I was recently interviewed by Pamela Berry for the Photofocus podcast! We covered how I got my start in photography, things I've learned by assisting greats like Joe McNally and Scott Kelby, the gear I use, my plans for the future, and much more! You can check it out on the Photofocus site, download it from iTunes, or just listen above. Thanks for having me on the show!
The blog of entertainment photographer Brad Moore
Fast forward to late last year, and they're all on a group text joking about what it would be like to tour again. Then the joking turned serious and, after much discussion and figuring out logistics, they decided to reunite to tour once again and play their two most popular albums, They're Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line, back to back on the Underoath Rebirth Tour.
The first official show of the tour was in St. Petersburg, Florida at Jannus Live, the same venue where they played the final show of their last tour. And the band has allowed me to document some behind the scenes images of the events leading up to this show.
Before that, they invited me to come out to their practice space and document one of their final practices before taking the stage once again. The space is a storage unit, lit solely by one fluorescent light inside, and some typical parking lot lights outside. Thankfully, I had two Canon 1DX bodies at my side, coupled with the 70-200mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/2.8 lenses, to handle the high ISO situation.
As the band practiced, I tried to cover them from every angle I could think of while staying out of their way as best as possible. During this time, they're focused on making sure they remember how to play the songs and are all on the same page with everything rather than performing. So while they're into it, it's definitely a lower energy situation than a live performance.
For post processing, I prefer converting behind the scenes/documentary images to black and white. I just think it gives them a more timeless feel, and helps differentiate the images from my live concert work. In this particular case, I used Macphun's Tonality Pro plug-in to do the black and white conversions. I started with the software's Bold Contrast preset, then tweaked it to best fit these images and created my own preset. Once I had that in place, I did a batch process of the images and ran my preset at 50% so the images didn't look over-processed. This gave the shots a nice but gritty look that almost made them feel like they were shot on film.
Next up, a secret show that was pure craziness...
It's every concert photographer's nightmare... The dreaded red wash of light. No matter how much we despise it though, it's something we are probably all going to have to deal with at some point. So, what's the trick to making our photos look decent when faced with this challenge?
Our goal here is to minimize "blooming" that red light tends to produce while still maintaining the gWhether you're processing your shots in Lightroom or Camera Raw, your first stop is going to be the Profile menu in the Camera Calibration panel. Now, what you see and choose here is going to depend on what camera(s) you have.
Generally speaking, you're probably going to see Adobe Standard, then Camera Faithful, Landscape, Neutral, Portrait, and Standard. You may see others depending on your camera or if you have other third party profiles installed, like VSCO. The trick here is to try each profile and see how it treats your images. In this particular case, Camera Neutral works the best for me, but a different profile may work better in another instance.
Once you've chosen the profile that looks best, you can further make adjustments using the RGB hue/saturation sliders. The secret here is to adjust the Red sliders sparingly and stick to the Green and Blue sliders. You can try them, but they usually do more harm than good.
Now that you've tweaked everything in the Camera Calibration panel, most of the heavy lifting is done. From here any other adjustments you make are most likely going to only make minimal changes.
Let's go back to the Basic panel. Here we can play around with the White Balance temp/tint sliders and see if they can be of any help. Adjust to your liking, then move on to the other adjustment sliders. Increasing the Clarity can help with the red "bloom," and decreasing the Vibrance can as well.
There's also the HSL panel... You may see some improvement with minor tweaking of the red and orange Hue sliders (just be careful not to go overboard with these). And, of course, the red and orange Saturation and Luminance sliders can help as well.
Now, depending on how well (or badly) your camera handles the red light, you may either be satisfied with your image now, or it may still look terrible. If you're in the latter scenario, it's time to break out the secret weapon... Black and white.
There you have it... All of my tricks for dealing with red light. The settings and adjustments you see here were based on my example photo and not meant to be a fix-all for every right light image. You can try them on yours if you want, but your results will definitely vary from image to image. My objective here was to point you to the most useful adjustments and settings.
If you do find settings that are a useful starting point for your red light shots, you might want to create a preset so you can save time on your next edit!
“How do I get a photo pass for concerts?” This is the question I get asked most often, and it was a question I myself asked a just few years ago. Once I had the answer, I had a front row seat to just about any concert I wanted to see.
