Photo by Drew Gurian

A big thanks to Scott and Brad for having me back here on Guest Blog Wednesday. In the past I have discussed workflow and why you should only show your best work. This time around I want to talk about something a little different, keeping yourself motivated.

I am writing this on Monday evening after a crazy week of shooting five different concerts in five nights with 17 different bands.

There was a lot of standing around and waiting.

There were some really odd restrictions.

There were some very crowded photo pits.

There were some really challenging lights.

And I loved every second of it.

I have one of the best jobs in the world.

The question I get asked a lot is “What is your favorite band to shoot?” or “What was your favorite shoot?” The answer might surprise you.

My favorite band to shoot is the next one. Doesn’t matter if they are a huge name like Jay Z or a up and comer with the opening 5:00pm slot on a multi-band holiday show like J. Roddy and Business. I approach each one as if it is the most important shoot ever, and for those three (or two) songs, it is.

Recently, I was reminded how I important it is to take each shoot, each day, each moment and make it the most important ever. It was all because of Andrew Youssef. Andrew was a Southern California based concert photographer. He wasn’t a friend, we didn’t know each other well. We were more like work acquaintances. We shared the photo pit on numerous occasions. We chatted in hallways of venues and swapped concert photography horror stories. Bad lighting, pushy photographers, good publicists. The stuff that we had in common at the time. Andrew was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in 2011. He lost that battle on November 30 at the age of 38.

The thing is, Andrew kept shooting. He kept going to shows and taking great photos even while battling cancer. It really put it into persecutive for me. I have had days where I didn’t want to go shoot some opening act. Where I knew the lighting would be tough and I would be pushing my camera into the 6400 ISO and higher zone. I didn’t want to go hunt for parking downtown only to stand around waiting to shoot some band I have never heard of. But I have never had to battle cancer.

Imagine loving your job so much that nothing could keep you from doing it?

Imagine loving your job so much that it actually made you physically feel better when you got to do it?

So, my favorite band to shoot? The next one, and the one after that. Every single time I walk into a photo pit, I feel rejuvenated, I feel alive. Each one of the 17 bands photographed this past week got the same level on intensity and focus from me. Each of the bands had me striving to capture the best possible images. Sometimes I have to stop, take a deep breath and look around. I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m doing what I love.

The reality is that no matter how much I love this, there re times when I need a little creative pep talk. Here are a few of the things that I try to keep me interested and motivated to getting the best shot.

1) Change focal lengths: I love the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. So when start to feel like I am just going through the motions, I switch up lenses to something wider like the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens or the 20-35mm f/2.8 lens. It’s uncomfortable, it can be frustrating, and it forces me to really look at the scene as it unfolds in front of me.

2) Change locations: There isn’t much space to work in photo pit and I usually start over on stage left. So when I am feeling complacent, it’s time to move over tot he middle or stage right.

3) Use the lighting: I have really started to try and use the stage lighting more in my images. Instead of just focusing on the performer, I start to look to see if I can incorporate the lights as an element in the image and not just as something illuminating the subject. This can mean dropping the shutter speed a little so you have to really time it right to get a sharp image.

4) Stop and watch: There are times when the lighting is so tough, that it is better to put the camera down and just take a few moments to watch what is going on. Look for lighting patterns or angles that might make a better shot.

5) Stay out of the pack: I really don’t want the same shot as everyone else in the photo pit. So I tend not to crowd right in the same areas as everyone else. I will try to get a different angle on the same scene by shooting from further rout to the sides. This works really well with bands that like to reach out to the crowd.

6) Turn around: This is something that I really need to do more often. Photos of the fans watching the show can be just as much fun as photos of the band.

The payoff is that if you treat each shoot as if it was the most important thing you could be doing, chances are your images will reflect that. I know mine do.

You can see more of Alan’s work and keep up with his blog at AlanHessPhotography.com, and follow him on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. You can also come check out his classes at Photoshop World Atlanta or on KelbyTraining.com, and pick up one of his many photography books or eBooks.