Photographing Bands: Guitarist

     I've been doing more and more band photos and I was asked by a couple people to write how I went about taking those photos. So by popular request, here it is. My thoughts on photographing bands. Fourth post, the Guitarist. My personal favorite one (admitting to bias).

Things to Keep in Mind

     Not surprisingly, the rules for photographing singers apply to guitarists. They move a lot, are very dynamic, and can create some truly amazing images. Some things to keep in mind are:

  1. EARMUFFS: I can't emphasize this enough... I want you guys (and ladies) to be able to hear your favorite songs after you photograph a concert. Just put earplugs on... please?
  2. Guitarists make Faces: I can guarantee that many Guitarists make faces when they play. This can be great for the emotion of an image, but just keep in mind that you don't want to take a photo of them looking constipated or like they're about to sneeze.
  3. Go Wide: Of all the Guitar photos I've taken, the ones taken with a wide lens are the ones I most often keep. They really give depth to an otherwise flat instrument.

     Now that we have the basics out of the way, let's get to photographing some guitarists!

Live Electric Performances

     When photographing electric guitarists, you've gotta be fast! For both of these images, I was at around 1/320 to 1/400's on a Canon 70D shooting at 7fps. Even then, I was missing shots left & right. That was until, I started photographing in-sync with the songs that they were playing. And this increased my nitrate dramatically. The reason? Guitarists tend to have solos just after the second major chorus, and because of this, I anticipated their actions beforehand and was able to capture the images you see below.

Live Acoustic Performances

     Acoustic performances are by far my favorite performances to photograph. In addition to being an acoustic player myself, I am a huge fan of the warm and almost nostalgic feel of these instruments. However, one thing I cannot stress enough is the fact that you need a decent set of earplugs to protect your hearing if you're going to be photographing indoor events of any kind on a frequent basis. Not only because of the loudness of these performances, but because of the reverb inside that could cause more damage than anticipated.

   Compared to Electric performances, Acoustic performances have a whole different set of challenges all-together. Being that they're mostly indoors (with less light), you need fast glass. The photo you see above was shot with my Rokinon 14mm T/3.1 (F/2.8 equivalent) at ISO 1250 and 1/50's on my Canon 60D.

   One thing that I've noticed with Acoustic performances is that they tend to be easier to photograph because the guitarist isn't going to be running around the stage with a big hunk of wood, risking its safety. That, along with the fact that they're usually lit pretty well (considering it's low light) is the reason acoustic performances are my favorite. And besides, I love the music. :-P

Practice Sessions

     Practice sessions are, to me, the easiest and most freeing of the three. You don't have to worry about "missing the shot" as often, and you can try creative stuff you wouldn't even think about doing at an event. For example, the shot above is of my personal guitar (Yamaha FG700S + Elixir Nanoweb Strings). To get a different look, I decided to throw the strings out of focus on my 100mm FD Macro lens. I'm glad I did! This photo is not only one of my favorites, but I could potentially use it for stock footage. That's another benefit of practice sessions, you could potentially get something good enough to sell.

     The one to the left has a funny story to go along with the image. Recently, I had the opportunity to photograph the band Antimartyr while they were having band practice. During the practice, my buddy Zack was testing out his new 7-string. Hysterically however, he got it snagged on his stomach while he was playing. After it got snagged, he looked up and yelled, "WHY!!!!" Needless to say, I was hammering the shutter button and was fortunate enough to get this.

ISO 100, 1/160's, F/5.6 w/ Youngnuo YN-560 III Flash

     That concludes my series on photographing bands! Again, these tips are what I've found useful, but if they help you become a better concert/band photographer, then I'm happy I could be of help! If you think you have any tips to offer me, leave a comment below and I'll include it in the post. That's it for now, take care!

Photographing Bands: Getting Access

     Lately I've been doing more and more band photos and I was asked by a couple people to write how I went about taking those photos. So by popular request, here it is. My thoughts on photographing bands. Third post, getting the access. Once you master this, you're golden.

The Great Secret

     I'm about to dispense the secret to getting access to bands. Are you ready? This will blow your mind. Go to free music events, send the photos to the band, then ask to be their photographer. That's it! Seriously, it's not rocket science. If you don't stick your foot in the door, you're never going to get into the scene.

