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.
After you get approved to shoot the festival it's a good idea to research it. Each one is set up differently and has its own rules so it is important to know what it looks like and what's allowed before you show up. You should also plan out how your day will go to some degree. There is no way you can shoot every band on every stage it's mathematically impossible (set times overlap and there are like 5-7 stages). Write down a list of everyone you want to shoot (this may change when you find out their set time), look at videos of those bands performing so you know how they move on stage and look at past layout of the festival if you have never been to get a feel of what your work environment will be.
The night before the festival is the best time to back your camera bag if you don't know what to pack I have a handy guide for you (here). Packing the night before gives you extra time plan and make sure you have everything you need. It would really suck if you waited until the morning of and realized you needed something that you no longer have time to get. As far a clothing goes you are going to wear something light, breathable, and most of all comfortable. It's normally 100° and you're on your feet carrying heavy equipment all day, the last thing you want to do is be uncomfortable it will affect how you shoot. Always wear tennis shoes your feet will thank you later. I tend to wear dark colors because it draws less attention to me. The festivals goers did not pay to see me in a loud sparkily outfit in front of the stage, they paid to see the band on the stage.
The day of the festival be sure to eat a good breakfast you never know how often you will get to eat through the day. Also, drink some water before you leave and take some with you so you don't get dehydrated. Try to get to venue thirty minute before the doors open just in case there's a problem with photo pass or anything else that could go wrong (Murphy's law has way of showing up sometimes the extra time is nice cushion). Once inside have fun shooting bands, networking with bands and photographers, and experiencing the festivals.
Have any festival stories to tell? Share them 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).