Lady Gaga, iHeartRadio and 9 Tips for Event Photography by Brian Friedman

iHeartRadio - Tips for Pro Photographers

This past September I had the privilege of photographing the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  Having shot music events of various sizes over the past few years, I quickly recognized that this wasn’t going to be a typical “concert” by any means. It was a 2-day event, packed with 10 “A list” artists each night, performing anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes each. Fast paced and on a large scale, I knew from the outset that in order to “capture” the event in a cohesive and artful way I’d have to draw from all facets of my shooting experience and documentary style. Given that I had virtually unrestricted access to run around the arena and get the shots I wanted, the challenge was on me to document and present the concert in a unique way and to deliver something different than the typical concert coverage. (Often you are restricted to just the “pit,” the narrow area between the stage and first row of fans, or another position, such as the soundboard or a particular side of the arena.)

With the first night featuring acts like Coldplay, Jay-Z, The Black Eyed Peas, and Alicia Keys, and second night featuring Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Steven Tyler and (my favorite) Lady Gaga, the action was fast and furious to say the least. Getting around the arena with my gear (2 Nikon D3 bodies and various lenses) was a big challenge.  The positions I wanted to shoot from were often obstructed by concert-goers as well as massive amounts of security, but thankfully there were a few things I did that helped be get around these inconveniences and ended up making a big difference in the results I got each night.

In many regards, I approached this like I would a wedding and made it my goal to tell the story of the event as a whole including the build-up of the concert, and the performances themselves. The tactics I employed to get the resulting story can be applied to weddings and other events. Here are 9 notable tactics:

1. Take the details seriously. I took the details for this event so seriously that I arrived on site from the day the first production truck rolled in – 5 days before a note was to be played. I spent several hours each day walking through the arena, shooting the bare elements that went into actually “making” the concert. Instead of flowers and invitations, I took photos of chain links, microphones and all sorts of cables. I shot them artfully, and mainly with my prime lenses. I focused on the instruments themselves, the lighting grids, even the seats. Everything that went into the actual build was fair game.  Just like at a wedding, these things count and may not normally be photographed at concert.

2. Bring a really long lens. In addition to my 80-200, I rented a 200-400 f/4 knowing there was a chance I would need something longer than the 200. And I was right. I recall specifically that this came in handy when the very last act, Lady Gaga, performed her first few numbers from the back of the stage (and I was in the pit). I had that lens with me and needed it to get shots tight enough on her that they’d be unique and successful too. I also used this lens (on a monopod) from the sides and the back of the room.  Using a 400 when you have a large distance to your subject, and then even larger distance from the subject to the background can give you a very beautiful bokeh and perspective on your subject. You never know when a 200 isn’t going to be long enough.

3. Get your rest! Unfortunately, just because I was in Vegas didn’t mean it was necessarily a good idea to party like it! Especially before this major assignment. Just like an 8 or 10 hour wedding shoot, it’s very important to get a good amount of rest before a shoot. So before and after the 1st night, I downloaded my cards, put the batteries on the chargers and went to sleep! (You bet I partied after the 2nd show!)

4. Pre-determine the best shooting positions in the venue, as well as target exposure settings. The beauty of a high-production-value concert is that things will likely be lit beautifully. But there’s a catch, YOU AREN’T LIGHTING IT!  So that means you have to quickly determine where you can and cannot shoot from given the amount of light falling on the subject AND into your lens. Often concerts are very strongly backlit, with powerful lights facing out from the stage to the audience. It’s important to use your position and focal length to either let those lights into the scene or out.  This is no different than if it we’re a wedding; only at a concert the chance of too bright a light coming into the frame is, in my opinion, much greater and often much harder to tame.  The important thing overall is to get your shutter speed about 1/250th of a second or faster.  You must stop action in order for the shot to be successful. Each night I shot wide open, with a shutter speed of about 1/250th-1/300th, iso 1600-3200. Hold steady, focus well, and fire.

5. Bring an abundance of cards, batteries and chargers. I needed to continually dump cards in the production room so my client had up to the minute coverage of the concert, so I brought lots of cards and had a system in place for unloading the images. Just as if I were on a wedding assignment, having lots of cards and extra batteries was key. You don’t want to worry about storage or power when shooting such an important event. Of course I had my chargers on me as well so that each night I was able to recharge the batteries for my cameras and flashes. It’s always a good idea to have more storage and power than you think you’ll actually need.

6. Quickly make friends with other working professionals. We’re often working with other shooters – in the wedding world that would be mainly videographers. But at a concert there could be other still shooters there as well. In this instance there were about 8 other photographers (from Getty) and me. So while I didn’t necessarily have drinks with the other shooters, I did smile, introduce myself, and showed a professional courtesy that I only hoped would be shown to me as well (and it was). Even though these other shooters were after the same thing as I was, being “against them” would make no sense. Plus these are people I might see down the line, and I’ve always believed that you get farther in life by being kind and paying it forward.

