A good photo of a fiddler should convey some sort of emotion, but what does that mean exactly, besides sounding kind of obnoxious. I’m not saying that a fiddler is lazy, but they tend to have the most downtime. They may be vamping, which for non-musicians just means they’re pretending to play so they don’t have to leave the stage and sit with the road or kitchen staff. Or they may be smiling and looking at the ground; holding the fiddle by their chin just in case they want to jump in and contribute. They also may be playing which is the ideal time to take their photo. That’s lesson #1. The fiddler should be, or pretending to be, playing and/or otherwise engaged.
An active fiddler makes a lower-case “r” shape. The fiddle is the shoulder and the tuning pegs/scroll is the terminal. For those that have forgotten the anatomy of a lower-case “r”, here’s a refresher. Since the stem (human body) is much longer than the shoulder (fiddle), and the fiddler tends to stand-up, the simplest photo is taken vertically. This captures the entire subject, and since the subject takes up the majority of the frame, the focus is forgiving. But these full-body photos tend to be boring, and have a snap-shot feel to them. For example:
July 2015. Brittany Hass with Tony Trischka and Territory at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY.
It’s a fine image, but it looks like a photo that her aunt could have taken with her iPhone if she snuck up close enough (“hey, I’m her aunt”). So to get a more interesting photo, and ideally the preferred horizontal frame, one must get closer, chopping off the unnecessary legs of the fiddler.
July 2016. Kimber Ludiker with Della Mae at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY.
July 2015. Kids at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. Oak Hill, NY.
July 2015. Sara Milonovich with Jim Gaudet & The Railroad Boys at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY.
July 2016. Kate Lee with The Mark O’Connor Band at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY.
July 2016. Maya de Vitry with the Stray Birds at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY.
While those photos don’t look like they were taken with an iPhone, they are also not entirely interesting. I want to get closer, and have a photo with true depth. A fiddle, a face and 2 hands are what’s important here as all other body parts are non-vital to the fiddle playing, and therefore non-vital to my opinion of fiddler photography.