited.

Work your angles to create interest. I watched these spot lights for a while to see where they might go next and moved into position and waited.

Credentials – Be sure you have the correct permission to do whatever you are doing. Specifically, if there are a lot of other photographers there as well. Security guards are not trying to be a pain but often come across as unyielding in their effort to keep those un-credentialed folks away from the action. It can come across as almost harassment at times but if you have the correct credentials and permissions, they can be your best friends. All of us have tried to "talk our way" into a situation at some point when we really shouldn't have, but let's be honest. If we are not supposed to be there shooting, we know it. But if we are, do the right thing, get the right credentials, and the security folks will be as nice as they can.  

 The Avett Brothers at G Fest Muskogee, OK

The Avett Brothers at G Fest Muskogee, OK

Courtesy – Again, you are the pro so act like it and be over-the-top- nice to all of the other photographers, even those you question their professionalism.  Chances are they might offer you help in some way in the future so try to be neighborly. Same with the band/performers. Your timing can how you shoot can throw off a performer if you are up close and are moving around a lot, making a lot of animated or wild movements with your arms, digging in your bag, or in any way drawing attention to yourself, etc.  Just be calm and get your pictures. They'll do better and so will you. You'll see the seasoned veterans being very deliberate in what they are shooting and the manner in which they do it.  

 Scene setting images are always successful. Just like any live event shooter, "don't miss anything." Tell the complete story whenever possible.

Scene setting images are always successful. Just like any live event shooter, "don't miss anything." Tell the complete story whenever possible.

Working At The Speed Of Light – If you have done any professional concert work you know there is truly limited time to work.  Bands and musicians, especially big-name acts, have publicists, recording contracts, and managers that will often limit how much you can shoot during a performance. For most shows, you can be in front of the stage for no more than three songs. Yep, THREE. This time will fly by really fast. You are working to get each performer or band member looking great or doing something very cool. You are trying to set the scene for what you are illustrating and maybe even getting crowd reaction from that vantage point. The only problem is time. You cannot waste a single exposure. Work fast but not frantic. Breathe, double check your camera settings before you begin, ISO, shutter speed, etc. And don't forget to smile and enjoy what you are experiencing and don't take you eye away from your viewfinder. Also, it's a good idea to always know how many exposures you have left. Don't go out with a card that is half full.  Be ready when that one fabulous moment happens...

You just might get an artist or two to look directly down the barrel of your lens and give you that moment your clients and publicists are waiting for...

 Colton Swon doing what he does best on tour. Catch them on the road w/ the great Carrie Underwood.

Colton Swon doing what he does best on tour. Catch them on the road w/ the great Carrie Underwood.