Canon Explorer of Light David Bergman is a celebrated commercial photographer and photo educator who has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Bon Jovi and Luke Combs. He is noted for his unique “Shoot From The Pit” live concert photography workshops, which teach photographers of all skill levels how to capture amazing images of bands on stage.
In addition to his many celebrity clients, Bergman has also photographed numerous Olympics, World Series, Super Bowls, NBA, and NCAA Championships. He is widely respected within the photography community and was even awarded 13 prestigious Sports Illustrated covers. Prior to moving to New York City in 2001, Bergman was a photojournalist on staff at The Miami Herald. During his tenure there, he covered news and sporting events around the world.
He is also recognized as a pioneer with the GigaPan — his multi-shot, high-resolution panorama of President Obama’s first inaugural speech was viewed by over 30 million people.
In addition to being a noted photographer, Bergman is a world-renowned and engaging public speaker. He hosts the weekly web series, “Ask David Bergman” on the Adorama YouTube channel.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with David and learn more about his career, his gear, and the advice he has for aspiring photographers.
“You’re judged by everything that you put out, so be brutal with yourself and only post images that show what you do.” – David Bergman
How did your adventure with photography start?
After one year of study at the Berklee College of Music with the intention of becoming a record producer, I transferred to the music program at the University of Miami. I stumbled into the school newspaper office with my Canon AE-1 Program camera, and the photo editor gave me two rolls of black and white film to shoot over the weekend. After that, he began giving me assignments for the paper, and, during the course of that semester, I fell in love with photography. I really enjoyed covering events and capturing the moment in pictures. More than thirty years later, that’s still what I’m doing!
Of all the different types of photography you shoot — portraits, sports, music, fine art — which is your favorite and why?
I love “action” photography. Fast-moving subjects with lots of energy are my favorite. I watch my subjects carefully and am constantly trying to anticipate what they’re going to do next. I like to freeze a moment in time that you might not have even seen with the naked eye. It’s a great feeling to capture a shot that makes people say, “Wow!”
Suppose you had to choose just one photograph of yours that means the most to you. What would it be?
I made a portrait of my daughter on the day before her six-month birthday. The photo reminds me what photography is really about: documenting the most important moments and people in our lives. Whether I’m working on stages around the world or teaching a live workshop, I’m keenly aware that we are recording history. Now my daughter is 18 years old and wise beyond her years, but this picture will always remind me of the baby girl with those big, beautiful eyes.
“Ask David Bergman” and “Shoot from the Pit” are fantastic initiatives. You are a photographer but also an educator. Do you have a sense of mission that drives you to share your knowledge with beginner photographers?
For more than 30 years, the camera has been my passport and backstage pass, taking me places I could never have imagined. I no longer have anything to hide. I wish that everyone got to do what I do. I’m happy to share my knowledge and experience with photographers that really want to learn the craft. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to stop making pictures anytime soon. But I want to help the next generation to respect the art of photography and take their own work to the next level.
Let’s talk about equipment. Concerts and sports events are very dynamic. You need reliable equipment. What’s in your typical gear kit?
I need equipment that can take a beating night after night and handle the rigors of travel. I’m a Canon Explorer of Light and use all of the top Canon gear. I’m currently traveling on the Luke Combs tour with four bodies and multiple lenses, as I often change them up to get different looks at the show. My two handheld cameras are both R3 bodies, while I use two R5 bodies for remote cameras that I put on the stage or hang overhead for a really unique look.
I use mostly RF lenses and they include the 15-35 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, 24-105 f/4, 70-200 f/2.8, and 100-500 f/4.5-7.1. I also like to throw a “fun” lens into my bag each trip to play around with when the inspiration strikes. That could be lenses like the 8-15mm fisheye or a 90mm tilt-shift. Add in a 600EX-RT Speedlite and a few other odds and ends (including my HoldFastGear Money Maker camera strap!) and I’m ready for anything. All of that packs into a (very heavy!) ThinkTankPhoto Airport Security roller bag.
How important are memory products to you? What do you look for in data storage and memory cards?
The memory cards I use to capture my images might be the most important piece of equipment I own. Photos can’t be replaced, so I need cards that are reliable and tough and can’t have them fail halfway through a shoot. That’s why I only trust my work on Prograde Digital cards. I’m currently using 1TB CFexpress Type B Gold cards and they have no trouble keeping up with the demands I put on them. I also have a few 512GB SDXC V90 cards that I use primarily when shooting video in the studio for my educational photography series called “Ask David Bergman.” I occasionally use the Refresh Pro software on my cards and have had no issues with reliability.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to all the young photographers out there?
Only show your very best work! You’re judged by everything that you put out, so be brutal with yourself and only post images that show what you do. If you’ve got one great photo and five average ones, only post the one great image. That way, every single frame that’s associated with your name is going to be awesome.