Photographing Musicians with David Bergman

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All images by David Bergman. Used with permission.

David Bergman has been a concert photographer (amongst other genres) for many years and has shot clients that one could only dream about. While some may think that photographing six US Presidents is a big feat, David has also worked with loads of bands (which many may find much more interesting).

Hailing from Miami, Florida David cut his teeth working for newspapers where he shot the Olympics and loads of other events that labelled him as an action photographer. But as his career progressed, he became the tour photographer for many musicians after moving to New York.

He recently talked about his work at a PhotoShelter webinar, and we decided to give him an interview of our very own.

Editor’s Note: We really recommend checking out some of PhotoShelter‘s webinars and all the services that they offer.

Phoblographer: Tell us about how you first got addicted to concert photography.

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David: I was a musician before I was a photographer. As I attended the Berklee College of Music studying music production (and playing drums and percussion), I found myself taking pictures of my friends’ bands instead of playing my own gigs.

Years later, as a staff photographer at the Miami Herald, I pitched a self-generated story to go on the road with hometown hero Gloria Estefan. I wound up doing the story in 1996 and spent time on the road with Gloria and her family on a tour bus. I really fell in love with tour photography then.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg (5)Phoblographer: Lots of photographers really love to shoot and concerts, but being a small club snapper and a big stadium shooter are different things. How did you go about getting to where you are today?

David: I didn’t listen to everyone who said it couldn’t be done. I always wanted to shoot on the big stage. For 25 years, I have been pushing myself to make better images while continuing to market myself and network. It doesn’t happen overnight and it never ends.

Phoblographer: Tell us about the gear you use.

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David: I’m a Nikon shooter. Traditionally, during a show, I’ll have two D4 bodies hanging from my shoulders with a 24-70mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8. I also travel with my 200-400mm f4 and use that quite a bit at the stadium shows. I’ll occasionally pull out my 600mm f4, although I use it for sports more regularly.

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I also set up remote cameras on stage or around the venue when I can. I might put the 14-24mm f2.8 on there or sometimes use a 24mm f1.4 or 85mm f1.4 prime depending on where I’m putting the camera.

Phoblographer: What do you think makes for a strong concert photo? Obviously there are the favorites like crowd interaction and all, but how do you really wow someone?

David: A strong concert photo is no difference than any other strong photo – it has to make the viewer feel something.

While I always try to capture the “big moments,” I also like to bring the viewer to places they can’t normally go. Sometimes that means shooting from the stage (either by setting up remote cameras or by physically standing there), but it also means bringing them backstage and into the dressing room.

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Phoblographer: As the music industry continues to change, so, too, do photographers. What tips can you give to aspiring shooters to always stay ahead of the curve?

David: Photographers are business people just like every other service profession. Just because it’s “fun” doesn’t mean you should devalue yourself or your work. Act like a professional, consistently produce quality work, charge appropriate rates, and understand legal issues that affect our profession.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.