Music Photography Blog

by Adam Elmakias

How To Make Your Concert Image Selects

My job goes something like, go to a concert, take too many photos… maybe 1000,… edit photos that night, and then turn em in. Then the next day I wake up and do it all over again. Sometimes my jobs are two days, sometimes they are two months. It just depends.

Oh yes my trusty Western Digitals
Oh yes my trusty Western Digitals

I enjoy exploiting digital to the max. 100’s of photos. That is the joy of it, however it can be quite time consuming to look them all over. So you gotta be quick to sort through them and find the gems. I think I can do 5-8 photos a second. Most of the images look very similar so the first pass I am just looking for an image or a group of images that appear to be useable. I quickly flag them so I can come back to them on the next pass

My photo archive
My photo archive, some days more photos than others

Here is my checklist for stage 1…. or what should we call it? First pass. Before we get into this. There are exceptions for everything and they probably occur more often than you would think, these are just guidelines.

First Pass Check List

  • Is the photograph in focus?
Out of focus, it happens - OOF for short. Which also explains how I feel. Oof I missed that shot.
Out of focus, it happens – OOF for short. Which also explains how I feel. Oof I missed that shot.
  •  Is the photograph properly exposed?.. or at the very least, rescuable, this means nothing is over- or underexposed to a point where it is 100% black or 100% white
    Is the composition aesthetically pleasing at a glance?

So I start at 2000, then narrow it down to about 50-80… maybe less, using the check list above. Then after the first pass I do the second pass and try to narrow it down to 10-20 images. It greatly depends the variety of activities we did that day. My main job is photographing the concert, but sometimes I’ll spend a whole day with a band and it can really up the variety and quantity of images used. 

Second Pass Checklist

  • Composition crop test – if the composition isn’t good enough, can I crop it in a way to make it nice?
Cropping an image to make it nice
Cropping an image to make it nice
  • Everyone looks good? Forgot who they are- how do they look? If this was you, would you want it on your … tinder? Usually people miss the mark on this one when they are focused on how awesome the artist is at performing and forget to check their facial expressions and such. Also some artists don’t care, you basically need to run with your best judgement on this. 

    In the zone, but still looking O.K. - it passes the test
    In the zone, but still looking O.K. – it passes the test (I did remove some drool from this however because… well no one likes drool)

Similar images? Is this image unique? Is it boring – does it looks similar to another from the set? Just pick one. 

A set of similar images from the Conor Oberst Concert
A set of similar images from the Conor Oberst Concert

Keep in mind what images you have selected already for the rest of your batch, you want to make sure you capture a good variety of each member of the band member. 

For my third pass I go through each image and I play with my presets and editing techniques to see if the image will look good edited. My editing style changes as I grow and change myself. If it passes that I’ll go through and spend a few minutes on each image to finalize it. My friend once told me that no one remembers the noise in an iconic image, that just think its an awesome image, so don’t worry about the small stuff, just make it awesome. 

Two different presets
Two different presets

After this I have usually narrowed it down to a few images that I will then turn into the client. Before I do this however I run one last pass. During this pass I blink a few times and ask myself some questions while looking at the images.

Final pass

  • Are you working for someone? Will they like it?
  • Are you working for yourself? Do you love it?

If you can get both of these done at once… props, cause it can be difficult. Remember just because you do not like an image (which will happen quite often) does not mean it is not a good image, and more importantly it doesn’t mean that you do not get the job done. I upload to dropbox and send to my client.

You also want to keep in mind how your client wants to be portrayed. So for example sometimes I photograph a show for myself, but I will also check out the artist’s personal Instagram page to see what they post. Maybe they never post any photos of their face, or maybe all of their photos are in black and white. There is usually intention behind all of their posts, so take that into consideration when you are thinking of what to publish.

Client files are delivered via dropbox
Client files are delivered via dropbox

You got a job to do, get it done, that is always the first priority. If you can snag some portfolio images along the way – sick. All in all the sorting takes about an hour and the editing another hour, I can do it quicker if needed and I’ll often go back and re-edit the images I want to use for personal and spend an additional 30 minutes on each one making it portfolio perfect.