24 Music Festival Photography Tips
Working a music festival is far more work than you'd imagine. The preparation is vital. If you leave something at home or at your hotel, you're basically screwed, unless you have a fellow shooter on site with you. Expect not to be able to "borrow" things like memory cards, batteries, and chargers. I compiled a list that should help you a bit. If I left off anything, email me, and I'll add it. Good luck.
1. Get plenty of rest the night before.
2. Know exactly where you're going, what entrance is the correct entrance for media, and who your point of contact is. You don't want to be lost and scrambling to find the contact person at the last minute.
3. Use the bathroom before you go onto the festival grounds. By the end of the night, after all of the water and beer you're likely to drink, you might have to use it for sure. Trust me my friend, those port-a-potties are a dangerous place. Don't say I didn't warn you.
4. Arrive early for credentials.
5. Arrive early to the pits to get the best position. If you do this consistently, the other photographers will often leave that space open for you as the show progresses.
6. Wear comfortable shoes.
7. Consider wearing cargo shorts, to make use of the extra pockets for fast access to memory cards, business cards, and batteries.
8. Bring plenty of business cards and/or mini-flyers to hand out as you pass through the crowds. People are certain to ask "Where will your pictures be posted?"
9. Wear a tshirt with your brand or social media handle displayed. Consider the placement of the logo/@ as it pertains to your camera strap(s). You don't want the straps covering your logo/@. Be a walking billboard.
10. Ear plugs are your friend. Invest in some quality ear plugs. You'll thank me later.
11. If you have asthma like I do, bring your inhaler.
12. Wear a baseball cap or sun visor to keep the sun from beating down on your head/face. It does a good job of absorbing sweat too.
13. Purchase a collapsible stool to stand on, when shooting at festival stages, and to sit on between acts.
14. Bring enough batteries to last you through the night. If there's room in your bag, carry your battery charger.
15. You can never have enough memory cards. When I leave my house/hotel headed to a festival, my memory cards are ALL empty and formatted. The last thing you want is to be shooting the headlining act and run out of card space. I've been there, and it sucks.
16. Bring everything that you need in case you cant go back to your car, etc.
17. Bring your laptop and an external drive, to dump photos in between acts. If you have a second person with you, put them in charge of that.
18. Consider investing in a camera bag that you can lock-down to a pole or fence.
19. Shoot everything. Not just the stage.
20. Charge your cellphone to 100% before setting foot on the festival grounds. Bring a charger, invest in a rechargeable phone case or power pack, and lower the brightness on your phone's screen. By the end of the night, you still want to be able to make a call, or save someone's contact info if needed.
21. Cash rules everything around me. Visit your bank's ATM before arriving each day. You'll need cash for food and water, maybe beers. The last thing you want to do is pay the ATM fee markup on sight.
22. Most music festivals last at least 8 to 9 hours, so be sure to bring some light snacks. Consider small snacks, like granola bars. These will hold you over until you can reach a vendor for some heavier foods. Here's a trick I use: Hold your camera and some cash up in the air, and walk to the front the food line. Festival attendees always think we're official staff, and make room for us. The vendor staff will do the same. This way, you'll get your food fast. In the unlikely event that this method fails you, still walk to the very front and offer to purchase someone's food. It will save you a lot of time. TIme is money, and money talks.
23. Stay hydrated. Not with beers though. Seriously.
24. Make friends with the people handling the media for the festival. Also, make friends with the security/event staff that guards the entrance to the pit. As the night progresses, the bigger acts are performing. Security always gets tighter at that point. Always…
Head back to your hotel or home safely with your gear. Charge-up your batteries. Empty your memory cards. Do it all again tomorrow.