Dear Young Concert Photographers: You Don’t Need a Fake ID to Start

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“You don’t need a fake to get your name out there.” In concert photography, I feel as though there is a false stigma — an almost unspoken belief system — that to flourish in the business as a young person starting out, one must own a fake I.D. to get into the really cool shows. And as a freshly turned 20 year old college student with no fake I.D. to my (real or fake) name, I want under-21s interested in concert photography to know that you don’t need a fake to get your name out there. As a young person, it’s already hard enough getting into concert venues and being taken seriously. Minimums can be 16 or 18 years old, or worst of all 21 and over only! Now pile on the pressure of wanting to photograph a show and having to get to the venue before doors. Concert photography is already such a hard discipline to both get started in and to hone your skills at. And when venues enforce age minimums, it can be amazingly difficult for those young photographers starting out.

So to any young photographers reading this: I know how hard the struggle is for you. I’m still living it too. But it gets better and I want you to know that you don’t have to fall under the pressure of purchasing a fake I.D. for concert photography.

That’s not to say that having a FID automatically means that I’m against drinking and drugs. I don’t give a shit what you do with your life. Do you if that means hard drugs. I may judge you for it but I won’t stop you. So if you can’t wait until you’re of age to get into venues, buying a fake is ultimately your decision. But for those who are like me, who would rather spend 100 dollars buying food or more Pixar mugs than my cabinets can hold, concert photography isn’t only for those 21 and older. There have been instances when I’ve had to say no to awesome shows because it was at Mercury Lounge or some bar in Brooklyn. And it really sucked having to miss out on the experience and opportunity to shoot. But I always remind myself that there are always more shows, and probably at venues with decent lighting and best case scenario: the holy photo pit.

“What’s most important is whether or not you can get beautiful photos and that is what will get you and your work noticed.”

The dilemma here ultimately comes down to one’s own moral standards, whether or not you have the means to purchase a FID, and if you’re willing to work around the age restriction. More often than not, the best venues to shoot at will be the easiest ones to get into: the ones who can handle a lot of people (they might even have a photo pit, or at least have barricades up for you). And starting out, it’s about honing your skills in the unpredictable lights and stage antics rather than if you’re of age. Yeah, you won’t have that cool paper bracelet allowing you to drink but how important is that really in comparison to getting a jump shot that only comes up once in the set? What’s most important is whether or not you can get beautiful photos and that is what will get you and your work noticed. Bands, publicists, and bigger outlets won’t look twice at you if your photos are rubbish. Your FID may allow you to get into more shows but in the grand scheme of things, your photos may not live up to the hype of being an older, “wiser” person. In the end, the goal in concert photography is the resultant photos so don’t let the hysteria around age restrictions keep you from getting those shots. If you have the passion to work around these limitations, there will never be anything quite like the rush in concert photography.

And here I’ve compiled a list of New York City’s concert venues categorizing what’s really important, photo pits: http://hopelessthunder.org/2013/06/30/concert-photography-new-york-city-venues/

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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (Basically, she's a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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