Mar 25, 2011

Why I hate (most) concert photography.

"Hang on, everyone... eyelash. Eyelash!"

Making fun of "Christian Metal" is like shooting loaves and fishes in a barrel (and it wouldn't exactly be Christian of me, would it?) But it occurred to me, the moment I clicked into Scott Kelby's site this morning, that I hate concert photography.

Strike that.
I couldn't care less about concert photography.

[Disclaimer: I love Scott Kelby, but I am not what you'd call a music-guy, and he is. The most-recent hit in my iTunes library is My Doorbell, by The White Stripes. As far as concerts go, my ears can't handle the punishment, and strobe lights really get on my nerves.]

But, it's actually not the photography itself that bugs me. Kelby's photos are sharp and colourful; they're composed and exposed perfectly; and they're post-processed with restraint. It's just that most of what I see is... well, the same old, same old*.

Now, you can't exactly direct these guys in the middle of a set. A concert photographer is not only at the mercy of the stage lighting and where they are forced to shoot from, they have to do the best with whatever the band is offering.

But seriously... I realize there are aficionados who see a unique awesomeness in every permutation of the done-to-death time-honoured Townshend / Cobain / Iggy Pop poses, but I don't. And, how 'bout this bass player? Sure hope he's being ironic.
"You smell that, dude?"

So can you blame the photographer? I'm definitely not a wildlife guy, but I love National Geographic. You can't change the lighting on a mountain ridge. Grizzly bears won't pose for you, no matter how much you pay them. Mind you, they don't feel compelled to windmill a salmon every time they spot a 600mm lens in the crowd, either.

For me, checking out a concert photo is much like greeting a party guest who's brought you the spinach-dip-in-the-hollowed-out-bread. You reflexively think, "Ah, cool," but you soon remember that this once-awesome party-favourite has kinda become a culinary Rickroll.

But here's the main reason I hate concert photography; and this is the hard part...

It reminds me—vividly—that there are people who would say the exact same thing about my portrait and wedding shots.

And many times they'd have a case.

Portraiture is a field that—more than ever—demands a fresh perspective, even when the client secretly wants the same old, same old... the safe stand-bys that they see in everybody else's portfolio.

So, memo to self: quit shooting the same old, same old. At least, quit shooting it all the time. Enjoy the freedom, take some chances. Shoot in the rain. Ask the groom to hang upside down from the swing-set. Get the bass player to fart. Whatever it takes.

*shot #2 is actually pretty cool, if you imagine he is being taken up to the Rapture.

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