Amber Stokosa Photography: Blog en-us (C) Amber Stokosa Photography (Amber Stokosa Photography) Wed, 31 Dec 2014 05:29:00 GMT Wed, 31 Dec 2014 05:29:00 GMT Amber Stokosa Photography: Blog 120 106 Best Band of 2014: New Politics And it’s not just about their live show.

This is a band that really cares for their fans and went from headlining The Shelter (a small venue in the basement of Saint Andrew’s Hall) in February: 
New Politics at The Shelter [Detroit]Click to open gallery

to headlining Saint Andrew’s Hall itself in November:
New Politics at Saint Andrew's Hall [Detroit]Click to open gallery
Not to mention a sold-out headline show at The Loft in Lansing in July:
New Politics at The Loft [Lansing]Click to open gallery

AND joining Paramore and Fall Out Boy on MONUMENTOUR, playing DTE Energy Music Theatre in the summer:
New Politics at MONUMENTOUR [Detroit]Click to open gallery

I was lucky enough to experience those four shows (and of course they were lucky enough to come to Michigan that often)! They were touring fiends this year! And judging by their ever-growing facebook fan community and twitter/Instagram posts, they met every fan they possibly could.

And, if you follow me on Instagram (@astokosaphoto), you already know that I did a hilariously fun and honest interview with the band last April 2013 (watch it here). After that not only was I in love with their music, but they are just great, fun, down-to-earth people. Both they and their crew have been pretty good to me ever since.

But here’s the real reason New Politics is my pick for “band of the year:”

Ask any music photographer and I’m pretty sure they share the same fantasy: you’re at a show, innocently shooting away, when the band surprises you and pulls you up on stage.

Well, New Politics made this fantasy come true for me this summer.

Near the end of the set at their sold-out Lansing show I was standing side stage, getting in some crowd shots (with singer David Boyd up against the front line). I looked down at my screen to preview a shot I’d just taken and noticed that singer David Boyd – along with everyone in the crowd – was staring at me.

(It was a bad photo, but just to add to the story here it is↓)

Bad photo, but this is what I saw. I looked up and snapped back to reality when I realized that he was calling my name.

“Amber! AMBER! Get up here!”

I quickly swallowed my embarrassment and hopped up on stage. Boyd asked me to take a photo of the three band members with the crowd.

So there it was – my photography fantasy was coming true. Adrenaline was rushing through me but I tried my best to stay calm. I hadn’t had that many people looking at me since I was in my high school musical in ’04!

Thankfully my fisheye lens was mounted on my D600 because that was the only way I was going to be able to get the entire crowd in the shot.

While they were setting themselves up I tested my settings with the lighting so I was ready when they were.

They struck a pose, the fans put their arms up, I snapped about four photos and that was it.

Before I left the stage each band member said thank you and gave me a quick hug.

Nicest guys ever.

And that was it, just a few seconds and I had lived out my music photography fantasy. 

New Politics at The Loft [Lansing]

So thank you, New Politics, for making my year. :)

••• Enjoy a few more photos below! •••

Soren Hansen of New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery

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]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Detroit Louis Vecchio MONUMENTOUR Michigan Nikon best of 2014 concert concert photographer concert photography david boyd harlem usa tour live music music blog music photographer music venue new politics new politics concert new politics live new politics photos photography photography blog soren hansen Wed, 31 Dec 2014 05:29:04 GMT
How I Got Started With Concert Photography I've gotten this question a lot lately so I figured I'd answer it with a blog post. Here's the short(ish) version:

1. Was inspired by an internship.
2. Got a camera.
3. Found an outlet.
4. Photographed shows.
5. Did lots and lots of research.
6. Got a great opportunity to be a house photographer at a music venue.
7. Got a better camera.
8. Kept shooting.


// Inspiration //
So I had this cool internship back in 2009 and helped this awesome concert production company put on their summer concert series at three venues: an arena and two amphitheatres. 

I worked onsite at as many shows as I could, and my main duty was escorting the photographers to the photo pit and back. I loved talking to them and was totally fascinated with their job and their work.

// Getting a camera //
I kept raving to my family about how awesome my internship was because of the photographers, so as a graduation gift my dad bought me a DSLR: a Nikon D90.

If you ask my parents, I always had a camera in my hand as a kid and as I grew up that never changed. But I had never really thought about the fact that I could do it professionally. 

// Finding an outlet //
I figured I'd need to actually work for a publication to convince bands to give me access to shows so I applied to be a concert reviewer (aka "live music examiner") at and got the job. After some research I reached out to my first touring band, The Ataris, via the email listed on their facebook page.

// Shooting the first show //
I asked to review their show at our local dive bar and figured I'd bring my camera along. I read my camera's manual and felt like I knew the controls.

But wow. My photos were terrible. I remember standing there thinking "what am I doing wrong?? My ISO is as high as it can go!! Why won't my aperture go below f3.5??

Seriously, I'm not kidding; look at this:

The AtarisClick to open gallery in my old flickr

[Look at that blur. And that grain. And that red light! Yuck.]

I obviously did not do enough research. I shot with my kit lens. My KIT LENS.

After that I spent days and days scouring every online resource I could find about low-light photography. I bought the inexpensive 50mm f1.8 prime lens because that's all I could afford.

// Shooting the second show //
About a month and a half later I got to shoot my first show at what I call a "legit" venue (aka one you need a photo pass to get into with your camera), which was Anberlin at Saint Andrew's Hall in Detroit. 

The band's policy was the usual first three songs, no flash from the pit. I didn't have a flash but I had this nasty little AF assist light that I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to turn off. 

So I manually focused every shot. 


It wasn't fun. 

The best shot I got from that show was probably of one of the openers, Civil Twilight:

Civil TwilightClick to open gallery in my old flickr

[Not bad for manual focus, right??]

// Getting that opportunity //
Three days later I moved to San Diego, California. I got a job at a music venue there and when they found out I had photographed concerts before I became the venue's house photographer. I realized later how big of an opportunity that was given my lack of experience.

So with that and I met and communicated with publicists, mangers, etc. and started covering shows more often.

// Better gear //
Whoever said "gear doesn't matter" did not photograph concerts. When you need to shoot at high ISOs you need a camera that performs well at high ISOs. So I got a Nikon D7000, which performs so much better in low light than the D90. 

// More and more research //
I spent almost all my spare time googling every possible phrase I could think of to help me find how-to or advice articles on concert photography. 

But I didn't feel like I really knew what I was doing until about six months (and about five or six shows) later. And I didn't learn how to do much in the way of post processing until the summer of 2012 (two years after I had started shooting). 

// Advice //
The main thing I want to stress is the only thing that will help you get better is EXPERIENCE. The more you shoot the more you'll learn, the better you'll get, and the more confident you'll feel. 

// More FAQs //
What do you shoot with? A Nikon D7000 and Nikon D600.
What settings do you normally use? Please don't ask me this. Learn about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Settings depend on the lighting and are different at every show. 

