At one point or another a photographer has to decide what niche of photography he wants to pursue. If you’re reading this and you’re still unsure of what that niche is, my suggestion would be to pursue what you’re most passionate about. That seems kinda obvious but a lot of people choose short term money over long term passion. Pursuing what you love instead of what pays will pay more in the long run.
Music photography happened to be a niche I decided to pursue. Who wouldn’t want to stand in the pit and see their favorite artist(s) perform, right? Well, it’s not as glamorous as you may think — but it can be depending on your level of access.
How it Works:
There’s different levels of access when it comes to concert photography. Credentials typically range from GUEST, VIP, PRESS, STAFF, ARTIST, PRODUCTION, ALL ACCESS and/or STAGE. The names and titles of these passes vary depending on the show. There are different names given for the same pass. As a concert photographer, you’re most likely to receive PRESS, STAFF or ALL ACCESS, depending on your assignment coverage and quiet frankly, who you know.
The Difference in Each Pass:
PRESS: A press pass is often times the most popular pass a photographer will receive in order to shoot a concert, but they come with the least amount of access. If you’re working for a media publication or media outlet that the concert promoter or venue decides is worth while, they’ll grant you access along with a press pass.
What you may not know is, a press pass will really only get you access for about 10 minutes. Let me explain. When you’re given a press pass, you’re only allowed to shoot from the pit or a designated area away from the stage instead. You’re also only allowed to shoot an artist for the first 3 songs, MAX, — which is typically 10 minutes. After your 10 minutes are over, it’s time to go home. Your press pass isn’t a ticket to the show, so after you complete your 10 minutes of work, you gotta go, unless, there are more artists. Then you can shoot 10 minutes of the next artist(s), and so on — but you still don’t get to watch the show. It’s important to note that these rules vary from artist to artist, but these rules are pretty standard.
When you shoot a concert, they’re pretty strict with who they let in and how credible the media outlet is that you’re shooting for. Sometimes there’s only 3-5 photographers shooting and I find it much more enjoyable that way. It’s more intimate, exclusive and the photographers are pretty credible if they’ve been chosen to be there and it’s always fun meeting people you can learn from. However, when it comes down to radio shows or festivals, forget it. There’s 50 photographers+ (who aren’t all credible) and it takes all the fun out of it. After my experience with music photography, I pick and choose my battles carefully.
VIP: This will allow you in all the general areas as well as backstage, but not everywhere.
STAFF: This is the equivalent of a Press + VIP pass. You’ll generally receive the same access as a press pass except you’ll be able to shoot the whole show . This has it’s perks because when all the other photographers leave the pit, you have the pit to yourself. It allows you more time to get the shots you want and the flexibility to move around without the obstacles of having to move around people.
ALL ACCESS: Exactly what it sounds like.
STAGE ACCESS: Top of the food chain — and the hardest to obtain. These aren’t given out easily since you become more of a liability than an asset when you have one of these in your hands. Once you get a few of these you’ll never want a press pass again.
Music photography is great. I love music, the entertainment business, live event’s and photography. It’s a combination of everything I enjoy — but again, there are levels to it. Concert photography is different from festivals, touring, shooting in the studio, etc. The reason I enjoy concert photography is because I enjoy shooting guerrilla style. Fast paced, on the go, boom, boom, boom. I’ve never worked with a large crew and I’m not sure how that would pan out if I did. I like being in my own element, zoned out. Although I’m shooting with one person, when you’re shooting with one person it’s normally intimate and up close which I don’t mind, but concert photography is 1 on, from a distance. It’s a freestyle of 2 artists doing what they do — one performing, one shooting. It’s the most entertaining yet most free you can feel when shooting without having make-up artists, hair stylists, art directors, assistants and crew all around you. It’s just you, an artist, LIVE music and your camera.
If you’re looking to get into music photography, I would start with shooting concerts or night clubs. Is it impossible to break into the music industry and catch someone’s attention by just shooting shows? No. I would be lying if I said it was. My travel photos are what got me into the music industry and on tour with Ne-Yo. Go figure. At the end of the day, do what you love to do. I’m confident that if you follow your passion every single day, it will lead you to exactly where you’re supposed to be. And that’s why I’m wrote this post.