The dream for many rockstar photographers is to photograph festivals but not just any festivals the big ones like Riot Fest, Rockfest, Warped Tour, Welcome To Rockville etc... At least that's what it was for me when I started this 3 year ago. I can now say that I've had the chance to shoot Warped Tour a few times as well as quite a few local festivals that are sometimes more fun to shoot because they are more intimate. In this week's post, I'm going to walk you through the process of getting to shoot a festival.
There's a lot of work that goes into photographing a festival and it starts months before the festival even takes place. The first thing you need to do is get approved for a photo pass, for summer festivals the application process for photo passes normally happens in the early spring. Look on the festival's website and social media for how to apply. Most festivals give a press pass to photographers who work for publications. But what if you don't work a publication? Unless it's a requirement from the festival still apply you might still get one, or you could wait till they post who's playing the show and shoot for one of the bands, or you could shoot for the venue. So there are options for the photographer who don't work for a publication also these options can be your backup if you get turned down by the festival. When asking to shoot the most important information are who? what? when? and where? (unless you're asking the venue for which you leave out the where) keep it short but polite. You might not always get a yes but it never hurts to try and by being polite you may stand out so next time could be yes.
Every photographer has a camera bag (if you don't you need one) whether it's a small bag that holds one camera to a full on backpack. Depending on what you're shooting will change what things are in your bag. Today I'm going talk about shooting festivals. I will come back to the topic at a later date and talk about other shooting conditions.
I'm not really going to talk about camera and lenses because there's so much more you need to survive the day than that (trust me there are so many things you need). If you're shooting professional then your DSLR with 70-200mm and 75-300mm (my fav. lenses) or whatever lens you have will work. If you're shooting from the crowd a good point and shoot camera can get you some great shots.
This list is kinda long but it covers everything that has saved my ass at one point in time. Ready? Here we go:
1. Bring Backup
Always have a backup SD/CF card you never know when you'll fill one or have one become corrupt and not know how to fix it (I have had both of these things happen, don't be like younger me bring a spare). Also, invest in good SD/CF cards and card readers (I learned this the hard way when I first started out) the cheap ones break easily or simply give out after a few uses. I highly recommend using SanDisk Ultra cards they can be a little pricey but worth it (you can get SD cards here, you can get CF cards here). For card readers I use Insignia they run around the same as SanDisk and can read every type of card imaginable ( you can get the card reader here).
2. Bring a Spare
Spare batteries are always a great idea, external factors like heat can make your battery drain faster. You don't want to get half way through the day and have to stop because your batteries dead. I've seen for some battery types portable battery charger if they make it for the particular type you use get it. Do whatever you can to extend your battery life (no battery = no shooting) if that means bringing a charger with you and plugin if you have some free time do it.
3. Fuel For the Body
Water and snacks are the unsung heroes of festival photography. Think about it, it's hot, you're outside, on your feet all day, and may or may not have time for a break (usually you have 5 minutes the bathroom might be more important than the concession stand). I normally pack a few granola bars, fruit snack(I know I'm still a kid at heart), pretzels, trail mix, or fresh fruit. Pack things you can eat quickly in between sets that doesn't take up too much space in your bag and can be easily open. As for water, a large reusable water bottle is best because you will be drinking a lot (the last festival I shot it was 102° water was vital) and need a refill. Try to get something you can attach to your to bag (I have a clip-on lens holder that I use to hold water it attaches to my camera bag and can hold a pretty hefty bottle).
Ashley is a Virginia based photographer living her dreams of shooting concerts & interesting people. When she's not shooting or writing for the blog you can find her curled up with a good book and a latte (coffee keeps her going).