How to Get Into Festival Photography?

I’ll start off this topic with general assumption that, whoever’s reading this, even if you have zero experience, you own a camera. If this is true, then I have an encouraging news for you:

Every beginning is free.

You don’t believe me? Get out of the house and start snapping. That’s a beginning.

Get out of the house

Thankfully, we live in a day and age when opportunities for photographers emerge everywhere. It’s because there are countless artists just like you, the beginners who are just trying to catch a break. The type of entertainers that are most compatible with your photographic sensibilities are performance artists and musicians (more often than not, they are one and the same).

More than seven billion of us are walking the Earth. This fact is one of your greatest assets. Do you know how many striving musicians you can find behind every corner? Many of them play for free at a local coffee shop, so what’s stopping you from peeking inside and snapping a few photos?

The perks of being anonymous

The best thing about sloppy beginnings is that they boil down to you and your camera. It’s clean and there are no distractions – which begin to emerge as you sail into professional waters.

Your eye is the only tool at your disposal. You don’t need the props, the expensive equipment, the lights and the studio. If you have a camera, you don’t have an excuse. The world is your stage. Of course, you are not in a bubble so don’t be a creeper; ask for permission from your subject if you plan a full-blown photo session.

Richie Hawtin Exit Dance Arena Bernard Bodo Photography
Some sessions are more intense than others. Richie Hawtin’s sets are insane.

Get over your social anxieties

If you take a few walks around the block and take a snapshot of few free music gigs, the next item on your schedule is to present the band with your photos.

Thankfully, we live in a time of social networks and it’s far from unusual to connect with people over Facebook. The only issue comes up if you generally don’t have a habit of doing such spontaneous socializations, but none of us can get anywhere if we don’t get over anxieties.

Send the photos you’ve made to the band and, guess what, if they liked your work, they’ll invite you for another session and probably recommend you.

Word of mouth

I firmly believe it’s one of the best things that can happen to you if you are a beginner. The word of mouth is how I ended up with my break-out festival gig in the first place. You’d be surprised how actually pleasant people can be when you get yourself out there and start producing results.

Remember, most performers don’t really care about your background, in what sort of school or academy you emerged out of. They want the immediate proof of your skill.

Ego will be your downfall

People don’t care about your personal artistic expression, don’t let your ego become your downfall. If you are creative, you’ll find a way to imbue a bit of you in every photo.

Most media outlets will be especially rigorous when assessing if you are good enough to work “under their banner”. Don’t be surprised if they require of you to adhere by a few particular rules so that your photographs align with what they generally publish (don’t get worked up, this is all completely normal).

David Guetta Exit Festival Main Stage Bernard Bodo Photography
This brings back fond memories of aspiring to be this guy. David Guetta still has it.

There are various ways to gain access

This is where it becomes a little hectic. Sometimes, the aforementioned word of mouth will lead you to a specific niche of promoters or media outlets that have tight connections to the festival.

However, this is the best-case scenario. “Getting in” often depends on certain pushes on your part. You have to do your research. Find out which media outlets cover the festival and, if the ball is not in your court quite yet, contact them personally, show them what you’ve got and convince them you are the best choice to photograph the festival on their part.

If you are savvy with words, come up with an inspiring story, put it on paper (or type it in an email) and send it as a motivational letter to the festival management that is tasked with hiring photographers.

Better safe than sorry, I say.

In fact, do all of the above, and you are guaranteed to end up backstage and in the front rows of a music festival you always wanted to photograph. You’ll be surrounded with other attending photographers that also represent various media outlets. This gave rise to an entire code of conduct among photographers, but that’s a topic for another day.

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