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.
Having the right aperture is very important in capturing that perfect shot. Aperture can make or break a photo depending on what you're trying to achieve. Just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about here's a quick refresher on what aperture is:
Aperture refers to how open the hole in your camera lens is. Think of your lens like an eye, the aperture can be thought of as the pupil. As the aperture wheel (the part of the camera that sets the aperture) is turned the aperture (or pupil) gets bigger or smaller. The smaller apertures allow a lot of light to gets into the lens, the larger apertures allow less light into the lens. The larger the opening the smaller the aperture on the scale and vise versa the smaller the opening the larger the aperture. The diagram bulleted points explain this principle further:
*f-stop or f is is the ratio of how open the lens is, it refers to relative aperture to lens size. An f/1.8 means the aperture is completely open, because it's smallest f-stop on this lens (the one pictured) and the hole is largest here.
*When trying to show a range of f-stops we write them like this f1.8:4 that lets you know the smallest is f/1.8 and largest is f/4
*These are just commonly used f-stops there are more in between for example you could take a photo at a f/2.
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).
One of the questions I get asked a lot is "What should I wear for my photo-shoot?" well, the answer to that varies based on a few factors. Those factors include the time of year, the location of the shoot, and what kind of feel you're going for (you wouldn't want to wear a bright pink sundress in a rustic themed shoot).
After taking those into consideration it is time to chose an outfit. I'm first going to talk about what not to wear. Loud patterns or mismatched patterns can distract from the rest of the photo; if there is more than one person in the photo shoot do not wear clashing colors. Matching clothing maybe a cute idea, but it makes you blend into the background and nobody wants to spend money on photos where you're barely seen.
What's important to keep in mind is texture bring a lot to a photograph. So think layers, hats, pleated skirts, frilly dresses, dark wash jean with a light fading, printed socks and stockings, and even a nice scarf or flower crown can make a photo pop.
Neutral colors like browns, grays, white, and blacks are good for fall and winter along with dark reds, greens, and purple.
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).