How To Create Concert Photographs With Intent

Being a photographer is more than just capturing a moment. I mean at the core I guess that is what a photographer does – but where do these photos go on to do with their lives we grant them? We take these moments, and we intentionally (and sometimes accidentally) eternalize them. There is a goal behind this, well at least I think there should be. For the photographer it might just be to create art, but even if that is all you are doing – the art still means something to someone, and when they look at it, they still think their independent thoughts which might be something other than *that is art*. Ya know?

From a band/ musicians point of view they are using your art/ work to promote their brand, business, and most of the time their life long passion. That is quite a bit of pressure and a lot to take into consideration. Sometimes when I am working I am shooting for a label, sometimes management, but no matter who I am shooting for my goal is to always make the artist happy and content with the images. When I first started this meant I wanted them to post the image on their myspace, now I want it on their facebook, or instagram – or even better on their Christmas card they send to their family and friends.

What is your goal?

I don’t know yours, but I can tell you mine and use it as example. You will have to figure yours out for yourself. Or you can just use mine, that is chill also.

My goal is to accurate portray and promote the artist in a way that they want to post the images, and they want to work with me more because of who I am and how I photograph them. I want our relationship to be voluntary and more than a work relationship – I want it to be personal. That, is my goal. Everything I do works towards this goal in one way or another, even if it is just a tiny bit. It starts with how I do my business, moves into how I hold myself and photograph a show and eventually comes through in my editing/ processing/ and selection of photos. Every thing I do, leads back to this goal.

To achieve your goal you need some rules or maybe you could call them values – to be honest I am not quite sure. These concepts weren’t something I identified and then did, I kind of did them and then identified them.

 

Things I like to do (but this doesn’t make them right)

  • Work for free – Working for free is how I get my paid jobs.
  • Be Intentional – everything in my images is on purpose.
  • Photograph an artist in a way that aligns with their brand – half the trouble is identifying their brand, the other half is creating it.

 

Things I don’t like to do (but that does not mean they are wrong)

  • Turn in tons of similar images – it’s important each photo is unique. Having multiples of the same image is pointless and shows a lack of control on my part.
  • Use the same editing on everything – I think this works sometimes, but for the most part I think it takes my own personal goal of being consistent and lays it over my bigger goal is portray an artist in the way they want to be portrayed.
  • Get mad – I don’t get mad when people are not kind. I simply do not work with them. I never get mad at anyone online or post business stuff in public places. When I see this done I always feel it tells me more about the poster than the person they are talking about. I think this happens a lot in this industry with photography agreements. If you don’t like an agreement, don’t shoot a show. That is what it is there for.

 

The Exception! 

Get the job done – The exception to all my rules is get the job done. Sometimes I can’t use all my favorite images from a days worth of shooting, because the publication just needs more images. So I have to use image Is do not like. This is why I prefer to shoot for free and not for anyone at all, because I make my own rules. However sometimes it is tough, for example a magazine wants to use an image of an artist I do not like it, I will not give them the image. TO me my 8 year long relationship with the artist is more important to me than the magazines – and I usually let them know this ahead of time. I guess I even have exceptions to my exceptions. Oh boy this is confusing. Let me try to explain it all with some examples.

Putting The Rules To Work

Alright now for the examples, I guess the best way to do this is just discuss why I do everything I do. How it is intentional. I photographed Warped Tour the other day in San Diego, for free. No one paid me – and to be told what to do for 8 hours for a small amount of money is not worth it for me at this point in my career. It is much more valuable for me to go around and shoot what I want, how I want – and work with each artist independently. I like to grow my relationship and create work that I love. Sometimes when you are on someone else clock your priorities and rules have to take a back seat – because no matter what the most important thing is that you get the job done!

This my setup, Canon 6D with Sigma 20mm, Sigma 85mm, Sigma dp2 Quattro and a GoPro

This my setup, Canon 6D with Sigma 20mm, Sigma 85mm, Sigma dp2 Quattro and a GoPro

I used the Sigma dp2 Quattro for portraits, and mostly shot my live photos with the Canon and the 85mm, however swapped to the 20mm for a few shots too. I used the GoPro attached to my camera to make some behind the scenes videos.

I chose the Sigma dp2 Quattro because it is so good at detail in daylight – and most of the time, concerts are not day-lit. So I had to take advantage of this!

Full image

100% crop with the Sigma dp2 Quattro

100% crop with the Sigma dp2 Quattro

Here are a few more portraits from the day. For the Riley images my gaol was to shoot his tattoos and his face. I have always really loed his skin and tattoos, so I choose to photograph him in the trailed as it is a natural softbox – the walls are all white and the roof is delicate and lets diffused natural light in.

Riley backstage at warped tour

Riley backstage at warped tour

For bobby I have always loved his light hearted attitude mixed with his heavy ink, it is not usually what people associate with his look and I think it is funny.

My friend Bobby, or in my phone as Bobby Tatted at Warped Tour 2018

My friend Bobby, or in my phone as Bobby Tatted at Warped Tour 2018

My friend Bobby, or in my phone as Bobby Tatted at Warped Tour 2018

My friend Bobby, or in my phone as Bobby Tatted at Warped Tour 2018

Ryan is a very kind guy with a huge smile, so to show this I got very close to him (I also just love doing that with this camera) and made his chompers the central focus of the image.

