Tag Archives: music

Rocking Faces Off

9 May

…not me…the musicians, of course.

Hearts & Thieves - Seb - www.heartsandthieves.com

Hearts & Thieves – Seb – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

I always wonder how much people enjoy photos of bands they’ve never seen.  I mean, if you’ve never heard their music, it’s virtually impossible to have an emotional attachment to them.
I would assume, if you’re like me, at the very least you probably appreciate the art behind a good image.  I mean, a decent portrait is still a decent portrait…in this case, they just happen to have bright lights and deep shadows.

Hearts & Thieves - Aaron - www.heartsandthieves.com

Hearts & Thieves – Aaron – http://www.heartsandthieves.com


I wonder…if the images were good enough, or the band members were attractive enough, would you check out the music?  Is it a bit like judging a book by its cover?

Hearts & Thieves - www.heartsandthieves.com

Hearts & Thieves – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

I suspect some people would.  I mean…I’m not saying you’d love the band.  But good images are part of what marketing a band is all about, right?  Wear the right thing.  Pose the right way (with at least some of the band facing away from the camera. haha) Say the right thing. Befriend the right people.
Most things in life are who we know, right?

Hearts & Thieves - Sal - www.heartsandthieves.com

Hearts & Thieves – Sal – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

Well…I suggest…if you’re going to give a band a try based on images alone, you start with this one, Hearts and Thieves.  They’re a great original band with a 90’s rock feel.

Hearts & Thieves - Rick - www.heartsandthieves.com

Hearts & Thieves – Rick – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

Connecticut is truly blessed to be the home of some amazing local bands.  Most of them you’ve never heard of, but I truly hope you do someday….hence this post. haha  I’m a huge advocate of creativity in all of its various forms, and encourage you all to show some of your fellow local creatives some love.

For those of you looking for a little info about what goes into good live concert photos, check out this previous blog post.


Interview with Will Byington!!

2 Jan
Will Byington Profile Images

Will Byington Profile Images

When you think of publications such as Rollingstone.com, New York Times, Boston Globe, Billboard Magazine or ESPN the Magazine, you probably don’t think of Will Byington.  But you should!  I mean, an event photographer with that many big names under his belt must be worth remembering, right?!

Will Byington is a…well…let’s call him an “event” photographer and a Chicago native, whose success is rooted in skill (of course), hard-work and his ability to network like a champ! 🙂  You can read a bit more about Will here…but first…the interview!

How did you get involved in photography?

I fell into it by accident.  In college I took an elective photography course which I enjoyed, but my background was in radio and entertainment.  I spent a year in LA after college, then went on the road with a band called Cowboy Mouth for three years.  For the most part, I worked merch, though I would take some pictures and post them on a website that I created to update my friends and family.  Before long, some of those images sold – I made about $100 in one month.

Life moved on, and I moved back to Chicago.  Selling those images stuck with me, and in 2004, I decided to really try my hand at the business of photography.

While it is easier to call you an “event” photog, it’s not completely accurate.  You seem to be a jack-of all-trades.  What is your favorite subject to photograph?

Everything has its own appeal.  I love the challenge of live bands…the crowds, the lights…it all changes second to second.  I like travel and anything sports.  But I also enjoy portraits.  It’s a great compliment when someone really appreciates an image you have taken of them.

Where would someone start if they wanted to become an event photog?

“Don’t do it! We don’t need the competition!”…haha…just kidding.  Actually, I think photography is a very accessible art, and I encourage people to try it.  As for where to start…

Well, first things first, don’t go into it expecting much money.  For example, while there is value to having your name attached to large publications or big bands, nowadays, because photography is so accessible, that value is not monetary.  It comes instead in the form of brand building, a good reputation and buzz.

That being said, if you want to get involved in event photography, start small and never underestimate the importance of networking.  For example, if your passion is music photography, focus on smaller bands and go to local clubs without photography restrictions.  Those venues have several advantages – you have the flexibility to move around and be creative, which is impossible in a packed show – and often you have the ability to talk to the bands.  I encourage people to make those connections because you never know where those bands will be in a week/month/year.

Kid Rock Cruise

Kid Rock Cruise

What are some things about the event photographer lifestyle people should know?

I think most people have the wrong perception of what we do – we aren’t treated like VIPs, we aren’t partying with celebrities.  For example, if you have a pass to photograph a big band, you are escorted into the show.  Normally you are restricted to the pit, though occasionally you can work around the sound board.  You have three songs to get your shots, and then you are escorted out.  You never meet the bands, and most bands never see your photos.

