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Getting Started in Concert Photography

Lesson 1 of 8

Getting Started

Chris and Todd Owyoung

Getting Started in Concert Photography

Chris and Todd Owyoung

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Lesson Info

1. Getting Started

Lesson Info

Getting Started

So, everybody. I'm Chris and I'm Tato Young and welcome to getting starting concert photography here on creative flies. Photo Week 2016 We're so excited to be here talking to you about live music photography. So a little bit a little bit about Chris and I we've been shooting for 10 years each. Both started in 2006 and this is what people pay us to do. Shoot the rock show, um, Iraq's. We shoot it, but it's on stage, backstage or anywhere else and basically will shoot anywhere. It's like small clubs to like this intruder UK at Irving Plaza, two huge arena shows. And I think this is actually a baseball stadium on one of Jason L. Dean's tours and from individual concerts. This is Scott Wayland until pilots to Festivals Foreign Borough in New York City here last year, and we're shooting concerts. This is what we look like. We're dressed in stage black, head to toe, um, tons and tons of nylon webbing and Velcro. Probably. It's sort of like seal team six Onda. More cameras than we have hands ...

for, um, and this happens to be at the I Heart Radio Music Festival. in Las Vegas last weekend. Uh, but and some of the clients included as mentioned Chopper seven up Rolling Stone Spin Nikon. It just appeared in Billboard in New York Times and elsewhere. And we also work with musical artists of all levels, local bands and some people have heard of and then acts that everyone's heard of. But it wasn't all always this way. Yeah, both Chris and I really got started shooting and very small venues small in dive bars. Basically, shooting is fans in the front row. We have tickets for the show and just shoot through the concert. So what was the first show you ever shot? The first show Ira shot Waas The Brothers. It's shot of Scott a bit and I had a friend is going to show, and I wasn't familiar with the band, and a brothers were actually opening up for BR five for nine. I had no idea who they were, and I decided to go to the show and bring my camera to entertain myself. I thought that music wasn't good. I could always kind of entertain myself shooting photos, and it happened that the bands were awesome and I would just I just loved the thrill and challenge of shooting these musicians on stage. And a week later, I had tickets to see Andrew Bird, uh, a little bit of a larger venue, and very naively I e mailed his manager say, Hey, and I'm going to show I'm a fan out of a ticket. Do you need a photographer? And very nicely. Is Manager replied that they don't have a budget for a photographer, but they'd be happy to arrange a photo pass for me. Oh, photo pass. Okay, so what you need? So I showed up, shot the show, and I was hooked, and around the same time, I contacted a local music magazine in my hometown of ST Louis and started shooting for them regularly. And that was 10 years ago, and about six months after I started shooting, the same magazine needed coverage of CMJ, a music festival in New York City. But they didn't have budget for travel expenses, And so I thought, Hey, Chris had no experience shooting music. But hey, I got a brother. He's got a camera. The brother. So the brother with the camera again, sort of roughly six months after target started. Um, what he said is absolutely true. I had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I did possess a camera and know roughly how to use it. But I had never shot music before. I really like no idea. But it sounded like fun to get like a free pass to this music festival in New York on dso I was like, OK, guys, you realize I really don't know what I'm doing, but you can have the pictures if you just, you know, give me, give me the access or whatever eso that week a photograph I think vans and four days And like Todd, six months earlier, I was absolutely hooked. I thought it was like the most fun, the combination of my passion for music and just passion for photography. And in one thing, it was exhilarating, exhilarating view right up there at the front row and really like documenting documenting the rock show. And so that's exactly what we want. Toe teach you how to do basically to get started in music photography. So our first advice is really to just started a small like we did shooting in small venues uh, this is Josh Ritter playing an off Broadway in ST Louis. This was about a 200 capacity club, and I think it's an ideal example of really a small venue where you can cut your teeth, hone your craft. Um, a lot of people think that they wanna start at shooting music and they want to start shooting these big shows, their favorite artists, that amphitheaters and arenas. And the truth is, I think it's kind of a trap because you get usually very limited access. It's hard to get access, but when you shoot small venues at these clubs, you often have no camera restrictions. You can shoot for the entire set, and you can really just dig in and learn the technique and the craft. There's a lot of like freedom and small venues. As Todd was saying in a lot of the times, like the bands are really, really site that there's a photographer there and you start to, like, build these relationships