Welcome to Part II of The Work Routine. This part is all about the shoot.
The shoot obviously is the most important part for a concert photographer. It is easily the most stressful, most fun and most challenging part for a photographer, too. Thankfully, there are only two guidelines to remember.
1~ Don’t be an asshole. I can’t stress this enough. Be nice to everyone you meet at the shoot. Be nice to the security guys, the ushers, the venue point person, other photographers and especially the concert patrons. Someone is always watching you while you cover a show and how you behave will follow you for the rest of your career. If you thought you would have the traditional first three songs but it turns into on the first 10 minutes (or less), don’t be an asshole and complain about it. If a concert patron thinks you are making too much noise or are blocking their line of sight, don’t be a asshole and tell them to suck it up because you have a job to do. If the venue point person tells you the shoot is from the soundboard when you were told earlier it was from the pit, don’t be an asshole and demand pit access. Concert photography is full of constant change and you have to be able to adapt to the last minute changes. Be nice to everyone you meet. There are enough assholes in the music industry already.
2~ Don’t second guess yourself. One of the first times I ever shot at Toronto’s historic Massey Hall was during a Wynton Marsalis concert. It was me and two other photographers. Both of them had more experience then me and certainly better camera equipment than me, and I was a little intimidated by them. Our point person walked us into Massey Hall before the concert started and gave us shooting options for our shoot (I can’t remember if we had three songs or two). The options were stage left, stage right and house center. He said we probably had time to use two of the areas, but not all three. All of us agreed to shoot house center for one song, but the other two wanted to shoot stage right while I wanted to shoot stage left. The problem with shooting stage right was a lovely grand piano blocking most of the band. The other two photographers didn’t seem to care about the grand piano and I got the impression that the point person wanted to keep us together. I didn’t say anything and went along with the other two photographers. Sure enough, I didn’t really capture anything from stage right because of the grand piano. But neither did the other two, as I heard them complaining about the grand piano on the way out.
My point is, had I had more confidence in myself and spoken up, I would have probably gotten more usable images of Wynton Marsalis. But I was shy, insecure and intimidated and paid the price. I learned a valuable lesson that night – don’t second guess yourself.
It’s easy to second guess yourself, especially if there are a lot of other photographers with you at the shoot. It’s natural to wonder, ‘what settings are they using?’ or ‘what do they see that I don’t?’ But just because someone has better equipment than you doesn’t make them a better photographer. I’ve learned a lot from fellow photographers in the pit by asking about settings and camera equipment. But it is so important to have confidence in your unique vision and abilities. That’s when you succeed.