How do you get photo passes? I have another blog post for that.

[If you have any questions don't hesitate to comment below or email me at!] 


]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) concert photographer concert photography music photographer Wed, 26 Feb 2014 05:09:41 GMT
Photos: New Politics and a sold-out Detroit crowd Another show, another sell-out. That’s been the story of New Politics’ current headlining tour so far.

And seriously, it’s incredible how far these guys have come in just the past eight months or so.

I mean I first heard “Dignity” soon after it was released in 2010 but it wasn’t really until “Harlem” was released last year that their popularity really skyrocketed.  

There’s one thing I really love about New Politics, and that’s how smiley they are.

The last thing you want to be feeling at a show is that the band isn’t having a good time. These guys smile more than any band I've ever seen and not just at the crowd, but at each other.

And of course the fan interaction; that's always important and singer David Boyd takes it to the max. I think he hopped into the crowd at least three times last night at The Shelter.

Oh, and they mentioned that guitarist Soren Hansen was sick but honestly, no one could tell! The dude powered through. Also tossed his guitar in the air.

And after the show there were at least 50 people with meet & greet tickets waiting in line. If that doesn't say a band "made it" I don't know what does.

Oh also, confetti.

From a photography perspective: not great lighting; a lot of saturated colors and pretty dim. Better than I expected, but my ISO never went below 5000. The band moves quickly so my shutter speed needed to be at least 200. I used flash only when David went out into the crowd.

So enjoy some photos; I went a little overboard and took over 1,000. Narrowed it down, though; don't worry.

(Magic Man & Sleeper Agent photos coming soon)

New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery New PoliticsClick to open gallery

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Nikon concert concert photographer concert photography david boyd harlem usa tour live music louis vecchio music blog music photographer music venue new politics photography soren hansen Thu, 06 Feb 2014 02:03:09 GMT
#tbt: A Chat with Tyler Glenn [w/ photos] I fell in love with Neon Trees in 2010 when they played a festival in Lansing, MI called Common Ground.

I loved their music, I loved that they were different, and I loved what their singer Tyler Glenn stood for (I still do). 

I got to chat with Tyler over the phone in 2011 and besides being hella nervous to do my first ever phone interview, I was excited that it was with him.

Looking back it was one of the best interviews I ever did; Tyler was so true to his answers and although I was scrambling to write down everything he was saying while still trying to listen intently, I'm still glad to have been able to do it. 

Neon Trees have blown up since then and I feel like I've lost touch with Tyler, but I'm really happy for all their success and I've been able to photograph the band a couple times!

I'm copying and pasting the interview from but if you want you can click over and read the full article.

Neon Trees - The Palace of Auburn Hills[click to open gallery]

About a year ago you guys toured with Civil Twilight and the Paper Tongues. What was your favorite thing about that tour?
The tour comradery; ya know, all the bands were near and hungry and ready to play, every night was a surprise. We all became really good friends and it was great touring with other young bands; we're still good friends with Civil Twilight.

What’s the story behind the name “Neon Trees?” 
I grew up in Temecula, CA and me and my friends would hang out after school at the In-N-Out, and they had a neon palm tree light, so “neon palm trees” evolved to “Neon Trees.” It's funny, we actually found out later that our bass player Branden's dad installed that palm tree light. 

Aren't you a vegan? What did you eat an In-N-Out?
Well, back in high school I was a vegetarian and they have an awesome veggie burger.

Do you have a favorite song to play?
Yeah, actually. We usually play "1983" earlier in our set; in kinda puts a spark in the audience and they just light up; sometimes I don’t even have to sing! We’ve also been playing a new one, well it’s actually an old one from our old ep - called "Attraction;" its really become a cool part of our encore.

Do you do most of the writing?
I write all the lyrics; we have a couple co-writes. Before Habits I was writing darker (but not really more negative) music, but when I was writing Habits I was kind of experimenting, and it opened a door in my head.

Neon Trees - The Majestic Theatre[click to open gallery] Who are some of your favorite artists/bands? Like what do you like to listen to when you're not writing, or on the road?
Well Branden’s been getting out his old punk records, like the kind of music I used to listen to when I was 13 & 14. I just got the new Lady Gaga record and I've been listening to that – and I've been saying that she writes dance music, don’t think too hard about what she’s creating. And in the summer I like to listen to the carefree mindless stuff that reminds me of my youth. When we’re on the road I like to listen to music that gets me hyped, not depressed.

Since you released Habits you guys have come so far; so where do you hope to be in the next year or so?
I hope it’s just a steady progression. "Animal" got us in front of a lot of people. I mean we’ve been touring off an album that’s a year and a half old, and I just wanna continue that climb instead of reaching a plateau. “Your Surrender” is our next single. It’s a good feeling when you’re a new band and you establish yourself with a name and not just a song; that's our dream and we feel like it’s gonna happen. And we’d just like to continue to reach people and entertain the fans that we have, and get new ones, and be respectable about trying to come off too cool.

Finally, is there anything you want to say to your fans in San Diego?
Yes! I miss you all and I’m really excited that we’re part of the fair! I’ve never been able to go because when I was 4 my family and I would go to the Del Mar fair; and I fell in the parking lot getting out of our family van and I fell on a glass bottle and actually have this scar on my knee still. The Del Mar fair is a memory of my childhood, hopefully I’ll get farther than the parking lot this time!

Neon Trees - The Palace of Auburn Hills[click to open gallery] Neon Trees - San Diego County Fair Neon Trees - San Diego County Fair

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Music journalist concert concert photographer concert photography live music music blog music journalism music photographer neon trees neon trees interview photography tyler glenn tyler glenn interview Thu, 16 Jan 2014 18:26:38 GMT
Concert Photography: 10 Tips for Good Photo Pit Etiquette On the Music Photographers' facebook page photographers will often post "complaint photos" - photos of something that the photographer didn't like while photographing a show. Usually these photos show something like a monopod raised up high or someone holding their camera high above their head, blocking other photographers' views (aka "lifting").

There are two simple rules to follow while in the photo pit photographing a show: Be considerate and practice safe photography.

Here's a breakdown on how to do so.

1. Don't push. We're not in elementary school anymore. Be nice and gentle about trying to get past other photographers. Apologize if you bump into someone or get caught on their backpack (although a backpack isn't a great thing to wear in the pit).

2. If you crouch down for a shot or two, stand up slowly and look behind you so you don't stand up right into someone's lens and gouge their eye out.

3. Move around. Get different angles. Give others a chance at getting shots from your position. Don't be "that guy" that stands in front of the stationary singer the entire time and upsets everybody else, especially if you spend any time reviewing shots or changing lenses. 

If you have a small step stool (usually something that's only needed at festivals or fairs), set yourself up toward the back of the pit. That should go without saying but I said it anyway.

4. Know the crowd and watch out for crowd surfers. Be aware of your surroundings. Use your peripheral vision. Being kicked in the head and shoved up against the stage is no fun.