7. Make sure gear is in top shape. Before this event I had my camera sensors cleaned and blew out my lenses as best I could. Granted in dark settings (shooting wide open), the chance of dust showing up in a frame is minimal, but I didn’t want to take that chance so I had my camera sensors cleaned before the gig and kept them in a dust free environment.  I also removed the filters from my lenses and cleaned the main glass, as well as the filters themselves.

8. Bring earplugs, just in case. How many times have we been stuck standing right next to a speaker that’s about as tall as we are? I always have earplugs in my bag regardless of the event. Just like a 4 hour reception, a concert can get loud. Very loud in fact! The last thing you want to have happen is an avoidance of a particular area to shoot from. So being prepared with earplugs at just about any special event with amplified sound is very very important. I use very basic foam earplugs that have a plastic cable attaching them together so it’s easy to keep them around my neck and at the ready.

9. Stay calm and focused, always. I’m a huge fan of music and many of these acts are ones that I follow and even sing along to in the car (yeah, scary I know!). Just as when the couple kisses or the boquet is flung, I stayed calm and focused throughout the entire shoot. I drank lots of water, took deep breaths when possible, and just got in my zone. I wore earplugs (very important), had a little hankerchief to wipe down my forehead, and even danced a little while taking the photos (especially during Colplay, Jay-Z and of course, Gaga).

In the end, I snapped about 10,000 frames over the course of the week. I delivered about 8% of those to my client, and about half of those were shots of the concert prep (so ultimately I delivered about 200 images from each nights performance). The editing process took me several days to complete, with much time walking away from the computer and returning with a fresh perspective. The level of concentration remained very high all throughout as did my level of enjoyment. This was a very unique opportunity for me as an artist and a fan of popular music; so why wouldn’t I enjoy the process all the way through? I did, and at the end of it all, I am overjoyed I got to memorialize such a historic concert.

About Brian Friedman

New York-based photographer Brian Friedman started out as a road manager for the legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes. But it was during Haynes’ 20-city tour, that Brian began photographing Roy and discovered his passion for image making that put him on a road to a new career.  Since then, he has sharpened his skills and his eye to become recognized as a photographer of choice by noted entertainment personalities, politicians, corporate leaders, event planners and of course, brides and grooms from all over the world.

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Dazzle Your Clients in 2012 by Leeann Marie

Leeann is a ShootQ Accredited Consultant or ACE. Contact her to schedule a custom ShootQ consultation!

It’s almost the new year, and booking season is right around the corner. New clients are knocking, and it’s our chance to dazzle them with the client experience.

In a world where word of mouth means everything, it’s no longer good enough as a growing business to just do an OK job. We need to “Wow!” our customers by exceeding their expectations.

This process of customer satisfaction can be illustrated in two distinct areas:

The Expected: Clients expect great pictures, prompt email or phone responses, and beautiful products with on-time delivery. They hire a professional to meet all of those expectations. For those who wish to charge peak prices, high prices come with high client demands. The expected area of customer satisfaction can be illustrated as “Duh!” or “Of course, that’s what I paid your for!”

The Excitement: Creating …

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6 Steps to Better UX Design by Lawrence Chan

*Update: Congrats to Travis Gray for winning a copy of Lawrence’s new book “Social Media Marketing for Digital Photographers!”* Everything you do, wear, drive, eat, and so forth are expressions of your character. If it is you that makes you unique, then let’s talk about the storefront that’s open 24/7 — your website — and see how it’s applicable to other designs as well.

One cannot not communicate: Every behavior is a kind of communication. Because behavior does not have a counterpart (there is no anti-behavior), it is not possible not to communicate. – Paul Watzlawick

Since every behavior is a kind of communication, it would be sensible to first understand our target audience.

1. Project Usability

What is the goal of your viewers? What are they trying to find?

Be clear from the get-go (i.e., a banner that illustrates exactly what your website is supposed to offer).

Image courtesy of

Other concerns might include whether users are using mobile devices. If so, how do you serve them? Keep in mind the possibility of the fall of Flash. Also, be considerate of bandwidth issues, since 3G or 4G data speeds are not the same as broadband speeds at home.

2. Simplify

Simplicity isn’t simple. Apple does it best. Remove clutter that does not define your goal. This includes the choices for wording, color, typography, navigation, etc.

3. Prioritize Your Priorities

Part of having a responsive and simply designed website is to prioritize your priorities. You should limit your menu bar to a minimal number of buttons for navigation.


Too many choices clutter and suffocate. Ever been to a restaurant with 50+ different choices? Oh, the agony of committing to one thing, thus sacrificing the rest.



4. Synthesize a Story

Stories are powerful. Stories disarm.

Synthesize a story explaining why you do what you do and why it should matter to them. And here are some tips on creating an effective About Page.


I have multiple Advent Calendars because I cheat.

5. Define the Next Steps

After users are coaxed to explore your site or blog post, be sure to have clear calls to action. This tells viewers what to do next.


A lot of times, people get to the end of the blog post and won’t have anything to do next. So, the likely thing to happen is that they leave. Don’t let that happen to you.

6. Measure

Using Google Analytics In-Page Analytics or link counters like or can help you measure the success of your navigation efforts.


