Capturing Wonderland: A Fake it Till You Make it Approach to Concert Photography

Music festivals are vibrant kaleidoscopes of sound, color, and emotion, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate the freedom of music.  As a photographer, stepping into this wonderland is an invitation to capture the essence of festival magic into single frames. Shooting at live music events is not just about documenting the performers, it’s about encapsulating the high vibrational energy, uninhibited joy, and the assemblage of human experiences. I feel very lucky to have fallen into this path and I wanted to share how it started, and where it’s going.

My name’s Ferg and I’m from the Bay Area. I graduated college in May of 2023. It wasn’t until I graduated that I felt this deep urge to start shooting live music. I had developed this recent love for photography which joined my previous, and equally intense, passion for music. Naturally it seemed fitting to expand these passions, I just had to figure out how exactly I was going to do this.

It was 6 months ago that my summer travels through the magical coast of Italy came to an end that I vowed I was going to try this new, seemingly daunting thing. The day before flying home, my summer job that I thought awaited me, fell through. I was left with this even deeper lack of understanding for what I was going to do for the remainder of the summer. It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to some local bands and see if they need any photography help, right? 

Typical me, I steered in a drastically alternate direction and decided to shoot for the stars, both literally and figuratively. My European farewell and return to the beautiful San Francisco transpired only a month before my favorite festival of the year. Logically I thought (F*CK it), you’re going to shoot your favorite festival this year. You’re going to do everything in your power to try this new and exciting thing. I created perhaps the most mediocre portfolio. You see, I had never professionally photographed a concert before… But lack of experience wasn’t going to stop my heart from pursuing music photography, though it should have dawned on me that it’s quite ridiculous to assume that my very first experience was going to be at a music festival attended by a quarter of a million people. Regardless, I reached out to every single person I could that was on the lineup. I hoped someone would see the potential in my passion, and perhaps look past the ordinary portfolio I had shamelessly linked. I really had nothing to lose and because of that I lacked expectations, though I still eagerly hoped I would receive a response, even if it was a rejection. 

LP GIOBBI at BK NAVY YARD

My favorite memories resided at live music events. There was the yearly Outside Lands festivities with my best friends, the Rolling Louds, and endless nights at Bay Area venues. For years, I had gotten to build this familiarity with live music events, they had become comfort environments for me. Places I knew I could go to and leave with this overflowing freedom.  

A couple days later (by the sheer grace of God) I got a response. An email that stated something along the lines of “Sounds good, we would be excited to have you come shoot the show.” I think I laughed out loud, in shock because just like that I was all set to photograph a festival I had attended for the entirety of my teenage years.

During the initial wave of pure excitement, It kind of hit me that I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. So as us youngins do, I turned to the internet for answers. Google searching endless questions until I felt remotely competent to step foot on the Twin Peaks stage. Through extensive reddit chains and article reads I found THE blog that saved me. That day GOD was Ryan, a photographer that wrote about his very first OSL experience. I immediately followed the instagram link on his website and DM’d him. With the luck that seemed to be showering me, he responded and a couple days later we Facetime’d. He graciously shared all his tips and tricks and assured me it was going to be an unforgettable experience. It was around this time that my anxiety sat on my shoulder, scolding me for attempting to try something so grand with absolutely no experience. But naturally, I shoved her under the rug and let my excitement lead the way. 

Shoutout to Ryan, for reminding me the beauty of being a creative. It’s almost like we take this silent vow to uplift each other. He could have easily gatekept his story, but he lent me a helping hand. For that I am so grateful. I honestly would have been so lost if it wasn’t for his story coupled with his kindness. 

Anyway, fast forward to the day of the show, and I found out that Ryan was also going to be shooting an artist this year. His artist was performing at the same exact stage as mine and we got to meet at the epicenter. Pretty sure he ended up dancing with Shaq on stage later that day.

EVAN GIIA at Outside Lands, SF

Just like that my feet stood on the very stage I had seen some of my favorite artists perform. The stage I moshed to Rico Nasty in October 2021 and fangirled to Tierra Whack’s 2019 set. My sweetest memories took place under the thick San Francisco fog, where I danced year after year, behind the barricade of this exact stage. 

EVAN GIIA at Outside Lands, SF

I couldn’t have even imagined how much joy this experience would bring to me. Getting to run around capturing the beautiful moments that transpire only at the heart of live music. I knew right then, in the frantic 45 minute set of Evan GIIA, that this was something I was going to continue pursuing. 

Joey Bada$$ at Sol Blume

With fate as my manager, I somehow snagged a gig the very next weekend at Sacramento’s SOL Blume festival. Where R&B lovers from across the world came to sing their hearts out to some of my all time favorite musicians. Now luckily this time I had one festival under my belt, so I felt a sliver more confident in my abilities to capture some beautiful moments. Seven days later, instead of fog, I stood under the 100 degree Sacramento sunshine.  


Chloe Bailey at Sol Blume

I got to capture the sets of Ella Mai, Muni Long, Coco Jones, Phony Ppl and so many icons I loved, cried, and danced too, throughout my adolescence. 

It just continued, I reached out to so many artists performing in the Bay Area during the following summer months. It led me to Thee Sacred Souls, Weyes Blood, and Bruno Major, artists that unbeknownst to them had healed me in some way. 

Weyes Blood at the Warfield, SF

I moved out to NYC in early October and have continued to follow this new vocation. As I’m reaching almost six months of this new adventure, I have nothing but excitement for the future. To end up in the barricades and on the stages of my favorite artists, this exploration of live music experiences is just starting for me and I am overjoyed because I know that if I can accomplish all this after six months, I will have some amazing stories by the end of 2024.

Concerts are powerful emotional experiences, and as a photographer I have the ability to suspend these intense moments. The exhilaration of a crowd as the artist steps foot onto the stage is unmatched, blissful energy. I seek to capture the beautiful essence of live music spaces, creating a visual symphony that resonates. Each photograph is a testament to the power of music to unite, inspire, and transcend boundaries that attempt to bound us. 

– Ferg; IG: @_ferggg_

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