Bad Photo Tip: How to Get Your Camera Into a Music Venue

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If your area is getting back to having concerts again, get excited. It means the virus is coming under control. But you probably want to shoot photos, and that’s going to be kind of tough to do. Many music venues don’t really want a camera that can produce professional or commercial images. They don’t know that you’re probably just doing this for fun. But, even though they may assume you’re press because of the camera you have, there are still great ways to get your camera into a music venue. 

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Concert Photography: These Cameras and Lenses are Real Rockstars

If you want to try your hands at concert photography, just know that these cameras and lenses will help you score incredible images.

As we head deeper into summer, more and more concerts come to our cities, and that means that more and more photographers try their hands at concert photography. This exciting, yet challenging genre of photography requires fast lenses so that you can shoot in low light, and it requires cameras that can handle high ISOs easily.  There are plenty of cameras and lenses on the market that are suitable for concert photography, but this roundup will focus on our favorite cameras and lenses that will help you capture all of the on-stage antics. Continue reading…

The Hustle: How to Break into Concert Photography (Legitimately)

Before you start getting paid you have to do a lot of free work and network with the proper people.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, not everyone is going to want to hustle and work for free to get these shots. But getting out there,working on your portfolio constantly and thinking outside of the box will most certainly create those opportunities. On most weeks you should have 2-3 opportunities easily available to you to start to get out there. So here are five tips on how to actually have a great beginner concert portfolio in two weeks flat.

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9 Cameras for Concert Photography That Perform Miracles in Low Light

We’ve highlighted cameras that will suit many budgets, and that will allow anyone to get into, or conquer concert photography.

When it comes to concert photography you need a camera that has excellent high ISO output. Concert venues (despite all of the stage lights) are incredibly dark places, so you will need to crank up the ISO to be able to maintain an adequate shutter speed. Fortunately, shooting at high ISOs, and producing usable images is something many modern cameras can do quite easily, there are some that are still better than others though. The good news is that you really don’t have to spend ludicrous amounts of money to be able to break out into concert photography if you don’t want to. Here we will take a look at 9 cameras for concert photography whose high ISO performance is their biggest hit. Continue reading…

8 Lenses That Will Help You Rock Your Next Concert Photography Gig

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These fast prime and zoom lenses are perfect for concert photography and for the upcoming concert season.

Concert photography is one of the more exciting genres that we can participate in. Not many things are better than hearing the music of our favorite bands, and getting to take pictures at the same time. Having the right lenses can make this challenging genre much easier for the photographer. Whether you are shooting a concert inside in a dimly lit venue, or are outside and have to deal with more distance to the stage, your gear must be able to perform. Here we’ll take a look at eight fast lenses that will help make concert photography easy. Continue reading…

The Thrifty Photographer:How to Shoot Concert Photography on the Cheap

Getting into Concert Photography seriously doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg.

We all know that there is gear out there considered the be the best options for concert photography, but what about the gear that works? And what if you’re on a really slim budget? Well thankfully, no one is really making terrible cameras–and they haven’t been for years. So we’re going to take a look at some of the most thrifty options on the market.

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This Fujifilm Camera and Vintage Lens Help Jennifer Carter Create Unique Concert Photos

All images by Jennifer Carter. Used with permission.

Jennifer Carter fell into concert photography through circumstance. Her love for music and passion for photography were brought together and she hasn’t looked back since. Her images provoke connection and feeling, almost to the point you can hear and feel the music from her subjects. Borrowing from the best of both worlds, Jennifer uses a combination of modern camera bodies and vintage lenses. Intrigued by this approach, we caught up with her to learn more about her work.

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The Results of Testing the Nikon Z7 vs the Fujifilm X-T2 for Concert Photography

We recently took the Nikon z7 and the Fujifilm X-T2 to an Ataris concert; the results really shocked us.

