*photo by Zachary Staines
A decent camera
Your camera will likely be one of the biggest investments you make as a music journalist. Nikon, Canon, Olympix, Panasonic, Fuji, there are many brands to choose from and each has its pros and cons; in this case I just recommend trying some cameras out before you buy. A store like Henry’s in Toronto is a great place to do that, their staff is patient and knowledgeable and they carry tons of different types of cameras. Once you’ve decided what brand works for you, then you decide how fancy you want to get. A camera body will run you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and that’s before you start investing in lenses. Figure out how pro you want to go. I found that a Canon Rebel (a crop body DSLR) suited my needs but you can definitely invest more if you require and your budget allows. Once you’ve chosen your body, getting a suite of lenses is the next step. Start with a good “walking around” lens (generally a zoom that is suitable in many different situations – I love my Tamron for Canon 17-50mm lens for this), then maybe a good tight prime lens (like a 50mm portrait lens aka the nifty fifty) and a longer lens for larger venues and stages.
A good camera bag
Keeping the camera you just spent a pile of money on safe is very important. Looking great while you’re doing it is a bonus, which is why I love the The Megapixel from YNOT. A Toronto based bag company, YNOT has cornered the market on practical, functional and fashionable backpacks and messenger bags. Seeing a need in the market for a camera bag that keeps cameras safe and while allowing the user to keep his or her hands free to shoot, YNOT designed the Pixel (183 Cubic) and its big brother The Megapixel (460 Cubic Inches), a combination sling bag and padded insert. The bag is made of either Water resistant 1000D Cordura or Waxed Canvas fabric and can be carried on either the right or left shoulder with its automotive grade seat belt strap with locking tri-glide adjustment. The insert is made of high density closed cell foam, water resistant and abrasion free nylon with velcro adjustable dividers. Put the insert and bag together and you’ve got weatherproof protection for your camera. The hidden corner pockets are great for storing memory cards, ear plugs and anything else you need, and depending on which bag you choose you can fit your camera body and 1-3 lenses. I’ve taken this bag out to a couple of shows and festivals and I love how easy it is to switch between lenses, swing the bag from my front to back, and how I can pull the camera insert out of the bag to keep it in my carryon for travel with the sling tucked away in my suitcase. Help YNOT make these bags for all photographers by contributing to their kickstarter campaign.
A good camera phone
Social media is a must in this line of work. You may as well embrace the idea by taking awesome photos in the moment. The more hardcore
of us will invest in a camera or memory card with Bluetooth or wifi, which is why you see those incredibly sharp and slick photos on music photographer’s Instagram.
For those that don’t have one of those fancy tools, you can get away with just using your phone as long as its camera is up to snuff. The iPhone 6, the Samsung S6 or S7, or the LG G5 are all phones among many with great built-in cameras, but generally a good eye, good lighting and some great apps (check out VSO cam) can lead to some great on the fly social media worthy shots.
Collapsible Water bottle
Aside from the fact that most of us music bloggers can’t afford to pay the rising costs of water at festivals, most festivals have cottoned onto the fact that it’s just a good idea to provide free water refills so their guests can stay hydrated. Collapsible water bottles with little carabiners to clip onto your camera bag are a must for any music journalist. They’re light, they fold up when they’re empty and fill up with a decent amount of water for those super hot summer festival days.
Musicians oftentimes wreck their hearing over time from how much time they spend near giant amps and speakers. Music photographers and journalists are not much further from all that loud, so a good pair of earplugs is essential to ensure you can hear as well in your 60s as you can currently in your 20s. You can get a pair of custom earplugs from a hearing specialist for $100 or more, but for our purposes a good pair from the drug store will do the trick. I love these Ear Peace plugs because they keep the good sounds in and the bad noise out, meaning I can still enjoy the music without compromising my hearing. They’re much better than the foamy plugs that just muffle everything so I highly recommend making the additional investment.
So there you have it, the music journalist starter kit. Go forth, shoot and have fun! Got some amazing concert photos? Share them with us at @weraddicted on twitter and @weraddictedmag on Instagram !