Music Festival Tips What Gear to Pack: Out of the Darkroom with Ruth Medjber


Welcome to Out of the Darkroom on AdoramaTV. This is the first part of a very special series of episodes where I’m going to share some trade secrets with you, all about how to shoot music festivals; what to bring, who to shoot and where to share the photos. So for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ruth Medjbur and I’m a professional music photographer. All the tips that I’m about to share with you come from my own personal experience. However, it’s important to note that there’s no steadfast rules in this business. I’m just sharing what works for me. For the last 15 years I’ve been shooting music festivals. I shoot about 10 to 15 per year, mostly in Ireland where I’m based, but sometimes across Europe too. I’ve shot for magazines, newspapers, commercial clients and for the festivals themselves. In this episode I will talk you through a full list of the essentials, every lens to cover every stage indoors and outdoors. As well as a run-through of the extra bits I’ve learned to pack over the years. All the points I’m going to mention here can only really apply once you’ve secured your press accreditation in advance with the festival organizers. If you turn up at the gate with all of this stuff packed in your bag and no pass you’ll be turned away. So have your email confirmation printed out, or on your phone so that you can show the gate staff that you’re legitimately picking up a pass and are allowed to have your gear on site. First things first, obviously you need your camera but don’t get hung up about the overall speck of your body. If you’ve been booked to shoot a music festival just go with what you have. It’s a good idea to bring a second body if you have one, but you should definitely have spare batteries for your body. You’ll be out shooting for hours each day and coming across power supplies can be tricky. So invest in a good spare battery. When I’m buying spares I always go for the genuine model instead of the third-party brand as I’ve had a bit of bad experience with them running low really quickly. Do your own research and read reviews before you buy. Memory cards are also something you need spares of. I end up shooting about 90 to 120 gigs a day on the D4S. I split that over various cards so that I can leave one importing in the media tent and then I can go out and shoot more shots. It’s also a good idea to have cards with a fast write speed. If something incredible is happening in front of you, like the lead singer has stage dived into the crowd and you need to be shooting furiously, the last thing you want to do is suffer a writing lag on your cards. One of the reasons I chose the D4S is for the FPS rate, the frames per second. I tend to find this pretty crucial when shooting live music so that I can get the burst of shots needed to capture live action shots. Lenses, really you should be bringing your entire arsenal of lenses with you. Shooting a music festival these days means shooting everything. Doing crowd portraits, shooting the food, the merchandise stands. You’ll want to get super wide to get the entire crowd in some of the shots. Then you’ll also need to be on a Telephoto. When your main stage is over 10 feet tall and you need that extra reach. What I bring is the following; a super-wide Sigma a Nikon 24-70mm which are mainly used when wandering around the festival grounds looking for good atmosphere shots. I can also use it on some of the medium or smaller stages. I’ll switch it up to a 70-200mm, when I want to get either some candid crowd shots from afar like in spy mode, or I’ve hit one of the big stages. I’ll use the nifty 50mm as well when we’re shooting tiny stages with no lights, or I want to do some f/1.4 work with some of the products, food or the merchandise Now flash. So you all know that you’re not allowed to use it in the pit but at night-time when you’re wandering around the arena or the campsite some off camera flash makes for some pretty interesting light, so pack it anyway, and have your triggers with you and maybe also one of your friends can hold it, or just pack a light stand. Business cards; This might seem a bit nuts in a gear list but you’ll be surprised at the amount of people that you meet down there. Some of them might just be music fans looking for copies of their photos but there’s still another Instagram follower so share those cards. A rain jacket for your camera. I know most pro bodies are weather sealed but they’re not waterproof. There is a difference. If you’re in a wet and windy part of the world, like I am sometimes, that rain can come down in buckets and come at you from all angles. The band might be due on stage at nine o’clock you’re in place in the rain from ten to nine. If they don’t walk on until 9:30pm, that’s 40 minutes of getting soaked. It’s best not to have your camera exposed to all of this. Invest in a rain jacket, you can pick up cheap baggies if you don’t shoot a lot, or you can get a reusable one if you’re a seasoned pro. Here’s the other thing, you’ll be at this music festival for three, maybe four days you need to look after yourself too. So get waterproof boots, jackets, hats, it doesn’t matter how stupid you look. When it’s lashing rain or freezing cold you’ll be glad of it. If you do get soaked keep some silicon gel packs in your lens cases and at the end of your bag as they’ll absorb the moisture and save from potentially cloudy or moldy lenses. It’s also a good idea to have dry cloths up your sleeve, so you can quickly wipe the raindrops from your lens when you’re shooting in the rain. I’ve seen photographers being turned away from the pit as they were wearing open-toe sandals. This is a working pit with lots od gear flying around. Have some sense, wear work boots or you’ll lose your toe. Don’t forget the laptop if you need to be filing images throughout the weekend make sure you have something to do it on. I’ve seen newbie photographers rock up to the media tent expecting there to be a row of free computers to use. Bring everything you need to be self-sustaining; chargers, hard drive, spare transfer cables and mark your name on everything. Believe me you won’t be the only Canon charger plugged into the socket panel. There might be a hundred photographers in and out of there all weekend. Sometimes you’re lucky enough that they have lockers to rent, so you can dump your gear between drop-offs, otherwise you might be running back and forth to your car. You can check this in advance with your media contact. If you’re vertically challenged like me, you just can’t cope with the weight of all of this gear, then invest in some new methods of carrying your gear. Last year I shifted the weight from my shoulders to my waist. I put my lenses, flash, other bits like my phone and my wallets in this and I’m good to just run around the festival for errors. If you’re shooting on two bodies instead of one, to save time changing lenses in the pit then grab a double strap. Personally, I only work on one body at a time as I’m consciously trying to slow down my shooting style. So a comfy strap works just as well for me. Earplugs; Do you know how loud main stages get? Imagine standing there for hours a day. Best thing I ever bought was a pair of molded earplugs. They can be a little bit pricey but they are worth every penny. They’ll also help you get some much-needed shut-eye in your tent at night. Speaking of tents, don’t be silly and buy one that costs 10 quid. You don’t want your gear, your clothes and you to wake up drenched every morning. Get a decent pop-up tent. Sometimes you could be doing these festivals completely on your own. So make sure you can put it up and take it down all by yourself. Another thing I’m going to recommend that your bring is a tripod. Now, don’t attempt to put this up in the pit! If looks could kill then each other photographer will have you dead in a second. I’m recommending bringing it for the nighttime ambient shots, when you want to do something quirky like long exposures of the carousel. You can keep it in the car until you actually need it but just make sure it’s lightweight. That’s all from me for this episode. Join me again next time where I’m going to talk you through exactly what to shoot while you’re at the music festival. Subscribe to AdoramaTV for more videos and don’t forget to check out the Adorama Learning Center for more great tips and tricks. Thanks and I’ll see you again soon.