Carrying on with my theme of looking at different parts of the music industry, I decided to look within Moshville Times at people who create memories and capture breathtaking moments for every person who appreciates their music. This could be from someone that attended the gig and was looking for a memory of seeing their favourite band to someone who wished that they could have been there. I am, of course, talking about the photographers who spend what little spare cash that they have in buying their equipment, resources and their spare time in making this happen for you.
For all the people that find photographers at gigs annoying, I urge you to read this interview and see it from their perspective whose sole aim and motivation is to provide you with that memory. Thank you, Katie for your time and I wish you every success as a photographer.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers at Moshville Times. Can you tell us how your life as a photographer began?
When I first started going to gigs around 1999 I took photos with a little point-and-shoot camera, trying to capture the action. In January 2015, I received my very first DSLR (a Nikon D3300) as a birthday present and managed to get a couple of photo passes to shoot gigs around London. In the early days I photographed in-store band signing events at PULP on Oxford Street and was also part of the old House Photography team at MAMA & Co venues (including The Barfly, The Borderline and Kentish Town Forum). In June 2015 I travelled to Norway to photograph Tons of Rock Festival as part of a workshop and I have returned every year since. I have been a contributing photographer for Moshville Times since August 2015 when I was shooting a Persefone show at The Garage on behalf of the venue and James asked if he could use some of my shots to go with his review of the show. Since my journey began I have upgraded to a Nikon D750 camera body.
When you started photography, what was your first interest before developing an interest in gig photography?
I used to take photographs of scenery on family holidays, but to be honest the interest in gig photography came pretty early on as I have loved going to gigs since I was a teenager.
Now that you are a photographer by profession, what advice would you give to someone wishing to start becoming a photographer?
Sadly I am not a photographer by profession, I work in an architectural practice five days a week and shoot gigs during my evenings and weekends. I hope to be able to be a professional photographer one day but at the moment the majority of my photography work is unpaid and I have a mortgage to pay off!
Regarding advice for someone wishing to start becoming a music photographer, find your local small venue (which generally won’t have a photopit and therefore not require a photopass), get in touch and ask them if you can head along to have a go at taking some pictures at one of their shows. The venue and the band will probably be very grateful for the coverage. Contact local publications that might be looking for a photographer to join their team. 99% of these will not be able to pay you for your work, so that is worth bearing in mind. Music photography is something to do for love rather than money, in my experience!
If someone was to take this seriously, what sort of budget would they have to set aside in your opinion and what is your most expensive piece of equipment?
It isn’t about your equipment, it is about how you use it – as they say. You can buy the most expensive camera gear on the market and be an awful photographer! An entry-level body will cost you around £200 but will come with a kit lens that is not suitable for low-light environments, so you will need to buy a lens with an aperture of at least f/2.8. These can range from £200 to £2000 new depending on what brand and what lens you go for. My most expensive bit of kit is probably my Nikon D750. It was a birthday gift but a quick look online tells me it costs around £1,500. All of my lenses are second-hand, but my Nikon 24-70mm lens would have cost around £1,800 if bought new.
Is there a piece of equipment, and don’t say the camera, that you can’t do without?
My 24-70mm lens which I use for 99% of all my photography… Although of course that would be useless without the camera. I would say a spare memory card and a spare battery are pretty essential, and a good strap to stop all that expensive gear falling to the ground!
Can you run through what happens at the night of a gig? How long are you allowed to take pictures for?
I usually come straight from work, eat a sandwich on the tube and arrive at the venue by the time doors open. It differs from venue to venue but in general I go to the box office to collect my photo pass, follow any instructions given by security/venue staff and make my way to the photo pit. The usual rule is three songs, no flash. For larger venues, photographers are ushered into a hallway or some sort of holding area in-between bands, but for smaller shows without photo pits we are left to our own devices to mill-around with the general gig-goers.
What difficulties can you face when taking photographs at a gig?
There is often very little light which means it can be hard to get the camera to focus on the artist, plus it can be hard to capture fast-moving subjects. Generally venues do not allow flash photography, so essentially you are taking photos in the dark! If a venue doesn’t have a photopit then you risk getting your camera gear kicked into your face my crowd-surfers, or (as happened to me once) a cups of miscellaneous amber liquid thrown over you and your equipment.
Do you have any pet peeves in the live environment?
Venues who don’t know how to work their lighting! Also gig-goers who sometimes heckle abuse at photographers presuming that we wake up in the middle of the day, do what we love for a couple of hours and get paid for it.
After you have finished taking photographs at a gig, what is the next step to getting them ready for publication?
I transfer the RAW files from my memory card to my computer then file them in a folder labelled with the date, venue and headline band name. I use Adobe Lightroom to edit the photos, one band at a time. I export them both as high-resolution unwatermarked files (for my personal use) and low-resolution watermarked files for publication on social media. If shooting for Moshville Times I then select a certain number of photos from each gig (usually 20) and additionally add the Moshville watermark to those images. After that I upload the photos to Moshville Times Flikr account and send the link to the Flikr album to the editors, who can add the photos to the review of the gig.
