Greenbeanz Photography

Photographing Bands in the Recording Studio | Blog | Outside of the frame

Photographing Bands in the Recording Studio| 20 May 2017 | Black Friday at dBs Music Plymouth


Photograph of Bass Player Helen in Plymouth Recording StudioABOVE : Photographing bands in the recording studio. Black Friday Bass player Helen

Black Friday | Recording 'Hey Boss' at dBs Music Plymouth

Being a musician, producer and event photographer means one of the places I feel most at home is the recording studio. It is an entirely different challenge though to sitting behind the desk. One of the most important things to remember when photographing a recording session is that at no point should the band , producer, engineer or technicians, have to work around you. This is their workplace and it will most likely have taken a while and not inconsiderable expense to get to this place, where the primary goal is to realise an inspired and accurate recording of the band and what they sound like. The sound of your flash gun popping, your footsteps, you bumping into mic stands or asking people to look at the birdy etc is not going to enhance that recording.

Even something as seemingly innocuous as shutter sound is amplified in an environment tuned to facilitate the capture of sonic events. So my Nikon D700, lovely though its mechanical shutter is, when recorded by incredibly sensitive Neumann vacuum tube condenser microphones, thru state of the art pre-amps, will sound like a rifle. This is why for much of the session when recording was under, way I used the Sigma DP Merrill, with it's leaf shutter a circular mechanism, which is in comparison, a whisper. You can even use mirrorless cameras and then employ their electronic silent shutter, but I was using mine to capture video for the upcoming 'Hey Boss' promo.

Black Friday are a Celtic Folk Punk band from Cornwall who have played 100's of gigs all over Britain and Europe. They are in the Guiness book of records for performing an astonishing 30 gigs in 12 hours, and have played on Radio Two at Maida Vale Studios, as well as performing at festivals all over Europe. They have performed at Glastonbury in England and Donauinsel Fest in Vienna, at the Port Elliot festival in Cornwall and the Electric Circus in Ireland.

Seated Banjo Player photgraphed slow shutter speed hand held by Plymouth Photographer ABOVE and BELOW : The Banjo Player Lucas Scott Dumper

Seated Banjo Player photgraphed slow shutter speed hand held by Plymouth Photographer in black and White ABOVE : Photographing Musicians in Motion. Black and White or Colour?

I have been very lucky to have worked with the band several times over many years and so introductions were not necessary. I have also worked in the studio where the recording session was taking place, but I had not met the producer or sound engineers, and so made sure to introduce myself and explain exactly what I was there for, and how I hoped to work, so that they could get on with their job.

With a band like Black Friday the recording session can move at quite a pace, even without Mandolin player Marty, who will record his parts on another day, there were still 6 members, some with more than one part to record. Like true professionals they all tuned up first and I took this opportunity to take some candid photographs of them playing before the recording session got underway. This is a great time to use your loud camera (in my case the Nikon D700) and while many photographers will suggest you work in black and white in order to combat the often low light levels found in studios, you can with discipline and practice, hand hold your camera at a longer shutter speed to combat this problem, ride your ISO (or ASA what we called film speed in the analogue days) and use the resulting captured motion to your advantage.

Photograph of a Digital Audio Workstation at Plymouth Recording StudioABOVE : Plymouth dBs Music Recording Studio. DAW Photographed in colour. The traditional monochrome shot would have missed much of what makes this image work.

There are restrictions on what, and how you can shoot, in this kind of environment, but this is something that should help motivate and inspire you. Take for example the fact that you will usually not be in the room in which the musician is being recorded. Outside you may only be able to see thru a small pane of glass in the door, or a window in the control room. It provides you with a ready made framing device. Use it.

Image of Violinist Sam Spake thru recording studio glass doorABOVE : A window of opportunity. Recording thru the glass window of a recording studio door provides you with a ready made framing device.

Music is a way of expressing the intangible. Embrace this philosophy in the way you approach documenting the recording of what often starts as an internal abstract notion.I would give the same advice to photographers as musicians in this environment. Be expressive and don't get too hung up on technicalities. Once you have your establishing shots and staples, use what is around you including the sounds that you hear, to reflect back the concept.

recording studio abstract art with reflection of PlymouthABOVE : Plymouth reflected in the glass "So take me away from this town, Take me away and we'll have another round"

As well as housing recording studios, dBs Music Plymouth, is also an educational establishment and the workstations here are a great sourse of reflections, and can provide both obsfucation, and the chance to use converging lines, a dynamic trick that as a photographer you can use to provide rhythm and to lead the viewers eye.

dBs Plymouth Music recording studioABOVE : dBs Music Plymouth

Even the least musical of photographers can understand the appeal of kit. Instruments for musicians are much more than tools and it is always a good idea to include shots of these tools, which often reflect the personality and style of their owners.

Rusty Guitar in case

ABOVE : Andy 'Doc' Boddington's Guitar

BELOW : Tom 'Riverman' O'Reilly lays down the guide vocals and guitar marker for 'Hey Boss' at dBs Music In Plymouth