Yes, we are all missing gigs…
There are many things I love about Teesside, but one thing that stands out for me is the local music scene, and it’s where my photography started.
I have always loved the Teesside music scene, from my first gig going outings in the 80’s with bands like President, The Lovehearts, Glass Echo and Empires and Dance, oh and don’t forget the amazing Flaming Mussolini’s, hands up those who would love to see that line up right now….
Anyway, live music photography began for me about 6 years ago. I was gifted a DSLR and a kit lens from an accountancy company I used for my day job and I just took it along to the gigs and open mic nights I was going along to anyway. I was happy with that, it was just a bit of fun to snap away, I never took it that seriously to be honest. Then one night in The Storytellers at the usual Thursday Open Mic Night I took a few shots of a guy called Stevie from a band called Twister who were promoting a gig at The Georgian Theatre in the coming week, he liked them and they needed that gig covering and was I free? Yep, but did I have a clue? No not really if I am honest. That was 2015 and I have shot Twister and a whole load of other bands since then all over the country in lots of different venues, from the intimate to the magnificent, and my approach is always the same, well, pretty much.
Shooting gigs is all about the light or, more usually, the absolute lack of it. When there is light at gigs it’s usually quite harsh, bright in places and dark in others, so how do I shoot a gig?
Before the gig, always, always, always listen to the music. How can you get a feel for the band if you don’t understand their music? Talk to the band, what are they looking for from the shoot? I know most local music venues from being a punter at gigs but if you don’t know the venue then try and get in there in advance of the gig to scope the place from a photography point of view. Get a set list in advance if you can, but from experience this is usually put together in the back of a van five minutes before showtime.
My kit varies gig to gig and depends on the venue and any restrictions. I’m not going to be using remote flashes at the O2 in Newcastle but I wouldn’t want to be shooting in Ku Bar without them, chuck them up on the speaker stacks pointing down and dial in a bit of low fill flash and just leave them there through the set. I usually have two camera bodies on belt clips (£2.00 each off Amazon by the way, best accessory I’ve invested in bar none). Lens wise I have a 17-50mm and a 50mm f1.4 prime, plus a gorgeous 70-200mm f2.8 for balcony shots in places like The Georgian Theatre, Middlesbrough Town Hall or the O2. Oh, and don’t do the ‘mic face’ thing. By that I mean the front on shot where all that can be seen is the arse end of a mic and the singer’s nose and eyes. Most venues have some incredible angles and vantage points, so go find them.
Always be there for the sound check. Me, I like to be there when all the bands are setting up, never mind the sound check. Now this can be like 4.00pm for a gig that starts at 9.00pm, it’s worth it honestly, you get some great behind the scenes shots that bands and musicians really appreciate and it gives you an idea of how the show will flow (yuk! did I just say that?) and what that all important crap lighting looks like.
I’ve rattled on a fair bit on this blog but I think the best bit of advice I can share is to just get into the music and enjoy it, your shots will be much better for it, if you are shooting music in a decent venue then you are in a bit of a privileged position, you are in front of the the front row, usually for free, you have a AAA and can wander and shoot from wherever you want, take advantage of that and take some amazing images that the band can’t help but want to use.
With the gig done and the shots in the bag, then what next? Well if you have had a good natter with the band then you will already know what they need from you and therefore your editing is going to be about. I do my edits and save them three ways; a full resolution maximum file size version, a smaller size version which are great for the band to use across social media and online and then a watermarked version for my own promotional use.
I think it’s going to be quite some time before we can really enjoy live music again and that is such a shame, regardless of the photography side of things , these amazingly creative people need to be able to share their work to an audience and for people to really appreciate what it is that they do. If you get the chance then watch a live stream type of gig, some are real quality.
Well that’s me, no quotes or links in this post really, just saying that once all this madness is done with there will still be live music xx