While the opportunity to get so close to the action that sweat and/or other substances come in direct contact with the camera may make concert photography seem like an exhilarating and pseudo-glamorous profession, it can also be a stressful job. Capturing the perfect shot could mean shooting hundreds of photos in the span of three songs, and Jimmy Steinfeldt, veteran concert photographer and friend to the musically skilled, knows this stress and excitement well.
Steinfeldt recently released a book, Rock ‘N’ Roll Lens, which documents his years as a concert photographer capturing such iconic musicians as Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, and Paul McCartney. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask this legendary shutterbug about his technique, inspiration, and favorite artists.
Who are you favorite bands/artists to photograph and why?
Prince because he always looks good, The Rolling Stones because they put on great shows, and Madonna because she always has a new look.
How did you get involved in the world of concert photography?
I bought a $100 camera to photograph my road trips. The photos turned out great, and I started taking the camera to concerts. Those photos turned out great, too, and got published in SPIN and Rolling Stone magazines.
Who are some other photographers that you admire?
Richard Avedon is my favorite photographer, and others that I admire include Jim Marshall, Bob Gruen, Henry Diltz, Lynn Goldsmith, and Herb Ritts. I also admire many cinematographers, including my favorite, Karl Freund.
How did you decide which photos to include in the book? It must have been difficult to sift through so many great photos.
This was a huge job. Out of a quarter of a million photos, I chose 50 of the best. It was important that each photo had a great story to go with it, so that played a part in the edit.
What concert venue is your favorite to shoot in? I recently posted an article on LA Music Blog of the Top 10 Music Venues in Los Angeles, and I’m interested to see if any of your favorites made the cut.
They would include The Troubadour, Viper Room, Mint, Whisky A Go Go, Roxy, Palladium, Hotel Cafe, and many more. Also First Avenue is among my favorite venues back in my hometown of Minneapolis.
It was refreshing to hear that your first camera was a $100 Minolta! Some of my best concert photos were taken with my kit lens 18-55mm, and as a photographer, I find that it is not always the best equipment that leads to the best photos. Do you find that philosophy to be true?
Absolutely. And remember — regarding your camera — don’t leave home without it!
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