that you wouldn't otherwise have with the local music scene. And it's not just like small bands that absolutely no one has heard of its local acts and also sort of regionally touring acts on and bands that air sort of in the genres of music that you like that not necessarily everyone else listens to. This is the band Dillinger Escape Plan at Planning Pops, which is in Sochi, Illinois, and some of example of a very small venue, relatively smaller bands. But you know these air venues that you can find in any city in the US I eat shop for seven years in ST Louis, which is a relatively small market, and I'm so thankful that have that opportunity have these venues and artists because even in smaller cities, there are these music venues were banjo playing every night. Local bands, smaller national touring artists. And you can get this access and start shooting without having to go through the hoops of photo passes. Pull occasions at all of that. And so how do you start building your portfolio, especially when you're just getting started? Um, so this is a shot at every closet here in New York City. It's a band called mindless self indulgence. I had not heard of them before I photographed them. I did a little research to figure out what it was before hand but it's an example that you don't have to have, like an arena show or like a 7000 capacity venue to get portfolio level work. Irving Clause is a very difficult place to shoot. Small venues, air, very difficult places to shoot. You'll need to go in as a fan, waiting in line like everyone else getting their first in line hours ahead of time because you're just gonna like everyone's just gonna sidle up to the stage. The lighting is going to be difficult, uh, and it's going to be challenging. But this is the best way and and also provides you the most freedom to sort of move around and develop your style of shooting, but also get really nice work. Despite that, it's not a band everyone's heard of, and it's not a super picture. And here's another shot of the band Dillinger Escape plan again, playing a pops and just another example that you know you never know who you're going to love shooting. They're, ah, math corps bands, extremely technical, but also their thrashing around. It's like they someone lit them on fire and they're running around on stage, and that's their performance. So It's incredibly challenging, but and even though I didn't listen to the music before, I'm a huge fan of them and they're a blast. A photograph. There's nothing mawr challenging or fun on DSO. We really recommend shooting anything and everything, even if it's genres miscue, don't listen to venues wouldn't necessarily go to shoot everything. We're starting out because you never know what you're gonna love doing and find your niche in that kind of music. In addition to everything. And also just turn around. You know, sometimes the best being all on a at the concert isn't what's happening on stage. It's the fans, it's the atmosphere, and this is really kind of how you can build your portfolio and establish establish yourself as being able to shoot everything. Not just performer is not just the motion, but doing portrait's backstage work and crowd work. And a lot of times, this kind of atmospheric shot. That's like Maura about the lifestyle or what clients are actually mawr interested in, especially the ones on the commercial editorial side. And we found that a lot of the times it's like lifestyle images, the atmosphere, the crowd, the details, the behind the scenes that are the most value from a valuable from a business standpoint. And it's not just about who's on stage. So when you're starting off local and small, you know we'd recommend shooting all the bands you can any band, local bands coming through national bands on and really building relationships with those bands. If you see them regularly, they'll recognize you and they'll give you access and you can get that kind of relationship translates directly into better images. This is a photo of semi purchase weapons and lead singer Justin Tranter Um, and these guys that ended up like sleeping on my couch several times there came through saying There's so many times but friend of them on Built Up a report them, which led to backstage shots, portrait and so forth. And now Justin's gone on to be an incredibly successful songwriter. He's written number one hits for Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and Gwen Stefani. So you never know with these smaller bands and artists you're working with will go on to do and is another example. This is a band called Tat, and Chris and I photographed in a warped tour in on bond, small festivals or touring festivals like warp Tour are really great way to get access to these bands, where you can make compelling portrait. This is literally a shot that was made in between two tour buses with a speed light behind in back of them and then a small speed light I'm in in a small soft box above. So even though they're not that you know that pop stars you hear on the radio, you can make compelling images of these subjects and just another image that underscores, like working in small venues, developing relationships. This is the country artist Thomas Rhett here at Irving Plaza in NYC. I've been photographing him for years, and he's just like I had in tuning his guitar on a bunch of rate road cases in a space that was probably like