No, I Did Not Enjoy The Concert

I hear it all the time in my line of work. “Oh, I bet you had a great time at so and so’s concert! I would have loved it.” I can’t imagine a professional photographer that has not heard that at least once. It has to be one of the more common myths about being a photographer. We just must have the greatest time going to all these events. I wish.

In the photography world there is a fear every photographer has, missing the shot. I have heard many, many times about the avoidance of doing wedding photography for fear of missing that one shot during the ceremony. I understand the sentiment, but find that every event could carry the same fear. If I am shooting a concert by Pam Tillis, can I have her replay a song, but because I missed her looking at the lights in just the right way, not really approved in the event world.

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Yet, it is that fear of a missed shot that keeps me focused on the task at hand, and not just sitting back and rocking to a beat. My experience of the performance is  looking in the viewfinder, staring at a red dot that is my focal point, and keeping that in the center of an eye, while scanning the background for weird things that might sprout out of the performers head, like wires, or mike stands, or outside, the stereotypical tree.

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I am aware of a bar of values that tell me if the picture is to light or dark. I try and get close enough to frame the picture right in camera, and yes make sure it is level. I am aware to leave space around the performer so the picture can be framed or cropped well. I am looking for action that translates well in 2 dimensions. I keep in mind a dozen other things as well.


I have to remember which kinds of shots I have taken and plan for the 5-8 story shots, the money shots, that will form my photo-story. I jot down names and comments for the bits of information that will accompany the printed shots. You can’t see those thoughts and processing going on in my head, you see me pointing my camera and shooting.

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This all came home to me a few years back. I used to photograph the local football team rather than write up the game. I now do the write ups and shoot some occasional shots for this blog. Now the year for the team was a very bad year, a fact I did not become aware of till summer when I learned that season was their worst and they had not won a game all season. How could I have missed that fact. I think it was simply that I was focused on getting a shot and not attending to the score or outcome of the game. As a photojournalist, that was not a great realization, and I learned to attend more to the game.


My point is that photographers have tunnel vision when they are working. It is not that we don’t care about the game or event, but we are focused on our task at hand.I don’t know, maybe it is like drive long distance and suddenly you are at your destination and you don’t remember having driven for 8 hours. What happens to us may be termed photography hypnosis.

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Sometimes I look back and see the pictures I took and don’t recall taking them, and marveling at how nice a picture it became. One this weekend was of a body builder and he is almost turned away, and he is lit on a black background. I did not plan the shot, it is not staged. I resonated with me, and that is my enjoyment of the event.

Photographing Pam Tillis, Terri Clark, and Suzy Bogguss and the Chicks with Hits tour, I was just feet away from the singers. I grew up on Mel Tillis and have hear Pam sing for years, and all I thought about was smile, look into the light, have some good action, how is my metering, am I focused correctly, what are the other’s doing, and how will this look to the person who sees this as part of a news article. I like that I got to attend the concert, but I was working and it was for me an exercise in painting with light.

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Mind you, I am not at all complaining. I do enjoy being a photographer, and would not change it for anything. I think my comments are really based on the changing status of the photographer. With phones and cameras becoming ever present, it must be tempting to think that anyone can do that, and see the job of photographer as equivalent to the ones taken with an iPhone. When everyone can do everything, the role of craftsman is diminished. It seems to be happening quite a bit. What to know how to do something yourself, there is a YouTube video or 20 to teach you.

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I did not learn from a YouTube video, but from shooting 14,000 shots of a losing season of high school football. No, I probably am not going to have enjoyed the concert like you would sitting in the stands. Maybe the best way to help you grasp my reality to to make a statement to you.


“Hey, I bet is was a blast for you at work today, I would love to do that sometime. Bet you enjoy every minute of being there.”

Categories: Editor Thoughts

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