Most of the time members of the security staff will warn you of an approaching crowd surfer, which sometimes involves pushing you out of the way. Don't get angry with them; they're doing you a favor.

5. First and foremost, you're there to take photos. You're not there to act like you're on the rail. Save the crazy dancing, singing, headbanging, and/or fangirling for after the first three songs. 

[Side note: when I'm photographing a band I really like I stand still and get a few shots; but when I'm traveling to another spot I quietly sing along, bob my head a bit, and usually have a big dumb grin on my face. Some people say concert photography loses its excitement after a while but I disagree completely.]

6. It's okay to lift. (Some will disagree with me here). BUT only do it when you must, and most importantly do it VERY QUICKLY and make sure there are NO OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS behind you. And remember that you're also blocking the views of the fans who paid for their tickets and probably waited for hours outside the venue before the doors opened to get their spots. 

One of the best times to lift is when you're far enough stage left or right and facing the other side of the venue. When the crowd is lit enough and the singer walks up to the front of the stage you can get a pretty good wide shot of both the crowd and singer.

twenty one pilots

When NOT to lift:

[There's someone behind you, buddy.]

7. Be courteous to the fans. You're not better or cooler than them (and I'm not sure why you would think that); sure, sometimes their behavior can be a bit ridiculous but they are there purely to have a great f***ing time. Don't ruin it for them. 

Fans are everything. Without them there would be no concert. 

Paul McCartney

[Side note: at a festival last year there were giant beach balls being thrown around. Someone on the rail caught one and decided to hold it in front of her (she could barely fit her arms around half of it); the pit was packed and the beach ball was shoved up against my back so hard that I could barely keep my balance. In that case this fan was not being courteous to me, therefore I had to tell her to get rid of the ball. She did not. I almost screamed at her.]

8. Don't be arrogant. This means a couple things: you're never "too good" to chat with another photographer that might not be as experienced as you; and don't bother other photographers during a song (or even in between) by showing them one of your photos for the sole purpose of telling them how awesome the shot is.

9. Be aware of your feet. This is so, so important. Especially in smaller, tighter pits. The feet (or whatever they're called) of the barricade are really difficult to see in the dark and I think I stub my toe on one at about 75% of the shows I cover (which is why I almost always wear close-toed shoes). Don't move too fast, because there's the potential that you might fall and even worse, damage your gear.

10. Don't step in front of someone else's shot. I almost forgot about this one because it seems like such common logic, but it still needs to be mentioned. Whether you're up against the stage or further back in the pit, LOOK AROUND YOU before and while moving to a new spot. If you're impatient like me, duck under people's cameras while they're shooting. 

Of course if the pit is very full you'll almost always be in front of someone else, in which case just be as courteous as you can.

A lot of times it's easy to tell what the other photographers are thinking by reading their body language, so overall just be aware, be courteous, and be professional. 

Got any more? Please share in the comments!

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) concert concert photographer concert photography concert photography tips live music music festival music photographer music venue photo pit etiquette photography photography blog professional photographer Mon, 13 Jan 2014 01:39:37 GMT
From the Pit: Bastille [Photos] Can you believe how fast this band has blown up over the past few months?! As WLUM Milwaukee's program director Jacent Jackson said, "they could be another success story like Imagine Dragons." 

Bastille's show at The Loft in Lansing sold out in record time and regardless of the incredibly cold, wintry weather, fans started lining up at 11am and by show time the room was filled to capacity.

I loved watching singer Dan Smith; that guy has tons of energy on stage. And the crowd really fed off of that energy, especially in such an intimate venue like The Loft. 

But it's always a tough shoot there with the venue's less-than-ideal lighting and lack of photo pit, but the VIP "level" in the back is raised up just enough to get some decent angles. 

Check out some photos from the show!

Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery Bastille @ The LoftClick to open gallery

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) bastille bastille concert bastille photos concert photographer concert photography dan smith live music music blog music photographer Sun, 22 Dec 2013 03:10:13 GMT
Photo Editing Tips: Distract Yourself You're somewhat of a perfectionist. While editing photos you often think that tweaking just one more thing will give it that extra umph of awesomeness and make it perfect. But sometimes it doesn't work like you thought it would. So you keep tweaking things. Moving sliders. Adjusting curves. And tweaking some more.

Then you realize that you've been staring at this photo for way too long and might be a little frustrated.

You need a break! Distracting yourself is EXTREMELY helpful in this situation. I can't express enough how useful this strategy has been to me.

So go browse facebook, get a snack, play with your cat, fold laundry, write an email, blog, think up a witty tweet... you get the idea. 

Then come back to your photo.

You will know right away how you feel about the photo and if anything does need tweaking you'll know what to do. It's like you've come back with a fresh mind. It's amazing. 

Does this strategy work for you? Do you have any other strategies you like to use while editing photos? Share them in the comments and I'll put them in a blog post so we can all help each other out!

Matt NathansonClick to open gallery

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) adobe concert photographer concert photography lightroom music photographer photo editing photo editing tips photographer photography photography blog photoshop professional photographer Wed, 04 Dec 2013 18:19:28 GMT
From the Pit: Fitz & The Tantrums (and the Nikon "Err" message) [Photos] Seeing that blinking "Err" message on the top display of your Nikon DSLR while photographing a concert? Permission to panic. 

It was the middle of the third song during Fitz & The Tantrums' set at The Fillmore last weekend and all of the sudden I was pressing my shutter release button and nothing was happening.

I looked down at my camera, saw "Err" and made the are you KIDDING me?! gesture while getting out of the way of the other photographers, whose cameras seemed to be working just fine. 

I took the memory cards out and put them back in. Nothing.

I took the battery out and put it back in. No change. 

I unscrewed my battery grip. Still no change.

I've only seen this error once before while using my fisheye lens because my aperture ring wasn't on the correct setting; but this time I was using my 17-55mm f2.8 which doesn't have an aperture ring. 

I stood there as the third song ended feeling helpless, and followed the other photographers out of the pit. 

At that point there was nothing I could do; my pit shots were my pit shots. As others have told me, "There's nothing you can do about it now, so just stop complaining and deal with it." 

I went back into the crowd, pulled out my phone and Googled the error. One article said that it might be because the lens connectors are dirty.

Okay, well I didn't have the time, space, or tools to do any sort of cleaning. So out of curiosity I took that lens off and replaced it with a different one. All of the sudden THE ERROR WAS GONE!

After going up into the balcony I changed to another lens, and that one worked as well. I ended up putting my original lens back on and it worked just fine.

I still took about 1200 photos that night; which happens quite often at that venue, because it's beautiful. Enjoy a few from the show below!

Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery Fitz & The TantrumsClick to open gallery

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Nikon concert concert photographer concert photography concert photography tips detroit fitz and the tantrums live music music blog music photographer music venue nikon troubleshooting photography photography blog the fillmore Sun, 24 Nov 2013 21:54:45 GMT
From the Pit: Third Eye Blind at The Fillmore Detroit [Photos] After a few technical difficulties that postponed Third Eye Blind's set by about 45 minutes, the crowd screamed louder than ever when the lights finally went down.

