Now that the music Festivals are starting, I think it’s a good time to share what’s in my bag for Music Festivals. Last year, I was the official photographer of eight Summer Festivals here in Portugal, and this was the gear that I’ve used on all. On one of them, I also took an extra monitor, but not in my bag.
As the official photographer, I have a place to safely store my extra gear. I also have a place to transform into my office for the festival days, so I don’t have to carry all the stuff with me.
If you are going to a Music Festival as a photojournalist, with only 3 songs to shoot, and with no safe place to store your gear you should consider reducing your gear to the minimum.
All the gear on this article is mine and I’ve paid for it. Some of the other gear that I will talk about is on my “to get list”. No brands have paid me or given me gear to be featured on this article. This Article is not supposed to be an in-depth review of the gear, its just to show what I use. But you can, and probably do, use a completely different setup.
The bag that I currently use is the Lowepro Pro Roller x200 AW. I got it last year because I needed more space and I wanted to free my back from carrying the backpack. Also because I really hate seeing photographers in the pit with the backpacks on their backs. They hit the photographer beside them and they look like the Ninja Turtles with a camera.
The Pro Roller x200 AW is perfect for me, it has lots of space, and it really protects my gear. The only thing that makes no sense to me, is the fact that the computer compartment has no security, you just can’t leave it alone or your computer might be gone by the time you get back.
Please never forget to use ear protection when working in the pit. This is really important, I don’t care what brand you use, just get the best ones you can buy.
Ok… earlier I told you that I bought all the gear mentioned in this article, but I didn’t buy the earplugs. Sorry. I use the Alpine MusicSafe Pro that were sent to me by the guys at Alpine to test them and to make a review. I was going to buy them, though. I swear.
I really love my Alpine Music Safe Pro, but use any ones you can as long as you always use ear protection.
Shooting from the back of the stage usually makes some interesting image. Not everyone has access to the stage so it’s always a different image. Here it is essential to wear black clothes always wear black! No matter if you are going to shoot from the PIT or if you have access to the stage, if its a concert always use black. this way we don’t distract the audience or the band, our goal is to be almost invisible.
Rechargeable NiMH Batteries
I always take at least three packs of the Eneloop AA Rechargeable NiMH Batteries two packs are the 1900mAh and one pack is the 2550mAh. For me they are enough, I use one pack on the flash with the second as a reserve, always charged. The last pack is for the Pocket Wizards if I need them. Or they can be used in the flash if I don’t have the time to charge the other packs.
I have a blower in my bag at all times. Usually, the music festivals have a lot of dust, and we never know were our sensor or lens will get dirty. So, it’s nice to know that we can give a quick clean in the middle of the day and continue working. I also have some microfiber cloths that I usually get for free from glasses stores.
This image was made with my Canon 5DMkIV with the Canon 70-200 f2.8L II with ISO200, f/4 at 1/200 sec and I shot it in Raw. I always shoot in Raw because that allows me to edit it more freely. This cell phone charger station was on one of the festivals where I was working, i did this image because the Festival production needs these kinds of images to promote the services they have.
After I started using two cameras at concerts, I immediately felt the need to change the normal camera straps. With the normal straps my cameras tended to slip from my shoulders and at the end of the day, my back and my neck were suffering.
I decided to get the BlackRapid Double Breathe Camera Harness and it was the best decision that I made. The weight distribution is way better, and at the end of the day, I don’t feel the pain on my back. I also got the BlackRapid Tether Breathe Kit just to give that extra security.
There are a few similar solutions, this one is the one that I think its the best, but no matter what solution you get, at the end of the day your back will feel better.
I take my three battery Chargers from Canon and two battery Chargers for the Rechargeable NiMH Batteries. I usually only use them at night when I go to sleep. I live it all charging during the night. I’m thinking of changing all the battery chargers for two Hahnel Professional Charger PROCUBE2. With this set up I could charge 4 Canon batteries and two packs of NiMH Batteries with only two pieces of gear.
