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 Maria Vassett.
Up on the Sun: What separates a good concert photo from a great concert photo?
Maria Vassett: For me, the difference between a good and great concert photo is when time slows down and allows me to capture that connection I'm having with the person I'm focused on. I can only describe it as though I'm having a love affair with that person if only for those few seconds. (Okay, so maybe I'm afraid of long term commitments) The lighting, pose and moment all come together, and I can feel it happening before I even release the shutter button. I'd love to think that photos like that give the viewer a feeling of being there with me, having that same experience. I mean really, when Paul Stanley from KISS is that close to me to where I could actually lick him (if I wanted to), and our eyes have locked (even if it is through a lens)... that makes a great concert photo.
How did you get into concert photography, and how many concerts would you say you've photographed?
I'd been traveling all over the world for months in search of Sasquatch. Ok, not really. (Even though that would be pretty darn cool.) People hate me for saying this, but I fell into concert photography it by being in the right place at the right time. I was working at The Arizona Republic and the music editor had forgotten to assign a photographer for Old Crow Medicine Show. I jokingly volunteered to do it. He said, "Great! It's yours."
Lucky for me, I sat next to the photo editor who said he'd go with me. He lent me a Canon 20D with a 70-200 f/2.8 lens.
He gave me a 15 minute crash course about the camera settings I would need to know how to use before I went into the pit.
I truly had no clue what he was talking about. He sounded like an adult in a Charlie Brown special. When I got into the pit, I was terrified, but strangely comfortable.
In the end, the photos looked great! I remember thinking while I was shooting , "This is what I'm supposed to be doing.This makes sense."
That was barely 5 years ago. Since then, I've shot over 400 national shows.
What challenges does concert photography present as opposed to other forms of photography?
The challenges are at two different ends of the spectrum. There are strict rules and etiquette in concert photography concerning time restraints, location and people. Usually you can shoot the first three songs of the show. Other times it might only be the first 60 seconds of the first or second song. You never know but hat's it. You're done. No more shooting after that so you had better have captured what you needed to in that short time allowed. Sometimes we shoot in the pit (in front of the stage) other times from the soundboard (middle of the arena). Since the location of where you'll be shooting from can change at any time, you always need to be prepared. When shooting from the soundboard the challenge of finding a shot while shooting though people who have their phones in the air or just standing in front of you, can be stressful knowing that you have to deliver a certain amount of photos to your client. Other challenges include uncontrolled lighting, constant movement on stage and shooting with other photographers who don't know proper etiquette when shooting in tight, confined spaces. But those challenges are all a part of being a good photographer and knowing how to deal with those unexpected situations.
What advice do you have for aspiring concert photographers?
Never be afraid to ask other photographers questions. Learn proper concert etiquette. Never shoot concerts with flash and ask every band you know if you can come to their shows and shoot them. It feels great to capture those times and you get to see some great music! Create your own style and break all the rules you were taught about on how to use your camera.
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.
Lucas is in the 5th grade. He plays guitar and is a straight A student. He has great parents. Lucas' favorite band of all time is Green Day. How do I know this? His mom told me all about him after she searched and found me after seeing this photo. When I shot this photo of Lucas and Billy Joe at The Marquee Theater in 2013, everything stopped. I saw it coming. I saw Lucas being lifted by the crowd, onto the stage and I knew right then, that this was going to be a moment that only Lucas would be able to experience over and over again for the rest of his life and I was going to capture it for him. At this point, I became Lucas. I remember this vividly. I'm suddenly 10 or 11 years old, on stage with my favorite singer, wrapped in his arms while he puts his guitar around me so I can play it with him in front of everyone! The crowd was going wild and I'm playing with Green Day on stage! How awesome is this? His expression says it all. It was an amazing moment. I won't lie, when I went home that night to edit and I saw this shot, I might have cried. Music changes lives. A photo brings back that exact moment when it happened. That's why this is one of my favorite concert photos.
Visit the next page for more photos by Maria Vassett.
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