Kyle Dean Reinford: How to Be a Successful Concert Photographer

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All photos by Kyle Dean Reinford. Used with permission.

When it comes to concert photography, Kyle Dean Reinford is no doubt one of the best in the business. But he also tells us that he’s still not sure that it’s his true calling. Kyle has been shooting professionally for years and has experienced lots of the changes that have happened as of recent: such as digital rights management and over-saturation of the market.

But most of all, Kyle thinks that concert photography is one heck of a thrill.

Phoblographer: How did you first get into photography and know that it was your calling in life?

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Kyle: I moved to New York in 2006 to pursue a career in Musical Theatre and Opera, but quickly realized I hated the day-to-day lifestyle of it. Around the same time I had started a music blog and started reviewing shows. One night I showed up at Webster Hall and had a photo pass. That week decided to buy a camera. And honestly? Still not sure it’s my calling in life, but I enjoy it quite a bit.

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Phoblographer: What’s the most exciting thing about shooting concerts and music to you?

Kyle: I think, like most photographers, the exciting thing is being so close to the performers. Sometimes lead singers are leaning or even jumping over you. There’s an electricity in the air that you don’t get when you’re standing at the back. As a huge music nerd, it’s incredibly cool to be so close to so much talent.

Phoblographer: The business of concert photography is undoubtedly tough. But what do you think was the toughest part for you and how did you navigate it?

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Kyle: The toughest part is getting clients that pay you. For me it was (and continues to be) all about networking. I can track back so many jobs to one night in 2007 at Bowery Ballroom where I met a couple of industry people who connected me to dozens of other people who hired me. Be good to people and do your job well and people will refer you.

Phoblographer: How much time do you dedicate to shooting vs marketing, negotiating, editing, etc?

Kyle: Honestly this has changed a lot over time. At first I was shooting shows nearly every night of the week – I remember some weeks I shot 8 shows! Nowadays that sounds exhausting. Having aged a bit out of the party scene, now I try to focus on less jobs, but jobs I really want. Though recently I haven’t put nearly as much time into it as I would like – that should change as the year starts to roll.

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“I think, like most photographers, the exciting thing is being so close to the performers.”

Phoblographer: Tell us what gear you’re using these days.

Kyle: I’ve always been a Canon guy. For years I shot with the 5d mkii, but when it was time to upgrade I actually took a step back and got the 6d. It’s lighter and still takes beautiful photos. Lens-wise my 50mm f1.8 and 85mm f1.2 are my bread and butter, but I use a 24-70mm and 70-200mm as well. One thing I’ve really focused on recently is studio and portrait work, so I sunk a bunch of money into a Bowens lighting setup.

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Phoblographer: You’re a unique photographer that also does other sorts of work, but in some way or another still related to music. That makes you an overall music shooter. Have you ever thought about venturing into another genre at all?

Kyle: Absolutely. My music portraiture has definitely piqued my interest in fashion work and editorial. I’ve also toyed with fitness photography – I did a shoot recently with a model that I thought turned out really well. Pretty much anything that I could be creative with is interesting to me.

Phoblographer: Concert photography is tough. Besides actually shooting there is networking, rights management, etc. What do you feel is the toughest part and why?

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Kyle: Rights management is definitely tricky, but I think the hardest thing now is the massive over-saturation of shooters. Digital makes getting into photography easy – I should know, I never took a class. I was one of those people in the pit trying to figure out how to change their ISO. Obviously I have no qualms with people learning on the go, but having such a wealth of shooters makes getting a unique concert photo tricky – especially when so many people in the crowd have great cameras as well.

Phoblographer: In your eyes, what makes for a truly amazing concert photo?

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Kyle: An amazing concert photo is a perfect storm. It’s really hard to describe what it is, but I’ll try. It’s about the energy. The shot has to be really loud or really quiet. Interaction between the band and the audience or between the band members themselves can make a shot stick out. Rarely is it someone yelling into a mic. A great shot tends to be the moments away from the mic – anybody can get a shot of someone singing, but can you nail a shot of a band member jumping into the crowd?

Phoblographer: What do you think is the toughest challenge for new concert photographers these days?

Kyle: This touches on what I said early – over-saturation of shooters. Too many blogs, too many blogtographers, and too many people assuming you’ll do it for free (or hey, we’ll find another new concert photographer to do it instead). It’s kind of a shitty time to be starting out, so you better find a way to stand out from the pack.