This has happened to me on more than one occasion:
During that calm before the storm of waiting for a headlining act to take the stage, a fan pressed up against the barrier beckons me over to ask me the big question –
“How can I land a photo pass to shoot concerts like you’re doing?”
My answer is the same every time:
“You know how to get to Carnegie Hall, dontchya? Practice!”
Now, while that’s not exactly the answer they’re looking for, it’s about as helpful of an answer I can give. The fact is, I started out several years ago taking a million photos, promoting myself as best I could, scouring the web for contact emails, trying to convince people that my photography made for great press exposure. Now, fast-forward several years to the present, and I’m still doing just that. The only thing that’s changed since then, is the quality of my portfolio of bands and concerts and festivals I’ve shot, and my Rolodex of editors, publicists, managers, and other helpful contacts.
So, the best I can do is put together a few practical steps to help aspiring photographers on the path of practice for getting right up front and center with their cameras:
Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird played an intimate set in the sanctuary of the historic Fourth Presbyterian Church located in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Being a native to Chicago himself, it seemed no hard task to sell out all three nights of consecutive performances — a return to what he calls “Gezelligheid,” a Dutch word for “coziness” or “intimacy.”
What set this performance apart from other solo singer-songwriter performances was two things: One, is Andrew’s mastery over several instruments, including violin, guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel, and — in keeping with his name — whistling. Two, he had set up around him in the sanctuary what appeared to be giant phonograph horns, amplifying his music to add warmth to the cavernous acoustics of the vaulted church ceilings.
Dave Jackson is a great music and editorial photographer that I was chums with on photographer forum boards long ago — before the days of YouTube even — and every once in a while, it’s nice to see his work still pops up during my daily interwebbery.
Along your journey as a photographer, you’ll hopefully find there’s a day when you wake up and realize you kind of know your way around an aperture, you know the pros and cons of the age-old Canon/Nikon debate, you know what different lenses to use for different scenarios, and you can even imagine how lights were set up and modified just by reverse-engineering how it looks in a photo…
But Dave sits down and explains a little behind his thinking, what rolls around in his brain — often the best piece of equipment a photographer can own.
I think the fact that it’s a circus shoot is MORE than allegorical.
Be sure to read through his exhaustively thorough Behind-The-Scenes blog post as well!
Bless The Fall put on an explosive set at House Of Blues. Opening for Atreyu, these guys pulled all the rock star moves, including guitar whips, and climbing up on risers and cabinets for solos. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE »
When shooting concerts, I always try to get at least one good photo of the drummer. Drummer’s need photo love, too, afterall. Catching Atreyu at House Of Blues on tour to support their latest album, I couldn’t help but be impressed by singer/drummer Brandon Saller’s custom triple-kick(!) drum set.
Naturally as a result, I felt inclined to get more than just one photo of the drummer. Even when I made sure to catch some shots of the other members, the giant set tended to dominate much of the background.
I’ve decided to addendum my earlier post on Getting Great Headshots to best address further details pertaining to the types of headshots you should be going for.
Here I’m going to discuss differences between commercial and theatrical headshots, and the types of roles they’re geared toward.
First, you should have a clear idea about the markets in which you want to work, and strive for headshots that cater to those markets. Are you looking for TV commercial spots or print ads? Then you need commercial headshots. Are you the successful office worker? The all-American suburban mom? Bobby Blue-collar? One or more of these types should be suggestible in a commercial headshot. Take a look at the lead-in photo above. The model is flashing a gorgeous smile, sparkle in her eyes, and a pink sweater for that extra “pop.” She could probably sell most anything from toothpaste to car insurance.
Bear in mind commercial headshots should have a generally broad, national appeal. They shouldn’t be too edgy, sexy, or in-your-face. It has to appeal to a wide spectrum of roles and markets, to ensure your accessibility to all of them.
But how about film, TV shows, and theater roles? Those call for a theatrical headshot. A theatrical headshot — also sometimes referred to as a “legit” shot — defines the character and qualities that a person projects. Are you portraying a flirty seductress love-interest? Or the trustworthy best friend? Do you work best as a specific type, like the edgy bad boy, or something more general, like the next-door romantic lead? Are you a complex jazz musician? A quirky comedic type?? Unlike the commercial shot, the theatrical headshot is mainly to convey nuances that show you’re the best fit for a more specific role. You’re more likely to land gigs when casting directors or potential clients don’t have to stretch their imaginations that you’ll fit the part.
Theatrical (Legit) Headshot
Take a look at the above theatrical headshot. The expression, location, lighting, angle, colors, and wardrobe all combine cohesively to suggest a cool, edgy, urban role. Something you might expect from the CSI franchise, college drama series, a PSA commercial, or similar.
As a general rule, it is best to showcase both with every look, but of course certain looks can lend themselves to being one or the other. But most importantly, make sure you find a photographer that is able to successfully get you the shots that cater to the specific markets you are after.
Feel free to take a look at my headshot gallery to see the range of commercial and theatrical headshots I can provide!
GWAR brought another set of sci-fi horror metal to the House Of Blues the other night, and having photographed GWAR at House of Blues before, at first I was worried about the stage lighting treatment — excessive backlighting, billowing fog, rapid-fire strobes, and deep colored gels. But after the first song, I realized my best bet was to embrace it as part of the “GWAR experience” and shoot accordingly. Being that their show is pretty much a horror B-movie set to metal music, you can’t expect much more. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE »
It must be both exciting and daunting to open for a band such as GWAR, but The Casualties, a street punk band going 20 years strong, were pretty capable of rising to the challenge. They weren’t timid in bringing the raucous to the crowd at House Of Blues.