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Best Concert Photographer in Phoenix: Finalist Jim Louvau

Earlier this year, we announced a concert photography contest. We received more than 46 submissions, and a crack panel of judges winnowed down the submissions to 10 finalists. We are now introducing you to each photographer, presented in random order. Next up is Jim Louvau.

Up on the Sun: What separates a good concert photo from a great concert photo?

Jim Louvau: Photography to me is all about math (which oddly I've never been good at) and instinct. In the digital world finding the correct exposure, shutter speed, and ISO is the easy part once you know your way around your camera. It's the instinctive part of capturing that moment that really captures what that artist is all about that makes a great image. My background as a musician really helps photograph others the same way I'd like to be captured.

How did you get into concert photography, and how many concerts would you say you've photographed?

I took a black-and-white photo class while attending Ironwood High School when I was a senior and started shooting an up and coming local band called N17. The band was cool enough to give me as much access into their world as I wanted as a 17-year old kid. While the rest of the kids in my class were shooting photos of flowers and animals I was cutting my teeth shooting rock n' roll. My photo teacher Mr. Benson told me right before I graduated that if I ever wanted to have a chance to make it as a photographer I'd better start shooting things other than music, I'm glad I didn't listen. I've probably shot more than 2,000 bands over the past 9 years.

What challenges does concert photography present as opposed to other forms of photography?

When shooting any sort of photojournalism, you're at the mercy of the environment and lighting around you.

What advice do you have for aspiring concert photographers?

Be humble. Photographers seem to think they are the rock stars these days and often forget they are the ones taking someone else's photo. Be prepared to do a ton of work for free in the beginning; it may be a couple years before you deserve to get paid. Most importantly, get out there and shoot local bands. There is no two- to three-song rule when doing this, and if your shots are good the band will be happy to share your work. I was once given 60 seconds to shoot Beyonce from the soundboard. Leave your flash at home -- the band hates it, the fans hate it, and it's generally a good sign you have no idea what your doing. Shutter speed is your best friend to stop the action and get "the shot."

Choose one of the photos you submitted. Tell a story about it --where was it shot, who is featured, what makes it one of your favorites, and what circumstances lead to your capturing it. The more details, the better.

I had the chance to shoot KISS at last year's Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding but found out just days before the show that they wouldn't be wearing the make-up. I was a little bummed out because they were one of the few historic bands that are still around that I had never shot and I really wanted the full experience. Luckily, they returned to Ak-Chin Pavilion this past summer with full make-up and production. I had been checking out different shots photographers had taken in other markets, and I saw some really great stuff. There was a specific shot that I'd see others try to capture of Paul Stanley jumping in the air and for one reason or another most of them were blurry or weren't framed well. I check out some Youtube video of the first couple songs of the show and figured out Stanley launched himself into the air during the same part of the show each night.

Once I actually got to the show and into the photo pit I was amazed at how much interaction Simmons and Stanley had with photographers and how easy they made the assignment. It was during the second song "Deuce" Stanley launched himself into the air and I was able to capture a perfectly focused shot of him in mid-air. I posted it on my Louvau Photography Facebook Page and KISS got wind of it and shared it and the photo was seen by over a million people. I've had complete strangers approach me to tell me how much they love the shot.

Visit the next page to see more photographs from Jim Louvau.

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