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The Best Concert Photographer in Phoenix: Finalist Mike Smith

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 Mike Smith.

See also: The Best Concert Photographer in Phoenix: Here Are the 10 Finalists

What separates a good concert photo from a great concert photo?

For me, it is capturing the moment, the artist doing what they do for the fans. A great photo is captured in the moment. I mean, anyone can take a decent photo and make it better in Photoshop or post production with some education and experience. However, it takes a photographer to capture it and share it as it is, with little manipulation. It should be the image that tells the story more than the manipulation or post-production. To me, those are the images that stand out, when the viewer feels like they were there.

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

I got into concert photography after my stint as a drummer in multiple local bands came to an end. After I decided to "hang up my sticks" my love for music was still strong. I remember looking through magazines growing up and always loving Ross Halfin's photography, especially of Metallica. I had a passion for photography and thought, hey let's give this a run. How many concerts have I shot? Wow, a lot over the past 10-plus years. I would say in the 100-plus range easy.

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

I think everyone would agree with the main: low light. Having a subject never really posed, on top of moving around and going from no light to super bright light, and back to low light and then strobes and then bright light and so on. The constant movement of your subject at that moment and light adjustments make every show new and challenging. Rather than the "safety" of a studio where as a photographer, you can control lighting and poses and the tempo of the shoot, with concert photography, we are just along for the ride with the fellow fans and try to get what we can for three or fewer songs.

What advice do you have for aspiring concert photographers?

No matter who denies you for a show or shoot, never give up. Additionally, always learn from any medium you can, whether it is from fellow photographers or tutorials or books or classes or seminars, whatever. Never stop learning more and bettering yourself in your craft. The moment you become complacent, someone is behind you ready to take your spot.

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.

This one is tough, because I chose so many favorites for the 10 images we were permitted. I would say the image of Clown #6 (Shawn Crahan) from Slipknot ranks up there for many reasons. It was captured Friday, July 6, 2012, in Glendale at what is now Ak-Chin Pavilion on the Mayhem tour. I didn't even know if I was going to be able to shoot Slipknot until a few days before the show and not all photographers there were approved for Slipknot. So going in it was my first time shooting Slipknot and as a fan, I wanted a good shot of all of the members. Well, the show starts and anyone who has seen them knows, they are everywhere doing everything. It can be a bit overwhelming. So I definitely wanted an image of Clown and when he was using the bat on a keg. Opportunity presented itself and this one is my favorite from that set. Hoping someday I will have the opportunity to have him sign a copy.

For more photos by Mike Smith, visit the next page.

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