Yes I know, I'm a photographer, so my view and opinion may be looked at as skewed or one sided and as always, any blog written here can be a start of an open discussion with your thoughts and ideas written in comments that we can respond to below.

So with that said, I pose a question... When a band, artist, musician is on stage what is the show people are paying to see? Pretty vague and wide open question for sure. You can put together list, does that include EDM, DJs and other entertainers that bring fun to a stage other than a "band"? Sure and with that said each show is going to be unique and individualized to whatever that artist on stage is looking for and in what a lighting designer produces for an artist, event, venue or show, this I understand.

Maybe we should step back a moment and describe what type of "band photographers" we are, we are unique, different if you will; than most every single "band photographer" we have met. You see we capture a show, an event, a band on stage so differently than most (and maybe room for another blog "Band Photographer - Fact or Fiction") that when we explain to photographers what we do, we get looks as if we are out of our minds or not really "band" photographers from some of them.

Back on point, what is the show fans are paying to see? We believe a fan is there to enjoy the band or artist/musician and the performance they are bringing to the stage. You may be thinking "but of course they are, they are the fans" and they just paid to walk into an event, venue, fest, show to see their favorites play the music they love to to rock out to. No matter if its rock, country, dance, hip hop, whatever the fun is they are there to SEE their favorite band perform. Think about that last statement and think about what you say to your wife, girlfriend, husband, boy friend, friends and even family ... you say something to the effect "Hey lets go see _________!" {fill in the blank with your favorite} or maybe "Hey did you hear who is coming to town? we should go see them" See them, they want to see the band, artists, musicians that create the music they love and have a great time at the show. I'm not writing anything that's a secret, but why is it that we hear time and time again from those same fans, "Why is it so dark?" and "Why so much smoke?" or "My cell phone can't take a photo of the band we can't see them." Well with those comments and our own challenges as photographers trying to capture a show, we typically take a moment to bring that info to the Lighting Designer only to be laughed at or ignored, brushed off by some for passing on the info and requesting to be able to see the artists we are paid to capture in a photo (or video), it's mind boggling? The reality is we, as photographers, are only trying to pursue the best show possible for the artist, venue, event, show so people talk about it for days, weeks, a long time and also with that; capturing the best looking show for the above same clients and with that showcasing a lighting designers best. It's a win win, right? Why is outside input from another valid source frowned on, we don't make suggestions to make anyone look bad, if they look bad and we are capturing the show, then don't we equally look bad?

So everyone is still thinking OK yes everyone wants to be part of a great show, let me point out a few possible unknowns that may be quite obvious.

  • Red lights and cameras don't mix - darkrooms (old school) used lights rooms as to not affect the processing of photos (B&W) ruining the outcome of a final image. And even in the digital world, red lights and hues of red, pink magenta, etc. are the most difficult for a camera to process. (not for a photographer to capture, but the camera to process)
  • Blue lights equal Blue Man or a Smurf look
  • Green lights equal the Incredible Hulk
  • RGB White shows a pink hue (and typically LD's can't answer the question of what kelvin are those lights or setting)
  • (The combination of red, green, and blue in full intensity makes RGB white.)
  • There are different color temperatures in use, from somewhere around 1800K to around 10000K. "white" will be a lot more yellow/red at 1800K than at 10000K (or, the more "normal daylight" around 5000K. - K=kelvin temperature of the hue of the light)
  • Haze is best in moderation - too much is blinding (in a blocks the view kind of way)

So with those points above what is the in between give and take for a best show, band, music, lights and fan interaction? And why are some Lighting Designers so

against input from an outside source that is trying to make the show the best for everyone, band, and fan included?

Meme's online read things to the affect of "So then the photographer asked... {smoke, lights, red, green, blue}" And I've read articles and heard stories about this same thing and its OK for the LD to be king all knowing and yet we still hear the above from fans and guests of venues and events? It doesn't make sense. I have also heard, the band said no lights, low lights, , again fill in the blanks with any statement you've heard... or from band LD's we work for the band to put on a light show to enhance the overall show... as photographers WE AGREE to enhance the overall show, but not necessarily to be the only aspect of the show people see, remember the fans paid to see the artist, musician, band etc on stage, not for them to be in total darkness with lights that sometimes, arguably can cause an epileptic seizure.

What we are saying here with all these words is there is a happy in between, a mix (like sound techs do to make a band sound it's best) with lights as well. Everyone loves to be able to input thoughts and ideas and to make a show the best over all. Everyone wants to be part of the success of a band, venue or event that people remember and photography captures those moments that people can go back on and remember all the fun they had seeing their favorite band perform some of their favorite feel good songs, and lights can enhance the show; even if for just one or two songs a set, if that's all we can get.

5% Smoke on intervals

Fill wash


Front fill (left image) vs No Front fill (right image)

Editable useable photo vs un-useable photo

5% Smoke on intervals

Fill wash


No Front fill (left image) vs Front fill (right image)

Editable useable photo vs non-useable photo

The two sets of examples above showing a little input on front fill where you can see the artist while listening to great music and the other un-useable (while showing a few cool lights) still an un-useable photo. Which photo would you rather showcase as a photo showing the artist and light show?

So here it is, from a photographers point of view, when we ask for certain scenes and light or smoke set ups, it isn't because we want to make the artist or LD look bad, quite the contrary, we want to help create a show for us to showcase the whole show, the fans to love and talk about, show their cell phone photos to their friends and family, post on social media showing the bass player they have a crush on (the likes of a Bob Hilton) or guitarist stage left or right, the lead vocals and drummer or other musicians rocking the stage. An even front fill with Leiko's or spot lights can bring a show into the light or deep into darkness without them. A fan is more likely to remember a show when they can see their favorite artist on stage while they are performing. A venue is going to be looked at as the place to go when those same fans who posted a cell phone photo, goes to see the photos posted on webpages or social media and says "We went to see these guys {insert favorite band}" and check out the photos from the show.

This is the opinion of us for sure, but backed by so many we come across at shows, venues, events across the upper midwest and the Chicago Music Scene. Please comment with your input if you have pros or cons to this blog.