Yes, you have read it right. When doing concert photography Gear matters! Compact cameras, bridge cameras, DSLR, crop cameras, full frame cameras, mirrorless cameras, zoom lens, prime lens, the list goes on and on. But I’m not going to talk about camera bodyies and lenses (surprised?). That really doesn’t matter, the best cam or lens are the ones that we have, we just have to learn how to use them and how to make the most out of them.
So, what am i talking about here?
I’m talking about all the other gear that helps us to get the job done and helps us make our job easier.
Most of us only think about the newest high megapixel beast or the new sharpest lens, but not about the most important thing on the job; The photographer and how he or she should have the best work tools to be comfortable and focused on taking images.
What’s the point of having the best gear if, on the second day of a four-day festival, you just don’t have the drive to keep on shooting?
I decided that it was time to create the conditions for me to feel comfortable and more in control of my workflow when in the field. I want to also optimize my time, do the job in the smoothest way possible, avoid the normal running between stages and computer and also speed up the download of the images and edit time.
I wanted to eliminate the stress that normally comes in festival situations, reduce my fear of losing images and lessen the pressure that the media team puts on the photographers to deliver as soon as possible. If I could do all of these things, festivals would be easier, and I could better focus on taking photos.
So what were the problems that I could solve? And how did I do that?
Fear of losing images
A very stressful thing to me has been safeguarding all the images that I make. In the past when shooting, I normally used several memory cards, and I would never use cards bigger than 32Gb. I used one card for each band; this way, if I had a card failure, I would only lose one band. But this resulted in some challenges. I would need lots of cards, and this increased the chance of losing cards during the changes, or I might mix them and format the wrong card, I did do that once.
The memory cards I used never felt very reliable, I can’t really tell why. For me, having a card with a lifetime warranty was strange because if the card died, I lost the images, and if I lost the images because of card failure, the last thing I wanted was to have more cards from that brand.
It’s almost like having a lifetime warranty on a parachute – “Hey, don’t worry. Just jump. If the parachute doesn’t work, come back and we will give you a new one”.
I needed to find memory cards that gave me both speed and peace of mind, so I made lots of research. The market has lots of options, they all offer different things. During my research, I found the ProGrade Digital cards. I read all I could about them and finally had the opportunity to test them. After knowing and talking with the people from ProGrade Digital, I made the change and now I only use ProGrade cards and that company’s workflow readers.
The products give me fast write and read speed, plus the confidence that my images are secure—secure enough such that I now use 128GB V90 speed-rated cards during my entire shoot session. I have not had any problem, and I can do both image and video minus the worry.
My Canon 5DMkIV has two card slots, so I can have one working as a backup, but I don’t, I only use one card slot, that’s how confident I am about this card.
With the ProGrade Digital cards and reader, my write/read speeds have dramatically increased. I no longer have to wait for the camera buffer, and I can download the images to my computer very fast.
I won’t go into numbers as you can read about this on the web. The most important thing for me is how I feel on the road with the equipment. Use ProGrade Digital, one problem solved!
Shoulders pain and fatigue
Until a few months ago I would go to the festivals/concerts with one Canon 5DmKIV and one Canon 5DmKII with the normal straps. I would spend most of the time with tension on my shoulders to prevent the cameras from slipping or falling. For the events that lasted three or four days, I would be in pain by day two.
My shoulders just couldn’t take it any more.
If I’m not ok physically I won’t be able to do the best job: I had to find another way to carry my gear. I looked at several options, including custom-made leather straps and camera holsters.
I decided to go to the BlackRapid Dual Breathe Camera Harness, and boy did that make a difference. I now walk around minus the tension on my shoulders. All of my body is way more relaxed. I can now do four and three days festival with no problem.
I work in comfort and have minimized the fatigue.
The last festival I did was a two-day event with 28 bands on five stages. On those two days I did more than 21Km on foot; the last night I was ready to do two more days without a problem.
Fast editing of the images
When working as the official photographer for a music festival I have to shoot everything. Not only the concerts, but make images of the audience in front of the stage, in the food area, the fun area–almost everywhere. The promoter need images of the entire venue, so I shoot on stage, back stage, the entire concert series.
At the end of a three or four day festival, we end with tons of images to edit.
At the end of each day, I send a pack of images to the festival media team to meet the organizer’s deadline, I have to download images to the computer, make a fast selection, then do retouches. On a festival with 28 bands and five stages, that means lots of images and very little sleep! I needed to reduce that workflow time by getting a new and faster computer.
I’m a Windows user so I started looking for a laptop with an Intel i7 CPU, lots of RAM, a big HD, probably a mix of a smaller SSD and a bigger mechanic HD, a screen that could reproduce the colors the best way possible, a fast graphics card, and it needed to have a sturdy and small case; it couldn’t be a plastic case because it would go on the road.
I started looking for the gamer laptops, but most of the ones I saw were really big and had plastic cases, so that was off the list. I then started looking for the traditional consumer laptop brands, but couldn’t find any laptop that really convinced me. Then I started reading about the new DELL XPS15. I talked with some friends in the U.S. who already had this computer (at that time it was not yet available in Portugal), then made my decision. I bought the DELL XPS15 9570. This computer comes with lots of different configurations. I decided to go for the i7-8750H with 32GB of RAM, 1TB M2 SSD, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050T1 and a IPS 4K touch Screen capable of reproducing almost 100% AdobeRGB colors.
I call it “the best” because it is able to export tons of images from CaptureOne fast, really fast (yes i use CaptureOne for concert photography and i love it).
With the XPS15 i can download the images from the cards faster (the ProGrade Digital cards paired with their USB 3.1, Gen 2 workflow reader helps on this one).
I can cull the best images faster, I can edit them and export faster. This allows me to deliver the images sooner to the media team, but also allows me to rest more since i can complete the tasks much faster.
The XPS15 is a great help for my workflow.
Almost live delivery of images to the social media team
More and more I’m asked to send images as soon as I can so that the social media team can upload images to festival social pages. Until some time ago that meant that I would have to run to the computer, download the images, cull the images, edit and send. This was a very tiring, slow and tedious method one that meant I lost time that could have been dedicated to shooting or image editing.
To solve this I started using my smartphone to cull the images directly from my DSLR to edit and send the first images for social media. This way I can now send images without leaving the pit. At the end of the first song the media team already has a few images to post. They love it.
Cameras and lenses come and go. If a camera breaks we can get a new one, but the photographer can’t be replaced. To make a good job you need to be comfortable, you need to be fresh from the beginning until the end of the day. If you are tired and can barely hold up your camera, you won’t be able to make good images, and you may have challenges getting to where the action is, which means you may miss out on important moments.
You can understand why it is important for you to create the conditions that provide an easier workflow when shooting concerts, or any other type of photography. Minimize some of the bad things that can happen, plan ahead, visualize where you can make your day easier and more productive. All of these things can help you have a better job completed in a more relaxed way.