My First Time Photographing A Festival

For a lot of music photographers, getting to photograph a festival is one of the ultimate goals. That dream came true as I was able to cover Gov Ball as press with Festisia! Join my journey as I photograph my first music festival.

The Governors Ball Music Festival – or Gov Ball – is New York City’s main multi-genre music festival. This year’s lineup included SZA, The Killers, Post Malone, Chappell Roan, Renee Rapp, 21 Savage, Peso Pluma, Sabrina Carpenter, and many more. This was the 2nd year the festival took place at Flushing Meadows [PARK NAME??] and the weather was bright and sunny all weekend.

Attending as Press with a photo pass meant I could bring in professional cameras as well as use the photo pits and media area. For my camera gear, I brought two Sony α7 IIIs and two lenses: a 28-75mm and a 70-200mm. Lenses can range anywhere from 14mm to 600mm; the larger the number, the more zoom the lens has. So the 28-75mm was good for wide shots while the 70-200mm was good for things that required more zoom – such as some of the stages, which were around 7-8 ft tall. The media area was chill and included a work area and space to interview and photograph artists.

At first, I was overwhelmed by the prospect of shooting Gov Ball. While I’m confident in my work, it was a huge step forward after only shooting music for a year and I worried that wearing all this camera gear for 3 days would hurt my back and shoulders. But thanks to a double camera harness I bought at the last minute, I ended up having no pain despite wearing all that gear for 8+ hours for 3 days.

The photo pit is where the magic happens. As media, we get the first three songs to shoot. Sometimes we’re even more restricted and have less time to shoot or can’t shoot the artist at all. Some of the artists I shot included Chappell Roan, Teezo Touchdown, Flo, Sabrina Carpenter, Doechii, Renee Rapp, and others.

One underrated perk of being in the photo pit? You’re near the most passionate fans who are at the barricade! They’re hype right before their favorite artist comes on stage and once that happens, it’s pure chaos for those 3 songs. There are dozens of other photographers and videographers and we all do our best to not stand in each other’s way and move around to get various angles.

But a music festival isn’t just the music and if you really want to capture the full experience, you need to also shoot people and the festival’s atmosphere. I spent hours scouring the grounds, looking for people to take portraits and candids of. As an introvert, this part can be pretty scary but I keep it simple by simply asking if I can take their picture. Only one person said no the entire weekend. The coolest part is then showing the people the photos you took of them and seeing their faces light up. Fans are the best!

A highlight of the weekend was getting to meet so many other photographers in the pit. We’re all in this together and it’s nice to know the people you’re shooting alongside. People started as strangers but by the end of the weekend, we were laughing together, hyping each other’s pictures, and having a good time throughout the chaos.

Like all good things, festivals must end. Now it was time for me to go home and edit. Over the course of 3 days, I shot more than 10,000 photos and while that seems like a lot, I was surprised it was that low.

Photographing Gov Ball for Festisia was the highlight of my music photography career thus far and I hope it’s not the last time I shoot a music festival! See more of my photos on the Festisia Instagram or follow me on IG at @leesology

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