Top 10 Tips for Great Festival Photography

These day’s anyone with an iPhone and a backstage pass is a music photographer – cluttering up the stage stairs, chatting up the groupies in the artist meal tents, taking all the drink cards that ought to be reserved for honest, long-suffering magazine editors.  But next to the likes of Dan Beetley they are impostors all. This hard-working Austin lad has been snapping the scene for the last ten years and to celebrate the release of his new book “Splitting the Seconds”  he shared with An Honest Tune his top ten, pro tips on Festival Photography.

01. A cigarette in the hand is worth 2 in the mud at a winter festival; take care of your essentials.

02. Bartering becomes your currency. Where once a 2 Lt Water bottle could disguise everything from Giggle Water to Cossack Juice now, the only safe smuggle aid is a lens cleaner bottle, which goes through unchecked. Buying German beers or French waters is simply not an option for most photographers. If you can’t buy, barter. If you can’t trade, steal. There are no friends, there are only obstacles and enablers, choose your accomplices accordingly.

03. Find friends in high places, smile at the bouncer, learn his name, he’s your mate, you’re friends now. When you enter the VIP bar make him feel special and later when you arrive with three new friends, Bruce will turn a blind eye.

04. Now let’s get to work, make sure you’ve got batteries (charged overnight), film or memory cards, a fast lens or two and you are ready to roll.

05. Plan your shoots because when that tour manager you can’t remember buys you a Jack Daniel’s, and you realize it’s not only Jack Daniel’s – you’ll need a map.

06. There is always a bar more VIP than the VIP bar that you are in. This is a holding pen for groupies and hangers-on, open doors, shake hands; find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

07.  Sleeping is a luxury. Plans are safety nets. Live dangerously; fuck the safety net. Don’t plan where to sleep; this will get in the way of finding interesting photographs.

08.  And when you wake from that tipi, clean your teeth with that lens cleaner.

09. An after-party is always followed by an after-party or two more.

10. Leaving the festival is only the beginning of a new adventure. Get your images to your editors as fast as you can.  Drive the band to the airport for the tour manager who is missing in action.  Lie through your teeth. You’ve earnt it, after all, a picture tells a thousand words; you’re welcome to a few.

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