four feet wide and, uh, darker than really dark. But you know, black and white is a good solution for that. Andi. It's an example of how you can start with smaller artists and build trust over time on DNA. Now, like Thomas is playing the crowds arena crowds of like 15,000 people and his most recent record went platinum. So the big question of music photography after you cut your teeth on these small clubs is getting access. How do you get this coveted photo pass? And for largest show is shooting for a publication is really the best and sometimes only way to secure that access as a credential. Photo passes are really designed for press covering shows to provide the artist with the publicity it's not for, you know, giving someone who's just building the portfolio. There's no incentive for the artist or the management or their, um, publicity team to do that, really. So Shooting complication is really the best thing to secure that pass now who covers concerts. So when you're talking about publications these days, you're talking about blog's magazines and newspapers typically, so both online publications and things in print. Both are like equally weighted tickets into the photo pass. Obviously, if you're shooting for like a rolling stone dot com, which is probably going to get you in better than like Susie's blawg, Uh, but there are tons of shows where there are, you know, between five and 20 photographers in the pit from all different levels of publications, both online and in print and publications in particular, are usually looking for shots of the performance and shots of the atmosphere. They're sort of looking for the story of the show and not just, uh, what's on stage. Todd. You want to talk about what a photo pass actually gets used to speak as a general rule Photo pass grants you well, First of all, it's up to the artist, but in general the 1st 3 songs are allotted with no flash, those kind of the base ground rules and up from there it's really up to the artists in the management. What other kind of writers they would tack on to that. But at the very least, 1st 3 no flash is standard. And if it's a smaller national band, probably 1st 3 songs in the photo pit foot up. It is the area between the stage and the fans of the barricade, and security and photographers are allowed up there. So that's where you probably shooting, and it really is an ideal place because you kind of get right up there. But for someone national touring artist for larger acts, you might be relegated to the soundboard, which might be 101 150 feet away from the stage in the publication. If you especially if you're covering like a single show, it's pretty well accepted that you'll do your edit same night and turn in between 20 and 30 of the best images by like 99 a. M the next morning. So in addition to getting there early like at doors of a four door is to be up there on doing your research, you might need to, like, shoot the whole show, stay out all night, stay up editing and have your have your stuff submitted the next morning. It's not exactly not exactly glamorous, but it is a whole lot of fun. And so what? One of the questions we always hear about look, okay, that's what a photo passes. That's nice, but actually, how do I find the publications that are in my local market? And it's really easy as in, like, let me google that for you. So this is Ah, Google Search results for the I Heart Radio music festival that just happened last weekend, and if you just type in I Heart Radio Music Festival 2016 and filter by the news thing on search. You literally get three entire search engine page results of different publications that covered the concert, and most of those many of them are hiring their own photographer for that gig. Eso You can apply this to your local market wherever you are. Just find a concert that have, like last night's concert, Google, who covered it. And then you can hit up their websites. Teoh. See if you can get access. Become a contributor for that publication, so beyond publications or a number of other clients that you can shoot for as a music recital for this includes bans labels and management, editorial clients and commercial clients. And in terms of bands, basically bans just one look cool. They want to look rocked out thistles Shop it Chris made of Richard Wurman, Who's the Jennifer Jason Aldeen? And you just you know they want to be these, you know, epic, larger than life figures. And that's our job when shooting for Ben to deliver that when you're shooting for labelling management, they have a slightly different strategy and vision for the images. They they want the rock star images, but They also want images that show the production and the scale, and they're artists in front of fans. Basically, they want images that will sell tickets like the side of saying like, Here's a great example of, I think, an image that captures the scale of the show that a management or label would just love to show off like this artist can sell out an arena this size and if you're a fan like you want to be there for that confetti drop. And that is the kind of imagery that both bands want but label on management wants as well. And this is a portrait of Slayer for on the shop, a rolling Stone. But the band ended up slicing. Seen the photo for their own official promotional. These So that's another avenue. Not only just live music, but Portrait's that, um, that