Behind the lens with Seán Leslie
Seán Leslie is a nineteen year old music & event photographer from Dublin, Ireland. He got into the world of live music photography in October 2018 when, after months of deliberation, he applied to photograph New York based pop punk act State Champs at their show at Dublin’s The Academy supported by Seaway, Stand Atlantic & Woes. He’s been hooked on photographing live music ever since. From there he’s gone on to photograph some amazing acts of all different genres; from rock and metal bands like The Vintage Caravan and Arkdown, to house and techno DJ’s such as Denis Sulta & Peggy Gou, and everything in between.
Tell us about your gear – everything from your camera and lenses to editing software.
I started off shooting on a Canon PowerShot SX530 HS, an entry level point and shoot camera which I was gifted for Christmas back in 2017. I used it to shoot a handful of shows when I got into live music photography, before I got an upgrade the following Christmas. This time I got a Canon 200D, which is an entry level DSLR camera, along with two lenses, a 50mm f1.8 & an 18-55mm f3.5-5.6, which I use to this day, however I am looking at upgrading in the future. I do own a flash, a Hanhel Modus 360RT, but it doesn’t get used much as they are not allowed in live music photography. In post production I only really use Adobe Lightroom Classic as it does exactly what I need it to do and makes life incredibly easy for photographers to sort through work and edit in the most efficient way possible.
How did you get into photography?
When I was younger, maybe thirteen or fourteen, I was introduced to more alternative music through friend. Through that I learned that there are people who were paid to go on tour with my favourite bands and just take their photos, at that time I was less interested in the photo aspect and more interested in being able to hang out with my favourite bands all day everyday and watch them perform every night. As I grew older I often found myself taking photos on my phone of things that I thought looked cool and interesting, I guess somewhere down the line the photography side of things stuck with me and the rest is history really.
“…be on time, be ready always, be easy to work with and a nice person to be around…”
What’s the least amount of gear a new starter can manage with?
Honestly anything that takes photos really works. As I said, I started off with a point and shoot camera, those photos are still available online, they’re not the best by any stretch of the imagination but it got me started. Even the gear I use today, isn’t exactly the highest quality but it does what I need it to do to get me the photos I need. I would recommend looking at a camera with good “low-light” capabilities as well as a lens with a wide aperture such as f1.4, f1.8 or f2.8, that range as they will allow the camera to let as much light as possible in to get the image needed in such a dark scene
Walk us through the process of taking live photos? From acquiring a photography pass to publishing.
My process from start to finish of taking live music photos is different to others as every photographer has different processes depending on who they’re shooting for. It also varies depending on who the act you’re photographing is and how big they are, bigger acts may require you to go through management or a publicist where as smaller acts can be reached through social media. Once access is acquired, I show up at the venue and retrieve my credentials. In bigger venues you’ll be given instructions on where you can and can’t be and when you can and can’t take photographs, it’s usually the first three songs from the photo pit, but it can change, and in smaller venues there’s usually very little restrictions on that aspect. Once the show has been photographed, I tend to go home, get started on the editing process and get my photos finished and sent where ever they need to be sent to, whether that’s the act I photographed or my social media, it’s just a case of get the work done and move on to the next show when ever that may be.
Can you share your favourite piece of work with us? Why do you love it so much?
My favourite photo tends to change quite often, so this may be difficult, but I will have to go with this photo simply because of the story behind it. Basically in 2018, I went to Longitude Festival here in Dublin for the first time, as my interest in being a music photographer had been growing and seeing the photographers in the pits there made me want to be there too. After that I told myself I’d shoot that festival the following year, I reached out to every act on the lineup looking to photograph their sets once the lineup for 2019 was announced, I had no luck until about a week or two from the festival when English DJ, Hannah Wants, was announced. I reached out to her team and they granted me access which lead to this photo which to this day is still insane to me to think about.
If you could have dinner with five people who’s either inspired you or who you’d consider a muse, who would it be?
Adam Elmakias – The photographer who showed me that music photography exists
Christian Tierney – Irelands most famous music photographer
Dave Fogarty – Conor McGregor’s personal photographer
Bas Kadhim – Incredible photographer
Konstantin – Incredible videographer & director
Any other tips?
As someone who’s never been on tour I can’t give any advice on how to get on tour, but one thing I can say is be on time, be ready always, be easy to work with and a nice person to be around and you’ll definitely be much more reliable and will be more likely to get the call for a tour should you be needed for that. One last thing I will add is if you’re asked or told not to do something, don’t then go ahead and do it, if you’re not sure if you’re allowed to be somewhere chances are you’re not meant to be there, always bare that in mind as the last thing you want to do is get a bad name for yourself in an industry were reputation means everything
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