“Think they’ll mind if I bring a camera?” I said to Reviews Editor Paul Ip in a text message a few hours before we went to see the Ataris together. Ultimately, they didn’t mind at all; that’s the honest truth about how this post is coming together. This wasn’t planned, and it isn’t a formalized test because, well, it would be completely stupid and nonsensical to make this into a formalized test. When Reviews Editor Paul Ip and I decided to use the Nikon z7 and the Fujifilm XT2 to shoot the Ataris concert, we got to the front row of the very tightly packed Kingsland venue in Brooklyn, and we shot. We couldn’t get the center, we couldn’t even really move lest we surrendered our spot. But we made the most of it, and we learned a lot about the Nikon z7 and the Fujifilm X-T2.

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Courtney Coles: Photographing Musicians the Way Their Music Sounds

All images by Courtney Coles. Used with permission.

If we were to list the top photography “dream” jobs, music and concert photography will definitely be on the list. It sure looks fun to have the prime spot not only for watching the biggest bands and acts up close, but also for getting some snaps of the awesome performances. But, as Los Angeles-based Courtney Coles tells us in this interview, it’s not as easy as it seems. It may start with wanting to take home photos to remember the performance with, but the road to doing it professionally can start in many different ways. From there, it’s all about documenting what goes down in gigs in your own style and perspective.

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This Photo Book Looks Back at the 1974 Show That Made Bruce Springsteen the “Rock and Roll Future”

Fans of both rock and roll and Bruce Springsteen may want to take a trip down memory lane through this photo book featuring photos by Barry Schneier.

In early May 1974, Bruce Springsteen performed a show that is now considered to be the turning point in his career, and an important moment in the music industry. That night, two key personalities catapulted Springsteen from “the new Bob Dylan” into “the rock and roll future”: music critic for Rolling Stone Jon Landau and photographer Barry Schneier. A photo book showcasing many never before seen photos taken by Schneier from that historic performance is currently being funded on Kickstarter.

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From the Pit: An Introduction to Photographing Concerts

All concert photography images by Olivia Pasquarelli

In my opinion, shooting live music is one of the most challenging photographic experiences possible. For starters, there is very low light, and it’s constantly changing. I’ve shot in venues that are lit by a single bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, and venues that have light shows that move beams of colored light in all directions. In addition, your subjects are constantly and unpredictably moving around. You’re surrounded by people who, depending on what genre of music you’re shooting, are dancing, jumping, pushing you and spilling drinks left and right. Depending on your access, you may have a limited amount of time to get the perfect shot.  Most larger venues only give photographers the first three songs to shoot.

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“No Cameras Allowed” to Showcase Unseen Rock Concert Photographs from the 80’s

Images from “No Cameras Allowed” Kickstarter Page

Concert goers and rock photography fans: here’s something right up your alley, especially if you’ve sneaked in some gear in one too many “no camera” concerts and emerged unscathed, with images intact to tell the tale. Writer, filmmaker, and author Julian David Stone seeks to publish a coffee table book of never-before-seen photos from his “career as an outlaw rock and roll photographer” in the 1980’s. He’s looking into getting it crowd-funded, if that’s a project you’re keen to support.

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These 12 Prime Lenses Are Great For Shooting Concerts

Concert photography has a wide range of participants, from the casual fan in the crowd to the full time professional in the pit. But they also have a range of venues, from outdoor amphitheaters to downtown dive bars. So for someone looking to get into concert photography, where should they start in terms of lenses for their kit?

Zoom lenses offer some great benefits thanks to their versatility, but generally suffer when compared to prime lenses in terms of their aperture ratings and how much light they can gather. You can go either way, but for someone looking to dabble in concert work, or looking to keep the budget within reason, a prime lens is a good way to do that. Today we are going to highlight several of our favorite prime lenses for concert photography, so lets get into it!

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How to Edit Your Documentary Photo Project and What to Ask Yourself Before Starting

Photo by Dana Ullman from the series Another Kind of Prison used with permission.

While it may sound precocious to discuss what to do before starting a documentary photo project then jump into its final edit, bare with me. The point is that preparation before you pick up your camera is just as crucial to your photo story as your final presentation, and you should keep both in mind throughout the shooting and editing.