management labels will pay for as well. And it's important to note that when you're doing these assignments editorial assignments, which for blog's newspapers, magazines you're generating portfolio work, but you're also generating on archive of work that can that has value. If you're shooting details of the instruments, it's possible that the artists, the guitar makers, the drum makers, the people making the pedals want, they need content as well. And you might be able to have a business that, uh, or the images have value beyond the original assignment. And you constantly need to be aware of what that might be. So again, for reasons like Don't just shoot the lead singer, don't just shoot what's right in front of you get like a whole bunch of images, a diverse collection of images for me to show you shoot because you never know who it might be valuable to later. This is an editorial assignment that Todd shot for, like a client who was hired for one amount and then was able Teoh make more money on the shoot by licensing it directly to the band. The movie Going Teoh Editorial clients. This is the group Disclosure was photographed for Q Magazine out of the UK at the festival Lollapalooza, and this is just backstage kind of reportage coverage of them. They're signing a guitar for charity, and this is example that kind of work that is expected for an editorial client. They want the details in the backstage, not just the live thing, the live coverage, but really kind of telling the story of the band at the event of the day s O. Sometimes when you're shooting for an editorial outlet, they'll have their They have their own brand to think about when you're shooting for a band. The band wants to look a certain way and management managements trying to reinforce whatever the artists brand is. But publications like The New York Times or Rolling Stone, or even even a blawg they choose, which bans there covering and who they cover is a reflection of the brand of the publication. And so, when you're looking for like people to shoot for, try and really figure out who their covering, what kind of music and how they want it covered on this is an example. It's a portion of the country group Florida Georgia line. Whenever I heart radio hires for a show here in New York, they always get a portrait, and it's part of their brand. It's not like something they just do for no reason. They always get a portrait whenever someone comes with studio in New York, and so for to be considered for those kinds of jobs. We have to be like good live shooters and good portrait shooters. And here's another example, Um, I don't know who that is. Keith Richards. Another example. Something like I Heart Radio always grabs a shot by the backstage door. This is something that, like reinforces their brand as of application and for commercial clients really more interested in their interested in everything else we've covered. But they really urges it in the lifestyle photos as well, kind of everything that goes along with the event. That's not just the performance. Um, I mean, a lot of times when Chris and I are higher to cover events for brands like this, we're thinking it of, you know, we're not just music photographers or DJs. Photographers is for Tiesto album, where these party that seven up put on at Terminal five. You know, we're not just music photographers or event photographers were fun. Photographers were hired to capture a certain lifestyle that the brand wants to be associated with. And this is a similar aspect when you're covering for a festival I shot for Leeds Festival in the UK is part of the official photography team, and they're really interested in covering the entire event because the performers are almost secondary because the performance changed every every from year to year. Whereas the field, the festival and the excitement of the energy, the festival, that's what will sell tickets for the next year. And that's what becomes the marketing material. This is a shot of the producer Skrillex, and this was shot for Red Bull. Skrillex did a Brooklyn takeover last a couple years ago. That was five venues over five days, and Rebel was very interested in obviously, you know, epic shots of Skrillex doing his thing on stage, but even more so, they're interested in the venue shot that captured the energy and the excitement of these very exclusive, very small events. So do you all have any questions about getting started in concert photography? Well, first of all, thank you so much people tuning in from all over the world and there are already tons of tons of questions. So clearly people are very interested in what you, whether doing and how you do it. And you've already dressed some of those very, very common questions like you said, but one you talked a little bit about starting in small venues and such. But what is your opinion on volunteering as a photographer at a big festival? Where is it a good experience to build your portfolio or a bad idea to actually work for free for that festival and not retain the rights? Those images? Good question. First of all, I would say that for an event as large as a festival, which festivals take a lot of money to put on to produce and everyone is getting paid stagehands getting paid, the production companies getting paid, the bands are getting paid. And there are lots of sponsors that paid the putting money to pay for this event. And so to