You might be thinking: “we’re almost half way through the year, isn’t it a little late for this?” In reality, the Japanese live schedule doesn’t really kick in until April at the earliest and not having shot any gigs since November has given me a little time to consider how I would like to approach live photography a little differently in 2019.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to gain access to the photo pit for most of London’s top venues from O2 Academy Brixton, O2 Academy Islington & O2 Shepherds Bush Empire to name a few. As a photographer, you work up the ranks from small pubs / venues which would normally mean no photo pit or limited photo access, poor stage lighting and a very small space to work in.

While these conditions don’t sound ideal, if you can master these scenarios, once you hit the big leagues like the O2 venues you suddenly become spoilt very quickly. You will (generally) notice a huge difference in stage lighting which then enables the photographers to bring you better live photos, a dedicated photo pit which means you don’t have to worry about your camera being knocked or damaged by being in the crowd and guaranteed ‘in front of stage’ shots.

Once you get accustomed to these ‘ideal’ settings, it can be quite hard to throw yourself back into the smaller venue scene where you know space to manoeuvre will be limited. This would normally involve no photo pit access and stage lighting next to none in some cases – meaning your job as a photographer just became more difficult – even more so when most artists / venues will restrict you to a max of three songs and no flash.

MUTANT MONSTER performing at the Oslo, Hackney. One of the more challenging venues I have photographed so far.

When I came to shoot the MUTANT MONSTER gig last November, I had a sense that a smaller venue (and also one I wasn’t familiar with) would bring it’s own challenges – and I was right.

The stage lighting was minimal at best and no photo pit access meant I had to think on my feet and adapt my camera settings and placement around the venue to try and get the best shots possible. I was actually really pleased with how the photos came out (check out the full gallery here). What I learnt from this experience is that the ‘ideal’ settings really are a blessing when they are available to you but at the same time a little of the unknown also makes you a better photographer and making the best of the scenarios presented to you at the time.

This brings me back to new challenges in 2019. I’d like to not shun smaller venues (like I have in the past) because of the challenges it will bring but actually embrace them and make the best out of the opportunity it presents and even If I get only a handful of good shots, it will help me grow as a photographer.

With this in mind, there are a number of smaller shows coming up and if I can get access, I will definitely aim to get the best photos I can. In the past, I’ve been so pleased with the high quality shots from the O2 venues etc that I didn’t want to compromise quality in a smaller venue and possibly have a smaller selection of images to have approved due to the space and lighting limitations but the MUTANT MONSTER show at the Oslo proved it’s still possible and it’s worth it for the experience and the challenge of a new venue.