Ryan Scott Graham of State Champs

Ryan Scott Graham of State Champs backstage at Warped Tour 2018

Editing is an amazing tool. Sometimes it helps you save an image, and sometimes it helps you better tell a story you want the viewer to see. In this first one I used it to save the image first, because well, I underexposed it a lot haha. Then again because of this underexposure – or exposing for the sky, I was able to edit it and now have the sky be blown out. I choose to keep the blues/ reds/ purples and most oranges strong in the image while removing the greens and yellows. The goal to make a very clean and calm image tone wise, but to have the content of the image create all the good vibes. I like how natural it is and was thankful for the brief overcast like light the sunset granted us that evening.

Straight out of camera – Jack of All Time Low at Warped Tour

Edited – Jack of All Time Low at Warped Tour

I know this is just a shot of shoes, but a lot went into it in post. The image was originally much colder and not as inviting. The tour is called the Vans warped tour so I thought it would be nice to have a good shot of some shoes. I decided to add some yellows, swap up some tones, and make the red pop a bit more. It really helps the image. I love editing.

edited

Unedited

People usually ask how to tell when you should turn something to black and white. Well here is a good example. I just think if the colors do anything, anything at all. And if they don’t or even worse – if they ruin the photo. I get rid of them. This allows the user to properly see what is going on in the image. I do think his shirt is rad, but I like it better in black and white as my main focus was to show his face as it yells.

Sean of 3OH!3 at Warped Tour 2018 - edited

Sean of 3OH!3 at Warped Tour 2018 – edited

Sean of 3OH!3 at Warped Tour 2018 - Unedited

Sean of 3OH!3 at Warped Tour 2018 – Unedited

 

Sometimes editing is just cosmetic. For example in this image I did not crop it at all, just changed the tones and colors. The original image was a bit washed out and boring. Also to take into consideration is to identify what type of band you are shooting for. So State Champs is a pop-punk act. Generally these types of bands want to look errrr *good* while they preform. You can usually tell by how someone dresses. Are they wearing nice clothes? Or do they seem to not give a care? This is important because I wouldn’t post a photo of Tyler where he has a double chin or is looking weird. I think a lot of people get lost on this step. Tyler recently worked really hard on his personal image and it paid off – and I wanted to show that.

Tyler Szalkowski of State Champs

Tyler Szalkowski of State Champs – edited

Tyler Szalkowski of State Champs

Tyler Szalkowski of State Champs – unedited

Then there are bands like Every Time I Die that do not care. You can tell this… well if you see them live you can tell. They are here to play music and put on a good show. Nothing else matters. I would happily post images of them where the artist doesn’t look their best because I know they wouldn’t care. I still would make sure it was a good shot – but double chins and ripped pant crotches are welcomed with open arms if the photo is insane.

Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die shot

Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die shot, wild human

Jordan Keith of Every Time I Die at Warped Tour 2018

Jordan Keith of Every Time I Die at Warped Tour 2018

 

I like The Used a lot. I listened to them when I was a kid with my friends in high school. I don’t know how to describe their brand, but I think these images encapsulate it. My choice for going black on white on these was simple. I just wanted beautiful images with a wide open lens. I try to shoot flat images to start with, and then add the contrast in on my own. I hope the examples of unedited images help. These were all shot with the Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART. I have a really hard time with this focal length, so I wanted to get better!

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018 – edited

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018 – unedited

This isn’t a normal crop for me, but it just works somehow. I can’t explain everything, but I do feel it.

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

You can do a lot with cropping. I think this image changed severely because of crop.

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

I do not like tis image very much from a technical standpoint. I think the light is rough, the colors are not the nicest – but I do have exceptions. Really awesome moments > everything else. This was an awesome moment, I chose to use this photo because you can see Bert in the foreground cheering her on.

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

The Used at Warped Tour 2018

Here are a bunch of other random images I liked from my Warped Tour day. I’ll try to give you the reasoning behind them.

John of The Maine at Warped Tour 2018

Pat of The Maine at Warped Tour 2018

I like photos of crowds with all their phones in the air, I think it shows how much people love the artist, this was taken during their most popular and last song!

All Time Low at Warped Tour 2018

All Time Low at Warped Tour 2018

I think this would be an example of an image I do not like, but if I was working for All Time Low I would still turn it in because it shows three of them on stage at Warped Tour – which does a good job of showing the day.

All Time Low at Warped Tour 2018

All Time Low at Warped Tour 2018

Rian of All Time Low at Warped Tour 2018

I don’t think there is anything special about these images, but again I would turn them in because their new album promo is Alex’s T-shirt, and *getting the job don* would trump my personal goals of having amazing images.

Alex of All Time Low at Warped Tour 2018

Tonight Alive is a group of positive people, always try to show them in their best light.

Matty of Tonight Alive at Warped Tour 2018

Jenna and Jake of Tonight Alive

3OH!3 at Warped Tour

Ryan Scott of State Champs at Warped Tour

My friend and my friends daughter

 

One of my favorite things about shooting a show is meeting people. It is hard because it is a intimidating to go up to someone and introduce yourself, but I try my best. I met some new friends and say some old ones! Thanks for saying hi, ya’ll rule.

Closed eyes person, I don’t know your name!

Rad human, i forgot your name !!

Austen!

Vince!

Amber, photo by Luis

Steve!

Jordan!

Luis!

Chady!

this guy was shooting from barricade but where the crowd was, my hero, gj homie, i respect you

this guy was shooting from barricade but where the crowd was, my hero, gj homie, i respect you

 

That is all I got. I hope this helped. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.

POSTED BY Adam Elmakias

Adam Elmakias is a music photographer based out of San Diego, California. He spends most of his time doing stuff with cameras. Adam wrote this himself, not someone else. I am Adam.

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