10 Things I’ve Learned As A Concert Photographer So Far

So, hello again! It’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything. Since my last photography session, I’ve started a car lot, sold my house, moved, supported my husband through a stressful promotion, and taken a week-long vacation. Phew! I wanted to jump back into my blog, though, and start getting active again, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is just how much I enjoy concert photography. Yes, I’ve only photographed one show with my Canon, but it really solidified my interest in this niche.

2. I’m inexperienced and lazy at photo editing.
I shot some pictures of the supermoon eclipse. You know, the one that happened in September? Yeah, I still haven’t edited those. I would blame it on my hectic schedule and crazy stressful last couple of months, but in all honesty, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I love taking the pictures, and then get sluggish when it comes to editing them. It may be because I’m self-teaching myself how to edit using Photoshop. I fully intend to take a class or look over tutorials, but I haven’t gotten around to those, either. My only help is a good friend who has shown me the basics of the program (thanks Matt!!).

3. Going on stage is a thrill!
My favorite part of my journey so far has been photographing Kangaroo Knife Fight. They are a local Kansas City band, and were the first ones to allow me to photograph their concert. I loved hanging out with them, going backstage, and being involved with the whole process of performing, but the most awesome part was going on stage with them.

4. But you can end up concentrating so much on photographs that you miss the show.
Especially being a new photographer, it’s difficult to get used to exactly where each setting is and how to access it quickly and efficiently during a concert. Add to that trying to capture the essence of a performance and great shots, and my mind was buzzing a thousand directions with every click of the camera. My inexperience with photography meant I was focusing on details and technicalities and not listening to the music being played. I missed the whole set! Luckily, this band is local, so I had numerous other opportunities to listen to them sans distracting camera, but as a beginner, there’s just so much to remember!

5. You make some great friends.
The guys from Kangaroo Knife Fight are absolutely amazing! When I did get a chance to hang out with them again, they even encouraged me to get back into my photography, since I’d put it on the back burner with the new business. Not only that, but I also got to meet the bands’ friends, who are also amazing people!

6. There are perks.
On top of getting access to parts of the stage that most people don’t, there are also other benefits to concert photography. Free merchandise, smaller events not open to the public, passes to shows, and maybe even a job offer are all possible!

7. But sometimes it’s hard to get access.
The media contacts for bands and venues are usually extremely busy. Because of that, it’s sometimes very difficult to actually get in touch with someone. For small, local bands, just getting in touch with the band itself can be you access. Sometimes, though, you still have to contact the venue to make sure you follow their requirements. I’ve sent countless emails to all kinds of contacts, and rarely receive a response. Many phone calls go to voicemail, as well. It definitely takes persistence to get connected with the right person, and plenty of research, too. Some place have a designated media contact, while others have a general manager or another position who can answer those requests. The plus side of that is if one person doesn’t answer, there’s usually someone else you can try.

8. It’s confusing!
As with everything, there is controversy in the concert photography world. Whether people are up-in-arms over the contracts they have to sign, or complaining about photographers working for free and putting them out of a job, there is always something to worry about. Of course, there are also about five sides to every argument, too, and countless recommendations on what to do. Rights-grab contract? Don’t sign it! No wait, maybe sign it, but depending on what it says. Or sign it and just don’t work with them again. Or just get over it and don’t be a photographer if you have a problem with contracts! It’s a personal preference for what you decide, but some people take your decision as a direct attack, as well. My biggest worry is some of the requirements that bands or their managers have for photographers. Some are completely open to you just doing your things, while others have some strict rules for you. Venues and bands a like want access to the photographs you take. After all, they’re giving you access to the venues and bands. Some, though, want to place restrictions and requirements on you. In my short time of doing this, I’ve had a manager require that I send them all of the photographs of their band before posting them, so they could approve the pictures. I understand why, but at the same time, I’m not going to post some picture that makes the band look bad, because that would also make me as a photographer look bad. Some also request that you send them a certain amount of pictures for their use on social media. The confusing part is what types of requirements are deemed “acceptable” and what aren’t. I didn’t end up photographing the band that wanted to approve the pictures, but not because of that requirements, I just wasn’t able to make it to the concert.

9. I don’t mind doing it for free.
Aside from contracts, photographers working for free is the other biggest controversy in music photography, and a lot of people would cringe at this header. I didn’t get into concert photography to make money. I’m interested in photographing amazing bands and trying to capture the intensity that they portray. I want to help local bands by promoting them, and I want to see bigger bands as they come through, as well. I would prefer to be paid in perks: free concerts, merchandise, band friends. If a band ever wants to purchase a picture I took, that’d be awesome, too! And hey, maybe I could make a little side cash with that revenue, but that’s not my main goal. The issue with my mindset according to a lot of people on the internet is that photographers like me, who do it for fun rather than money, are pushing the photographers who are trying to make a living on it our of the way. Why would a band pay a photographer when there are a handful of us clamoring at the opportunity to just add their pictures to our portfolios? I completely understand the issue, and a part of me feels bad, but I know free photographers aren’t the only ones causing issues for the paid photogs. Concert-goers with phones are also eliminating the need for professional concert photography, and it’s hard to compete with thousands of pictures from thousands of angles, even if they are lower quality (though some look better than higher quality ones!).

10. Some bands will change your perception of them by how they treat you.
Bands like Kangaroo Knife Fight, who are fully open to budding photographers like me, are what make this worth it. They are my favorite Kansas City band now, and part of it is because of how awesome they are! There are other bands, though, that change your perception in a more negative way. Bands that steal, alter, and use your pictures for themselves without ever acknowledging you leave a bad taste in your mouth. I’ve had that happen, even just with phone photography, and it just portrays that band in a different light afterwards. Especially when it’s been brought to their attention and they still never acknowledge it. That’s not a band I intend to see again. So, hopefully, your favorite band doesn’t turn out to be like that, cause it’s tough to see them in a favorable light afterwards.

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