Denise Maxwell was one of the lucky photographers to get accreditation to photograph the major music event Eurovision 2023, this time hosted by the UK in Liverpool. She tells AP about the challenges of shooting the event and goes over some of her top event and music photography tips.
I grew up watching Eurovision, like many people who were born or grew up in the UK in was a part of my childhood, so when it came to the UK and I got the opportunity to shoot it through my news agency. It was definitely a pinch me moment. Being in Liverpool this year it was only a couple hours away from my home – relatively up the road in comparison to it being held in various European countries.
Preparing to photograph Eurovision: what is media accreditation?
Accreditation is applied for months in advance. Some people apply as freelancers, some agencies apply on behalf of their staff photographers, some people are working for magazines, for a country who is entering, for blog sites, or TV channels – a whole range.
Your pass showing you are an accredited photographer needs to be collected before you enter the site, for this I needed official identification. Your badge needs to be worn at all times, and will be checked at various checkpoints around the site.
Once collected you head to the Media Room, which always seems to be the furthest the entrance that the general public enter! There is always wifi and light refreshments and a comfortable area to work. Its worth getting a space where you might file from later on. Some photographers will file while shooting, others will file in the press room after the shoot ,others will file once they get home or to the hotel. I did a combination of the last two.
It’s worth noting this was the most impressive press room I have ever seen. Spaces for hundreds of Media. Photographers, content creators, interviewers, videographers, bloggers … a hair salon … yes you read that correctly.
Moroccan Oil were one of this year’s sponsors, so they had a salon set up with their Global Ambassador Antonio Corral Calero doing free styling; a Baileys bar … yes free Baileys, the alcoholic beverage brand was an official partner this year; comfy areas with sofas and beanbags, screens to watch the live shows and rehearsals from the press room and the standard catering and step and repeat boards. Oh and Booking.com also had a range of selfie portable rooms where interviews could be held.
Photographing the Eurovision Rounds
The rounds took place all week, with various other photoshoots and interviews through out the week. It was a full on week! We were told the days we could shoot rehearsals, press interviews and live shows. By the end of the week, having shot the acts that got through multiple times, their songs become very familiar! Even though I don’t know know the language, the song from Joker Out for Slovenia has been stuck in my head for a while.
Event and music photography equipment – Denise’s camera and lenses for shooting Eurovision
- Canon RF 16-35mm
- Canon RF 24-105mm
- Canon RF 70-200mm
- Canon RF 100-500mm
If I ever shoot this again I would bring a third body with me (remember I was trying to be concise with my kit) to save changing lenses when I needed another focal length.
Event and music photography: Restrictions and how it works
Photographers are escorted to and from the main arena, as with many other major events like this. You are given a briefing, outlining what you can and cannot do, where you can and cannot stand. The organisers place a lot of emphasis on audience experience, so photographers are not meant to be seen, or get in the way of the audience experience.
There are always designated shooting spaces. There were two main press points, one at floor level and the other on the first tier. Often people think the photographers are close to the action, but this is not always the case. We just have to have kit that can get us close to the action!
It may come as a surprise to many but neither of the photographer pits were anywhere near the stage. The first was about 100 metres away behind the floor crowd, the second further along the first tier. This is why super telephoto zooms are needed.
You were allowed to move around the first tier but again being mindful of the audience. This is not always the case though, sometimes you have to stay in the same portions throughout.
Shooting Eurovision: Challenges and what I would do different
As with shooting any music event (of which I have shot many) the main challenge was the light and distance. I own one super telephoto Sigma 120-300mm that has a f2.8 aperture all the way through, this would have been perfect for the low light, but then I also needed more range. This lens would have also needed a monopod as its super heavy, and I was trying to be concise with my kit.
One helpful photographer commented on my kit on the way into the arena on the my first day there, “Is that the 100-500mm? Good luck you’re going to need more than that, I shot with that yesterday and had to call for someone to bring me something else.” Some photographers are so helpful … because if this lens had been completely terrible, what was I going to do about it 2 hours away from home? I know why I chose to bring this lens.
What is the best lens for indoor music events?
In an ideal world I would also have had a 600mm f/4 lens in my kit bag. This was a good length to have but also with a low enough aperture to let in enough light. But with the new Canon RF 600mm f4 lens coming in at about $13K / £14k, it is easy to see why such a select group of photographers cover events like this. It’s not an event you can cover without the right kit.
Folding step stools for event and music photography
I did also bring a small folding step with me, its always part of my kit for this type of shoot. However, I would have brought a bigger one with me and argued my case with the person managing photographers. Here is my point: If Dave is 6ft 2 but standing on a small step, surely at 5ft 3 I should be allowed to stand on a bigger step to get someway close to his 6ft 2 advantage?
How do you shoot music photography?
I aim to shoot events like this the way I would shoot most other events. For example, getting close, medium and wide shots.
The staging for this event is so magnificent that you want to shoot the whole stage on a wide, but also commercially close shots of the artist are more useful in the press, so it’s a case of trying to get everything you need in the 3 minutes of the song. Or for an event like this, if you are shooting all the qualifiers, trying to get your various angles each time the artist does a dress rehearsal.
Non photography tips
Remember to take your snacks into the arena with you. I needed a sugar rush a couple hours into one day, I didn’t expect the performances to go on so long, so had left them in the press room. Luckily another photographer came to my rescue with a mini pack of biscuits in her bag. This is where it helps to just be a decent person. On my first day there I gave a German photographer my step to sit on as I was not using it because of where I was positioned. Maybe that was good karma coming back to me.
Check your travel both ways! I did not, and as a result ended up having to take an expensive 2 hour Uber from Liverpool back to the Midlands because I did not realise there were train strikes on the day I was returning home!
Eurovision 2023: Denise’s top three favourite performances to photograph
I absolutely had favourites to shoot! Israel, France and Sweden were absolutely breath taking! The kind of stages many people dream of having in their portfolios. Eurovision has never been shy in their staging decisions.
Denise Maxwell runs Lensi Photography and is a full-time multi-genre photographer, mentor and tutor based in the Midlands in the UK. Denise will be speaking at Assignments 23, for the BPPA and Canon, on 25 May discussing the topic of making your living from photography. Tickets available on Eventbrite.
You can see more of her work on her Instagram.
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