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Book Review: Three Songs, No Flash!: Your Ultimate Guide to Concert Photography by Loe Beerens

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The term Three Songs, No Flash! is well known among those who have done live concert photography. It means exactly what it says. When working with big name artists you get to photograph the artist or group during the course of the first three songs (sometimes four or five depending on the artist) and the use of flash is strictly forbidden.

Loe Beerens is a freelance photographer/photojournalist who works out of the Netherlands and has been photographing the international concert scene since the 1970s. In fact Three Songs, No Flash! could be looked at as a portfolio of his work including shots of everyone from Wendy O. Williams in 1976 through the likes of 50-Cent, Shania Twain, Bruce Springsteen, Limp Bizkit, U2, and B.B. King. I assume since the focus of this book is through the use of DSLR equipment, the greatest majority of the images are from 2002 and later.

Three Songs, No Flash! is laid out as a series of 42 short essays that focus on specific topics. The assumption here is that you know how to photograph and so there are no specific tips on photography itself. In fact, a quote in the introduction says "Without a decent knowledge of photography, you really have no business in the photo pit – so I won't be covering the basics of technique here." As someone who has shot a live concert working with no flash, believe me, you have to be on top of your game.

After a brief introduction and some shots from early in the author's career, he begins with an overview of how the music industry works, how to identify those people who are really the boss, and who can get you to the front of the stage. Keep in mind that the best place to start is on the local level where you generally get more time to shoot and have more access to the stage, as well as the ability to hone your skills.

Next you learn about the hierarchy of the industry and that the photographer is at the bottom of the list. You will also learn about various dos and don'ts when you are shooting a concert. Once you have made it to the stage there are many things that you have to check and double check. Once the show begins, he points out various things that you can focus and capture in the show.

The author lightly covers the kind of equipment you need. It isn't very much, but for quality shots, it is very specific. He also looks at the different styles of music and breaks down some of them such as Jazz, Hip-Hop, and Rock.

The next series of articles focus on individual artists and what to look for when you are in the pit. For example when you focus on singers there are a certain set of things you want to focus on, with lead guitarists there are another set, still another with drummers. Here you look at these along with bass and rhythm guitarists, keyboard players, horn players, as well as those who play other, more unusual instruments.

The final part of Three Songs, No Flash! looks at other aspects of shooting live. This includes photographing the audience, working with screens and the backgrounds behind the artists, stages, working in theaters, television, and recording studios, photographing DJs, as well as how finish and market your pictures.

I really enjoyed Three Songs, No Flash! No, it is not going to teach you how to photograph, but rather it is going to show you the ropes when you are trying to get a foot in the door of concert photography. It will give you that edge when you are competing against hundreds of others who would like to take your place.

Three Songs, No Flash! is printed in full color with black pages and white writing. The superb quality of the pictures make this book suitable for a small coffee table book that many people will enjoy for the images.

Three Songs, No Flash! is 152 pages bound in a hard cover that I can very easily recommend for anyone with a good background in photography and who wants to learn how to take the step to live concert photography.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.