To some degree, the exception to this is the Sixthman cruises because that is the nature of the event – it’s meant to be interactive – but I’m normally so busy I don’t have time to get close to the bands.  Love that I can go on 10-12 cruises a year, but they are 14 hour work days.  By the end of a cruise, I average 15,000 photos and…well…let’s put it this way.  I got back from the KISS boat on Sunday.  It’s a week and a half later and I’m still sorting through the shots.  Being an event photographer is a lot of work.

Another key to success is being organized from the get go…have a good system, label things…it’s something I’m always looking to improve in myself.

You also need to be self-motivated.  You are your own boss, which makes for a love-hate relationship.  I try to fire myself all of the time, but then I have to go re-hire myself or nothing gets done. Haha

And finally, be financially grounded.  My income works on a cyclical market…I’m making good money right now, but January and February might not be as profitable so I have to plan and budget.  It’s important to have a good handle on what your costs really are (Zack Arias put out a great blog post once about the costs actually associated with photographing a wedding) and understand that as a freelancer, you may not get paid on time so be prepared for that.

In life, they say its who you know…what impact would you say networking has had on your career?

Networking is 90% of the job.  I’m always trying to get better as a photographer, of course, but I think it’s my networking that gives me an edge.  That and not being stuck in a niche – I won’t turn away work because it’s not a Cubs game or a concert.  That versatility helps me.

Social media – especially Facebook – has been huge for me.  I like that it’s so interactive and makes everyone more accessible.

In your opinion, besides networking, what are some other keys to success that photogs should think about?

I’m going to reference one of the photographers that I admire, Chase Jarvis.  He always says the best camera is the one you have with you, and I think that’s so true.  I think it’s important to always be in a photography mindset…to practice and try new things.  I love experimenting with my Lumix PS – it’s lighter and less cumbersome than my dSLR.  I also use my iPhone all of the time.  In fact, I even sell canvas prints from iPhone photos – that’s income I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t always have a camera handy.

I really believe that everyone can be a photographer is they’re willing to put time into it.  It’s an everyman’s art, a creative outlet for anyone who wants to learn it.  Just find something you like to shoot and see where you can take it.

That’s one of the things I love about instagram feeds.  Sometimes I just scroll through and say, “Damn…that’s a good photo”.  Of course, for a lot of people it’s just a way to say they were there – quantity over quality – but for the people who enjoy it, they can excel if they put the time in.

First time being published?

I think the very first time was on the back cover of a CD, and after that…well…McDonalds.  The McDonalds in the Loop in Chicago purchased my images for a display.  Burger King also used some of my photos for a wallpaper collage.  In hindsight, I probably should have charged more for that. Haha

You have a long list of publications under your belt.  As a freelance photographer, what are your thoughts on that?

Well, I’ll reference another influential photographer, David Bergman.  He was the photographer for Bon Jovi…he took the gigipan during President Obama’s inauguration…he has his work in Sports Illustrated.  Despite his credentials, he has never gotten a call from someone wanting to hire him because they saw a magazine cover he shot.  Again, most publications don’t pay much these days, but they do help you build your name and create a perception of value.

That being said, it is a goal of mine to be published in Rolling Stone.

(I think that was a hint.)

Do you have any current projects you want people to know about?  Workshops?

I put out a book called “We Are Cubs Fans”.  It would make a great gift for the baseball fan in your life. 🙂

Also, updating my website.  If anyone out there is good at it, I would love the help!

Best way for people to find you?




A Music State of Mind

23 Oct
Vertical Horizon - Matt

Vertical Horizon – Matt

Every week I think about what photo type thing I want to share with the world, and today, I want to share music.Wha??

I know, I know…wrong art form. 🙂  What I mean is, today I want to talk about the art of taking live concert photos.  There are two reasons for this…  First, I happened to take concert photos a week ago, and I just found time to edit them. And second, **spoiler alert** I may or may not have a super secret/awesome interview lined up with a well-known photographer who made music photography a cornerstone of his career, and he wants to share his story with YOU! **end spoiler alert**

So, let’s talk about a concert environment for a bit, ok?  As a general rule, it’s dark and it’s loud.  For larger concerts with a good stage set-up, you have stage lights to help show your subject, but it’s often inconsistent.  Your white balance will most likely be completely wonky (technical term) and your guitarist and bassist are probably moving at a much different speed than your drummer and your animated lead singers.  Add to the mix some obstacles to shoot around, and the permissions issue…and you have one big hot mess.

Sounds great…sign you up, right?

Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit - www.heartsandthieves.com

Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

First and foremost, you want to think about the permissions issue.  Not every venue will allow “professional looking cameras”…aka DSLRs…without a photo pass.  Furthermore, some venues or artist management companies are now requiring you to sign away some of the rights to your photos in exchange for the photo pass.  In turn, this limits your use of the photos which may limit your desire to actually take the photos.

Phew!  That’s a lot to think about!

Okay, so let’s say you either go to a show that has no photography limitations, photo pass or otherwise.  The next thing to consider is the trade-offs.

Most concert halls are dark, which means you either need fast glass or you need to bump up the ISO.  So, do you prefer a super shallow depth of field which can make focusing (at least, it does for me!) tricky, or do you prefer a little bit of grain in your images?  For me, it’s a happy medium.

It’s also loud!  Now, I know that may seem silly to point out, but it can make a difference.  I actually went to one show that was so loud that the sound was vibrating the camera…I couldn’t figure out why every image was camera-shake-central, until I put some distance between myself and the speakers.  Suddenly the images sharpened back up. Haha

Rick of Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit - www.heartsandthieves.com

Rick of Hearts & Thieves opening for Buckcherry and Lit – http://www.heartsandthieves.com

For me, personally, crazy colors and obstacles are rarely an issue.  I don’t mind if my subjects have magenta hair and neon blue faces from the stage lights…it’s just a reflection of the moment.  Similarly, obstacles aren’t usually too much of a problem if you have any sort of freedom to move around or shift from side to side.  Doing that requires a little bit of self-awareness in the dark though.  You’re not on stage…don’t break a leg!

Finally, think about the effect of shutter speed.  As I said, if your subjects are putting on a good stage show, they’re going to be animated.  Do you leave the shutter open longer to let more light in, even if it results in some blur?

So many artistic decisions to make!  And you haven’t even begun to think about composition…and how many leading lines you can find on a stage! haha

Atomic Tom - Phil, Luke

Atomic Tom – Phil, Luke

I know I have said this before, but concert photography is truly a great marriage of my two favorite art forms.  The passion of the musicians on stage inspires me as a visual artists, and their energy gives the images life.  If you’ve ever thought it might be fun to take some concert photos…well, you’re right.  It is. Do it. 🙂


19 Jul

I admit, I have a serious love affair with mohawks.  They’re not right for everyone, but I have to respect any person willing to try it.  After all, mohawks are symonymous (in some dictionary somewhere) with self-confidence, which is a good thing.  Right?

This is a silhouette of my friend Rick, bass player for the band Hearts & Thieves. HashtagRockstar.

Mohawk Silhouette

Mohawk Silhouette

Music Therapy

6 Jul

Every female I know has done it.  There they are, listening to the radio, singing along at the top of their lungs (maybe that’s just me??) and before the last note fades, they are telling you that this song felt like it was written just for them.

[Note:] For all you aspiring songwriters out there… I cannot overstate the importance of lyrics to women, and since they make up over 50% of the world’s population…well, it’s something to think about! [end note]

Lyric Quotograph (Ships in the Night by Mat Kearney)

Lyric Quotograph (Ships in the Night by Mat Kearney)

Music is a medium through which the artist can give the consumer an emotional experience, showing them the highs and the lows of their own journey (or of the people around them) and telling stories so that the listener can learn from another’s successes and mistakes.  This is not unlike a great photo where the viewer connects to the image.  The best art, in whatever form, resonates with the consumer and their life experiences.

For me, the obvious choice for my Scavenger Hunt / Lyric Quotograph was a Mat Kearney tune.  The first time I heard “Ships in the Night” by Mat Kearney, I felt a shiver go up my spine.  (Video here, Lyrics here) While I didn’t think that the song was written for me in particular, I certainly felt like I could relate.  I felt like anyone who had ever been in a relationship, and dealt with the struggles that come along with a relationship, could understand.

Obviously, there is a lot of room for interpretation in art, but to me, Ships in the Night represents something I think every couple goes through to some extent.  In my opinion, it’s not a reflection on the couple, but rather, a statement about human nature and our ability to become desensitized to things.  Even strong couples face this, but it is something I think the healthiest of relationships work hard to guard against.  In no particular order, but all related:

-We begin to take things for granted (and everyone wants to be appreciated)
-We don’t take a walk in his or her shoes (and if you can’t understand where he or she is coming from, you won’t be willing to work towards fulfilling their needs)
-We don’t put the relationship first (which can lead to resentment, and an emotional disconnect)

To me, this song is a great reminder that when dealing with the insignificant day-to-day stuff, it’s generally better to be happy than to be right. It’s also a strong reminder that relationships aren’t always easy or comfortable, but for the right person, we will endure the lows while we grow together towards something better.

“I’m gonna find my way, back to your side.” …Smile-maker.

