Professional Music Festival Photography Tips and Shot Lists

Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to covering a music festival than just covering the bands. In the video below, event photographer Ruth Medjber gives us the scoop on what to shoot for whom (beyond the bands, of course), and in the end, how to maximize your overall output:

Music festivals may seem like a walk in the park to shoot—and a lot of fun—but there’s actually far more to cover than you might think. Depending on who’s hiring you, you might get a minimal shot list, and extensive one, or none at all. And what’s in the shot lists will vary depending on for whom you’re shooting. For example, music magazines will want lots of shots of the acts. Their readers will want to know which bands were there and to get a feel for what the performance was like.

Music magazines will want plenty of shots of the performers

Newspapers, on the other hand, are focused on reporting on the event as a whole. As a result, they’ll want shots of the crowd and overall atmosphere in addition to shots of the acts.

Catching the feel of the crowd

Brands and corporate sponsors will have a completely different focus: furthering their company’s and products’ exposure. As a result, they’ll want the photographer to prioritize gathering shots of people interacting with the product, their products being used at the festival, etc. And while shooting for corporate sponsors may not be particularly fun, if you’re looking for the best pay it’s the route to go.

Festival goers enjoying a corporate product

Of course, often it’s the festival organizers themselves that will hire you. When that’s the case you may or may not get a shot list. If you don’t get one, Medjber recommends making sure to capture these shots:

  1. Happy people arriving
  2. The campsite
  3. How much fun it is
  4. Anything related to the festival’s theme or overall aesthetic

Shots of the campsite provide a sense of ambiance

And finally, Medjber suggests that you check in with your production team if you haven’t been given a shot list. They may have things in mind they just haven’t communicated yet. Perhaps they want at least one shot of their banner or sign, or they have other specific non-performer shots that are important to them. Honestly, a brief check-in, even when given a shot list, can help you go the extra mile for your client.

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