Some of you may be thinking "Ok, I already have all of this equipment, now what do I do with it???" In this blog I'll talk about how to start shooting shows. This is a tell-all blog where I reveal all my secrets and if you read this you're guaranteed to become a successful concert photographer (I'm definitely lying you'll probably be upset once you realize how easy it really is).
You may already have a portfolio full of beautiful portraits and landscapes, but concert photography is quite different. While we know a great photographer can shoot anything, the people handing out photo passes are a bit more close minded and want to see a portfolio full of great concert photos, not just great photos in general. Start small so you can build your credentials. Reach out to a smaller local band, they'll be stoked to have you shoot the show and it'll be a great opportunity for you to get used to what settings and techniques you'll have to use for concert photography.
Upload your photos either to a personal website or just to Flickr. Make an album/portfolio with shots that you consider your best so you can quickly and easily link people to your favorite work. Once you feel like you have a good amount of photos that prove you can shoot shows, start reaching out to more bands. I've found that the majority of bands I'm trying to cover have their managers' or press' emails posted online. Check the "about" section of their Facebook page, Google "*artist name* press," "*artist name* manager." It's so much easier than you'd think it would be! Most of the time you don't even need to have some sort of inside contact to get in touch with the right people, you just need to know how to find them. If you can't find the headlining artist's contact info, try looking for the openers'.
Once you find who to get in contact with (preferably their press agent, if they don't have one contact the manager or (as a last resort) contact the band directly), send them an email including who you are and what you want. Be sure to include the date and location of the show and a link to your portfolio.
My basic email template usually looks something like
"Hello! I just wanted to inquire about covering the *band* show in *city* on *date*. Here's a link to my website *website link* and you can see more of my work here *Flickr link*. The band is more than welcome to use the photos for promotional purposes, let me know if we can set something up!
Best, *full name*"
I also always include the band name and date of the show in the email subject.
I recommend sending these emails about 2-3 weeks before the date of the show. This gives them plenty of time to see and grant your request, but it's not too far ahead of time. Sometimes they'll get back to you within a couple days, sometimes they'll wait until the day before the show, sometimes they won't reply at all. Have patience and be persistent! If you haven't heard back from them about 2-3 days before the show, send a follow up email. Just connect it to the first email you sent and say something simple like "Hey, just wanted to follow up on this request. I'd still love to set up coverage!" This not only ensures that they've seen the email but it also show that you're genuinely interested in covering the show.
If you're granted a photo pass, you'll be able to shoot the first 3 songs of each set (no flash). Sometimes, if you're guest listed by an opener, you won't be able to shoot the headliner's set. They'll be sure to let you know if that's the case! I usually go to the box office about an hour before doors are set to open to see if they have the guest list. They often won't get it until RIGHT before doors but I always like to be there early anyway. Also try to check whether the venue has a photo pit or not beforehand. If they don't have one, you'll probably want to get to the show earlier to make sure you're at the front of the crowd and have a good spot to take pictures from. If they do have one, you can basically show up whenever and walk in front of the barricade so you don't have to worry about being there too early.
After the show, sort through your pictures and edit them. Upload them all into an album, preferably dropbox or Flickr, and send them to whoever gave you the press pass. I usually say something like "Hey, here are the shots I took of *band* on *date.* If they want to share any of the pictures, they can credit *Instagram name, full name, whatever you want.* Thanks again!" Try to get this process done within about a week of show. This shows them that you were serious about covering the show and weren't just trying to get a free concert ticket. It also encourages the artists to post your pictures, in-turn gaining you more exposure!
Warped Tour is also a FANTASTIC place to get started! The people covering it are a mix of crazy experienced photographers with thousands of dollars of gear to teens who have never covered a show before. It's such an incredible opportunity to network and, since you're able to shoot whatever bands you want to, you have the chance to shoot some really great (and well known) bands.
Not only that but everyone covering Warped gets put on a list that is sent out to basically all the press agencies/managers/talent groups with bands on Warped. What does this mean? You're now on your favorite band's press contact list. This gives you the opportunity to start working directly with press agencies who may send you show invites and other coverage requests. Going through a press agency for photo passes is SO MUCH EASIER than going through the band or venue because they have all the contacts and credentials and basically do all the work for you. It looks much better to have a respected agency send an email asking for coverage than it does to have it come directly from you (nothing personal of course, they just get a lot of requests and if it's coming from someone they know and trust they're much more likely to pay attention). Even if you don't think you'll enjoy many bands playing I promise this is an invaluable opportunity & I can't stress enough how much it's helped me!
Unfortunately this summer's applications for press have already closed but be sure to check http://vanswarpedtour.com/contact/#press around April next year to apply for next summer!
Hopefully this blog explained the process of getting photo passes well enough, don't hesitate to ask me if you have any questions or are confused about anything at all!