Hey there, sir. I was wondering if you could give pointers on shooting bands, as well as panels at conventions? Also, how do I build up my confidence back? I torture myself when I see a crummy photo go through my camera. -.-
Hi There! Wow, there’s a lot in this question, so we’ll take it piece by piece
1) Shooting bands… well, I don’t do that a ton. At least not as much as I’d like. Even this question can be broken down, so we’ll do while they’re performing and if you’re doing promo shots.
A) Bands while they’re performing - use fast glass (stuff that gets to ƒ2.8 - the 24-70 is great, a 50mm ƒ1.8 works nicely too, Ideally you’ll have a 24-70 and a 70-200) I would put this question in front of Mike Lerner (website, blog) since he’s currently on tour with the Biebs and has shot bands for… as long as I’ve been following him which was around the time I got on Tumblr 4ish years ago. Also, Scott Troyan (website, blog) shoots bands in more difficult lighting scenarios (smaller clubs). In any case - you’ll usually have the first 3 songs to shoot before security kicks you out of the pit (this is assuming you’ve contacted the venue or the band to get permission to shoot and have a photo pass). So make it count - shoot non stop try to get a good tight shot of every member, then work the front person/ lead guitarist in the band. These are the people that are going to be most charismatic and therefore make for the best pictures. The drummer, unfortunately, will always get the short end of the stick - pun intended.
B) Promotional pictures for bands - I typically go for graphic backgrounds that do a lot of the work for you. Unless you’ve got an exceptional group of people, they’re all going to be into standing up straight looking expressionless. Sometimes you have to embrace that, sometimes you can try and have guys kneel, stand, turn sideways and make something that looks a little more… Vanity Fair-esq. Have them sit on stuff/ climb on stuff/ lay on stuff that isn’t designed for sitting/climbing/laying on. FOR GOD’S SAKE AVOID TRAIN TRACKS. Play with the order in which you shoot them. Have one person stand in front of the others and make them the focal point, and then rotate those people around. The label or the editorial that you’re shooting for will want options, but they won’t want 100 shots to wade through. Put together your best 15. NO MORE unless they ask for them.
2) Shooting panels at conventions… well… there’s just no way to make this look interesting, so it’s just a matter of covering your bases. Your shot list should be A) A wide of the whole panel with everyone who is speaking. B) A closeup of each person talking into the mics C) In every panel there is one “star speaker” once you have the first two shots, keep your camera trained on the “person of interest” and just wait. You’ll know the moment when it happens. Typically it’s them smiling, laughing, etc. That’s as good as you can hope for. Unfortunately, unless the conversation is AMAZING these things are hyper boring.
3) Guess what? YOU WILL MAKE BAD PICTURES. Every photographer ever has made shitty pictures. I make about 20 bad pictures to every picture that I’ll consider showing. Even the greats have plenty of pictures that you never saw because they were just terrible. It’s part of the process of learning and developing your skills. What is important in this industry (as with any other) is earnestly working to improve your skills. Continuing to learn. Getting over difficult patches. Challenging yourself. Don’t expect to be famous, because that will likely not happen for any of us, but if you can make a good living doing something you love - that’s where it’s at.
Good luck! Go forth and be awesome!