Here is the key… You’ve gotta be shooting for someone. That someone could be a newspaper, magazine, website, the venue, the artist, the promoter, a radio station, an instrument company, and the list goes on. But that’s going to be the first question you get asked when you request a photo pass. Who are you shooting for?
Start Shooting Concert Photos
Of course, no one is going to let you shoot for them unless you’re a decent photographer. So, if you haven’t shot any concerts before, you’ve gotta start out shooting where you can get easy access. Smaller venues may not have restrictions on cameras like the big venues do. I know of at least two venues where I shoot in the Tampa Bay area that get great shows and, once you’re in the door, they could care less if you have a big camera or how much you shoot.
If you don’t have a venue that fits that description in your town, chances are you have a bar nearby that has local acts or open mic nights. Go check it out for a night or two, then introduce yourself to the acts, and ask if you can take some pictures the next time they play. Chances are they’ll say yes, and you’ve got your foot in the door. Alan Hess, who helped me figure all this concert photography stuff out, told me about a woman in one of his classes who started off by doing exactly this and has since become a local legend. She’s even earned the respect of the local lighting directors, who make sure she has great light when she’s shooting!
Try Alternative Venues
Another great place to get access is churches that host concerts. Not only is access generally easier to get, you’d be surprised at the lighting setups some churches have these days! The church I was attending when I first started shooting concerts had a decent show come through that I shot. I got some photos I liked, then used those to get access to a bigger show at a bigger church. After that, I was able to get a pass for a huge tour that plays at the biggest venues across the country.
Once you have a decent portfolio built up (say 10-20 of your best photos), find a local media outlet to contact and ask if they could use someone like yourself to cover local concerts. Send them a link to your website [Yes, your website… Not your Facebook or Flickr page] so they can see your work. In my case, I was able to start shooting for a local website that covered the Tampa music scene, and that allowed me access to shoot everyone from artists in small, sweaty clubs to Santana at the biggest outdoor venue in Tampa.
If you can’t find a media outlet to shoot for, things are going to be a bit more difficult for you. But, don’t lose hope yet! Go back up to the list at the beginning of this post and start contacting the other people in it. Just ask yourself, “Who needs pictures of this show?” and start reaching out to them. Eventually you’re going to find someone who says yes. Well, if you’re a good enough photographer, that is...
Get That Photo Pass
Who exactly do you contact to ask for a photo pass, and how do you find their contact info? Nine times out of ten your best bet is the artist’s publicist or manager. Finding this info can be as simple as going to the artist’s website and finding their contact page, or as difficult as using Google to try and track them down like a private eye. If the info isn’t on their website, my next stop is the About section of their Facebook page. If it’s not there, then I turn to Google and search “(Artist Name) Publicist” or “(Artist Name) Manager” and see what I can find. There are also a handful of publicity and management companies like Nasty Little Man, Big Hassle, Sacks & Co., and others that have sizable rosters, so I’ll check those. Still no luck? Try their record label. Also, sometimes a phone call can prove more fruitful than an email.
And sometimes there’s just no tracking these people down. That’s when you put your request in the (in my experience) trustworthy hands of the venue’s PR person. Someone at the venue has to be talking to the artist’s people, right? Figure out who that venue’s person is and get in touch with them. They’re normally used to handling these requests since they have to have a list of approved photographers anyway. Once you figure out who this person is at each venue, it’s good practice to copy them on future requests when you send it to the artist’s publicist/manager so they’re aware of it.
Big Shows vs. Small Shows
Now, the tradeoff of shooting small shows and big shows is this… Smaller shows are easier to get access to, and normally have fewer restrictions on how much you can shoot. They also tend to have subpar lighting setups (not always, but most of the time). And they probably don’t have a photo pit separating the stage from the crowd, so you have to get there early to secure a spot up front and be prepared to stay there all night (make a quick restroom pit stop as soon as you get inside, then plant yourself up front).
As you start working your way up to bigger shows, the bad things about smaller shows become better, and the good things about them become worse. Better lighting and decent photo pits, but it’s more difficult to get photo passes and you’re restricted to the first three songs (or less in some cases). You also may not get to stay for the show unless you have a ticket, so you’re escorted into the photo pit for the allotted shooting time, then escorted out when that time is up.
