Meet the photographer: Luis Rodrigues

Tell us about yourself
I’m born and raised in Portugal and have been living in the UK since 2012. I’ve been into rock and metal music since my teens and with that passion, unlike what my parents hoped, was not just a phase and only grew over the years. I’m lucky enough to live in a city where there are concerts every day and go to as many as I can, and sometimes the camera comes along. By day I’m just an average joe working 9 to 6 as web developer.

When did you start photography and where has your journey taken you since?
I started around when I was 16 years old with a crappy point-and-shoot camera which was more of a tech gadget for my geek self. I wasn’t even that keen on photography and didn’t consider myself a photographer at all. I was a kid with a camera taking photos of me and my friends on our nights out and holidays. That changed as I kept posting pictures of concerts on MySpace and started to get attention from the Portuguese underground scene. Some bands really kept me going and would invite me along for their shows, and that made me invest in a DSLR and take photography a lot more seriously. Since then I have met a bunch of people and made some really good friends, discovered great bands, collaborated with different websites, got a photo published on the online edition of the Financial Times, and who knows what’s coming next.


What is your favourite thing about music photography?
It’s the perfect marriage of 2 things that I love: music and photography. I get to see some great shows, from the first row, and I also get to create some great pictures.

What is your least favourite thing about music photography?
The never ending process of going through hundreds of photos after a show or festival, having to come up with a small selection of photos to edit and publish. It always takes up a big chunk of time and my partner hates how much time I spend on it.

What has been your biggest learning curve since starting gig photography?
Getting the camera to focus on the correct part of a scene has always been the hardest part when everyone on the stage is moving around and the lights change constantly. Cameras have evolved a lot in the past few years and now have great features to make this a bit easier, but it’s still difficult to get a photo perfectly sharp on the face and not on the mic stand, neck of a guitar or even the cymbals of the drums. It’s always disappointing to come home thinking that you have great photos and then find out they are blurry where it matters. Even nowadays I still struggle with this and wish I could use the manual focus fast enough.

Do you build relationships with bands/artists you shoot? If so tell us about them.
Yes, this has always been what enabled me to become a gig photographer in the first place and those relationships are sometimes what allows you to shoot that really sweet gig you want to shoot. If not for some bands I’ve met in the past, I probably wouldn’t have become a photographer. I also enjoy meeting other fellow gig photographers. It’s always nice to have someone to chat to in the pit between bands at concerts and I’m always curious to see what photos they come up with for the same shows I shoot and how their approach differs from mine.


Many photographers spend a lot of time shooting for free, do you have any advice for people just starting out?
I’m still one of those photographers shooting for free, so I’d certainly not the right person to ask about becoming a professional photographer. I have a day job as a web developer and don’t think I can go professional with photography, it’s something I do as a hobby. Still, everyone has to start somewhere, and to those starting out my advice is to start shooting local bands at some bars where a photo pass is not needed, share your work with the bands, venues, and promoters, start building some relationships and getting your name out there. After you have some work to show it becomes gradually easier to get promoters to let you shoot shows, and sometimes if you ask nicely they will let you, even if you don’t shoot for a publication, just give it a try. After you have some work to show it will also become easier to find publications who will let you in their circle of collaborators.

Choose 3 of your favourite music photographers and a bit about why you like their work?
E. Holden, John Oakes and Dafydd Owen. All of them have great looking photos and consistently post great stuff on Instagram. Their photos show some intensity and fierceness, and I love their editing style, perfectly lit and perfect balance of colour.

What are you looking forward to at this years festival?
It’s a festival about gig photography! That alone sells it for me. I’m looking forward to seeing the work of other photographers, getting to know them and shoot gigs along with them.

Tell us a bit about the work you have chosen to exhibit?
I’ve only started doing gig photography in London a few months ago and still don’t have much of a portfolio, I’ve left all of my previous work back in Portugal. Two of the photos are of the first ever show I did here in London, Black Moth’s Anatomical Venus tour with support from Grave Lines, it was a great show and I loved the stage lights. The bands were giving their all and I think that came across in the photos.
One of the other photos is of the band GOLD. I just love how intense the singer was and how the photos of this show turned out.
Finally, the mighty Sepultura! I’m a big fan of the band and this is the biggest show I’ve done in the UK so far. I had a great time doing this show.

What are your hopes for the future of music photography?
I’m hoping that in the future there will be more equal opportunities for photographers. Understandably it’s all a numbers game and promoters give priority to photographers from big publications who can give them the widest possible audience, but I’m hoping that one day all it will take is for the work to be good and newer photographers will have a good chance of getting into big shows.


What is your favourite way to share your photographs and why? E.g. Twitter, Instagram etc.
I use Instagram and Facebook to share my photos, but I definitely prefer to use Instagram. It’s a social platform focused on sharing photos and I get a better sense if people enjoy my photos or not. On Facebook a lot of times the photos I publish seem to get lost in the middle of all the other stuff on people’s feeds and a lot of times I don’t get a reaction at all, it’s like the photos don’t even have an audience. On Instagram on the other hand, photos are the main thing and I seem to have a better and more dedicated audience there. Plus, it has been a really great tool for finding some awesome gig photographers throughout the world.

What do you think makes a good gig photo?
In any kind of photo or even art I want to feel something. With gig photos I want to feel the energy of the concert, or feel a moment. I want to see dramatic lighting and nice colours, and expressive faces, I want to see the musicians enjoying themselves and pouring their hearts out for the show.

What are your plans for the future with music photography?
I’m hoping to one day be a regular contributor to a big publication and have my work seen and enjoyed by many. Having a day job unrelated to photography and the music industry sometimes gets in the way of the requirements for that, but I still hope that one day I will be able to shoot big concerts and festivals on a more regular basis.

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