Earlier, we introduced you to our 12 favorite music photographers in North Texas. We got more than 50 nominations, and our team of expert judges narrowed it down to these 12. Over the next two weeks, we'll be introducing you to each of the finalists in turn by having them share five of their favorite concert photos and answering a few questions about their process and passion. Next up is Mike Mezeul II, whose work can be viewed from his website, www.mikemezphotography.com
See also: -Finalist Profile: Mike Brooks
Mike, what's the best thing about live music?
By far, the fans. It can give you chills when a band completely rocks out on stage and you hear the crowd just roar. There's nothing better than feeling the energy of the band and crowd together almost about to blow the roof off of the place.
What makes a great concert photo?
Concerts are shows being put on for the audience, with that said, the lighting, the makeup, the props, the poses are all in place for the photographer already, so thinking outside the box is huge for a concert photographer. You've basically got another photographer standing on either of side of you snapping away with the same gear as you, so you need to find a way to make sure you're photo stands out from theirs. I think taking risks as far as photography goes, make for a good shot. Using various lenses like a fisheye or a wide angle, double or triple exposures, silhouettes, etc. can take your photo from good to great. But also making sure you capture the emotion of the performer, working with the light, using leading lines, and not forgetting the reason the band is their (the crowd) all make for a great photo.
What's the strangest thing that has happened to you while photographing live music?
Oh boy...besides the numerous beers I have had thrown at me, the desperate things people will do to get your attention to take their photo, and having performers spit on your camera....I would have to say my experience with Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene was one of the more strange/awkward moments I've had while shooting. I was photographing the band a few years back at the House of Blues in Dallas. During one of the songs, Brendan hops off the stage, comes through the photog pit, and then stands up on the rail and starts holding the mic out to the crowd. So with that said, I took advantage of the opportunity and stood up on the rail next to him and started clicking away. After about five clicks, Brendan looks at me, stops singing, and asks me if I'm done taking my photos. It's a very awkward feeling when you have a few thousand people looking at you, seeming kind of pissed off that you stopped their show. So I kindly shook my head yes, hopped down and the show continued on, haha...got the shot though, so it was all worthwhile.
What makes a professional photographer as opposed to an amateur?
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I think a lot of it has to do with the photographer's professionalism, not only their images. Although the images definitely represent the photographer's work, I've come across several "professional" photographers whose ethics and professionalism was a joke. They were doing things strictly against house/band rules, rudely cutting off other photographers shots, talking crap about other photographers while not knowing that the photographer that they were talking to, was indeed the wife of the photographer whom they were trash talking, the list goes on and on. It seems the photographers who I've met, whether deemed "amateur" or "pro" by the quality of their work, who stay humble, understand we are all there for the same reason, and appreciate that we are all always learning, are the professionals in my opinion.
Pick one of the photos you've submitted and tell us a little about it: Where was it shot, who is featured and (most importantly) how did you capture it? We'd love to hear logistical description or technical breakdowns or whatever else you want to tell us.
The photo of KISS is by far one of my all time favorite concert photographs I've ever taken. I love everything about it from the composition, the insane lighting at Gexa Energy Pavilion, and not only that it includes all four members of the band in the one shot, but their insanely awesome interaction with the crowd. This is one of those images where research pays off. I try to watch as many fan videos of the first three songs of a bands performance (thanks YouTube) from a previous show before I head out the door to shoot their show. This allows me to get a good understanding of where to be for the songs.
The band's performance usually doesn't change much between venues, so you can get an idea of where the best shots will be for each song. I knew that about halfway through "Shout It Out Loud," Paul, Gene, and Tommy would get together and do a fun pose together, so I made certain that I snagged the center stage location a few seconds before that happened. I also knew that I would need my trusty Nikon 14mm lens to capture all three together along with much of the set, so I made sure to have that on my camera (Nikon D800). Once the band all gathered together, I had about 10 seconds to snap away. The first few frames didn't have Eric (the drummer) in the background, so I had to tweak my position over just a bit to the right to allow Tommy's leg to not block out Eric. I believe this frame was one of the last before the guys went there separate ways across the stage. When the image got posted on The Observer, KISS actually picked it up as one of their feature concert images and it went viral worldwide, which was pretty awesome.