Enjoying taking photos is one thing, but it’s taken to a whole other level when you’re put in positions that only photographers have access to. Being in an environment like that feels completely different to just strolling around taking photos. I had shot at the Brixton Academy a while back and thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of gig photography. Thanks to the lovely folk at the O2 Academies we had the opportunity to experience this feeling again with access to the press pit for London Grammar‘s latest gig in Brixton, shadowing their in-house photographer to get a true feeling of how it all goes down. I ended up getting some pretty nice snaps of the trio from Nottingham and managed to have a chat with the photographer. Read on for more.
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Shooting live music is a challenge to say the least. It’s the one position I have been in doing photography where I find myself having limits to what I can produce and how. Of course, you are limited to the room in the press pit just in front of the stage, as well as only being allowed in the pit for the first 3 songs (normally a total of about 10-12 minutes), but things are made even worse when the artist performing requests photographers not to move around. Managing the low (and ever changing) light is also tricky, meaning the need to adjust camera settings quickly and accordingly is vital to get the right shot. Timing is essential, and when you manage the camera and framing well, the results can be amazing.
Shooting at the O2 Academy Brixton is such a pleasure. The vastness of the venue swallows you up as you stand by the stage waiting for acts to appear. As the crowd behind you get restless waiting and the acts appear, you can feel the buzz and excitement from everyone. With incredible lighting, stage design and acoustics it’s all quite overwhelming. Rich with history, if you haven’t yet been to a gig at the Brixton Academy you’re honestly missing out on one of the best venues London has to offer.
As mentioned, O2 Academies let me meet and have a chat with O2 Academy Brixton house photographer Nick Pickles.
I asked him a few questions about his experience doing regular gig photography:
Adam: Asides from a love of music, what inspired you to get in to doing gig photography?
Nick: My love of live music! Live music is so much more than just playing the songs to people – it’s an opportunity to emotionally connect with people and bring the music to life. The reason I love doing gig photography is the chance to try and capture the energy of a show – basically I want to feel the way I did when I was on the barrier at gigs in the thick of it when I see a picture of a band live. Partly for me, but also partly for the people who feel the way about the bands that I’m shooting.
A: Agreed, live music really is an entirely unique experience. I think the venues are what makes live music so special, too. What’s the most interesting venue you’ve had to shoot at?
N: I love O2 Academy Brixton – it’s be perfect mix of a good size venue with lots of history and an amazing building. Having said that, I did some shows with Coldplay in 2010 in two really old, tiny theatres in Newcastle and Liverpool that were pretty special. Glastonbury is without a doubt the most interesting venue though!
A: I bet Glastonbury is amazing to shoot, and I can imagine shooting at a festival is a challenging and tiring task! What’s the worst experience you’ve had?
N: Other than photographing N-Dubz (twice), and being hit by countless drinks thrown forwards at gigs, the worst experience I ever had was trying to photograph a circle pit and someone flew out of the pit at me and my camera got propelled straight into my face. Dazed and confused, I then realised I didn’t even get the shot. No music shot is worth risking a broken nose for…
A: That sounds pretty ridiculous. Not only for a broken nose, but to damage thousands of pounds worth of camera gear! I noticed the regular gig photographers have a lot of expensive equipment and big zoom lenses. For those who can’t necessarily afford the gear, what advice do you have for shooting live music?
Buy a 50mm 1.8 lens – they are pretty cheap and can get you out of a hole when it’s dark. Other than that – don’t spend all your money on a fancy new body and buy cheap lenses – you can get good second hand bodies, whether a D3 or 5DMkII, for reasonable prices and then invest in good glass.
A: Spend money on the glass – always the way forward. I think for any budding photographers, shooting live music is something they need to try! Thanks Nick.
Check out what’s on at O2 Academy Brixton and get yourself there.