An Introduction To Concert Photography – Part 7: My First Time

Hello, everyone! After an extended break we have returned with the latest installment in our ongoing series aimed at informing aspiring music photographers about the realities of life in the industry. If you missed one of the previous columns, you can catch up using this link. If not, welcome back! We’re happy you stuck around.

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We don’t instantly become good at photography. There’s no magic wand that you waive to enhance your skills. It’s a growing process and we continue to learn everyday to enhance our craft. I did a podcast with James Shotwell where we talked about the first show I ever shot and I admittedly said how awful I truly was. I still back this, but I want to go in a little further on why I was so bad, and what I wish I could have changed.

My gear was too good for my knowledge. I wish I didn’t shoot that show in program (auto). Shooting at f8 at 1/60 makes no sense when outdoors. I regret not knowing the basic fundamentals of photography before going out and shooting. If so, my shots would have been exposed properly, and maybe I wouldn’t hate myself for ruining photos of my favorite band, Against Me!.

The only photos I looked at prior were a few that were in alt press. My favorite image back then was one Jesse DeFlorio took of Geoff Rickly at Warped Tour at Nassau Coloseum, which was my first warped tour I ever attended. Geoff broke his nose on the third song and started gushing blood down his face, resulting in one of the most dynamic warped tour photos I’ve ever seen. I thought everything had to be cropped tight and to the frame. I didn’t vary in anyway. I feel like I barely shot any wide shots; however still I feel like I understood the rule of thirds naturally.

I should have turned around. there was an entire sea of people screaming their heads off to these bands. Bands aren’t the only subject at concerts. Why didn’t I capture them, especially since the venue I shot it at is gone, and it overlooked the beautiful manhatten skyline?

I should have shot raw. I didn’t know any better. Maybe I could have fixed some of these awful mistakes I made, if I shot RAW. Maybe…. Raw isn’t a magic wand to make your photos instantly better, but it certainly can help fix your mistakes.

Something subtle, my watermark. My text based watermark makes me cringe. It’s almost as bad as Comic Sans. Almost.

Lastly, I take photography very seriously. In fact, I take it way too seriously. I’m shooting four shows this week, and I really need to reflect that I’m doing a job that many people would love to do. I’m going to do something I haven’t done in the photo pit tonight since my first  show, smile and appreciate my access of being up close to document world class artists performing, as my job.

Nick Karp is a professional photographer and freelance music writer. He recently relocated to NYC and dyed his hair bright pink because that is the kind of thing people do in the music business. 

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.