The other photographers and I were standing in the pit ready for the lights to come up.

The music started. Band members came out. Still dark.

Sometimes I have a mini panic attack when the band walks onto the stage and the lights still don't come up, thinking that maybe they'll be a photographer's worst nightmare and play in near darkness. Of course that rarely happens, but it doesn't keep me from thinking about it!

The crowd went crazy when singer Stephan Jenkins appeared, but I barely noticed; it was still very dark and he was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up, covering most of his face. 

They started performing and there was some pretty cool back lighting, but absolutely no front lighting. Jenkins' face was in complete darkness; it's like it got lost somewhere in his hood. It creepily reminded me of a Nazgul (Lord Of The Rings, anyone??).

Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery

[Also, I wouldn't be angry if someone photoshopped this to look like a Nazgul]

So anyway, what do you do when that happens?

Well first, you deal with it. Letting complaints run through your mind doesn't help the situation and it'll just make you increasingly upset which in turn might make your work suffer.

So instead of being irritated with the lack of front lighting I decided to get creative. I shut out any desire to expose for Jenkins' non-existent face and attempted some cool silhouette-type shots.

Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery

I still had to crank my ISO but the shots turned out alright.

Thankfully Jenkins decided to show his face sometime during the third song; he put his hood down and a bright purple light shone onto his face. I heaved a sigh of relief and snapped a few more photos before the song was over.

Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery

The rest of the night was great; the crowd was super energetic and the excitement nearly overflowed the venue when hits like "Never Let You Go" and "Semi-Charmed Life" were played.

And, of course, the lighting was great for the rest of the show. 

Here are a few more shots:

Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery

Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery Third Eye BlindClick to open gallery



]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Nikon concert concert lighting concert photographer concert photography concert photography tips live music music blog music photographer photography photography blog professional photographer Wed, 13 Nov 2013 18:51:54 GMT
No Photographers Allowed One of the worst feelings for a concert photographer is standing there with a camera hanging on your shoulder, watching a great show with great lighting, and not being able to take any photos. 

That's what happened a couple weeks ago at The Loft in Lansing.

It's a pretty intimate venue, even when at its maximum capacity of 400. It's a great place to see a show, but one of the down sides is its lighting (read about it here).

No camera policy exists at The Loft, so professional cameras are allowed. Out of the 15+ shows I've secured "credentials" for there, only one or two actually required photo passes.

Needtobreathe came through last month and I was coming out to support their opener The Wild Feathers

Usually, when the opener has media come out, the headliner agrees to let the outlet stay to cover their set as well.

Not in this case.

When I arrived I was told that if anyone was caught taking photos of needtobreathe with a professional camera they'd be kicked out.

Needless to say I was a little irritated. But it gets worse.

The lighting for The Wild Feathers' set was The Loft's typical lighting (they have no barricade and the show was packed, so I was on the "upper level" in the back of the venue):

The Wild FeathersClick to open gallery

But as soon as needtobreathe started it was evident that they brought some of their own lights. It was brighter than I've ever seen it with light yellow and white lights. Here's an iPhone shot:

needtobreatheFrom my iPhone

It really killed me! I had a chance to get some better-than-usual shots that would make both The Loft and the band look great, but I couldn't take it. And I'm a fan of needtobreathe so I wish I could have enjoyed the show a bit more.

So ultimately the point of this post is why would a band have the "no photographers" policy? Can someone please answer that for me?

The only other band I've ever heard of doing this was Maroon 5, but even they allowed house photographers.

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) concert concert photographer concert photography live music music blog music photographer needtobreathe photography Mon, 04 Nov 2013 17:00:00 GMT
Lights Up for American Authors, Lights Down for Airborne Toxic Event The Loft is my favorite venue in Lansing, but it's one of those venues at which I don't expect to get any portfolio-worthy shots, and that's simply because their lighting is not the best (barely any front-lighting and tons of saturated backlighting). But I photograph shows there pretty often; they have good acts come in every month, often thanks to Fusion Shows. This show was one of them, and almost an immediate sell-out.

At The Loft you're usually fine with an f2.8, as long as the camera works pretty well at high ISOs. My ISO usually doesn't go below at least 3200 when I'm there. 

American Authors took the stage to The Loft's typical show lighting: a bright, orange-y, stationary light shining on only the singer's face with much dimmer backlighting rotating through a saturated red, green, blue, pink, and a very light purple (the color I always wait for in the rotation).

The light on the face makes a tighter shot translate nicely to black & white; this shot was taken at ISO 2500, f2.8, 1/400 sec.:

American AuthorsAmerican AuthorsClick to open gallery

The bright purple & blue colors are the best for crowd lighting:

American AuthorsAmerican AuthorsClick to open gallery

The DJ from the local alternative radio station hopped on stage between acts to announce Airborne Toxic Event, and while he was talking the bright orange face light was turned about halfway down. I figured it would be back up when the band started playing, but I was wrong.

This shot was taken at ISO 5000, f2.8, 1/125 sec.:

Airborne Toxic EventAirborne Toxic EventClick to open gallery

It's like that one front light is IT. Anything out of the light gets lost in shadows. The above photo is similar to the black & white American Authors photo, but needed a significantly higher ISO and slower shutter speed.

I was really looking forward to taking some photos of ATE's female violinist but she was in constant darkness; not to mention the fact that my autofocus could barely find her, let alone fine the singer's face. *sigh*

The venue hasn't ever turned that light down before as far as I've experienced. It frustrated me. I don't often carry an f1.8 prime because I prefer zoom lenses for shows, but I really wish I had taken it to this show.

So in an attempt to be a problem solver instead of standing there looking irritated I decided to use my flash for a couple shots (I wasn't told not to). That helped a little, but I really hate using flash at concerts. Using the ambient light looks much more natural. 

Airborne Toxic EventAirborne Toxic EventClick to open gallery

I'm not concert lighting expert (I kind of wish I was though!) but I think it's time to have a chat with the venue's lighting technician! 

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Nikon concert concert lighting concert photographer concert photography live music music blog music photographer photography photography blog professional photographer Thu, 03 Oct 2013 02:34:11 GMT
Concert Photography Tips: Shoot The Crowd Contrary to what you might think, when you photograph a show you're not just there to photograph the band.

You're there to photograph the concert.

And a concert isn't just a band playing on a stage; the crowd is the other essential half of the equation!

Concert go-ers who either wait in line for hours or spend lots of money to get front row spots are usually more excited than others. Once you point your camera in their direction the only thing that could get them more excited about getting their picture taken is if the band members themselves were taking their photo. So TURN AROUND! (When you're in the pit, of course.)

A big excited crowd can make for some pretty epic shots; when I can I love using a fisheye lens to capture a crowd's moments of elation. And, depending on the show, you can have some pretty enthusiastic crowd surfers.

