Paul Wills is a recent recruit to the Getintothis team of photographers and Peter Goodbody had a chat with him about shooting gigs and how he goes about it.
It’s been an unusual journey to reach this point for Paul Wills, from shooting gymnastics and Liverpool street scenes to the insanity of his first Getintothis gig. We were interested to see how he got here, so we fired off a few questions.
Getintothis: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography.
I’m married with two daughters and I’m a desk jockey in the NHS by day.
It’s so long ago, I can’t remember specifically how I actually became interested in photography but I’ve always been captivated by great images such as those taken by the Magnum photographers of epochal events in our history, great sport photos and portraits of Hollywood greats. As a history buff, I love the idea of freezing a moment in time and capturing it forever, especially a dramatic or informative image.
Getintothis: What was the first gig you shot?
My first serious attempt at gig photography was shooting John Bramwell at the Philharmonic Music Room a couple of years ago. I was at the gig as a paying customer and just taking photos for myself.
The first gig I shot for Getintothis was Bob Log III at Dumbulls Gallery, featuring among the support acts a certain Mr Mercaille playing death metal cello in his underpants. I’d call that gig a baptism of fire. I remember wondering if I was given the gig as some kind of initiation test, or because nobody else wanted to touch it with a barge pole!!!
Getintothis: So what’s in your camera bag when you’re shooting?
I use a Nikon D500 and my main lens is a 17-50mm f2.8 zoom. I lose a couple of stops of light compared to using an f1.8 prime but I like the versatility of the zoom, and the D500 is a pretty good performer at high ISO. I sometimes take either a 35mm or 50mm f1.8 prime and occasionally a 70-200mm f2.8 for extreme close-ups or back of the room shots.
I usually take a speedlight too, but I’ve not been brave enough to use it yet lest I incur the wrath of the band/manager/venue.
Getintothis: Which is your favourite shot?
Hard to choose between a shot of Bob Log high-fiving an audience member and a shot of Nick Ellis playing a gig in a church where I threw him out of focus in the background and set focus on some foreground stone carving.
Getintothis: Any terrible or fun shoots you’d like to share?
The aforementioned gig at Dumbulls was a mixture of both I think!!!
But I really enjoyed shooting Nathaniel Rateliff at Olympia – at last, a gig with great lighting and a proper photo pit, and I was the only photographer there!
Getintothis: So what’s your favourite bit of kit?
I’d have to say my 17-50mm f2.8 as it’s my workhorse lens. But I need to start giving my primes an outing as the lighting in most venues is so awful. (I’ve no idea why green and purple lighting is so popular!)
Getintothis: Any particularly difficult musicians?
No, they’ve all been no problem. And some of the support artists like Of The Valley and Field Division have been really nice – and very keen to get copies of the photos.
Getintothis: Who are your favourite Liverpool bands to shoot?
The Terra Blues Band, fronted by boy from Brazil Joao Terra and including Danny Bradley, Jack Birkett and Damien Rowe. I first met Joao last year performing at Lennon’s Bar and I’ve since shot a few of the band’s gigs at Studio2 Parr Street. Always a great night.
The extremely dapper Ahmed Khwaja – he’s from down south, but he’s such a nice guy you can’t hold that against him! Until very recently, Ahmed has been a solo singer, but he’s just put a band together to fully realise the potential of his original songs and they played their first gig at Sound a couple of weeks ago. Beautiful voice.
And I love shooting Shea Doolin, a young local lad with a great voice, great energy and some excellent self-written material.
Getintothis: Where’s your favourite place to shoot?
Anywhere which actually illuminates the artist(s) rather than trying to create the feeling of shooting in a cave. To that end, Olympia was great, Buyers Club was pretty good and 81 Renshaw is ok.
Getintothis: What one tip would you give anyone starting out?
Try and get a camera which produces good photos at insanely high ISO.
Getintothis: What’s the worst advice you’ve been given?
Sell those shares in Apple, back in 1990!
Getintothis: Any favourite photographers?
Kevin Barrett, Tom Adam and Iain Fox in the world of gig photography.
Miguel Quiles, Sue Bryce and Lindsay Adler for portraits / headshots.
Glyn Dewis for portraits and great Photoshop tips.
Bob Martin for sport.
Getintothis: What would be your ideal gig to shoot?
Peter Gabriel – I’ve been a huge fan since the mid 80s and I love the theatricality of his shows.
And it would be amazing to shoot somebody like Paul Weller, or REM if they ever reformed, at the Union Chapel.
Getintothis: Any website or social media links you want us to use?
A selection of Paul’s favourite shots