Otherwise, it’s all just a guess.

Concepts Repurposed

Taking the concepts above, you can even see how the strategies were integrated in the design of my recently published book – Social Media Marketing for Digital Photographers.

Since Western Society reads from left to right and from top to bottom, I’ve created multiple calls to action based on this behavior.

Start with the blue, then follow with the red. This “Z” behavior is also used in many magazine and print designs. Pay close attention!


What’s Next?

Here’s my call to action. The Photo Life is graciously hosting a contest for a free copy of my book! To enter to win, leave a question or comment about the topic of this post before Midnight 12/13/11. A randomized winner will be picked!


Lawrence Chan

P.S. Here’s a design strategy that some malls use — in order to travel up and down a level via escalator, department stores require you to walk halfway around the store to the opposite side. The journey to the connecting escalator forces you to have maximum exposure to their products!

P.P.S. Inspired by Ellen, I’m doing a 12-Days of Giveaways starting on December 8th, 2011. Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list.


About Lawrence Chan

I am Lawrence Chan and I’m a marketing strategist for smart photographers.

While I author a blog, the ultimate pricing e-book, and a real book, unlike tofu, I sometimes wish I could figuratively eat a book. My propensity for eating and reading, sometimes reading about eating, has been wonderful precursors for ideas in marketing.

I so happen to be a photographer.

P.S. I like retro cats with lightning bolts from their eyes.

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Word of Mouth Marketing for Photographers by Binita Patel

Written by Binita Patel

A happy customer is the greatest endorsement any business could ask for. After all, happy customers are likely to say great things about your business, and people trust recommendations from the happy customers they know. Hearing a positive testimony from a friend or family could mean the difference between ‘maybe’ and ‘definitely’ for your next client.

So the big question is: How do we create happy customers who want to proactively endorse our business? Well, it all starts with the customers you already have. Remember, your current customers already know you, like you and trust you. So the key is to leverage these existing relationships to create a self-perpetuating cycle of positive word-of-mouth.

Let’s give them something to talk about. Creating word-of-mouth momentum means giving people a reason to talk about you, your products and your services. In today’s competitive environment, simply meeting your customers’ expectations isn’t enough for them to give you a glowing review. We need to make sure that we’re going above-and-beyond the norm to delight them in an unexpected way. One really good example of this is ‘the client gift.’ In the wedding industry, it’s not uncommon for most vendors to share a token of their appreciation towards the client at the time of signing. This is a great first step in giving clients a reason to talk about you. Here in my studio, we like to go one extra mile and present our clients with a gift about mid-way through the relationship as well. This is a completely unexpected surprise, and really gets couples excited and buzzing about us!  Not only do most our clients tell their friends and family about the surprise gift, but many of them will even post about via Twitter or Facebook.

Here are a few more ideas to get your existing clients on the chit-chat bandwagon:

Be a resource. It’s amazing how much your clients might appreciate some honest, resourceful guidance in regards to photography or even planning their wedding/event. Say hello. Never under-estimate the power of a simple, hand-written note or even dropping a quick line via email just to say ‘hello’… no strings attached. Presentation matters. When sending a note or a gift, what you give is just as important as HOW you give it. Stylish packaging and attention to detail really adds that ‘wow’ factor that can separate you from the crowd. Social sharing. If you’re using a blog, Twitter, Facebook or any other form of social media, be open in sharing information of value that your audience may want to talk about.

Reward your evangelists. There will always be a small handful of people who cheer for you a little louder than the rest. Yippee! Chances are these people are already your best clients (or even favorite industry vendors that you work really well with). You love them just as much as they love you; and because there’s already a mutual love-love relationship, they are proactively out there spreading the love and selling you to their friends and family. Reward these people! Reward them in a way that they truly feel appreciated for having spread the word. Here in my studio, we often send out boxes of custom chocolates, framed enlargements or gift baskets to our loudest and proudest evangelists. The investment we make in these people pays for itself as they continue to perpetuate positive word-of-mouth and help bring new clients in the door.

Join the conversation. Once you’ve got people talking you up, the key is to acknowledge what’s being said and make sure you keep those conversations going. If conversations are taking place via Facebook or Twitter, it’s really easy to join in by responding with comments or tweets. If people are responding to your blog posts with comments, be prompt in accepting comments and participating in the discussion board. Being part of a genuine two-way dialog will once again show your cheerleaders that you’re truly worth talking about.

Building momentum through word-of-mouth takes time. Tying good, buzz-worthy content into your client satisfaction workflow is a great place to start. Once people have something juicy to talk about, they’ll naturally start talking it up to their friends and family. Remember to always be thankful and appreciative to those who spread the love about you and your business. These people are priceless! As time goes on, the effect of this cycle will start to snowball and really take on momentum. I hope that soon enough, your delighted clients will be singing your praises from the rooftops.

About Binita Patel

Binita Patel is a Boston-based wedding photographer specializing in weddings for fun & stylish couples. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics & Finance, as well as an MBA in Marketing. Binita is passionate about sharing her love for photography and business knowledge with photographers across the country.

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