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 Melissa Fossum.
Up on the Sun: What separates a good concert photo from a great concert photo?
Melissa Fossum: Emotion makes a huge difference when it comes to concert photography. Some artists are stone-faced or don't move around much, so capturing a glimmer of the musician's true self is what makes great concert photography stand out. It's a wonderful art form, because those little moments can easily be missed. Just think about the iconic Johnny Cash middle finger shot -- being in the right place, at the right angle, at the right time created an iconic photo.
How did you get into concert photography, and how many concerts would you say you've photographed?
I began reviewing concerts for fun when I was a senior in college.I was disappointed by how my cell phone photos would turn out, so I bought the cheapest D-SLR I could find. I had no formal training, but I applied the principles I learned in film school to compose my shots. To this day, I still think of things in film terms, namely cursing the phrase "just fix it in post!"
I've lost count of how many concerts I've shot. On average, I'd say I shoot a concert every week or two, and I've been doing this since 2010, so I'm somewhere in the hundreds.
What challenges does concert photography present as opposed to other forms of photography?
There are many challenges, but the two biggest obstacles are lighting and time restrictions. Most venues only allow photographers to shoot for the first three songs of each act. There can be some physical restrictions as well, including soundboard shoots and being crammed into a tight photo pit with a dozen other photographers. Plus, most venues are dark and you almost always cannot use flash, so good camera equipment makes a huge difference.
What advice do you have for aspiring concert photographers?
Shoot as much as you can and take the time to develop your own personal style. Don't be afraid to try new things or mess with your settings. Also, move around! You won't get much variety by staying in one spot the whole time. Be courteous in the pit and keep your ego in check.
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 have a mental bucket list of bands I want to shoot, and Paramore has been near the top for years. I love the way vocalist Hayley Williams carries herself, she is so upbeat and full of energy that I could only imagine what the band's live shows would be like. Paramore co-headlined a show with Fall Out Boy in August 2014, and Williams' stage presence was more like that of a fitness instructor than a singer. She moved around the stage constantly and had a great rapport with the crowd. I felt like I was playing a real life version of Duck Hunt as I anticipated her movements. I captured a bunch of great shots thanks to her charisma, but this photo in particular stood out because I caught her mid-jump while she belted out the lyrics with a huge smile on her face. I feel that the enthusiasm and energy captured in this photo is essence of Hayley Williams.
Visit the next page for more photos by Melissa Fossum.
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