To recap, here are the three keys to obtaining a concert photo pass:
1. Be a good photographer. Start off by honing your skills at smaller shows and work your way up the chain by shooting slightly larger shows till you’re shooting the biggest shows in town.
2. You have to ask for a pass. Know all the people who hold the keys to the access you want and find out how to get in touch with them. Go through that list until someone says yes.
3. I haven’t actually mentioned this one yet, but it’s just a rule in life that also applies here… Be nice. When you’re dealing with any of these people, be courteous and professional. If they tell you no (which they will sometimes), don’t get grumpy. Thank them and go to the next person on your list. It even applies when you’re shooting. The people you’re standing in front of paid for a ticket to see their favorite band and have been waiting months to be standing where they are. Don’t deprive them of a great show by getting in their way. There have been times where I’ve been shooting in a no photo pit situation and there’s only one person between me and the stage. If I have a big smile and ask them to switch places for just one song, most of the time they’re okay with it. If not, I ask for 30 seconds and they usually say yes to that. So, all of that to say, just don’t be a jerk and people are usually willing to help you out.
Good luck, and happy shooting!
This post first appeared on 500px's ISO Blog.
I was recently in a conversation with my pastor, Tommy, who was talking about counseling people regarding their lives and relationships. He mentioned talking with people who have these big aspirations of things they want to do with their lives… Become a pilot, get their black belt, write a book, etc. Yet when he asks if they have the steps toward doing those things on their calendar, they don’t. And that’s when he said the thing that’s stuck with me since… “Your calendar isn’t your to-do list. It’s who you want to be.” If they were serious about these things, they would be scheduling time for them. Otherwise they’re just pipe dreams.
Every year, Tommy and his wife Sarah map out their family calendar to be sure they make time for the important things: Date nights with each other, family time together, one on one time with each of their three kids, evenings on the porch remembering the past and discussing the future. They’re not just going about their lives and marriage haphazardly. They’re being purposeful about it and planning for the future they want together.
So all of this got me thinking about my own life. Am I just taking things a day at a time, or am I planning and taking steps to become the person I want to be? Am I saying yes to the things I want to do and that are important to me? Am I saying no to the things that are just distractions and won’t mean anything a year from now? Have I been taking advantage of my free time and using it to better myself and accomplish the things I want to accomplish in life? Or have I been wasting it away in the vast, bottomless, never-ending (though very entertaining) vacuum that is Netflix and giving in to every distraction that pops up?
As we draw near to the end of 2015, I’m going to invite you to join me in making a plan for 2016. Grab a calendar and think about the things you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Then figure out the steps you need to take each month, week, and day to accomplish those things and put those steps on the calendar. And along the way, say no to the things that are just distractions from accomplishing those goals. If you get to the point where you have so much on your plate that you can’t handle it all, learn to ask for help and delegate the things that don’t require your full attention to others.
If you know you have a habit of starting strong but not finishing, plan for that. If one of your goals is to get in better shape, maybe just joining a gym isn’t enough. Maybe you need to take the extra step of hiring a personal trainer or enlisting a friend who will hold you accountable. If you want to up your photography game, watch some classes and read some books, but don’t stop there. Actually schedule shoots and make time to experiment with new techniques. Explore other genres of photography outside of what you normally shoot to see what looks and techniques you can apply to your own work.
What if you’re not happy with where you are but you don’t know where you want to be? Ask the people in your life to describe you. What traits do they see when they think about you? Are you a strong leader? Do you find joy in helping people? Are you happiest when you’re working by yourself or with others? Do you like variety or repetition? Ask yourself the age old question… What would you do if you could do anything and money didn’t matter? Then figure out what steps you can take now to start working toward that.
This isn’t a set of New Year’s resolutions that are going to be abandoned by March. Put the steps on your calendar and stick to them. Seek support through friends, family, prayer, community, and any other ways you can stay accountable to yourself. Learn to adjust to the things that life throws at you without abandoning what’s important to you. Let’s make 2016 our best year yet!
This post originally appeared on ScottKelby.com on December 16, 2015.