The lighting on the crowd depends on the venue and the show, but one thing remains constant: when the band addresses the crowd the house lights will come on (but usually only for a moment). Whether you're in the pit or in the crowd, be ready! Because that's also the time when fans will have the best expressions on their faces and/or their arms up in the air.

(Except for the girl on the left... sadly she just looks bored and unimpressed.)

Most of the time the folks right in front will always be caught in the stage lighting.

And if they ask you take a photo of them, take one!

Common Ground Music Festival

I think this goes without saying, but if a band member goes up to greet the crowd, stands on the barricade, or even reaches out to touch fans' hands, get a good angle and press that shutter button CONSTANTLY. Or shoot in burst mode. Or both. Capturing a fan's reaction to touching one of their favorite musician's hands is so fun to watch because it's just such a happy moment.

James @ Coachella 2012

Or how about singing into their microphone?

Polar Bear ClubPolar Bear Club

And, of course, at outdoor shows during the day getting good crowd shots is almost a piece of cake. Especially Warped Tour. No matter what kind of music you like, every music photographer should photograph Warped Tour AT LEAST once

Warped Tour 2012Yellowcard

We The Kings

For TodayFor Today

Although I must admit, sometimes I get so caught up in the show that I forget to turn around; or sometimes dealing with tricky lighting takes precedence over making sure I get that good crowd shot.

But if the crowd is good, excited, and big enough to where it doesn't look like a sad turnout, try and snap a photo!

Also, if it's allowed, go to the back of the crowd and get a few nice, wide shots. And again, wait for the lights to go up, if they do. 

Pierce The Veil

Do your research before the show to see if there might be any confetti or similar effects you can possibly capture.


Or something unexpected might even happen.

The Wallflowers

And, of course, at festivals there are several opportunities to take photos of fans only, outside the concert setting. If you're into that. Or, of course, if it's required by your publication.  

Last but not least, if you post your photos on facebook you can get people to share, like, or tag themselves in your photos, increasing the word-of-mouth about you and your photography. Free marketing! Woo!

If I'm missing anything please feel free to add it in the comments below!

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) concert concert photographer concert photography concert photography tips crowd fans live music music blog music festival music photographer photography Mon, 05 Aug 2013 03:04:56 GMT
Photography Tips: Shooting Concerts With Poor Lighting We've all been there. It hurts your heart when you have to crank your ISO. You just want to go back and slap the lighting guy, push him aside, and turn up the spotlight (if the venue has one).

The bottom line is, you're just not going to get spectacular shots out of a gig with very poor lighting. This happens mainly in dive bars and smaller venues (<500 capacity), although the lighting at club-type venues can also be a bit dim.

So here are a few pointers on how to deal with less than ideal lighting at a show when shooting at f2.8. If you have anything to add please feel free to comment!

1. Look for the brightest area on stage. When a performer steps into the light snap as many photos as you can. Be patient, especially if you are able to shoot the entire show.

The Stationary Set

2. Crank your ISO so that you can have a fast enough shutter speed to eliminate or decrease motion blur. I'd rather have noisy, in-focus photos than shots fllled with motion blur. 

3. Take wider shots. In darker situations when there are several shadows, wider (further away) images put the scene together a little more nicely and are easier to work with when editing. 

The Stationary Set

4. When editing the images, increase the exposure a bit along with the highlights. The white balance will, most likely, be off; so play around with the colors and tone curves a bit. It can be fun, and gives you an opportunity to be creative.

5. When a color is too saturated (saturated red light is a concert photographer's worst nightmare), your best bet is to convert the photo to black & white.

The Stationary Set

6. Snap on your f1.8 lens, if you have one. I mainly use an f2.8 because I like being able to zoom, but I have an f1.8 for worst case scenarios.

7. I don't recommend this, but when nothing else seems to be working in your favor, use flash. The reason I don't recommend it is because flash can distract performers, annoy fans, and take away from the feeling and atmosphere of your photos (using the available light makes for a better ambiance and provides more of an "I feel like I'm there" feeling to their viewers). But in desperate situations it can be necessary. ***BUT keep in mind that "no flash" is often a restriction when shooting a show.***

New Politics

8. If you're sitting there editing your photos and you find yourself heaving sighs of disappointment, and you know your way around Photoshop, add a cool grunge or antique-type overlay. It'll add more character to a photo and take away from the fact that the lighting might not be awesome or the photo isn't completely in focus. 

The Royal Concept

9. A local venue here recently got a strobe light installed in the ceiling. While you can't time your shots with strobes, take as many shots as you can when the strobe is flashing (the "spray and pray" method) and usually you'll get at least one shot during which the strobe flashed.  

New Politics

If you have more tips please feel free to add them in the comments below!

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) concert concert lighting concert photographer concert photography live music music blog music photographer music venue photography Fri, 05 Jul 2013 21:15:12 GMT
On The Farm: Bonnaroo 2013 Aw shoot, it was my first Bonnaroo this year. And they sold way too many tickets. During his set Macklemore shouted "It's official... Bonnaroo just BEAT COACHELLA!!!"

As the lowest on the wristband status chain (aka GA), my friends and I found it incredibly difficult to get close to some of our favorite bands. 

On Thursday we managed to push and shove our way up close for WALK THE MOON...

WALK THE MOON (taken with my iPhone)(taken with my iPhone) - WALK THE MOON

But their set followed a DJ set; we had to stand through Araabmuzik and honestly, I wish there was a way to just completely cut that memory out of my mind... like please give me one of those Men In Black devices. I guess I'm just not an EDM fan. I like to see more than just a guy at a DJ booth on stage; put some people with instruments and singing voices and some actual musical talent up there. And what's the point of the extra dudes on stage jumping around in tank tops, taking iPhone photos of the crowd? Are they "pump up-ers?" Do I just not get the EDM culture? Probably not. Rant over. At least those fans leaving helped us get closer.

After WALK THE MOON was Purity Ring but we were done. My friend was about to pass out. But, as we were making our way out, people were pushing so hard toward the stage that we thought we were going to get stuck. You know how, in training, football players run into those tall red pads and try to push them as hard as they can? (shut up, I don't know sports) Well that was me, pushing myself into the guy in front of me to try and get out of the rabid Purity Ring stampede. My friend dropped something and when she reached down to try and grab it she was nearly trampled. 

Moving on...

Maps & Atlases. They were great. We were just so tired, running on three hours of sleep with no caffeine and we don't do drugs. 

Next up in the New Music on Tap Lounge was Capital Cities.

So we were exhausted. Obviously. But somehow Capital Cities got us energized. It was like musical caffeine. I felt like my body was just taken over, and sure enough they had the crowd taking their shirts off and swinging them around above their head, including us (relax, we had bikinis on). They had us imitating their choreography and dancing along to songs we didn't even know; so when they started their hit "Safe And Sound" everyone went absolutely nuts. After their set they got cheered back on for an encore and it was just one huge dance party with a fun "Safe And Sound" remix. 

Capital Cities (taken with my iPhone)(taken with my iPhone) - Capital Cities

That was probably the most fun we had all weekend. I know; crazy, right?