What piece of software do you use to edit your photographs?
Adobe Lightroom mostly, and sometimes Adobe Photoshop.
Have you had the opportunity to exhibit your pieces of work to the public and if so, how did that feel and how did the event go?
I recently had my work exhibited publicly for the first time as part of Shout About It Live; a hybrid festival bringing live music and gig photography together. The event was organised by freelance photographer Georgia Flynn who set up Shout About It in 2017 with the aim to create a platform for photographers, creatives and musicians to showcase their work and build contacts across the industry. It was great to see my work on display and I felt very proud of the ten shots that I had chosen to display. I had a few people come up to me (members of the public as well as other exhibiting photographers) saying how much they liked my work which was an incredible feeling and very humbling.
With the public looking at your photographs, what thoughts or emotions would you like them to take away from your pictures?
I try to capture the emotion in a band / artist and so I hope that by looking at my images they felt the emotions that I was trying to capture. One of my favourite things is trying to capture members of a fierce-looking metal band off-guard; for example I have a photo of Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth doing an adorable smile in-between Viking growls, and a similar one of Tom Araya from Slayer with a huge grin on his face!
What would you say is the proudest moment of your career?
Winning the Amateur category of the Event Photography Awards in May this year, which was a total surprise! To be honest I also was ecstatic when Amon Amarth posted one of my photographs and credited me.
Possibly impossible to answer but would you have a photograph that you are extremely proud of?
I have a few shots that I am proud of, for various reasons; whether it be a huge band I was really happy to shoot, or a really difficult gig that I was proud I managed to get a decent shot from! Here are five of the photos I am most proud of, and why:
- Amon Amarth – The Underworld, Camden – 22 March 2016: This was a really hard show to shoot as it was in one of the worst-lit venues in London and there were a lot of band members on a tiny stage, so I was thrilled when I got this shot of Ted!
- Sólstafir – The Old Blue Last, London – 14 June 2017: Shooting one of my favourite bands in a tiny venue was an incredible experience, and I love this shot of Addy amidst a sea of fans’ hands, which I think really captures the vibe of the show
- Sabaton – Tons of Rock Festival, Norway – 24 June 2017: While pyro looks super-cool from the crowd, it can be a pain in the arse to capture with a camera, especially when you jump a foot in the air every time something goes off! I was really proud that I captured this shot of Joakim with the line of flames passing right through his arms.
- Blessthefall – The Underworld, Camden – 2 October 2017: This was another difficult show at The Underworld, but I love the interaction between Beau and the crowd-surfing fan. This was also the shot that I won the award for, so it is now extra special to me.
- Ice Nine Kills – KOKO, Camden – 25 January 2018: Jump shots are tricky so I was really pleased with this one, plus this photo has every band member in, which is another thing I really love about it.
Do you archive your own pictures?
I store photos from every gig I have ever shot on a number of hard-drives so that I can access any shot whenever I need to.
Do you have some photographers that are your influences and have admired their work?
I follow a heap of music photographers online (both established and just starting out) and regularly scroll through their pages on Instagram or Facebook for inspiration and to see what shows they have shot recently. Here are five music photographers whose work I really love, in no particular order:
What would you say you would have to do to enhance your skills to reach that of your peers?
I don’t compare myself directly to other photographers as styles vary so much, but I still have a lot to learn to get to reach the standard of some of the photographers that I really admire. I need to find the time to really learn what every little button on my camera does, and I would also like to learn how to use my flashgun, and how to use studio lighting. There isn’t much time in-between the day-job and the gigs that I already shoot at the moment, but I try to find time to learn more whenever I can.
Do you have a favourite place to shoot your photographs?
One of my favourite venues to shoot at in London is Kentish Town Forum because the security are usually really friendly and there is a holding-pen for photographers where we can hang-out with a beer in-between bands, so you aren’t stuck in a corridor somewhere! I also really love The Black Heart and The Old Blue last as they are such classic small venues, but when they are full to capacity it can be a nightmare as neither has a photopit. Basically anywhere with some character, good lighting, that I can easily move around and keep my gear safe is good for me!
What motivates you to keep taking photographs?
I always strive to be better – I love seeing photos I took a couple of years ago and seeing how I have improved. I also have a bucket list of bands that I would love to photograph, so every time I tick one of those off it feels amazing! I think photography (gig photography in particular) has a danger of disappearing as everyone with the latest smart-phone thinks they are a photographer, and the availability of images online means people are seeming less and less interested in paying for music photography. We have to keep it alive!
Thank you for your time in answering these questions for Moshville Times. If there was a person or a gig past or present that you wish you would have had the opportunity to take photographs, what would it be?
I can’t pick just one – for me it would be The Rolling Stones, Rammstein and Motörhead.
Like and view more of Katie’s photography here.