A night with Anna Warr

This months ACMP Trampoline event found me heading to the CATC Design School in The Rocks. These events are put on for photography students and emerging photographers (less then 3 years experience). The theme for the night was Music photography, in particular covering gigs and festivals.

The nights guest was Anna Warr who currently works as a casual shooter for fairfax media while also being a prolific photographer in the music industry covering some of Australia's largest musical events. She started shooting back in 2005 during the break out of digital where she looked for any job she could get in photography. Her break came though a friend of a friend that got her involved in covering nightclubs, of course this was back when nightclubs paid photographers.

You can find her portfolio site at http://www.annawarr.com.au/ and she has a music festival blog here http://thefestivalphotographer.com/

Anna Warr after her presentation.

Annas presentation was a series of her photographs with the story behind them while she took questions from the floor. What follows are the notes that I took during the night and have orgainsed them in to catagories. Please note that what I have written and what Anna said on the night may not be the same thing.

Ask for details

  •  For most bands you only have 3 songs, some times less, sometimes up to 5, but always no flash.
  • Ask for rules some artists are pedantic on what you can do and how you should act.
  • What location will you be shooting from? Generally pit and backstage but you might be at the sound desk 40m from stage so you will need 300-600mm lens.
  • Will you have a place to store gear? Anna carries at 16-30, 50, 70-200 and two camera bodies if it is dusty. She also likes to have a tripod handy, but travels light once the action starts.

You are the employee

  • Always shoot for the organisers brief, not just for yourself
  • Turn around within 48 hours is standard
  • Step lightly backstage, it is not about you.
  • For Band shots backstage approach the band manager first, if the shot was in the brief and the manager said no then go back to the organisers for clarification. Often you will get the shot when they come with you to explain.

Working for free

  • If you shoot free you have to get something out of it.
  • Benefits for shooting for free, branch out of genre or just to hear the music.
  • Faster Louder, 24h turn around brief is generaly, x punter shots and y band shots. Not paid but worth it for access pass.
  • When you are established and work for free only if it interests you otherwise don't.
  • In you average photo pit upto 1 in 5 shooters is being paid to be there.
  • Don't know anyone bar maybe Tony Mott that makes a living from being a gig photographer in Australia
  • Learn from assisting
  • The industry generally works by word of mouth.
  • Many people doing this don't get paid but can on sale the images or work out deals with organisers.
  • Know when your skills are worth paying for, know what the standard rates are in the industry.

Getting the shots

  • walk in with ideas
  • You can turn up early and shoot support acts to see where the light is on stage then position yourself
  • Talk to the other photogs/fans, normally one will be a fan of the band and know their on stage presence.
  • Mostly in raw, if a very quick turn around is required then shoot jpg
  • Shoot with print in mind (right now not above 2100iso, depends on camera).
  • crowd shots, people shots, the act, and how they interact.
  • shots of good looking girls often go down well with the organisers
  • keep your dress practical, pockets and good shoes.
  • clients generally want colour images delivered, but okay to chuck in some good BWs
  • not every shot is for publication, might be good for tour galleries or the organisers/bands personal records.

Four final important points

  • be on time
  • turn around quickly
  • be polite
  • follow the brief
Anna talks about one of her photographs.

Anna talks about one of her photographs.