On Friday we tried to see Of Monsters and Men but the Which Stage was so packed that we couldn't even get close enough to hear them clearly. So we gave up.

Headed over to see Passion Pit. They're always fantastic, but their fun lights were a bit pointless in the daylight. :(

Passion Pit

We went to get a $10 quesadilla before seeing Wilco, who didn't play a single song I knew. Disappointed. 

But we were waiting it out for Sir Paul McCartney, near some older folks who had set up camp earlier with their small chairs and Abbey Road t-shirts. 

We may have had the most fun seeing Capital Cities, but seeing Paul McCartney was like nothing I've ever experienced. Being a music journalist sometimes I wish I could travel back in time to when The Beatles were at their prime, so I could just be there and soak it all in. But I was seeing an actual Beatle, a legend! 

Even the guys behind us who were big dubstep and EDM fans were excited.

By far my favorite set of the weekend.

Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney

More photos here:

One of the things we wanted to do but never got a chance to was go to the Comedy Tent. We wanted to see Daniel Tosh and Bob Saget, but as we walked up there was a gigantic line, but it was moving fast so we waited in it. When we got to the front a member of the Roo Crew was yelling "this show is SOLD OUT!" We were confused so he explained that you have to get tickets for the comedy shows. We tried to get tickets for Bob Saget a couple days later but even the line for tickets was insanely long. Not worth missing good music.

On Saturday we stood in the shade to watch Lord Huron. Such an AMAZING band, probably my new obsession.

So here's a question for you: who puts Tallest Man On Earth, Frank Turner, and Portugal. The Man at the same time?? Bonnaroo.

I wanted so badly to see Frank Turner ("It's a long road up to recoveryyyyy from here!") but we wanted to get a good spot for Portugal. The Man, so we just went there instead. Met a guy with beautiful hair, made some arnold palmers, and then watched Portugal. The Man play "Dayman" from hit TV show It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia AND watched Weird Al join them for a tune on the accordion. 

Weird Al w/ Portugal. The Man

The Other Tent was packed for Matt & Kim, so we stayed until we heard "Cameras."

Got another $10 quesadilla and went to get a good spot for The Lumineers. They are so much more energized live than they sound on their album! They got in the crowd for a tune, which was on the exact opposite side of the crowd as us.

The LumineersThe Lumineers One of the main reasons my friends were excited for Bonnaroo was Mumford & Sons. We're all glad that Ted is doing better now, but here's my little secret: when Jack Johnson was announced as Mumford's replacement I was actually more excited. I've only seen both bands live once, but Jack Johnson has a place in my heart and his music brings back great memories and makes me feel happy all over. We were incredibly far away from the stage for his performance but that didn't stop me from singing loud and dancing a lot.

Also there were fireworks. Did I mention that??

Jack Johnson fireworksJack Johnson

Then we were lame and tired so we just went back to camp.

On Sunday my friend was super pumped to see Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. I like a couple of his songs but I'm not that into hip hop.

I had so much fun. So much! Macklemore is so energetic on stage and I found myself jumping up and down with my hands in the air in the 88-degree muggy-ness.

Macklemore &amp; Ryan LewisMacklemore & Ryan Lewis

I realized that it was his lyrics that got me. He raps about s#!@ that actually matters.

We went to get another $10 quesadilla and get a good spot for Edward Sharpe, while being incredibly entertained by some kids on molly, dancing around like crazy among a further-back crowd of sitters. 

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos went into the crowd and asked fans to tell them stories. One fan said he was diagnosed with a form a lukemia that he's finally rid of, so as everyone cheered Ebert took the fan to the stage and gave him a tambourine. It made me grin from ear to ear. What a great guy.

Edward Sharpe &amp; the Magnetic ZerosEdward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes

So I'm one of those people that gets pretty star struck around actors. Musicians though, not really. I could meet Paul McCartney himself and not have to fan myself or force words out of my mouth. 

I once met Katherine Heigl and was like "Oh my gosh guys, she's right there! What do I do, what do I do! Oh my gosh I LOVE her!"

Anyway, although Bluegrass isn't my favorite, I was pumped to see Ed Helms in person, as you can imagine. Even standing back by the mix/sound board area I was a little star struck. But they were great! Ed Helms truly has musical talent.

Ed HelmsEd Helms' Bluegrass Situation

And finally, it was time for Tom Petty. And it poured. So much so, we had to break out the ponchos. 

Someone in front of me was either having a bad trip or was about to faint; I felt like if I accidentally bumped into her I would knock her over. But once she left I could put my hands up and jump around with no worries.

To my disappointment Tom Petty did not play "You Don't Know How It Feels." I was waiting for it all night. But he played the rest of his classics, including "American Girl," "Last Dance With Mary Jane," "I Won't Back Down," and of course "Free Fallin."

Good memories with those songs too.

Tom Petty &amp; the HeartbreakersTom Petty & The Heartbreakers

What a great weekend. Exhausting, but great.


]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Portugal. the man bonnaroo bonnaroo 2013 capital cities concert concert photographer concert photography ed helms ed helms bluegrass situation edward sharpe jack johnson live music macklemore macklemore & ryan lewis music blog music festival music photographer passion pit paul mccartney photography tom petty walk the moon Fri, 28 Jun 2013 20:42:54 GMT
10 Reasons Why the Age of the Professional Concert Photographer is Coming to an End Whether we like it or not, it's becoming more and more apparent as time goes on. And here's why.


A few weeks ago I was really disappointed when I found out that I got denied for Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee. But I had already bought my ticket to go with friends, so out of curiosity I looked at Bonnaroo's "don't" list; the list of items that are prohibited from the festival grounds.

It was no surprise to see "cameras with detachable lenses" on that list. But wait... here's
Reason #1: "detachable lenses shorter than two inches are ok." 

Well alright then. So I easily walked in with my Nikon D7000 on my shoulder. No member of the security staff even pointed it out or asked me questions. 

Reason #2: I suppose security has more serious things to worry about and deal with, like illegal drugs and weapons. I probably could have had a four-inch lens and they wouldn't have looked twice.

Also, after sneaking in with two water bottles full of booze, wrapped in black leggings and stuffed in the bottom of our black backpack, I realized that I could have just as easily snuck in my 70-300mm lens using the same method. 

The same goes for venues; yes, sometimes your bag gets searched, but not very well.

Reason #3: I rarely saw security guards while inside the festival, but when I did they always seemed preoccupied, so I'm quite certain that they wouldn't have stopped me if I had a gigantic lens on my camera.

I saw several people sporting only GA wristbands that had lenses much larger than two inches. They seemed like they were there to try and start being a concert photographer or expand their portfolio; instead of dancing and having fun they were standing super still, aiming their camera toward the stage, trying to get a good shot. 

The same goes for venues; once inside security guards don't ever seem to care that someone has a professional camera when they're not supposed to.

