Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sarah Louise Bennett on the highs and lows of music photography

Music photographer Sarah Louise Bennett first came to my attention when I saw the fantastic photographs she took at the Taking Back Sunday gig at Koko in February. Always on the look out for images that are infinitely superior to my own, I got in touch and she kindly let me use them on Rock & Runway. Realising that we like a lot of the same bands and wanting to feature more of her brilliant work, I took the opportunity to interview her and find out more about the highs and lows of being a music photographer.

Alkaline Trio at The Forum which I reviewed in April

 Sarah has been interested in photography since she was just 14, and since studying at Nottingham Trent University, she has been shooting a mix of live music and portraiture, which takes her all over the country. Based between Reading, London and Oxford, she kindly took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

How did you get into photography?
I was given a terrible point and shoot camera for my 14th birthday and took it absolutely everywhere with me – obviously it joined me when I went to my first proper gig. After that gig, one of the band members found my photos on MySpace (yeah, it was a while ago!) and said they really liked them. In retrospect, he was probably just being kind – they were awful photos! – but that little bit of encouragement really sparked the idea of exploring music photography properly for me.

Taking back Sunday

Baby Godzilla at ArcTanGent 2013

What camera do you use?
A Nikon D700. My primary lenses are Nikon's 24-70mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8 and I also use their SB-910 flash.

Do you prefer colour or B&W? Do you do much work in post?
I tend to stick to colour if I can, I'm a sucker for cool production and lighting design so I want to try and capture that too. Some things just don't photograph well though. Red light for example is notoriously tricky to shoot in, digital cameras just struggle to process it, so those shots tend to need more in post. Otherwise I tend to do basic adjustments such as exposure, levels and cropping if the shot needs it.

How would you describe your style?
I don't want to take photos of people on stage with instruments, I want to take pictures of passion and emotion; that's what good music is about for me.

Funeral For A Friend at Slam Dunk South 2013

What's the biggest challenge for music photographers?
Lighting, or lack of it, can be an absolute nightmare, but that's something you can try and prepare for with the right gear, or salvage in post if you have to! I'd say the biggest challenge across the industry is the devaluation of music photography as a whole. These days, music photographers are a dime a dozen, and it takes a lot of time and hard work to gain respect and trust from bands. Ultimately, I do this because I love photography and music, and I want to work with other creatives and offer them a service.

Fall Out Boy at Wembley Arena 2014

Which are your favourite music festivals? Are you going to any this year?
There are so many great festivals around at the moment; it's my favourite time of year because you come across so many bands that you might not catch otherwise! My absolute favourite is Reading. I grew up in the town but my parents weren't keen on the idea of me going to the festival when I was younger (perhaps they'd seen some of the shenanigans that go down first hand!). As a kid, it was always this thing of awe that was just out of reach, so finally getting to photograph the festival last year was a real highlight. I'm hoping to shoot it again this year as well as Sonisphere, 2000 Trees, Truck, Merthyr Rock and ArcTanGent. Plus I covered Hit The Deck and Slam Dunk Recently and I'm confirmed for Download!

Gnarwolves at 2000 Trees 2013

 Which photographers do you admire/inspire you most?

There are so many! In terms of music photography, Danny North, Adam Elmakias and Todd Owyoung are some that stick out – they're all photographers who take beautiful photos but also have great business sense and work ethic.

If you could photograph any band past or present, who would it be?
Nirvana, Queen and Jimi Hendrix were all extremely talented and renowned for their incredible live shows – I just wish I'd been around to capture them! I've been incredibly lucky to have crossed a lot of awesome bands off my bucket list though, but there's nothing like shooting an up-and-coming band that takes you by surprise.

Josh Homme

Check out more of Sarah's fantastic images on her website and social media:

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