In the Pit #6: Getintothis meets music and gig photographer Keith Ainsworth

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We Came Out Like Tigers

We Came Out Like Tigers

Getintothis chats to Keith Ainsworth, one of our most experienced photographers, to discover just what makes him tick and why you have to really get to know your camera.

Getintothis: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography.

KA: I’ve been a photographer for a number of years now. Music photography is my main area. I take photos on a regular basis for Bido Lito! as well as Getintothis and have supplied images to TeamRock among others. I am also the official photographer for Liverpool Psych Fest and the Merseyrail Soundstation sessions. I also take shots of local landmarks, to turn into prints that I sell at a number of outlets, e.g., Hobo Kiosk and compose portraits. I’m also a videographer. I directed and edited the Michael Head gig film that is premiering at the Crosby Plaza Cinema on April 24.  

At home, I was always the one who took the family photos. They’d say, ‘I wasn’t ready.’ That was the point, I didn’t want posed, stiff family photos. A few years back I decided to get a proper grounding and took a two-year photography course at college.

Getintothis: What was the first gig you shot?

KA: I love music and always took a camera to gigs to shoot from the crowd. But the first pit pass I had was Creamfields 2007. So I got to shoot LCD Soundsystem, Kelis and Ladytron. After this, a friend was performing at an open mic night at the Egg Café. I went along to shoot photos of him but took shots of everyone. At the end, the host asked me to send him the shots. From then on I became the photographer for the event. Over the next couple of years, I learnt how to shoot performers and how to be unobtrusive in a performance environment.

Keith shoots more than just bands

Keith shoots more than just bands

Getintothis: Which is your favourite shot?

KA: That’s a tricky one. Choose from my babies? I do like my shot of Foals singer Yannis Philippakis. The guitar cuts the frame with a nice diagonal. The We Came Out Like Tigers image is another fave as all four band members are captured really going for it.

Getintothis: Any terrible or fun shoots you’d like to share?

KA: I remember fiddling with a circular filter at one gig. I dropped it and watched with horror as it rolled in an arc across the stage towards the guitarist. D’oh!

Liverpool Psych Fest is my yearly high point. Everywhere you turn there is something brilliant to see and excellent to hear.

Foals

Foals – Keith’s favourite shot

Getintothis: So what’s in your camera bag when you’re shooting?

KA: My Canon 5D plus three lenses. Your readers may not know we mostly only get to shoot from the pit for the first three songs and then we are moved on. So I’ll use one lens for each song.

Getintothis: What’s your favourite bit of kit?

KA: Any of my prime lenses. They give a fixed focal length but top quality. Sometimes a limitation (the fixed viewpoint) can be a benefit.

Getintothis: Any particularly difficult musicians?

KA: They are all lovely. Except for the bass player in the Shipping Forecast who whacked my lens with his guitar. I might have got a little too close, though.

Getintothis: Who are your favourite Liverpool bands to shoot?

KA: She Drew The Gun, Scarlet and Pink Kink. Great musicians who look like they are enjoying themselves.

Pink Kink know how to enjoy themselves

Pink Kink know how to enjoy themselves

Getintothis: Where’s your favourite place to shoot?

KA: The O2 Academy has a good size pit and great light. I miss the Kazimier for all the great angles you could choose to shoot from.

Getintothis: What one tip would you give anyone starting out?

KA: Get a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. Gig photography is always low on light but this will let in tonnes of light. Don’t just snap away. Explore all your angles then press your shutter button. Practice, you need to put the hours in so you know what every button on your camera does when the lights go down.

Getintothis: Best advice you’ve been given?

KA: Don’t eat the yellow snow.

Getintothis: What’s the worst advice you’ve been given?

KA: The band are running late. Come back in 40 minutes. They weren’t and he was a liar.

Getintothis: Any favourite photographers?

KA: In general photography I like Jane Bown and Diane Arbus. Music photographers, Gered Mankowitz, Bob Gruen, Kevin Cummins and Anton Corbijn.

Getintothis: What would be your ideal gig to shoot?

KA: A band who is enjoying themselves. Access to anywhere I’d like to shoot from and lots and lots of light.

You can see more of Keith’s work at www.arkimages.co.uk and follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @musicphotokeith.

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