Telling the story

A documentary photo story needs a visual flow from beginning to end–just as a written story has an introduction, supporting facts or ideas, and conclusion, but translated into a visual context. Unlike selecting a single image used in a news story that summarizes an event, you offer the viewer to dig in deeper into your subject and see a wider picture; to get to know the subject from their personal perspective or an issue in a more intimate way. You have the creative freedom to choose how to present your story, and it is up to you to responsibility construct it with empathy and compassion, while still remaining true and factual to the story.

Photo by Dana Ullman from the series Another Kind of Prison used with permission

Before you begin, ask yourself:

1. What do I really want to shoot? Put the camera aside, sit down with pen and paper and brainstorm ideas. Ask yourself, what are my passions and interests? Sometimes just seeing the words on paper can make this clearer. Narrow the list down to what is realistic for you both long and short term; considering your options as far as traveling, personal and time constraints. Don’t set yourself up for failure by stating you will photograph every homeless person in New York City or document living in a nudist colony for two years if you have no desire to fully live that lifestyle. If you feel stuck, go through your images and ask yourself what you enjoy shooting the most.

2. Why does this matter to me and what is the point? You may very well care about climate change, but just find yourself deeply curious about the life of a female boxer, or the late night party scene in rural neighborhoods. Choosing a subject or topic you love is so important because your genuine interest will determine how dedicated you will be to the project, how excited you will be to keep shooting, and the commitment you will make to creating an outstanding visual documentary. Whether your story is to increase funding for public schools or simply build your portfolio, determining your goals to keep you on track.

3. Who or what do I know already that I can work with? Often times the best story you can tell is close to home, both geographically and emotionally. Focusing on an issue or subject “in your own backyard” can often yield the most intimate story because you are already familiar with it in ways that outsiders are not, while also making it realistic to go back often to continue shooting and evolving the story. Once you have the topic of your story compile a list of contacts you have already. Share your project with friends and people in your community – you may discover the clerk at your local corner store has a tie to the Yemen community you wish to cover and can put you in contact with people you would never reach from a Google search. Explain to them the intentions of your project and your interest, and be honest.

4 Has it been done before? If so, how can I photograph and present it in a new way? Do some research online to see what photography is already out there on the subject or issue. If your topic is broad, pick an angle to dig deeper. Maybe your story idea on animal shelters in Brooklyn had been done already, so why not try Staten Island where there may be a few shelters that have not been documented? Or narrow your focus even smaller and stick to one shelter only, working directly with a couple contacts who can allow you all access to shoot when other shelters may not. Write out a list of potential moments to keep an eye out for, adjusting this as you continue working with your subject.

5. How much time can I invest in this project? If you are on a trip away from home for your story, be prepared to make multiple trips back and keep in contact with your subjects so they don’t forget you. If you can only shoot on weekends, start with a project you can fit into your schedule that won’t be overwhelming. Each time you set out with your camera to photograph, remind yourself of your purpose so that you can look for these moments as they present themselves.

6. Do I want to include a written story with the images? While it is true that good visual storytelling images should speak for themselves, consider the information you can add to your story by including quotes from individuals and background text on the subject. If you don’t feel comfortable doing your own writing, try anyways or collaborate with a writer to work with you. The writer can be collecting quotes and facts, while you focus on making images. Also having another person invested in your project will help to bounce off ideas and keep you motivated.

7. How do I know when I am done shooting? Many variables will affect how much time you have to access your subject and keep shooting. If you are working on a project away from home and only intend to stay for one week, your story still needs an end. If you intent to return to the same location or issue many times – maybe multiple times for an ongoing project, you have time to cull the images, go back and shoot again, waiting for new elements to appear. You never know when a key subject in your story will unexpectedly leave or stop answering your calls, so shoot any opportunity as if it may be your last because the ending may be chosen for you.

How to edit your story

Photo by Dana Ullman from the series Another Kind of Prison used with permission

So you shot your story. Before putting together your story edit, go back and review what you wrote about the project in the beginning. Review and remind yourself throughout the project, as to what you are shooting and why; asking yourself what each image adds to the story in relation to the bigger story.