Reason #4: So you get a photo pass. You get up close, you get rad shots of the performers, and you work your butt off. But (usually) you only get to shoot the first three songs. Fans up front can shoot the whole show with their nice camera and potentially capture epic moments that you weren't able to up close. 

Reason #5: iPhone cameras aren't half bad. I've seen fans' iPhone photos get more recognition than professional photos. Point-and-shoots are becoming a lot more advanced as well. 

(I once had a publicist ask me "Did you get any photos of [the singer] crowd surfing?" I said "No, that didn't happen within the first three songs." A few hours later the band posted a grainy iPhone photo of the singer crowd surfing on their facebook page.) 

Plus, bands that either don't want or can't afford to hire a professional photographer just whip out their iPhone to take a photo of the crowd. It works pretty well, especially if you have an iPhone 5 with the panoramic function.

Reason #6: To obtain credentials you have to find contact information, get a letter of assignment from your publication (for festivals and larger shows), fill out a very thorough press request form (usually just for festivals), and if approved you might have to sign a release. The fans with professional cameras didn't have to do any of that. 

When I photographed Coachella last year I wasn't allowed to shoot a couple headliners, one being Radiohead, because only a certain few outlets got access. If you're a fan with a camera you're good to go!

Reason #7: No matter what, there will always be someone willing to do the same work you're charging for, for free. A venue or band asks you "hey, will you shoot this show?" You say yes and give them a quote. They say "Oh sorry, we got someone to do it for free."

Cue the anger!!

Everyone has to do work for free to build their portfolio at first, but it's infuriating when the potential client doesn't realize the value of what they'd be getting by hiring you instead. In this economy it's all about the free work and unpaid internships.

This story doesn't relate to concerts, but I recently had someone contact me from a decently well-known band (not so much now as compared to 20 years ago) asking to use my photo as the album cover for their new live album. I was stoked about it, so I asked what their budget was. His reply was "Well we're doing this all ourselves so we don't have much of a budget. Please let me know what your fee would be, and keep in mind that we have several other photos we can use for free."

An album cover for free?! What photographer would offer to do such a thing?! 

Reason #8: The need for high-quality photos has significantly gone down. As photographers we can clearly see when a photo has been shot professionally; for others it's not that easy and some are just completely oblivious to what makes a quality photo. As far as bands go, all they really want nowadays are photos to put up on their facebook or website; they don't need to be high-res, they don't need to be good quality... you just need to be able to see that the show happened. 

That's the way the world of photography in general is heading with this being the age of the internet. Take the Chicago Sun-Times as an example; they fired all their staff photographers and are training their writers in iPhone photography. As long as there's a picture of it, that's all they need. The picture doesn't need to be professional, as long as people can see what's going on. 

Reason #9: There are too many concert photographers! I blame a couple things: 1) The fact that DSLRs are becoming increasingly available to the average consumer. Yes, the nicer ones can cost upwards of $3,000; but if you have the money and it's something you want to invest in you can just go buy one and learn how to use it by scouring google.

It wouldn't be much of a problem if publicists stopped approving so many photographers for a single show. But I have a feeling that won't ever slow down because of culprit #2) the rise in number of music blogs and online zines. 

And finally, Reason #10: Photo contests. For example, on the Music Photographers' facebook page someone recently reposted a facebook status from Lita Ford:

"The deadline for the 'live photo' contest is in one week, June 28th. Submit your photos via email, and state how you would like your name credited on the album if we use your photo. We are looking for LIVE photos of both Lita & the band, taken by fans at the shows, to be included in the packaging of the new LIVE album, coming out in September! These don't have to be "pro" photos, we just want live photos of the band from your perspective at the shows! Good luck, and we can't wait to see all of your pics! Please do not send photos via Facebook; Email them to"

(If you don't see what's wrong with this feel free to email me.)

Several bands have conducted contests like this; "submit your photos for use in our live photo album that we're going to sell to our fans!" or "submit your photos and we'll feature our favorites in a gallery on our website!" or "tag your photo with #thishashtag on instagram and we may feature it on our own instagram!"

Or they go through Talenthouse, a middle man for contests like this. For example: "Submit your best photo for your chance to win a chance to photograph Soundgarden live!" And then in the agreement (that no one usually reads) it states that all photos you take will be the property of Soundgarden and you won't have the authority to use them. But fans and beginning photographers who desperately want to photograph Soundgarden don't seem to care much about the terms. They just want to be able to say they were there, photographing one of their favorite bands.

I think that in just a few years the only people who will be making money from photographing concerts will be those working for wire services. 

I'd like to hear what other people think so I welcome comments below!

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) concert photographer concert photography music blog music photographer photography professional photographer Thu, 27 Jun 2013 00:04:03 GMT
Mac's Bar: A Concert Photographer's Nightmare (and New Politics) Mac's Bar is small, dirty, stuffy, and laden with graffiti. Their parking lot isn't paved, their hot water doesn't work and I can't remember the last time there were paper towels in the bathroom.

But people who know of Mac's Bar know that. They expect it. Dive bar go-ers don't walk in expecting the floors to be mopped or the pint glasses to be smudge-free. Mac's doesn't promote their establishment to be nicer than it is. And that's what makes it a popular hangout and live music destination. 

HowEVER, when you're a concert photographer and you hear "bar" in the name of a venue you immediately think, dammit.

I would never, EVER photograph a sold-out show there unless I loved the music. Which was exactly the case on Wednesday night. 

New Politics are one of those bands that you fall in love with after seeing them live. What a ridiculously awesome show. 

New Politics

But no barricade, no pit area, no official security staff, and no spotlights. The only way I could get close to the stage is via the narrow side-stage entrance the band uses and crowding their guitar tech's space (and making it awkward for the band when I have no choice but to stand only inches from them while they're waiting to take the stage). "Well this is awkward." "Yeah, kinda."

When you're side stage and the band's singer spends almost the entirety of the show standing on of a speaker right up against the crowd at the corner you're standing at... well, that's when you take a few photos of his back and then aim your camera towards the drummer. In this case the drummer was fantastic and the saturated orange lighting was the brightest on him. 

Louis Vecchio of New Politics

Usually the lighting at Mac's is a dim, saturated red, orange, or the not-so-often blue. The only white lights they seem to have are some newly installed strobes, nestled in the ceiling over the crowd. That's when you have to use the "spray and pray" method (you can't time your shot with strobes. You just can't)

New Politics

But, because I was right up against the stage I couldn't use either of my prime f1.8 lenses (50mm or 35mm) so I had to settle with my 17-55mm f2.8. I needed the advantage of that 1.8 but thankfully the Nikon D7000 is great with high ISOs, so I just cranked it. As Todd Owyoung once said, "I'd rather have a sharp, grainy photo than a blurry, out-of-focus photo." (Or something like that.)

You're probably thinking "Why don't you just use flash???"

Well, by personal preference, I don't like to flash my speedlight in the performer's faces. I think using the available light makes for better, more natural photos. And if my flash temporarily blinds my friends it'll blind a performer and that's not something that anyone wants to be responsible for. Why do you think some venues and almost all bands ban flash photography?

