Recently for their “How To” series, Hypebeast spoke with three flourishing young photographers to discuss the art of taking photos at concerts, as well as its perks and pitfalls.
The interview included New York City’s own Raven B, Chicago-based Jake Osmun, and Philadelphia’s Sam Cones. For the interview they gave insight into the world of photography, detailing the fact versus fiction of how hard the job is and sharing their experiences of music photography. You can check out some excerpts from the interview below.
Photos by: Raven B.
How did you start to become a concert photographer?
It’s a combination of my passions. I love music—particularly hip-hop—and it’s a big part of my life. I wanted to document the experiences that I loved. A good concert can completely change the relationship you have with an artist’s music and it made sense to me to document that. I care about the expression of music and the experience that comes with a live show. It also was about access, gaining access into shows as a photographer allowed me to also watch them as a fan. I didn’t really start attending concerts ’til I was in my late teens. Growing up, concerts were never an expense I wanted to burden my mom with, so as I got older and started pursuing photography, being offered a photo pass to document a concert made a childhood luxury a lot more accessible.
I shot my friend Leland’s first show when I was like 15 and then just kept shooting so I could learn how to use a camera. We both pretty much started together.
I started shooting concerts after working for a company that did large-scale music videos for artists like Beanie Sigel and Freeway in Philly.
Photos by: Jake Osmun
What are your preferred settings (DSLR) for indoor concert photography? Outdoors?
My most important rule is “NO FLASH,” haha. It’s my biggest pet peeve to see a photographer in the pit shooting with a flash, and I completely understand why it should never be allowed. As far as settings: I always shoot on manual, but I change aperture, ISO, and shutter speed based on the show and the stage lighting and design. It’s always different and always a test.
Photos by: Cones
What are some of your incredible/horror stories in getting special press accreditation?
I snuck into Lollapalooza one year with a fucked up artist pass and some disposables this random girl gave me on the street. I have these old rolls somewhere with photos of like SD and Danny Brown and some suburban Lolla girls on the same roll, haha.
What advice would you give to a budding concert photographer?
Shoot new artists. I always tell people that it’s really important to form familiarity with your subjects, no matter who you’re shooting. I’m lucky that I’ve been shooting shows for a while. I’ve shot artists when they were doing their first shows in SOBs and now I’m shooting their shows in MSG, and they recognize me. They trust that I’m not posting photos of them looking crazy, they recognize me in the pit, they recognize my work and they credit me because of it. Engage with people, use social media and post your work, you never know whose radar it will show up on. Also: don’t always worry about being in the pit and super close. I think the best place to watch a show is from FOH (editor’s note: front of house). Take risks and trust your eye.
Don’t stop shooting. When I started out, I literally shot every rap show in Arizona for like a year and a half.
Always be thinking about how you can make your shot different and unique from all the other cameras in the room. Figure out the location you haven’t seen anyone shoot from yet and always keep your eyes open. Previously I have actually researched certain things the artists do during their sets to make sure I capture those moments when I go to shoot them.
you can read the full interview here.
Cover photo of Raven taken by: Phil Matthews