I go by the name Greg Noire, and I’m a live music & portrait photographer. I’ve worked with several major artists like Goldlink, Demi Lovato, Childish Gambino & Drake – as well as shot for some of the biggest festivals in the country such as Lollapalooza, Coachella & Governors Ball.
I’ve been doing this for quite some time now, and in my travels, I’ve picked up a thing or two when it comes to shooting live music, specifically in the sacred photo pits. Here are a few tips for beginners to ensure you kill it and don’t piss anyone off while you do it.
Tip #1: Be aware of your surroundings.
When shooting in a photo pit, things can get a little tight. Besides issues with space, a lot of photographers are jocking for position and tend to get a little tense when someone who isn’t aware of his/her surroundings is constantly bumping into them with their extra large backpack or long lenses. Try to be cognizant of who’s next to you so you don’t get cursed out by that one angry photog who lacks people skills.
Tip #2: Check your settings.
One thing I’m constantly guilty of is going into a photo pit and shooting with not only the lens cap on, but with initial capture over or underexposed because I failed to adjust to the performers’ situation. As you’re waiting for the performer to hit the stage, don’t be afraid to take a few test shots of sound engineers, production or even the mic stand so that you can get a feeling of the shutter speed, ISO & aperture setting you should be in the range of, so that you’re prepared for that opening moment.
Tip #3: Avoid the bunch-up
One of the most ridiculous things that happens in a photo is the amount of photographers who don’t mind getting the same exact shot. Throughout a set, you’ll see most photographers gravitate to a particular side of the stage, typically due to ideal lighting.
GO TO THE OTHER SIDE.
This is where you can get your chance to shine. Performers tend to have a favorite side of the stage for a few reasons. Sometimes they’re getting more love from the audience on one side. Other times they prefer to be photographed from a certain angle so they’ll keep themselves glued to the left or right side, but not the whole time. When they decide to break away to the other side, guess who will be the only one who gets to capture that moment while the others are scrambling to follow the performer? Easy money.
Tip #4: Wear black.
Be a ninja in the photo pit. Artists don’t want to be reminded that you’re there, ruining their vibe, so be as invisible as possible. If you’re part of a production, this is typically a requirement. Don’t be that rebel photographer fashionista wearing bright colors or all white to stand out intentionally. People will hate you. I will also hate you.
Tip #5: Take your flash off.
For the love of everything decent and good in this world, remove your flash from your camera. Most photographers are aware that you can’t shoot the artists with it because it will most likely cause the artist to become distracted, but some still keep it on for apparent aesthetic reasons – I can only assume. Keeping it on can obstruct the field of vision of others you’re sharing the photo pit with so remove it as you enter the war zone.
Tip #6: Don’t be afraid to venture outside of the pit.
When shooting for a publication or brand, artists tend to give photographers only the first 3 songs, or first 15 minutes if it’s a DJ set. When security escorts you out, try to hang around in the crowd to get a different angle. Shoot the artist through pumped fists and hands so that the viewer of your photo can get a sense of the energy of the performance.
Tip #7: Respect security.
Respect the rules and you’re good to go. Introduce yourself if you’re working with a production, so you can build familiarity & rapport. If you’re working as press, do as they say, especially when being escorted in & out of the pit. Trying to do your own thing could get your credentials snatched.