Photo by Collin Hughes
This is awesome. I have never done a guest blog before, so thanks to Scott and Brad for giving me the opportunity.
I am a music photographer and I spend most of my time photographing bands/ musicians while they tour the world. In addition to photographer I also make those fun Lens Bracelets® you may have seen floating around recently at Photoshop World DC. Anyway, it’s really hard to sum up my career path quickly, but I still want you to give you a bit of background information on myself so that you know where I am coming from. Bullet points will suffice:
- Started photography at age 16 for high school year book assignment. I was living in Madison, WI at the time
- Went to tons of local shows, started bringing camera and photographing them for fun/made me feel “cool” (cut me some slack, I was young)
- Befriended the local promoters, traded show photos for free admission and band posters
- Began working with online music sites, getting press passes for larger shows and shooting from the pit
- Bands started crashing at my house after shows and we would do quick press shoots the next day around town
- Became good friends with a few younger national touring acts
- Flew out to New York for my first big shoot when I was a senior in high school, totally blew it, shots never used
- College for a semester while still shooting press images on spec and live shows when I could, started making pretty decent money
- Stop college, go on the road with a band I was good friends with for 30 days, full USA, 8 dudes, 15 passenger van, smelly
- Kept touring for next 18 months or so, continued shooting live and press images, working for publications
- Moved to San Diego on a whim, continued touring and shooting
- I have been doing a mixture of everything for the past few years. Shooting bands in studio, on the road, off the road and working for a few various publications.
That’s the gist of it. There is heaps more, but at least it gives you an idea of what I have been up to. You can check out a full list of where I have been here, and view a map of it all here. If you want to get a little more in depth about whats its like to live on the road, I suggest checking out my five part blog about a summer I spent on The Vans Warped Tour, which was pretty wild. Here is part one to get you going.
Like any photographer I have grown a lot over the past few years. I didn’t like shooting live and/or candid images of people at all to begin with. In fact, at first I was very emotionally disconnected from photography. I thought of it as a pretty basic thought process – get five sweaty dudes, put em in order and make ’em look nice so they can sell some records. However it has turned into something more than that for me. I imagine it will continue to connect with more and more as I continue to shoot and grow, but at this current point in time I am pretty stoked on shooting lives/candids and portraits. Lifestyles is a good way putting it.
So we left off with shooting live and candid images of the band on tour. What does this exactly mean? Well, put simply, just think of me as a professional stalker. I follow the guys around from sunrise to sunset, and then well into the night documenting just about everything. I have a blast and it is definitely more of a hang out with some photography splashed in it here and there. I go on the road for no upfront cost- however I make my money by selling my images to publications, labels, managers and the bands themselves. I prefer doing it this way because when a band takes me on the road I am on my own schedule. For example if we were in London for a day and I wanted to spend it all with my uncle I could. It’s also nice because there is no pressure to shoot anything, everything I do is self assigned and shot because I want to shoot it. When I am forced to shoot images like this I tend to have a very difficult time getting into the shots. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s something I need to work on- I haven’t quite figured it out yet.
For the most part my shoot locations change everyday on the road. Cities, backstage, hotel rooms, sites, and wherever else we may wander. However after a week of touring and shooting the same band for five nights in a row, every live shot I took started looking pretty similar. The stages and crowds would change but it was hard for the most part to tell the images apart. I started getting comments on my blog that “All my live images looked alike” – and after looking them over totally agreed. I mean, I shot the same show at least 15 times on one tour, I had to start learning and challenging myself in one way or another or I would get bored- and if I am bored, you most likely are too. That is never fun! And my main goal while doing anything in life is to have fun. Must. Have. Fun.
So I started switching it up by putting my own flashes on stage. I have learned some pretty solid techniques that really started changing my images. So obviously I wasn’t taking my best shots this whole time, but I was learning, out shooting, making mistakes. Between then and now I have learned how to shoot on stage with 1-2 flashes, so I decided to share that with you. My next step will be to use more flashes, and to start gelling/ color coordinating them and balancing them with the stage lights. However, it’s a lot harder than it seems and it gets expensive. (Note to self, convince LensRentals.com to loan me 50 flashes so I can takeover a stage.)
So for now, we shall stick with two lights. Most of the images I shoot are black and white, because to be quite honest, most stage lights are really ugly. There are a few really good lighting designers, but a lot of the time not so much. And even if I do get a good LD, they might use all red lighting and then I am really screwed. I have started to gel my flashes once in awhile but again, I am still working on it. So black and white in the mean time- plus it looks badass.
I recently photographed a band I have been working with for almost four years now, The Devil Wears Prada (after the book, before the movie). They had a show at The Glass House in Pomona, California on March 16. Now, unlike most of my live shoots, I only had one day to shoot these guys. When I am on the road with bands I can assign each day to getting a few images. So for example maybe I will focus on just the drummer for the whole set and really knock out every angle with multiple lighting set ups for the whole 65 minutes. But because this particular shoot was just one show, I had to try to make the most of it with what little time I had.
Here is how I lit the stage. The red squares are my flashes, and the blue area is where I shot all my photographs from.
Here is a quick video of me running around setting up each flash and testing them out. Now sometime after the main support act finished and The Devil Wears Prada started, I had to set all these bad boys up. Here’s a quick video of me running around on stage. Basically what I do is set each light up, take a test shot or two. Then go modify the lights accordingly. I also takes shots so I can see where the light is hitting.
Light #1: 580ex behind the drummer
Goal: Light up drummer and separate him from background, also lighting up everyone else from behind if possible
– Try to shoot from pit and keep drummers body between you and your flash head
– Turn flash power up high, this way you can knock out stage light when needed without having to adjust flash
– You can always add more ambient light in by lowering shutter speed, won’t effect flash
– sweat drops and smoke will give you amazing effects with this backlit technique
– don’t blind your drummer if he turns around!, or the drum tech
Previous shots using this technique
A Day To Remember live in Cologne, Germany on Febuary, 18th 2011
Eric of Breathe Carolina in London, UK on September 24th, 2011
Alex Shellnut of A Day To Remember in M¼nster, Germany on October 28th, 2009
Light #2: 580ex on stage right
Goal: light up anyone on stage, no matter where you are shooting from, also be used to silhouette people