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5 Tips For the Beginner Music Festival Photographer

Music festivals are a great place to practice photography. They feature musical acts, stage lighting, performers, lively attendees, art, and are usually located in rather scenic places.

There are many things to see and photograph at these gatherings so don't get stuck in the photo pit for three days.

I have photographed my fair share of music festivals and am very grateful to use my craft to give back to the music community. My photography has allowed me to be first row with my camera at concerts featuring my favorite musicians. It has allowed me to travel to beautiful places, meet incredible people, and do great things.

This is the advice I wish someone gave me before I had to learn the hard way.

Getting In

Contact local magazines and music publications to see if they would like to have you as they’re photographer for a specific festival.

If you know any of the musicians or performers playing at the festival, you can reach out to them and see if they would like to use your services at the festival, perhaps in exchange for a ticket or comp.

Smaller festivals are more willing to give less known photographers a photo pass, maybe even compensation, since they’re budge is significantly smaller than the large festivals.

Be Prepared

Some of these music festivals can get pretty huge.

You do not want to be lost with your gear in the middle of the night, in a very big unfamiliar place.

Look over the map- Do they have a site for media? Know the locations of the stages, bathrooms, food vendors, and media sites. It is helpful to visually remember where your campsite is. It will look different at night.

Know what acts you want to shoot- With overlapping acts and stages positioned unreasonably far from one another, it can be very useful to prioritize what musical acts you want to shoot.

It is next to impossible to cover all of the musical acts at a festival by one photographer.

Stay alive - 9 times out of 10 you’re in a giant field with many strangers (friends you haven’t met yet) during a summer day.

This is basic human survival advice right here, but drink water. Beer is not water, Bud Light is not water, not even Mike’s Hard Lemonade, not diet Coke, water. Bring extra water.

Eat food, the more nutritious and healthy the more your body will thank you later. Some of the food vendors can be overpriced and offer culinary masterpieces like peanut butter and bacon hot dogs and fried candy bars. So it can be wise to bring easy to eat nutritious snacks, fruit, granola, nuts, etc…

Pro tip: Ensure protein shakes offer a massive load of vitamins, protein, and calories. They are easy to drink and offer as much nutrients as a meal.

Look up the weather and prepare accordingly. And even then bring an extra sweater. It might be 70 degrees and sunny all day but once that sun goes down, it might drop to a brisk 40 degrees.

You don’t want to be freezing or over heating.

Other obvious things to bring include: a tent, sleeping bag, bug spray, sunscreen, pillow, cooler.

Work Hard, Play Hard

It’s a music festival. Immerse yourself in the experience fully and you will come out with better coverage. Keep your eye on the prize, the best images you can capture, but don’t let that stray you away from the all encompassing experience.

If you suddenly find yourself lacking creativity, drive, or joy then feel free to put your camera away and dance for a bit. Rejuvenate, refresh, and get back in the game!

Keep Your Eyes Open

Be aware of your surroundings and what is happening throughout the festival. It would be a shame to miss a photo op. Then again it will happen, you will probably miss at least one of the acts you had planned on shooting. And that’s okay.

Watch your stuff and make sure your gear is in a safe location. Petty theft does occur and these fancy picture machines don’t come too cheap. Accidents happen, take preemptive measure to make sure you’re safe.

Lock your gear in your trunk or store it somewhere you know it will be safe.

If you see someone in need of help, please help them.

Networking- Talk to these people, professionals, artists, musicians, vendors. What’s their story? Could they benefit from your services? Can they add value to your career? Introduce yourself.

Music festivals are a great place to interact with people and even network with professionals. Most of the time festival attendees have their guards down and are enjoying their time at the festival, so it is a good time to strike up a casual conversation. Being friendly can get you a long way.

Don't forget to smile!

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