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Through the lens of a gig photographer

Ever fancied getting up close and personal with a camera and your favourite band? Well that’s what 23 year old Kirsty  Erskine does while completing her Fine Art Degree at Dundee University in Scotland.

Read on to find out more!

So when did you first get into photography?

“I first got into photography in my first year of University. My course had a general art foundation year which allowed us to all try out a bit of everything before choosing what we wanted our degree in. I bought my first camera on my 18th birthday and started using it for projects and taking classes at University on Photoshop, but it wasn’t until my second year that I began using it more and more. After that I bought my first
proper ‘good’ lens and that was when I started getting into music photography.”

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A lot of photographers dream of doing gig photography, explain how you got into it?

“Just like most people I wanted to try it out, as someone who loved going to gigs growing up I always wanted to see what it was like to photograph one and not view it as a fan. I always remember back in 2010/2011 being at a concert at the barrier and seeing all these photographers in front of the stage and thinking ‘Wow. That would be so cool as a job’.
I started emailing local bands asking if I could come along and take pictures of them whilst performing.

At first my photography was absolutely shocking at the start, I still wasn’t 100% sure
of my camera settings and didn’t have any friends in this area of photography to talk to and learn from. But it was all a learning experience, even though we were taught SOME camera skills at University the majority I taught myself. As time went on I started to grow a larger portfolio and meet people with similar passions. I then got taken on as a photographer for an American website which did gig reviews, posted photos and interviews. This allowed me to go to larger gigs shooting on their behalf and do things out of my comfort zone, such as doing an interview with Buried In Verona years ago (showed me I was definitely NOT made to be an interviewer). This was all done as volunteer unpaid work but at the time I definitely did not care as it was building my
portfolio up even more. Having bands such as Bring Me The Horizon and The 1975 on your list of ‘shot bands’ definitely made it worth it to me.

It hit a point where my portfolio was good enough and this is when I got to shoot my first band that actually paid me to photograph them. That was definitely a moment where I thought ‘okay I’m definitely doing something right here.’ Since then I’ve taken on other photography jobs such as club events, dance performances and portraits. It definitely opened up a lot of doors for me.”

Website_0185The 1975 – photographed by Kirsty Erskine

What would be your advice for a budding gig photographer? How do you land that first gig?

“My advice would be: don’t be afraid to ask. There is no harm in emailing someone to ask if you can come along to take some photos, the worst they can say is no or nothing at all. Landing your first gig is honestly quite easy as long as you have a camera, some form of editing software and can use social media. Like I said previously, contact local bands. Look for gigs playing in your area or near by and message local bands saying you were looking to take some photos. A lot of the time (from my experience) they will say yes in return to use the photos (which is exposure for you) or will say yes with no catch at all.”

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Dream Artist to photograph?

“Hmm there are two. My first would be Slipknot because of the whole theatrical side of them and how intense they are. I have seen them twice and both times it completely blew my mind the whole stage set up, the masks never get old. My second would be some sort of Kpop group, about 2 years ago I started listening to kpop groups such as BTS, exo,
NCT 127 and I honestly can’t get over how put together kpop groups are. They can sing, dance, have super creative music videos and always have super clean put together performances. The main reason I would want to take photos of one of these groups is purely because even though they are good singers they are amazing dancers and dance photography is something I’m trying to get into. (But lets be real I don’t think I’ve seen any kpop group come to the UK before. But I can dream.)”

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Anything else you would like to add?

“Even though I have been out of the live music photography game for about a year or so now because of focusing on my final year at University, I really think it’s important to keep looking up to people that inspire you. Throughout my years of photographing gigs, performances, events, University projects etc I have met a variety of photographers that live in the same area as me. I think (for me anyway) following these photographers on Instagram, Facebook etc really helps me. Even though I’m definitely out of the photography game at the moment these other people I’ve met really inspire me to get back out there. I highly recommend if you’re trying to get into music photography or just photography in general finding people around you on social media that create content that you aspire to be like to help push you forward.”

Find more of Kirsty’s work on her website: kirstyerskinephotography.com

And follow her on social media:

Instagram- @kirstyerskinephotography

Facebook- Kirsty Erskine Photography

 

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