Ra Ra Riot, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis


The benefits of joining your school’s newspaper as a staff photographer includes (aside from access to stellar equipment) the occasional press pass to exclusive events. The general public may not be allowed to bring a legit camera, but a press pass can grant you pit access and the right to bear a 200mm zoom lens through security.

It’s a completely different, albeit exhilarating, experience if you truly love photojournalism. There are no repeats with a live event. You cannot tell your model to reposition or tilt their head to get the lighting just right. Getting a perfect shot the first time – lighting, framing, decisive moment, exposure, aperture, ISO, shutter speed – is all on you.

With concerts, specifically, there are some rules. You can only shoot for the first 3 songs, meaning you have 10-15 minutes to portray the excitement, vigor, and action at a concert. The opening act might allow you to photograph from the pit, however, the main act probably won’t. (Macklemore didn’t in this case.)

I found shooting a concert challenging for 3 reasons.

1. Lighting


Concert lighting can give subjects such unnatural light that it actually looks cool. The photo above is just a conversion from RAW to Jpeg and nothing else.


Yet, in that hundredth of a second between the flashes of lights when you may take a shot, you get darkness and shadows. Switching your settings could mean you miss something, but instantly the bright colored lights are back. It’s bipolar lighting and you have to keep up or learn how to time your switches.


2. Positioning


This might have been a great shot if I could have climbed two more steps on the ladder I was standing on. (Or if I were a head taller.) Admittedly, I’m not brave enough to lift the camera up with my arm and take a shot because I’d probably get my horizon off or chop off a head. This was from the pit, where I was blocking at least 5 people’s view, so I got up, took two shots and got back down.


While Macklemore was setting up, I found some folded benches with a good view. I played around with the reflections and took advantage of the lights that were on at the time. Later, the professional photographer shooting the event asked me if he could take a few shots from my spot. I said sure, but it was mine during Macklemore. He laughed, knowing the territorial advantages of securing a good position when taking photographs. He was a pretty cool guy who had actually studied photography, so we chatted.


3. Timing

_DSC4741 copy

…is absolutely everything. Macklemore liked to jump around and walk on the crowd. I got a few shots, but working with a zoom lens makes it a challenge to stabilize your shots. I always think I have a subject framed and then I move or someone decides to jump off the stands and it comes out a little differently.



I may have enjoyed myself more than others because I wasn’t pushed around by the crowd or surrounded by hot sweaty nerds. (I love you guys but, no.) I probably won’t get another chance to shoot a concert, unless I smuggle my dslr through the Outside Lands security again. This was definitely an awesome adventure. And Macklemore was pretty great too.



2 Comments Add yours

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