If you’re a photographer who loves attending live music, it’s almost certain you’ve thought about what it would be like to be in the photo pit capturing the magic yourself. Beyond getting free admission to massive shows, you’ll also get to watch your favorite artists from closer than anyone else in the crowd.
Sounds like a sweet deal, right?
We certainly think so, and so do hundreds upon hundreds of festival hopefuls who apply each year to be one of these photographers. The reality is that a very slim percentage will be granted access, and those who do have found a way to demonstrate value to the festival they’re applying for.
Music Festivals nowadays run anywhere from $100-$500, and because not everyone can afford these prices, there are a lot of applicants who very clearly only care about the free admission. In order to be considered, you’re going to have to prove your photos will be worth letting you in for free.
However, before we get to how you can demonstrate value, you have to first think about your personal goals.
Why Do I Want To Do This In The First Place?
The best questions you can start asking yourself relate directly to why you found this career appealing in the first place. Sure you love music, but what about it? Which genres are you most attracted to? And most importantly, what story are your photos going to tell?
If you love Indie Rock and the energy that comes from live instrumentation, you’re not going to find the start of your career by shooting EDM. Having a passion for the work you do will go a long way in this industry. It takes awhile to become recognized for the shots you take, so make sure you are enjoying the experience from the beginning.
Start Building A Portfolio
Once you’ve taken the time to outline your goals, it’s time to get some real experience under your belt. The sad truth about most photography gigs is the clients don’t typically care where you went to school, or how long you’ve been shooting; what’s important is the quality and consistency of your work.
Getting started usually means going to a free concert where they allow professional cameras, and then transitioning into asking local venues if you can shoot smaller concerts for free in exchange for giving them the photos.
By showing you can take professional quality photos, you’ll then be ready to start demonstrating your value to media outlets and online festival resources.
The Steps Required To Gain Access
As mentioned previously, the key to getting media credentials to any festival is being able to offer legitimate value to the promoters. In this case, value corresponds to how your photos will be used.
Music festivals are never guaranteed to sell out, and so each year the people running them spend thousands of dollars on advertising. This is why the majority of attending photographers will be representing a magazine, newspaper, or website that can be used to help with pre/post coverage.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Research Different Media Outlets–
- It’s easiest to work with media outlets that are located within a reasonable distance to the festival. Their readers are the ones that will care about attending, and the festival will be more likely to be interested in having you.
- Also make sure the outlet has a history of covering events, concerts or festivals. They will only be interested if the content aligns with what they typically publish.
- Come Up With An Angle– Most festivals require an assignment letter, and an angle on how you’ll be promoting the event. As the photographer you need to have some ideas for content prior to contacting the media outlet.
- Contact the Media Outlet– Let them know you’d be interested in covering the festival and offer to show them your portfolio.
- Determine Your Pay, If Any– Most outlets have set freelancer rates that are hard to negotiate. If a company has never worked with you, they even may ask you shoot the first festival for free. This isn’t a bad thing as you’ll also be adding that festival to your portfolio.
- Be Prepared To Write Or Take Notes– In addition to photos, you may be asked to write a brief synopsis of your experience, or take great notes so the photos have a description.
Covering a festival is ultimately about translating the experience to others. While there are other ways to get access (like covering new or smaller festivals), the majority of the time you’re going to be working with a company with an audience much larger than your own. Although you might get shot down a few times, the steps involved are nothing compared to the reward.