not pay photographers for an event of that scale. It seems wrong. I think if it were volunteering for smaller events or working with a local band, for example, and dedicating your time and energy to put into them, you're getting access access to the band. They're getting images and you're getting your portfolio work. I think that's a different situation. Yeah, you I mean, this goes not only for music photography but photography in general. The content we create ISMM or valuable ever this is more valuable now than it has been ever. I would say whether everyone like everyone, has a to this point in time. They're walking around with IPhones or taking pictures. You're on instagram you on Facebook. Everyone is both a creator and a consumer of visual content. And it is the way both people and brands communicate these days. And so the idea that you would shoot for free at a huge festival with all of these sponsors and all of this money going into it those pictures of the only thing the pictures in the video of the only things that air lasting from that that are going to be used to greenmarket the festival the next year to sell all those tickets the next year on. So I think whether or not someone works for free is a very personal choice There. Certainly, like gigs in my past where I was like, Yeah, I really want to be at that show. Okay, I'll do it. But there is another line. I think that was mentioned in the question where it's like, OK, you're gonna work. You're not gonna get paid for the gig, and they're gonna own the rights. No, that's that's like a big no no for me to continue in this about the rights. What kind of arrangements do you do before you going to shoot, like, how do you use your pictures? Can you put them on your website as support for the peace or what you need to? I mean, it depends on the client, um, publications or different than working directly with bands or management or commercial clients. And do you wanna talk about the difference between the first of all? It's a great question because it's a big issue in music photography in general, the rights of the images of a they artist get them and is a publication. But overall, just like any other war photography, unless you signed a contract stating otherwise, it writes default to the image maker to the photographer a lot of times shooting from for a publication like Rolling Stone or whoever will have a standard contract set up where they might have level of exclusivity for a certain amount of time. You know, whether it's 60 days or 90 days and then you're able to share them and publish them. However you wish, including licensing them to their parties like different brands. The band in cells, etcetera. Um, it's very rare. It's only really, in the case of a commercial client where you're shooting like for someone like Red Bull for Red Bull Campaign, where the campaign hasn't launched yet. And therefore they don't want you putting anything out about the shoot. Nothing on social media and nothing in your portfolio. And it's only in those contexts where the concept of buyout or where you would be, like actually selling the rights that the wholesale rights to the images come into play. But normally speaking, yeah, we you shoot a show, you can publish it to your website. You can put it on instagram unless you've signed something specifically to say otherwise. And generally speaking, if it doesn't, if you're reading it and it doesn't feel right if you get that really sinking feeling like don't don't sign that or at least question it, because sometimes it's a simple is asking like Hey, Dwight, red line that piece out there like oh yeah, sure, and you're like, Oh, it's not easy you so ask. When it went in doubt, ask

Class Description

Concert photography can be one of the hardest fields in photography. As a photographer you have no control over the lighting, environment, or direction of your subject. Learning how to lower the variables so you can capture an amazing moment of a performer or band will drastically improve your chances at growing an amazing portfolio. Todd and Chris Owyoung have photographed some of the biggest names in the music industry. In this class they’ll cover: 

  • How to build your portfolio and get photo passes to concerts 
  • What gear to bring to a performance 
  • Step by step walk through of a live performance and how to deal with the variables within  
In this class the sibling photographic duo will share their expertise of capturing commercial precision and the exhilaration of being in the front row. 

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Tony Goza

Where do I start? I had photographed a couple of small concerts in the past of a friends band, but normally have stayed within Wildlife and Sports photography. I had an interest in doing something bigger. So I watched this course, and was amazed with their instruction. A lot of great information that some may not think of, or use in practice. I have now (since watching their course) am not only a contributing photographer for a local paper, but have shot my first big concert with Styx. I am now going to be shooting the Reba concert tonight. Chris, Todd, thanks so much for clear and concise direction of how to approach, and the steps needed to get these opportunities. Can not thank you enough!


Excellent class! Holy moly, check out their websites! Lots of good advice, especially for the novice.