In professional Journalism writing, an article should include the Five W’s and one H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. I’ll add to that Who Cares? This guideline comes in handy also when shooting and editing your photo story. While you may not be able to visually show all of these, keeping them in mind will help you in your process of telling a complete story.

Photo by Gretchen Robinette from the series Election Results

How many images will you include? It should be at least 10, but 20 – 30 may be needed to tell the story. Depending on how long term your project is, you may be working with a week of shooting or 6 months. Go through all the images, and edit down to a wide selection. Then, with each image chosen, ask yourself how it adds to the story. Certain images will be needed to tell the story, such as detail shots and overviews that give a sense of place and time. Some of these images may not tell the story as stand-alone images, yet are crucial when used in the context of the story. This probably will cut your edit down.

Next, take your new edit and have small prints made, lay them out on the floor or tack to a wall and view them. There is nothing quite as rewarding as seeing all of your images and hard work together in actual print form as opposed to clicking thru on a computer monitor. You can move them around, toss some prints out, add some back and play around until you find a natural visual flow. Maybe the crucial exterior shot or portrait you have is good but could be better. If you have the option of returning (this is when shooting a local story has its advantage) go back and reshoot it at night or sunset. Don’t let yourself settle after all this hard work.

Photo by Gretchen Robinette from the ongoing series on New York City Protests

Now step back. If you are invested in your photo project, as you should be, you will have scanned over the images so many times your eyes will gloss over. You need to separate yourself from everything you saw when shooting. Put the images away for a few days and revisit the edit with a fresh eye. It is hard as photographers to let go of certain frames that are beautiful images on their own but are not adding to the story. It doesn’t matter how hard it was for you to get a certain shot or how difficult the lighting situation was, no one knows this or cares. All anyone sees are the images.

Ask a few people to view the images and give an honest constructive critique. Your best friend may say,”Oh all of them are amazing you are such a good photographer!” While this may be true, chances are asking photo editors and photographers to view your story with an understanding of the editing process will be far more valuable than a pat on the back. You will likely hear things you didn’t expect as you present your story for the first time; it might even hurt. But this is good. If they can’t figure out what the story is about, your wider audience won’t be able to either, so practice on a couple people you trust before presenting it to the world. Ultimately it is your story, so consider the advice but stay true to your vision in the final edit. Trust your gut.

Ashley Hoffman: “Black and white photos are timeless”

Black and white photography is important to me because it makes me think as a photographer. A lot of time, I depend on the lights and colors to create an appealing photo but in B&W, I don’t have those elements to use as a crutch. I actually started out my photography career shooting concerts. I wanted to see a show for free so I volunteered to photograph it for my school newspaper. Even now, after photographing different subjects, concerts and music still inspire me the most. Black and white photos are timeless. They have inspired artists for ages and they definitely will continue to inspire me.

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Karim Mansour’s Evocative Black and White Concert Photos

Karim Mansour describes himself as a part time photographer living in Oslo, Norway and shoots primarily concerts and landscapes.black-cobra

What makes black and white photography so important to you?

I’ve always been fascinated by black and white photographs. As far back as I remember, visiting my late grand mother’s house meant one thing for me: rummaging through dusty boxes full of prints from as far back as the late 1920s.

I am not sure what drew me to them, but there was something special about them. I grew up in a world of colour. So seeing colours somewhat stripped from reality made me spend more time on each print and eventually fall in love with the medium.

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My photographic interests began many years later and the first rolls of film I bought were black and white negatives. The jump to digital followed the same path with early experimentation in black and white processing.

I became more and more focused on landscape photography. Artists such as Michael Kenna, Michael Levin, Nathan Wirth and many others became my inspirations. I began to study analog black and white processing and printing in order to improve my digital workflow. It is this, studying, which makes black and white photography so important to me. Because I study black and white images, not just look at them in a passing glance. I spend time looking at the elements, tones, structures, shades, everything and exploring the techniques, tools and concepts behind each image.

What inspires you to create photographs?

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It is usually a feeling. This is most true when out in landscapes. I often go hiking in the woods or mountains with no intended image to be created. And I wait for that inspiration. For the light to fall a certain way or a composition to suddenly appear. Many times I return with no images at all.

