How to Take Boss Concert Photos
If you are into the Houston local music scene, then you have no doubt heard of the creative and talented Daniel Jackson. He is often found behind a camera lens, talking about cacti or causing good-hearted mischief. Daniel and I met years ago through the twitter-verse and he has become one of my most favorite people in Houston. He has penned a few posts on LaurenIgnited such as reviews of festivals and spotlights of upcoming concerts like PHOX, Joyce Manor, Cass McCombs, and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. And I’ve shared his photos with our community on more than one occasion. One of my favorite things about Daniel is that he seems to be viciously in love with making other people smile–but he goes about it in a quiet behind-the-scenes kind of way. He may pop up beside you to tell you a joke, then he’s off to take more photos. He’s a rad dude, and an incredible concert and portrait photographer. He’s here to chat with us about his love of photography, how he got started, what the heck listenyoungman means, and how we can take some cool shots too (even if we are only armed with the smart phone in our pockets.) Like what you read? Have a question? Leave a comment below!
Lauren Ignited: Howdy!
Daniel Jackson: Hey there, Lauren. Thanks for asking me to do this!!
LI: You bet! So glad to chat with you. You’ve always been a great supporter of Lauren Ignited, so first let me start with saying thanks!
DJ: Absolutely. You were one of the first to give me a platform to put down words on “paper” and photos on the dadgum Internets.
LI: Haha, yes indeed! And we loved the articles and photos! So, speaking of photos….can I just say that you are freakin’ talented?
DJ: Thanks very much. Means so much when people appreciate all the effort I put into something I truly love. The music is so important to me & I think it’s important to document the experience.
LI: Very cool. So, tell me…when was the first time you picked up a camera? Do you remember how it felt?
DJ: Well, I started taking photos with my cellphone at shows a while ago & then just decided about three years ago to pick up a “real” camera. What really sparked that idea was working with The Suffers. I mean, I felt like I needed something a little better to document what was going down with those guys. So, I e-bay’d the heck out of an old camera & started shooting whatever I could.
LI: Cool, so you were already working with The Suffers at that point?
DJ: Yeah, I approached them before SXSW & asked if I could help with social media, etc. They were keen on the idea & so that’s kinda the way it happened. First live show I ever shot was at Walter’s Downtown…Pete from Young Girls asked me to shoot them opening for Kurt Vile (I think that’s right) I was totally clueless & shot a zillion pics with maybe five coming out okay. Ha
LI: Haha, I know that feeling!
DJ: Still happens to me on occasion. Especially when lighting is garbage & such.
LI: True, and that’s pretty much every concert I’ve been to. LOL. What are your tips for iPhone / Android photographers on how they can get decent photos at a show while just using their smart phones?
DJ: Get there early as heck & get up close!!! Then just take your time, wait for the peak moments, don’t hold up the dang phone the whole time. Just like you would with a big camera, be patient & anticipate what’s gonna happen. Above all else, be respectful of the audience and the artists on stage. I truly think there’s a need for folks to shoot shows just with their iPhone. I’ve captured some amazing moments being IN the crowd versus just in the photo pit. It’s so limiting to shoot from the pit I’m basically doing EVERYTHING I can to get out. I’ve been hustling to snag artist portraits as of late & really enjoying that process. Actually about to head off to Newport Folk Festival soon & have a bunch of portraits set up. Plus, I reached out to a band on the lineup to get access to them backstage for hopefully some much more compelling photography. I’ll be hanging out with a terrific band named Amasa Hines. Sorry, that was off-topic. Ha.
LI: Haha, that’s great advice. And interesting that you are trying to GET OUT of the pit when most people are trying to GET IN. 🙂
DJ: So many talented folks standing shoulder to shoulder for three songs getting about the same shot isn’t for me. I’m a people person & wanna get to know + meet these artists. It’s been incredible really. During FPSF I shot 15 different portrait sessions with bands.
LI: I love your portraits–what got you inspired to doing them? Is there a particular photographer’s work that you saw and thought–THAT! Or, did it come about naturally? What’s the story there?
DJ: Well, I started asking bands to do the portraits because I wanted to improve my abilities for The Suffers in all honesty. I love them like family, but that’s a HARD group of folks to shoot. So many personalities. However, I’m a really big fan of Pooneh Ghana from Austin. She’s done some great festival portraits and behind the scenes/tour diary things for bands like Cage The Elephant. I do TONS of studying of other photographers work & in that I found some incredible artists like Josh Wool from NYC, who’s just got this way of pulling the best out of his subjects. I got to meet him at Newport Folk Fest last year and so that was neat. Looking forward to running into him & Giles Clement, who does tintype pics at the fest. Both incredible guys.
LI: That’s amazing! It’s always great to study your craft, I feel. So…what are tintype pics?
DJ: Tintypes are kinda like the old western style photographs taken with an enormous retractable camera. It’s a one-shot kinda thing that works with plates inside…and now I’m gonna Wikipedia tintypes to figure out how it actually works. You should follow Giles on Snapchat. He walks through the whole process on a regular basis + has built his own camera which is really neat.
LI: Ah! Ok, got it! I’ll definitely check him out on snap chat. So, tell us more about listenyoungman. Where did that name come from?
DJ: It’s basically an expression as if Hank Hill was yelling at Bobby. That’s what I had in mind when I chose that social media handle. Kind of like “Hey mannish boy, grow up!” (which I’ll never do. ever)
LI: Haha nice. I always wondered if it was something you heard a lot growing up. Like, you were a little mischievous.
