My first photo pit was Coachella 2014. I didnt have a professional camera. I had an iPhone. I was standing in front of The 1975
tapping away in the warm April sun feeling like a fucking badass because I knew I was lucky, I was considered important enough to be granted a pass, and out of the thousands who descended on Indio Valley, I was of a small select group...and I had no idea what the hell I was doing.
I left the festival, my photo library filled with shots of Matt Healy looking kind of wasted and sunburnt, silently congratulating myself on a job well done and completely addicted to the art of live show shooting.
Over the past year I had more opportunities to shoot bands from the pit, this time with a camera borrowed from work. I traveled to Bonnaroo and was inches away from music heavy hitters like Sam Smith
, Lauryn Hill, Cage The Elephant, The Naked And Famous and Capital Cities
. Lollapalooza quickly followed, where I was one of 13 photographers chosen to shoot Eminem in the pit. How this happened, I have no idea, but the rush of having thousands at my back while I snapped away felt like a natural high. Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Group Love, Bleachers
, and Betty Who
filled my camera with some lucky, dazzling-ish shots I was proud to share.
However, there were a few things I quickly learned about being in the pit. It wasn't about aperture or lighting (although those are very important to be mindful of), but what you really need to physically and emotionally survive being in a small space, elbow-to-elbow with other photographers shooting for that blink-of-an-eye perfect photo.
1. Go In With A DGAF Attitude
The first time I actually looked around a photo pit and saw the professionals surrounding me, doubt in my ability to get a good shot washed over me. The telephoto lenses, determined faces, and sometimes physically aggressive personalities of other photographers made me want to turn and run, but I didn't. I decided to stop giving a f*ck about what anyone else might think of my simple equipment. No one cares about what you're shooting with in those first three songs. Start small and as your talent grows, so can your equipment.
2. Stay Out Of The Way With Out Compromising Your Position To Get A Good Shot
Photo pits are generally small and packed. Find a good spot when you first enter the pit and stand there. When the band starts, get shots then move elsewhere. Duck if you have to walk in front of another photographer, find ways to move around others without touching them, and make sure you get shots from every angle in the pit. If someone is an a**hole...let them be one. They suck anyway.
3. Understand Not Every Shot Is Going To Be Good, But You Will End Up With Something
I am by no means a seasoned pro, but I do have a few shots I am very proud of. If you walk out of your first pit and feel like you failed, don't. Shooting RAW will give you the ability to spruce it up in photoshop and remember the old saying, "practice makes perfect." My favorite shot happened in NYC at another The 1975 show. Matt Healy took notice of me and broke down in to various poses for my lens. It remains my favorite moment of doing concert photography and produced my favorite shot.
4. Have Earplugs At All Times
I learned this the hard way when I shot Iggy Azalea
at Lollapalooza. I went into the pit without plugs, which nearly ruined my shooting opportunity since I was using my fingers to give my poor eardrums a break during the set. Ow. If you want to earn brownie points with other photographers, have an extra pair of clean unused plugs on hand in case a fellow shooter forgot theirs and is visibly suffering.
5. Don't Forget To Shot Horizontally And Vertically
This might sound like the dumbest piece of advice, but you'd be surprised how fast three songs goes by and in the moment you might not think to change the direction of your frame. There are a few shows I have walked out of, and when reviewing captures, realized I never shot vertically. Avoid the disappointment and feeling like a complete novice by shooting both fame directions in each spot you move to in the pit.