     My first event that I photographed was BRFC (Breaking Records for Charities), and BloodTypeG was performing. After I took the photos, I sent Milad the photos, and that was it. I'm now "in" with the band. Since then, I've gone to dozens of performances (mostly restaurants) to practice my craft. These next four images are from a band called Dr. OHH and Friends performing at an art exhibit. You can click on them for larger versions.

     Can you guess how I photographed them? I just walked up and started doing it. You can't expect to get any music work if you haven't shot any music events. It's just one of those things you have to experience in person. "Who's going on solo?," "Man! The drummer is KILLING it!," "Can't forget the Bass Guitar player," all these things won't come to you until you take the initiative and just go photograph events.

IMPORTANT: Always be courteous when photographing at restaurants. You're not the only one who wants to see this band. Even if someone wants to photograph them with their phone, be kind and let them take the photo. In the end, everyone will win.

    I realize this is a short post, but realistically, that's all the advice I can give. Just put yourself out there and take the initiative in taking band photos. I guarantee, you're going to love it. Next week, I'm going over one of my favorite things to photograph in a band, the Guitarist. Yes, I play guitar. And yes, I'm biased.

Photographing Bands: Drummer

     Lately I've been doing more and more band photos and I was asked by a couple people to write how I went about taking those photos. So by popular request, here it is. My thoughts on photographing bands. First post, the drummer. And I have to be honest, I'm starting with the hardest one to shoot.

Things to Keep in Mind

     One might think that photographing a singer (compared to a drummer) is a challenge because of how much they move. Singers tend to move around a lot, making it hard to freeze them. But I would argue that photographing a drummer is even harder, simply because they don't move from their seat. You have to use the lighting, their facial expressions, & their movements to give the photo emotion. Otherwise... it's a snapshot. Other things to keep in mind are:

  1. EARMUFFS: It goes without saying, but drums get loud. This is something to keep in mind if you want to do this full time. Always bring a good pair of earmuffs or earplugs (or both) to protect your ears from the drums.
  2. Make sure the Drumstick isn't in their Face: This is pretty important because of the simple fact that people look for people. And if they don't see the face, the photo loses some emotion.
  3. Photograph them in their Environment: If you were to see a person just sitting and waving sticks around, you'd probably either walk the other direction or call the police. Make sure to get the drums in the photograph.
  4. Introduce Some Motion: As you'll see in a minute, sometimes you don't want to freeze the motion. Introducing some blur could be beneficial to the photo.

     Keep in mind these tips are what I've learned from photographing drummers. They're not fact, but if they help you take a better photo, then I'm happy I could be of help to you.

Live Performance

This was taken @ 1/400's, and notice the motion blur on the right drumstick. Click to see a larger version of the photo.

     Back in January, I had the privilege to photograph BloodTypeG (check out my post about it here) at BRFC (Breaking Records For Charities). While this was my first live concert I shot, I wasn't 100% clueless to what was going on. Since drummers play fast, I needed to be at a fast shutter speed. At first, I was shooting between 1/400's - 1/1000's. This was enough to completely freeze Gustin (the drummer) in mid-air. But after shooting for a bit, I thought perhaps I should shoot at a slower shutter speed. I dropped the ISO (from 320 to 160) and dropped the shutter speed from 1/1000's to between 1/250's - 1/400's. This brought some motion blur into the mix and made for a much more dynamic shot. Plus it allowed me to close the Iris down and get more in focus.

Band Practice

     Band practice is so much fun. You get to see the band as they are, not as they appear to be on stage, and that makes for some awesome candids. And sometimes, you can even direct the photos a little. For example, I was planning on taking an overhead photograph of my buddy Zack playing the drums. But after positioning the flash, I was getting shots like this (different drummer):

     Awesome photograph, but I wanted something different. Fortunately for me, this was my lucky day. Why do you ask? Because just as I pointed the camera down, Zack looked up:

     I can honestly tell you, this is my best band photo that I have taken so far. Don't know what it is about it, but it's literally awesome!

     To sum up, photographing drummers can be extremely difficult. But with enough patience, creativity, and a good pair of earmuffs, your drum shots will improve. Next week, I'm going over how I would photograph singers. Until then, take care. :-D