On a day-to-day basis I'm hard at work on many photography related things, which also includes my work at livemusicTO. livemusicTO focuses on the music scene in Toronto; hosting events, blogs and artist interviews as well as live music photographs.
Thanks to my 'job' over there I'm often browsing many live music blogs and websites trying to stay in touch with what's cool and currently revolving around Toronto musically. Time and again I notice a few things that bother me a bit and I think a lot of photographers are missing the mark. The frustrating part isn’t necessarily that they aren’t talented enough or don’t have enough passion, it’s simply that they’re using the wrong techniques or equipment to get the job done right. Some common faults: poor timing, bad clarity, too many of the same images and wrong flash or camera settings.
I think what a lot of young photographers forget is that the power of a photograph lies in its ability to tell a story. And this applies as much to live music photography as it does nature photography. If all your photographs are the same close crop of the lead singer or drummer for example, you’re missing more than half of the “story”. The collection of photos as a whole should ideally share the experience of being there. If the viewer leaves your gallery only knowing the colour of nail polish the lead singer wears, you’ve missed the mark and the lasting value of your images will be lost. Sure, one photo might be spectacular, but if the pose you’ve captured is almost identical to the other 100 images you made public… it’s going to be less memorable.
I recently had the opportunity to explore these ideas when I photographed Aaron Gillespie (The Almost, Underoath), Parachute Band and NineOFive at a concert in Ajax, ON last month. In my attempt to tell a story, I discovered some keys to success that I’d like to share with you.
So this concert wasn't your typical high energy club show. It was inside a church, the venue had seating and so the crowd wasn't able to move a whole lot. It posed a great challenge for me to tell a story or capture the live energy. Sometimes it helps to add context to the event by showing the crowd lined up, the posters lining the halls or the catering/production/sound checks. Sometimes as a photographer you have to create energy for yourself. Find crazy perspectives no one else will think of, that help tell a story, share a message or portray energy whether or not it was even there.
A stranger should be able to look at your photos and know exactly what they missed if they weren't there. Hopefully what they missed was a damn good time, thanks to your photos. I don't claim to be an expert on the topic and I'm not always the best at practising what I preach, but I hope some of these tips help you next time you're out shooting a live music event. - Matt Vardy.
Aaron and his management liked the photos so much that one of them became the
Echo Your Song (Live) album cover!
All images, videos, text copyright © Matt Vardy, all rights reserved.