For concerts, I use the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens. This two lens combo gives me a good focal length, but if I had the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens instead of the 17-40 I would be better served and them maybe also the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
This image was made with my Canon 5DMkII and Canon 17-40 f4L with ISO1000, f/4 at 1/100 sec in Raw. When working as the official photographer for a Festival it is very important to know that there is more life outside the stage, it is very important to make images of the crowd. This images can later be used for promotion or to show that the audience was having a great time.
At Music Festivals we make lots of images and we need to edit them and store them, so we always need a computer. We all know that with higher resolution sensors we need a better computer to work with those files. My computer is at the end of is life, but by the time you read this article I will already have my new DELL XPS with me, I decided to go with the i7, 32Gb of RAM and 1Tb SSD and 100% Adobe RGB screen.
For my backup on the road, I use the WD 2TB My Passport USB 3.0. I copy all my cards to the computer and make a backup on the external HD. For my cards, I’m using a few Kingston. They work fine, but I’m curious to test the ProGrade cards. I’m working with some CF Cards for the Canon 5DMkII and some SD for the Canon 5DMkIV.
I also carry my Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader this has been the to go card read for most photojournalists, but I’ve never liked the way the USB cable makes it unstable. I’m thinking of changing this one for the ProGrade dual-slot reader.
Yes, I know we cant use the flash in the PIT, but when working as the official photographer of the festival, I’m called to go to the backstage to photograph some singer or some band and most of the time I don’t have light. So, I really need to have a flash with me, when they call me I just go and I’m ready to shoot.
For this next image, I was in the front of the stage, and I was called to go as fast as I could to the backstage to make some images of Sting before he enters the stage. I didn’t have time to go to my bag just to get the flash, that is why I always have it with me. I got the shot of Sting on the backstage when he got the Shirt of Futebol Clube do Porto, (for those that don’t know, Futebol Clube do Porto is the best football team in Portugal!)
This is the best example of why we need to be ready at all times. I was shooting next to the stage when I was called to go to the backstage to make some images, and I was expected to go fast. When I got there I was told that I was going to shoot Sting inside of one of the free dressing rooms. I was able to make this image because I could get there fast and I had all the gear that I needed with me, including the flash.
I don’t know about other brands, but my Canons with the grip and two batteries allow me to shoot all day without recharging, I start shooting before the doors are open and I shoot all bands until the end. With some bands, I’m allowed to shoot the full show. Others only allow me to shoot the first three songs. But, I always have stuff to shoot.
I like to carry my PocketWizards just in case I have to make some images with the flash and I don’t want to have the flash on the hot shoe.
By this time you already know what cameras I use. I’m working with the Canon 5DMkIV and with the Canon 5DMkII. A lot has been said about these two cameras, so I won’t waste your time talking about them. All I can say is that I can get what I need from them. Most of my concert portfolio images were made with the MkII and that didn’t stop me from getting the jobs that I got.
Not in the image, but I also carry lots of cables. A few USB cables for the external HD, for the Card reader, cables for the battery chargers, the computer charger. There are two cables that I always take with me when I go to Festivals/concerts were I have to stay in the hotel, I always take one HDMI cable and one VGA cable, this way I can use the Hotel TV as a second monitor, now, most of the Hotel rooms have nice TFT TV that can be used as a monitor, so I try to take advantage of it.
My editing process
I take my computer to all the Festivals were I work. To select and edit my images I use CaptureOne, most of the photojournalists the I see here use Lightroom, but I never liked LR and because I also do lots of studio work CaptureOne is, by far, the best option for me.
After I download the images from my cards, I add them to the CaptureOne Session and start to go through them and select the one that I like. I edit the ones that I like as I see them, I don’t do much, I fix the White Balance some contrast and recover some highlights if needed. Sometimes I do some effects by playing with the Curves to create an old film look. After this fast edit I send the image to the selects folder (S Key on my keyboard) and move to the next image. When I finish selecting and editing I just go to the Selects Folder and export.
When needed I use the Festival logo as a watermark, I set this steep before the festival first day. I create the export recipe on CaptureOne were I can see the Watermark, the size of the images, the type of images and were to export them.
So, this is what I carry in my bag and a short intro to how I work at concerts and Music Festivals.
If you have any questions feel free to comment below, and I will try to reply to all the best way I can.