My interests in subject matters tend to change and I would easily go into a hibernation period where I do not even venture out with the intent to photograph. When the urge suddenly appears again, I would pursue it relentlessly. I become focused on the subject (which in recent years has become quite specific: trees at night, stars, etc.). As of late I have been drawn to the night. I enjoy the solitude the night offers as well as the soft, almost faint, light that falls on the subject I am photographing. To me, it is a soothing feeling. Going full circle, it is a feeling of an image projected by the scene in front of me that inspires me.

Why is black and white photography so important to our future in the art world?

I am not an art historian or art critic so perhaps my answer to this might not be the one with most depth. What I do believe is that we need to take a step back, breathe and appreciate the world we live in and to me, black and white photography is the medium that gives us this breathing space. To embrace the image and give some thought into the process of creating it. From an art world perspective, I find that black and white photography is able to push boundaries more than colour. The play of light and shadow, contrasts and tones can lend them perfectly to any subject thereby making the medium relevant to art in its broadest term.

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Art in itself serves multiple purposes. It tells stories, shows beauty, shock and inspire though and reflection and many more (depending on how art is defined). There is no reason to think that black and white photography cannot fill any of these or that it will seize to deliver to any form of art.

There will always be an interest in black and white photography. This interest is part nostalgia and part experimentation – both of these are legitimate reasons in my opinion.

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Special Report: Using the Sony a6500 for Concert Photography

One of the perks of running a large independent photography blog is the fact that I am blessed with the ability to try gear in situations that I may not have ever done before. So earlier last year when Sony brought myself and a number of other journalists to Austin, TX they set us up to be able to play with their new Sony a6500 as a concert was happening. Now, let me frank: Sony did everything that they possibly could to deliver “good lighting” which as you’ll find out reading this month’s content, isn’t the case with most concerts. In fact, it’s only ever been the case with one show I’ve seen, and this is an exception.

Sony stuffed a 24MP APS-C sensor into the a6500, gave it more responsive autofocusing abilities for photojournalists, better video, better high ISO output, and well for a concert photographer that’s all you’ll really care about. You still get that fantastic and fast ability to be able to transfer an image to your phone or tablet so you can shoot it off to Instagram ASAP, and you still get very good ergonomics for something like this.

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Concerts and the musicians in them run the gamut of personalities: they can be really crazy and all over the place, or they can be pretty stagnant. In this case, the musicians were mostly stagnant. This is much unlike lots of the punk rock, hardcore and metal shows that I remember photographing when I was still cutting my teeth as a young Phoblographer. This time around though, the cameras have better image quality, focusing, and are smaller.

Shooting Methods

Generally speaking for concert photography, I’m always a person that prefers to use the tried and true focus and recompose method. In real life situations, it’s simply easier unless you’ve preset your autofocusing point, chosen a specific composition and are hellbent on getting a great shot with the framing you’re working with. There’s truthfully nothing wrong with that, but the closer you get to a subject, the more you’ll often find that focusing and recomposing works a lot. Photographers have done it for years, and as long as you shift your plane rather than tilt your plane of focus, you should be alright.

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When shooting with Sony’s cameras, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that they’ve got a black and white creative profile built in. I typically like setting this to high contrast and sharpness. Then when I’m shooting a concert, I like to underexpose just slightly if I can in most situations to be able to  do two things:

  • Get more details in the highlights
  • To stop fast moving motion.

Just remember that modern cameras allow you to push files for quite a while, so one or two stops shouldn’t be a major issue with black and white photography.

I’ve shot in pits before, and the “pit” that Sony gave us allowed us to have a whole lot of room. 20 or more journalists were allowed to move freely around with lots of comfortable spaces.

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Any time that I’ve ever been in a pit, everyone has been stacked up on one another. Because I’m short, I’m bound to get a lens or someone else on me trying to use me as a human tripod. But this time around, we were given very free reign. Keep that in mind when and if you ever want to get into shooting concerts.

