Nick LeTellier is the founder of website Festival Snobs, and enjoys event photography. Read more in our conversation below.
What was the inspiration behind Festival Snobs?
Basically ever since my first music festival which was Bonnaroo in 2009, I've had an obsession with live music and the music festival experience. As time went on, I would constantly be posting to my personal social media pages about upcoming music festivals, but it was falling on deaf ears as the majority of my friends couldn't have cared less. So I decided to instead use that time and effort on a blog so that others could enjoy my travels and adventures when it came to music festivals. As it began to become more popular, it more morphed into an e-magazine rather than a blog as I brought on more people to write and photograph while keeping all of our followers up-to-date on any and all music festival news in North America.
How did you first get into photography?
So back in 2013 I had applied to cover a music festival in Portland, OR called MusicFestNW as online media. I had always dreamed of visiting Portland and this seemed like a good excuse considering how much I loved their lineup that year. The plan was to go and just use my smart phone for social posts through the festival, but when I got my acceptance e-mail for my media application, it noted that I had been granted one photo pass as well as my media pass. Knowing that there was no way I could get away with entering the festival's photo pit with just an iPhone, I literally paid to rent a DSLR without any experience and on the plane from Nashville to Portland I watched numerous YouTube video tutorials on how to use the camera I had rented, as well as just general photography tips and editing suggestions. Needless to say, my photos from that festival were absolutely terrible and it's pretty amusing to look back at them now, knowing what I do now. But being able to get that perspective at a concert and snap photographs directly in front of the artists inspired me to eventually purchase my own DSLR camera and pick up the hobby so that I could continue doing it at future music festivals.
What are some of the most important lessons you've learned as an event photographer?
Really to just stay laid back, go with the flow, and allot some time to NOT be taking photographs. Photographing music festivals, especially the big ones, are so tough because there are bands performing non-stop on different stages throughout the festival site, and you're usually only allowed to photograph the first three songs. So once you're done shooting one band, typically you're running to the next stage or tent to shoot the next band before they kick all the photographers out. If you're not careful, you'll spend the entire weekend running around photographing and after it's over realize that you never actually took any time to step back, take it all in, and enjoy yourself
What are your favorite festivals to photograph and why?
The music festivals I enjoy shooting the most are the ones that can incorporate numerous things other than just music. I love being able to take photographs of stuff other than the artists performing, whether it be the city the festival is in, the festivals patrons themselves, jaw dropping interactive art, or even food. As far as specific festivals that I can recall, I always loved shooting Moogfest back when it was in Asheville, NC. They did an amazing job of incorporating the city's downtown area into the festival by using numerous venues that required you to be constantly exploring the cities streets.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in event photography?
Know exactly what you're getting into. It's not as easy as going to Wal-Mart, buying the cheapest Canon Rebel camera they have in stock, and showing up at the festival with said camera ready to get front row access to bands. The hobby can be extremely expensive once you start diving into it, purchasing lenses, and upgrading gear. Unfortunately the return on investment can also be little to nothing, as more and more music outlets are bombarded with hobby photographers willing to photograph for free, asking only for access and exposure in return. You're going to need to know what you're doing in order to stand out because there are always hundreds of other photographers there, shooting the exact same bands at the exact same time as you, from mostly the same angles. This is where focusing your skills on the editing aspect of photography can help.