Runaway Dinosaur

For the love of the music…..

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See The Music-Volume V

Posted by T Rex on January 21, 2008

The gems continue from our Austria colleague Bean Bern…..

See the Music – Inspiring Shots and A Couple Ways to Get Them

Can you envision a photograph of a musician or performance that, once you saw it, it was etched indelibly in your mind? Bob Greun’s epic photo of John Lennon in his New York City shirt or Jim Morrison, arms out and chest bared, are images that are so well-known that the photographs themselves are iconic right along with the people they immortalize. What is it about these images that makes them last? Is it purely the subject matter or is it something else? As an aspiring professional photographer myself, these are things that I think about when going to shoot a show.

I have one photo in particular that has been my inspiration for a while now. I saw it online years ago and then saw an enlarged printed version at the Fillmore in San Francisco a few years ago. It has remained the most influential rock picture I have ever seen. Timing, perspective, exposure and spirit all combine to capture the moment perfectly. The photo I speak of is Michael Zagaris’ shot of the last note of the last song of the last show at Winterland in 1975. The band was The Who. In this shot you can almost hear the music, the crowd. You can feel the energy and you are transported back in time to a show that was played before you were even alive. It’s magic.



I have a few tricks that I employ to be in the right place at the right time and get my shot while still having fun shooting a show. I can’t promise that these will work for you but it is some food for thought.

1.Rocking always trumps pictures of rocking. This is my golden rule of photographing a show and it comes down to the simple concept of really paying attention to the show and respecting the people that are there to experience it. It means not using your gear, credentials or attitude to displace somebody dancing or feeling the music. Also important, “please,” “excuse me,” and “thank you” go a very long way when you do need to move somebody to get your shot.

2. Arrive early to do some recon on the venue and see where your passes will get you. This will allow you to find those places where you will want to shoot from and stage some shots. I tend to do some test shots from these perspectives to evaluate exposures so when the show is on I don’t have to waste time. Also, if there is an opener, go ahead and fire off some practice rounds on them…you never know, they may be the next big thing and you can certainly use the practice.

3. Take a peek at the set list, if possible, using a zoom so you can decide where you want to be for each song. For example, I know that when Ween plays Dr.Rock I want to be at the back of the room to capture the whole stage, the massive light show and the fists pumping in the air. I also know that when they play Fat Lenny I want to be as close to Deaner as possible to catch the rock faces and shredding close up. This can vary from band to band but I have found that it helps to pace me during a show.

4. Have fun! It seems like this is a gimmie, but it is easy to get carried away looking at the 3” screen on your camera and not at the show. Remember to step away from the lense and lose yourself in the music once in a while and it is certain that the pictures you take will reflect the spirit of the show and your experience.

If you’d like some more tips on how to shoot a concert, here are some helpful links that I have found quite helpful:

Concert Photography Masterclass on Boudist

Secrets of Killer Concert Photography Revealed on Popphoto

Concert, Stage and Low-light Photography by Steve Mirachi

Do you have a favorite concert photograph that you have taken or been inspired by? We’d love to see it! Post it in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and remember to See the Music,

Beana Bern

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