When I'm shooting a concert in the pit, I find that people in the front row are quite sociable and curious as I open my camera bag and set up for the shoot. Usually, there's several conversations that occur before the concert begins. Very rarely does someone ask about my camera and lenses, as they are likely to be armed with their phones and don't pursue photography beyond that. The most common questions asked are; "Who are you shooting with?" And my favorite, which some of my friends also ask, "Do you need an assistant?"
What a lovely thought to actually be able to allow a photo caddy, much like a golf caddy, by my side. Someone who knows photography well enough and can handle my desire to change lenses several times during a ten to fifteen minute shoot!
At a recent concert, I was talking to a front-row fan, who said to me with such enthusiasm, "You are so lucky, to see the show as you do." I smiled politely, but started to wonder…do I really have the better deal than snagging a spot in the front row?
Both positions require some work. For the concert go-er, they must arrive early enough to secure a top spot in line before the doors open. This results in a bit of a wait time. Once the doors open, that person has to run into the venue at top speed to secure their front row spot, waiting as much as up to two hours before the opening act begins. More wait time.
I spend up to fifteen minutes the night before packing my camera bag, cleaning lenses, recharging batteries, making sure I'm good to go for the event. I usually like to arrive to the venue thirty minutes before the concert begins. My efforts at this point are minimal.
Once the show begins, my clock is ticking. I've got the best seat in the house for as long as the artist will allow, which is usually the first two or three songs. After that, my gear and I must leave the venue. That's it, show over. So the next day, when my friends ask how was the concert, my usual reply is answered with a slight tone of regret, "Yeah, the first three songs were great." I certainly can't say the whole concert was fantastic, because I wasn't there.
But I do walk away from the show with something the concert go-er doesn't get, the photographs I took, which is the souvenir that makes me happy. Once I get home, there's the several hours spent loading the photos, editing, and choosing the fortunate few that make it to my editor for publication.
Back at the concert, that lucky fan in the front row is thoroughly enjoying the performance. From any seat in the house, fans are taking in the music, reacting, singing along and moving their bodies to the sounds, They are the fortunate ones who are able to take in the whole experience, and hands down have the better deal.
The experiences between the barricade of the pit and the front row are completely different. There are many times I wish I could jump over the barricade and enjoy the show, and there are some occasions I'm glad to leave after the shoot and beat the concert traffic afterwards. And don't get me wrong, most of all concerts I photograph are artists that I love and hold a special place in my heart. My greatest experiences are when I can totally immerse myself in the music and everything else is around me is completely blanked out. It's me and the performer one on one. When that moment happens, I know, I have the better deal.