DJ: So, between my Dad, who was a pretty strict guy & my PawPaw, who was the head football coach at a high school for a bit, I got LOTS of that. I was definitely trouble. My PawPaw used to call us (me and my cousin Todd) “A horse’s last” which is just a nice way of saying “A horse’s ass” HA! Characters, that’s who I grew up around.
LI: Haha, awesome.
DJ: So, other than Newport Festival (which looked amazing last year and I’m kicking myself for not going–AGAIN), what are your creative plans for this year?
LI: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few bands shooting promo pics lately plus I’m currently working on another album cover for a local artist who’ll be releasing an EP this year. I’m REALLY wanting to collaborate with someone to put out a book. I’ve had some talks over beers to discuss possible ideas, etc. Nothing definite just yet…I just think it would be neat to do. In Houston, we really need another voice online to cover what the heck is happening in our music scene. It may be super neat to get the artists who are out there hustling and creating every dang day to contribute. Some of the most compelling pieces of writing that I’ve seen recently have been done by working musicians covering music they dig. All in all, my brain is always on overdrive & I’ve got ideas flowing. Just recently I reached out to a local comedian (Brian Zeolla) to bring an idea I had to life. My daughter Greta & I spent about an hour hanging pizza from a tree in a local park. Brian shows up. I toss an American flag around his shoulders & BAM we have new promo photos.
DJ: That rambling is a perfect example of the way my brain works. It’s an organized mess.
LI: Ha! Pizza from a tree, I’m not sure I would ever think of that. I’m super glad we have you and your partners in crime to come up with fun stuff like that. Your snap chat feed and Instagram feed are perfect examples of that!
DJ: Heck yeah! I like to have fun. I got this idea the other night to connect Antiques Roadshow clips with hip hop music. Incredibly enough it works. So, I’m inspired not just by photography but LOTS of stuff.
LI: Very cool. I want to go back to your book idea. You touched on something there that I love about Houston. Houston has an INCREDIBLE local music scene. So much so, I started a blog about it!
DJ: I know you did, and it’s great!
LI: Thanks! So, I recently went to a SofarSounds concert in Chicago, and none of the bands were from Chicago. My first thought was…every SofarSounds show I went to in Houston was 100% Houston bands. I mentioned it to my friend Caitlin that tagged along to the show (she’s also from Houston), and she said, “Yeah, the thing I’ve always heard about Houston and that because it so often got jumped over on tour schedules, it just HAD to create a really great local scene.” And, I never thought about it that way, but that’s a theory that makes sense. What do you think?
DJ: Big question. Lemme see, I think what sets Houston apart from other cities who’ve built a music scene from literally nothing (say Seattle in the 90’s) is that we don’t have an influx of musicians coming to Houston to make music. Most of the bands you see on stages night after night grew up here. Our venues are getting better (to me that is key in getting bands to stop here) year after year. Walter’s & Satellite Bar are flipping incredible smaller spaces that touring bands are playing year after year. It comes down to the relationships those bands have built with the owners as well. A very interesting ecosystem in my opinion. When say, Of Montreal could be playing a House of Blues but they choose to come hang out with Zack & John at Walter’s.
LI: I remember that show! I kept thinking, is that really the Of Montreal? Such a great choice. Walter’s is a great spot for the Houston scene. So, we’ve got to wrap it up here, and I’d like to close with a question about your brand new website, www.listenyoungman.com. I think you did a fantastic job with it. What are some ways that the Houston community can help you grow it?
DJ: It was a long time in the making for sure…It’s really just a photo collection of what I’ve put my blood, sweat and heart (which is also filled with blood & sweat) into for the past three years. It hasn’t scratched the surface of what I’d like it to be. Eventually, I’ll get around to putting some words on the site & art that’s not necessarily music related. It’s been really helpful to have ONE spot to point people to when they ask to see what I’m working on. I’m continually tweaking it and adding photos. Hmmmm, what can Houston do to help me? Keep asking me out to document the interesting stuff that’s going on with the scene…recording a new song at Sugarhill Studios? Ask me out to shoot pics! Building a 45-foot tall dinosaur out of marshmallows in the middle of Discovery Green? Ask me to shoot pics!
LI: Haha, if someone is building a 45-foot tall dinosaur out of marshmallows I volunteer to be the first to jump on it and eat my way through to the other side!
DJ: Imagine the S’mores we could make Lauren Ignited!
LI: OMG. Now I want S’mores.
LI: What should people expect from you regarding pricing and what not? Do you charge for photos?
DJ: Yes, I absolutely charge for photos. Much like I would NEVER ask a band to perform for free on the roof of my house for my neighbors, I expect that same level of respect. My rates are super reasonable, and really I think what will set me apart from the other VERY talented photogs we have in Houston are my creative ideas. Want to set a car on fire; I’ll figure out a way. Want me to take photos of your death metal band grooming a poodle? I’ll figure out a way.
LI: LOL–you are so fun! Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to chat with us.
DJ: Thank you so much for asking me to do this & remember, LISTEN TO THE SUFFERS (oh, and also Tom Petty because he’s great)
LI: Haha, no doubt!
View more of Daniel’s work on listenyoungman, and follow him on twitter and instagram. You won’t regret it. All photos in this post were shot by Daniel Jackson, aka listenyoungman. To hire him for a session, visit his website: www.listenyoungman.com.