Behind the lens with livy dukes
Livy Dukes is a music, events and portrait photographer based in London and across the UK, best known for her work with Academy Music Group and Festival Republic. She’s recently been working closely with solo artists and bands to produce creative and exciting content. Livy has developed a unique style and a dedicated approach to her work, with her love for music at the heart of what she does.
Tell us about your gear – everything from your camera and lenses to editing software.
The camera I’m currently working with is a Nikon D5300, it’s not the most glamorous of them all but it’s still pretty great. My go-to lens is a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 but I usually switch between that and my 50mm f/1.8 prime. On special occasions I bring out the big guns with a 70-200mm f/2.8.
How did you get into photography?
I think I was roughly about 12 years old when I first got into photography. I remember finding a 35mm point and shoot film camera in a drawer at home and taking it out to play with my sisters and our neighbours in the snow. That was the first time I really connected with photography and realised it was something I wanted to pursue further. Not long after that I entered a local competition and won (woo!). I invested the prize money in my first ever DSLR. I didn’t actually start shooting live music until 2016 when I was invited to photograph a gig at a local pub. I soon realised that it was possible to combine my love for music with my passion for photography and make a career out of it; I haven’t looked back since!
“The main reason I shoot music is for moments like this, it’s an incredible feeling to capture such a special and unique experience.”
What’s the least amount of gear a new starter can manage with?
The most important thing to remember here is that equipment isn’t everything, it’s what you do with it that really counts. I started off with the cheapest DSLR I could get using just the kit lens. The more I practiced, the more my skills improved. However, the kit lens can be a little restricting in low-lit venues so it’s not really ideal for live music shots. The maximum aperture of a kit lens is usually around f/4, so I’d recommend something with a maximum of f/2.8 or above – a 50mm lens is probably the most budget-friendly option.
Walk us through the process of taking live photos? From acquiring a photography pass to publishing.
Acquiring a photo pass can be fairly difficult but I’d always recommend contacting the promoters or venues rather than the artists/bands themselves – a little research can help with this. Since I’ve started working with AMG though, everything is done in-house. To start with, I’ll usually scroll through the venue’s website and put together a list of requests for the gigs I’m interested in. The gigs are then allocated to all the house photographers. All I need to do then is turn up, collect my pass and squeeze into the pit! In terms of actually photographing, I don’t really tend to plan things out too much. I like to just go with the flow, capturing the action as it unfolds. I find the best shots always come out from just being in the moment and enjoying yourself.
Can you share your favourite piece of work with us? Why do you love it so much?
My favourite photograph is probably this recent one of Ivory Wave. I love it so much, not just because the colours pop but because you can really feel the emotion and energy in the room; it’s so powerful. The main reason I shoot music is for moments like this, it’s an incredible feeling to capture such a special and unique experience.
If you could grab a drink/coffee with five people who’s either inspired you or who you’d consider a muse, who would it be?
Wow, this is such a hard question! The first person without a doubt would be Brendon Urie. He’s such an amazing vocalist and I reckon he’d be super fun to hang out with. Nina Nesbitt would also be on the list because she’s really cool and I love her music. Adam Elmakais has been a big inspiration for me over the years so I’d definitely grab a drink with him. Vanessa McKeown too because I’m in love with her work, she’s so creative. This last one’s a bit random but David Attenborough would definitely get an invite too, purely because he’s a true legend.
Any other tips?
I’m gonna try really hard not to be too cliché here but I honestly think the best advice I can give is to be confident in your own capabilities. I know it’s easier said than done, especially when things are looking a little bleak at the moment, but your attitude and approach are really defining of the experiences you have. It’s taken me a while to realise that but if you tell yourself you can do something then you’ll almost certainly succeed! A little self-belief goes a long way.
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