The Details

14 Jun

The other night, I was editing an image.  I was cloning out a scuff on the wall behind my subject, and a friend asked why I would bother.

My answer? Portrait edits are an art unto themselves.  The difference between an “ok” photo and a photo that pops can very well be in the details.

Kevin Howard - Edit

Kevin Howard – Edit


Kevin Howard - No Edit

Kevin Howard – No Edit

Obviously, as with anything else in life, there needs to be some substance to the image to begin with.  Good composition, feel…an emotional connection to the subject are all so important in portrait photography.  The thing that adds the polish though, is a strong edit.

Are the tones even?  Are there distracting shadows? Are the eyes bright? Teeth? Are there distracting blemishes? Wrinkles? Fly-aways?

What about the background?  Is the backdrop clear of distractions?  If you missed something while shooting, are you making a conscious decision to leave that in while you post process…or did you never see it to begin with?

Personally, I almost always prefer to dress my images up before I show them to the world.  Especially when these are paid images that will be used for publication!  A happy client will bring you more business…and that alone is motivation to clone stamp til the cows come home! 😉

Kevin Howard - Poster

Kevin Howard – Poster

I’m Not a Stuff Person

10 May

But she’s purty.  And coy…look at her hiding behind the pop screen.

Mic - Check 1,2

Mic – Check 1,2

Musical Mood

10 May
Joe Brooks, Tyrone Wells

Joe Brooks, Tyrone Wells

I’m in a music sort of mood, so piggybacking off of the last quotography photo, I’m going to share one of the images from a concert I attended a few days back.  Keywords: Joe Brooks, Tyrone Wells, Fairfield Theatre

I think I’m drawn to music only slightly less than I’m drawn to photography, and see so many parallels between the two.  The way consumers treat the art are completely different, but ultimately, both are an expression of self.  And having success in both mediums means facing a lot of the same trials.

During Tyrone’s set, Joe Brooks came out to share a song.  I smiled from ear to ear for two reasons.  First, I think that for them, there is a certain pleasure that comes from doing what you truly love, and having people embrace what you put out into the world.  We all need to be appreciated.

Second, I thought about how wonderful it is when musicians share in each other’s joy.  As I said, arts are an expression of self, but it thrives a community setting.  We creatives thrive in an environment of support.  To see the two musicians making music together just reminded me of how great that experience is, and can be for all of you.

Knowing all that, can you see why this photo would be a smile-maker?

If you don’t know of either artist, check them out.  They may not be your cup of tea, but you have to respect that they are willing to put themselves out there every night.

To see more images from the concert, check out my Facebook page – the full album lives there.  Oh, and hit the Like button please! =)

Shake, Shake, Shake…

29 Apr

Vintage is in.  That means polaroids are groovy again. Can ya dig?

Polaroid of a Polaroid?

Polaroid of a Polaroid?

I bought this guy cheap simply because I enjoy photographing old cameras.  There is a strange, yet satisfying irony in it.  I also determined that the best way to edit this image would be to crank the vintage knob to 100 for two reasons.  The first obvious…I wanted to mimic the Polaroid prints it would have produced.  But also, as I mentioned in a previous (incredibly awesome, well-thought-out, inspiring, almost as good as a cold beer) post, vintage feels have been made popular by apps like Instagram and who am I to disagree with the laws of supply and demand. It’s what people want, therefore, it’s what people will get!

Also, for those of you in the know, yes I was referencing one of my favorite songs – Shake, Shake, Shake – off of one of my favorite band’s newest album. And for those of you who aren’t in the know…check them out! http://www.bronzeradioreturn.com/

The Hours We Keep

30 Mar

Is it a requirement that creatives keep weird hours?  I spent all night editing photos (and watching girly movies…multi-tasking!) of Sister Hazel, taken at a recent music festival.  (On a boat. To the Caribbean.  It was amazing.)

As I finished, and began posting to various social media, I noticed another photographer-friend had also just put up a post.

Within minutes of putting up the images on Facebook, some of my musician-friends had already liked the photos. (Are we friends on Facebook?  If not, we should be!  Find me. =D)

The time? 2:27 AM EST.

Oh the hours we creatives keep!

The fruits of my late-night/early-morning labor:

Vertical Horizon - Matt

Vertical Horizon - Matt

Atomic Tom - Phil, Luke

Atomic Tom - Phil, Luke

The Alternate Routes - Tim, special guest Chip

The Alternate Routes - Tim, special guest Chip

Sister Hazel - Jett (and a ton of smoke and lights!)

Sister Hazel - Jett (and a ton of smoke and lights!)