However, in cases of desperation such as this... I thought "did anyone tell me no flash?" ... nope. So I broke out the speedlight. I never flashed it in anyone's face. I used it mainly for crowd shots; New Politics' singer jumped into the crowd and they made a circle around him so he could do a little breakdancing. The strobes were flashing but not often, so I used my own flash. 

And I'm happy I did. 

David Boyd of New Politics

See the full photo gallery!

Read the review!

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Lansing Mac's Bar Michigan New Politics concert concert photographer concert photography david boyd live music louis vecchio music blog music photographer soren hansen Fri, 26 Apr 2013 22:02:10 GMT
Store is open! So my store is finally open!

Not a ton there now, but you can buy prints, canvas wraps, standout displays, metallic prints, and a few more things!

I have lovely photos of Michigan as well as a few concert shots of Neon Trees, Coldplay, and A Silent Film.

If there is a photo you want to buy but don't see it in the store just shoot me an email at and I can stick it in the store! :)


]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) Mon, 22 Apr 2013 19:27:12 GMT
The Process of Getting a Photo Pass + Tips A really popular question from aspiring music photographers is "How do I get a photo pass?" or "Why can't I get a photo pass?"

Well, I'll tell you how I do it, and maybe it'll help you.

First of all, I work for a publication. That always helps because it gives the band an incentive to let you shoot the show.

I get contact information from the band's facebook or website. If it's not listed my boss can look it up for me on Celebrity Access, which typically provides the band's management contact. The publicist is the person you need, so you can email the manager and ask that your request be forwarded to the band's publicist.

**Note that kindness is key. ALWAYS say "please" and "thank you" when requesting credentials. It doesn't matter how many shows you've covered or how many big names you've shot. I've been on the other side and let me tell you, it's so much more pleasant when you're dealing with a photographer that seems very appreciative; it also makes you want to try a little harder to help get them access to the show. Don't be cocky or rude, even if the publicist seems to be that way. You'll want to be on their good side for the future.

Send your request a couple weeks out or so. Make sure you include your name, publication, link(s) to your work, and of course the date and venue of the show. If they don't get back to you within the next week or so, send a polite follow-up email. Most of the time you won't get confirmation until only a couple days before the show.

For example, I've dealt with a publicist who always responds to my initial request saying "Thanks for your request. I will let you know closer to the date if we can accommodate." And her definition of "closer to the date" is the MORNING OF. If I follow up with her the day before, though, she'll usually confirm with me then. She's never rejected me for anything, but the lateness is a bit irritating. 

Once you get confirmed you'll be put on the guest list at the box office window. Occasionally a ticket might be mailed to you.

But it doesn't stop there; after the show make sure to post your coverage in a timely manner (ideally 24-48 hours) and forward the link to the publicist. If you're unable to do that and you think it'll take at least a week, make sure you let the publicist know. They may not even care, but it's just common courtesy.

And that wraps up the process.

As you keep shooting shows (and especially once you start covering festivals like Warped Tour) you'll start getting added to publicists' email lists. I get at least 20 press releases per day in my inbox. I definitely don't have time to look through all of them, but if I get a press release about a show I'd like to attend it's nice to be able to just respond to that email, instead of having to send a "cold call" type of email. 

**Tip: when the band comes back to town and you want to shoot their show again, "reply" to your last email correspondence with their publicist and just change the subject to the current show date you're requesting. That way, if they don't remember you, they'll be able to see what you've done for them in the past.

If you have further questions feel free to comment or email me at

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) concert concert photographer concert photography credentials music blog music photographer photo pass Mon, 08 Apr 2013 04:12:40 GMT
Some love for Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION and The Intersection Photographing AWOLNATION is always great fun. They were actually the first band I ever shot portraits of (check 'em out).

Okay first of all, no employee I spoke to at the venue knew the set times for the show. So when it looked like they were about done setting the stage up I headed to the pit and stood there, waiting. And waiting. And waiting. A security guy walked up to me and said "Just so you know, they're on time tonight, and don't start for another 20 minutes."

Well that's embarrassing. But also really nice of him to mention that to me instead of just laughing at me standing there, ready to shoot, for the next 20 minutes. 

When it was about time I headed back to the pit. Even though I had my lanyard containing lots of photo passes from past shows hanging from my camera bag, another member of the security staff came up to me and said "Hey, watch out for crowd surfers. If you see us walking up to the barricade just be careful and move out of the way." 

The only other time I've ever been warned about crowd surfers was at Warped Tour, but no matter how seasoned you are it's nice of the security to warn you. I've been kicked in the head and shoved up against the stage before.

Anyway, there were lots of crowd surfers. Lots. Thankfully the pit at the Intersection is super roomy. I still stayed more towards the stage to be safe. But at one point I was a little too close.


Singer Aaron Bruno wanted to step up to the front of the stage in between two monitors, which is right where I was shooting from. I looked at his face through my viewfinder and he was looking right at me; he stepped down inches away from my lens but although he's a pretty crazy guy, he made sure he didn't hurt me or my camera. Nice guy. And obviously I stepped away when I realized what he wanted to do.

Also the lighting was incredibly blue, and it wasn't until after the first three songs that Bruno asked for it to be turned down a bit. But in those situations we can only just do our best. 

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) AWOLNATION aaron bruno concert concert photography grand rapids live music music blog the intersection Sat, 06 Apr 2013 19:56:55 GMT
Some love for The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon On March 3 I was tired. I wasn't too excited for the Sunday night show as they tend to screw up your work week, but I must admit I was a little pumped to hear The Gaslight Anthem play some of my old favorites. 

So there we were, a handful of photographers, standing in the pit of one of the best venues in Michigan. The Fillmore is beautiful, its The Gaslight Anthem stage is not far off the ground, its pit is easy to access and it's not too small, but I have tripped over people's feet before.

The Gaslight Anthem didn't really have an extravagant stage set-up and singer Brian Fallon spent the majority of the first three songs behind his mic playing his guitar. I got the shots I needed, so I found myself just standing in front of him, waiting for something cool to happen. 

He looked at me and kind of raised his eyebrows and smiled, so I put my camera up and he stuck his tongue out for a hot second while I clicked my shutter. I lowered my camera and smiled at him; he laughed and just went on with the song. It definitely turned my night around and made up for the crowd surfer that kicked me in the head during the second song.

Performers interacting or even acknowledging the photographers like that is pretty rare; but when it happens and you're prepared you can get a GREAT shot. 

It's also a great feeling when the performer acknowledges you, as a photographer. You've worked and are working hard to be there and get the best shots you can. Your camera is constantly pointing at the band so it's nice when the performers can "return the favor." 

But some have taken it too far... like Marilyn Manson recently spit into a photographer's mouth. Gross.

]]> (Amber Stokosa Photography) brian fallon concert photography music blog the gaslight anthem Tue, 19 Mar 2013 02:38:41 GMT