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).
4. When in Doubt Write it Down
Notepad pen/sharpie because you never know when you will need to take down someone's contact info, set time, lineup, where you need to be etc... On festival days you're shooting at least 7 bands on as many different stages you might not remember it all. I know what you're thinking I'll write down on my phone, but your battery is not going to last all day the paper will be ok in your bag. Also, sometimes you're given a map of the venue I find it helpful to write important info on the map.
5. Protect the Ears
Earplugs are the one thing everyone forgets but are one of the most important tools you can have. Your ears are important and by being so close to the stage we risk damaging them every time we go to work. Hearing loss is something you don't want to be worrying about while shooting bands. You also don't want to spend the next 3 days with your ears rings (it not fun and it hurts, be wise get earplugs). There are tons of options from cheap disposable one to custom made just for you. I suggest investing in a good pair to use over and over (here a link to an article about them and review by one of the best in music photography biz Matthias Hombauer).
6. Beware the sun
Sunscreen is a lifesaver, why you may ask? Ten to twelve hours in the hot sun can leave you burnt to a crisp (one time I forgot sunscreen and I was peeling for weeks). Protecting your skin is just as important as protecting your ears, not only does sunburn hurt but UV rays can damage your skin. I like using coppertone sport because I'm running around sweating all day.
7. Am I On the List?
A hard copy of your confirmation email for your press pass. This is another thing we don't really think about but sometimes it can be the only thing that gets you in the door. There are times when the venue might not have you on the list. Having the hard copy on hand is better than giving a stranger your phone so they can go confirm with who issued the pass you are meant to be there. You did all the hard work to get this point you don't want to lose it because someone forgot to write your name down.
8. How to Stop an Owie
Festival crowds are brutal, I have been kicked in the back of the head by a crowd surfer, cut my finger open, and hit by a flying beer can. The point is we get hurt doing this job and it can be dangerous, packing some bandaids and bandages can be useful. If you're shooting a set and cut your finger open it's easier to put a band aid on it and go back to shooting, than going to med tent missing half the set and then finishing or trying to finish while bleeding everywhere. It always better to be prepared for injury because one day it will happen.
9. The Cards
Always bring some business cards, you never know who you will find yourself talking to. If you give them a card (especially one that shows off your work) it may lead to a great networking opportunity. I use moo cards they allow you to upload as many designs as you want to back of your cards. Its great for making a mini portfolio (click here to get 20% off your first order)
*note this is there refer a friend program so I do get $15 store credit if your order, but don't let that sway you moo has great products.
Is there anything on you think is missing from this list? Let me know in the comments below.
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).