It’s been a year since my first exhibition, which I called No Pits, Just Pits. Which is apt given that I broke my lens in a photo pit recently! I love shooting straight from the crowd because you meet so many awesome people. At most shows now, there’s a bunch of people who all don’t know each other but I know them somehow and they offer me to take their spot until I’m done shooting. If I was in a photo pit, you don’t meet people that are always there supporting bands that you love too. I’ve met so many rad people at shows where there isn’t a photo pit. So I thought why not do a photography exhibition celebrating the fun of photographing shows where there isn’t a photo pit. It was really fun, and I have some ideas for the next exhibition I want to do. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to put together, but I reckon it’s half done. So that’s progress! I wanted it to be themed again, but I wanted it to have some value beyond the actual photography. But we’ll see. We’ll see next year I guess!
I rebuilt my print store to celebrate the first year anniversary of No Pits, Just Pits with the last of the prints available on there. You can check them out by going to mattwalterphoto.com/prints/. Also up there are some signed prints of Ceres, Camp Cope and more. The Violent Soho and Smith Street Band signed prints are sold out. But you can still buy them unsigned. I don’t reprint photos, so to the people asking if I’m going to do a reprint of anything that’s sold out, the answer is unfortunately no. I don’t reprint because if you were one of the people who were quick and got a certain print knowing there was only five or ten of them, then you would be pretty bummed out if I went ahead and just made more. I think there’s a rarity in art that makes it special. And I don’t want to dilute that. If you get in quick and get a print, then that’s awesome. Throw it on the wall and know it’s been chosen by the artist themselves and it’s special. There’s still a fair range of stuff available on the store at mattwalterphoto.com/prints.
Anyway, we got some questions this episode to answer. I asked for some and we got around 30 sent in. I wish I could answer them all, but each podcast episode can’t go forever. So if your question isn’t answered in this episode, I’ve added it to the list of questions to answer for next time. There are around 100 questions on the list right now but I’m trying to think of ways to catch up. Maybe we’ll do a special one-hour podcast or something.
Anyway, question 1 is from Dan Palumbo.
Is it better to use a fast zoom lens when shooting concerts, or will primes get the job done?
Fast zoom lenses are expensive. For those that aren’t quite sure what I mean by fast, a fast lens is one that opens wide. Apertures like 2.8 or 1.4 are what we’re talking about. Fast zoom lenses are a luxury, but they come with a hefty price tag. The Canon 70-200mm 2.8L lens is around $2,500. You can get a prime lens that opens wider, at f1.4 for around $500.
I personally think prime lenses can get the job done. A lot of people prefer to use primes. When you’re shooting a festival, fast zooms can come in handy because you’re trying to stretch yourself across multiple stages and all of them have different heights and distances from the photo pit. So if you have a prime lens that is 100mm, you might find that you need something wider for certain stages. That’s where a zoom lens would come in handy. So I guess it depends on your ratio of festivals to standard venue shoots.
If you do more venue music photography shoots, then get a fast prime. Think about how wide you’ll need it to be based off how far you are from the stage wherever you shoot. Get something that’s wide enough, but not something that’s so wide you’ll always have to spend a lot of time cropping or cloning out unwanted stuff.
I think that’s the most efficient way to go on your wallet, and then book more work until you can afford a fast zoom. Or just buy a fast zoom if you’re rich!
Next question is from Nicola Kelly:
How much time do you spend editing?
The answer is not great. I generally spend 6 or 7 hours editing a suite of images after I shoot. That is extreme for most people. And if you break that down and charge based off the hour, then that’s pretty expensive for the client.
But I prefer to spend as long as it takes to get the right look or feel when editing photos. I hate editing so much. But it’s such an important part of what makes our photos feel like our own so I think it’s something we all need to spend as much time on as we need to.
Some photos I can edit within 15 seconds and others take 15 minutes. Some take longer. Generally, the more I need to clone out of the background, or the more different light colours there are in the photo, the longer it takes.
To give you an idea of how I edit, I block out the following day to edit. I import the photos, shortlist around 20% of the photos, and edit around 75% of the shortlist. I then supply 50% of the shortlist to the artist.
I could shorten my editing time by just editing the photos I want to give the artist, but I find that I need to edit more photos than I supply because sometimes photos I think aren’t great, turn out better than the photos I was most excited for when I first took them.
Editing can make a huge difference and what looks rubbish straight out of the camera, and vice versa, can’t guarantee photos make the shortlist when you first take the photo, no matter how excited you were about it when you first took it.
The next question is from Jackson:
What other art forms or forms or media do you seek inspiration from?
I have found this question hard to answer in the past. Sometimes I get asked this in interviews and I talk about how I’m scared to take too much inspiration from photography itself.
I love photography, and I love the work of other photographers. But I’m conscious of not relying on it too much as a source of inspiration because I don’t want to be inspired so much that I emulate it without intending to. Especially when it’s super sick work, work I love a lot. So I consciously take inspiration from other genres of media – mostly paintings and film and tv.
I like that paintings aren’t constrained to what actually happened, and while I love photography for the opportunity to capture a moment, I like the idea of being able to paint whatever you want. I don’t know how to paint. I did a bit when I was a kid and I was ok at it, but I gave up because I was a lazy kid. So I’m not sure if it’s that past experience that makes me feel inspired by a good painting, but I get really inspired thinking about how the painter started with nothing and made something that makes sense to the viewer.
It is not right or wrong, there is no restriction on colour or shape – they can make whatever they want, and somehow it translates to the viewer. That makes me feel inspired and full of faith that what I make with a photo can make sense if I’m not creating everything from scratch. I’m just complimenting what happened.
So I feel a little more relaxed that what I’m doing is logical and makes me feel a little more at peace to take some risks, even if they’re small. I also like that paintings are never critiqued – they’re just seen as final work – you either like it or you don’t.
Photography is a bit different because it’s often represented digitally before it’s presented physically, whereas paintings are always physical. Even when they’re digitised, it’s understood they’re complete. So people don’t really give constructive criticism. They just let the painter do what they need to do. That is some really exciting freedom that I hope one-day photography can exist within. It helps me not feel constrained.
I don’t create genre-pushing work, but not feeling like someone is going to tell me how they would have done it helps you embrace your own journey and direction with the art.
The film and tv inspiration is a little more straightforward, but I like that as a source of inspiration because a lot of the serialised tv shows and a lot more movies now days rely on natural light rather than big studio setups. You look at a lot of the scenes from Sopranos, or The Revenant (which used all natural light), and it really excites me.
The way the shadows fall away to blacks and characters move in and out of the light makes me feel more in control of where a subject should sit. It’s freeing thinking about there not being any ‘right’ place for a subject. It’s just wherever they are or wherever YOU as the photographer wants them to be.
Anyway, that’s it for this episode, I hope that was helpful as always!
Don’t forget I have limited edition prints on sale at mattwalterphoto.com/prints, Clowns have a tour coming up which is going to be awesome, and if I don’t see you on that tour, I’ll see you at DZ Deathrays at the Tivoli on Friday night with one of the best bands in the world – PUP.
Have a great week!
Missed the last episode?
Episode 10 was a big episode because I told you all about how I got started with music photography. I didn’t spare a detail, so that’s not an episode you want to miss.
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