|8:54pm - Performance
|8:40am - Campus Ops
The pitch that I made to our concert organizer was that I focus on the dozens of volunteers and all the work that they put in behind the scenes -- before, during, and after the show. I'd show up when the bus rolled in at 8am and not leave until they locked the church at 1am. Ideally, this would include shooting backstage and from the wings during the show itself. I knew that the light inside the church sucked and I'd be shooting at high ISO, so I envisioned the entire project presented in black & white in a photojournalistic style.
|9:37am - Food Prep
|11:31am - Merchandise
I'm not exactly sure yet just how these photos will be used. I'll make the finished product available to the church for internal use, of course. A couple of the band members asked me for business cards, but I've yet to hear from any of them two months after the show. If I'm happy with the results, I'll probably propose to display them in a print showing in one of our church gallery spaces so that our entire membership can see what goes on at these concerts. The collection will probably end up online somewhere, too. I'll update this post with a link when that happens.
|1:59pm - Stage Setup
I can't go into all the details of the day in this little post, but I wanted to share a few pointers for those that may have this opportunity themselves.
First, get your elevator pitch down. Make sure as many of the people involved as possible know what you're doing and why. People are much more comfortable around an official event photographer than they are around some creep with a camera. It helped that most of the volunteers already knew (or at least recognized) me from my years behind their feed trough and the other work I continually do at church.
|3:44pm - Sound Check
Interact with the volunteers and performers rather than just sneaking around in the shadows like a spy with a long lens. This will get you more personable shots as people warm up to your presence. You'll get more shots of friendly people enjoying their job, and your viewers will feel like they're part of the action.
Make the rounds. Don't get too hung up on the main event, like the stage setup or the on-stage performance. There are a lot of other things going on at any given time. Be sure to highlight the food prep, the merchandise setup, the A/V team, the building maintenance, the security team manning their posts, and the green room hang out (if you have access). Capture the crowds enjoying the show, too.
|8:02pm - All-Ages Audience
Remember the theme of the story you're trying to tell, and focus on capturing moments that tell that story. Great light and interesting compositions have their place, but they do little to tell a story.
Be flexible with your gear, and travel light. I carried two bodies (Canon 7D and 50D), three lenses, and two teleconverters that covered a focal range from 10-400mm (APS-C crop sensor). I rarely shot at longer than 300mm because it was too hard to compose & focus on active performers at 400/5.6. I kept a 17-70mm walk-around lens on one body all day, and the other body alternated between a 10-22mm ultra-wide lens and a 70-200mm telephoto lens, depending on the anticipated situation. Anticipation is key--you don't want to be swapping lenses when the fog machine is running full blast.
|8:59pm - Sound
|10:42pm - Load Out
I took lots of other notes after I got home and as I post-processed the images, but I'll spare you the gory details. If this sounds like a lot to remember, you're right. I tend to get blinders on when I drop into "event photographer" mode, and it prevents me from enjoying the show itself. In my experience, you'll either have a great time, or you'll get great photos, but you can't do both. Determine ahead of time which is your goal, and immerse yourself in it. If you try to do a half-baked job of both, you won't enjoy the results of either.
What's been your favorite performance to attend and/or photograph? Please share your stories, links to galleries, etc in the comments below!