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The Sony a6500 in Use for a Concert

Sony’s a6500 is more than capable of shooting great photos in a concert setting. But to get the most out of it, you’ll want one of the company’s faster focusing lenses like their 28mm f2. This lens is small and also very lightweight, so it works very well with the a6500’s small camera body. You’ll have a field of view a bit longer than 35mm, but it will be workable for the space you’re getting when you’re up against the stage.

The camera also has tracking autofocus abilities which work out well enough in most cases. If you combine it with face detection, you’re bound to get certain hit or miss situations. As musicians move around a stage they go from dark, to light, to red, to blue, or green. These can all throw off a camera’s autofocus algorithms. I strongly recommend using either the center focusing point to initially focus and then let the camera track the subject across the frame. This will also help due to the fact that you’re going to need to turn off the AF assist beam when photographing the performers.

Image Quality

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All of my photos were edited in Capture One 10 with the highlights adjusted, a black and white conversion and the exposure changing a bit. Plus, I boosted the clarity a tad. The a6500 does very well at higher ISOs and is able to pull a fair chunk of extra details out of the highlights. Even when pushing the shadows, the camera isn’t a drag at all. Then when you get into manipulating certain color levels, you’ll see just how much more you’ll be able to get from the camera’s very good sensor.

What’ fascinated me even more is just how good 13×18 prints make when shooting with this camera at ISO 6400. The noise doesn’t really look film-like, but it isn’t bad at all in the situations where you even see noise.

Overall, the Sony a6500 is a rather decent camera for capturing musicians as they perform. Despite the fact that I feel that any camera can deliver great images, there’s still something I personally feel about full frame cameras and their ability to capture scenes at a concert.

But that’s very highly personal.

Concert Photography: Legalities and Licensing Of Your Photos (Premium)

All images in this post are used with Creative Commons Permission.

The Foo Fighters take the stage and perform yet another show, this time in Quebec. Imagine the surprise lead singer David Grohl must have had when he looked down to the photographers’ pit and saw…a cartoon sketch artist! Newspaper Le Soleil sent artist Francis Dersharnais to sketch the show instead of a photographer to protest the Foo Fighters’ photographer’s contract, which gave Foo Fighters all rights to any photos shot by the photographers.

The contract didn’t cover drawings.

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La Noir Image is Featuring Concert and Music Photographers

Hey folks,

Our premium publication, La Noir Image, is currently spotlighting concert and music photographers. This site is a black and white photography publication aimed at inspiring and educating the modern photographer.

From now on, artist features will be free for everyone to view. So if you want to spread the word about your work, this is a great way to do it! You can head on over to La Noir Image’s About page for all the details.

Vlad Gheorghiu: Concert Photography And The Moment

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All images by Vladimir Gheorghiu. Used with permission.

Vladimir Gheorghiu is a 22 year old Romanian photographer interested mainly in concert, portrait,  street photography and music. Indeed, visit his EyeEm account and you’ll see loads of this. He’s young, and would like to pursue a career in photography and to tour as a photographer with any kind of band. He’s also the winner of our recent Youth of Today contest with EyeEm.

For Vlad, it’s all about finding a way to convert sounds into images. While most other photographers will go for interaction between the artists and the crowd, Vlad goes for a more ethereal, cinematic, and even painterly look.

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ISO 400 Episode #002: Mike Lerner

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All photographers are used with permission by Mike Lerner.

In this episode of ISO 400, we hear from Mike Lerner, a poker-player-turned-photographer who got his start in concert photography. In 2007, he photographed a then-unknown Katy Perry, and steadily networked and photographed his way up the ladder. He eventually landed a gig as Justin Bieber’s tour photographer, traveling on-and-off with him over the course of three years. Despite his successes in concert photography, he has left the genre for lifestyle photography, and has since attracted some big name clients.

Here, he shares his reasons for leaving concert photography, his insights on that business, and the projects he’s working on now. Below are some examples of his work (slight NSFW warning: there’s an underwear shot below).

Editor’s note: There were some questions about the first episode regarding whether or not ISO 400 is actually a podcast. It will be. We’re presently working on getting this on iTunes. For now, we’re releasing episodes on YouTube.

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