Steve Brazill is a music photographer based in Southern California. He is also the host of the Behind the Shot Podcast. Music has been a special force in Steve’s life for as long as he can remember. As a radio host, emcee, and voice actor, he’s been around the music and entertainment industry for many years. You can find him on air at KCAL FM where he also handles their concert photography. Steve is one of the photographers at Toyota Arena where his goal is to combine his love of music and photography and tell viewers a story about the show.
Yes, I was surprised by the amount of positive feedback I got for a photo I took of the band One Rock at the Self-Help Festival in San Bernardino, California. I had not been familiar with the band before and was shocked to see how many fans they had in Japan after the photo went up on Instagram. I had to turn off notifications for a few days due to the overwhelming response. Transcript: "So the question is, have I ever been surprised by the amount of positive feedback to one of my photos? And yes, this photo right here, this is a band by the name of One. Ok, Rock I photographed at self-help festival. San Bernardino California a number of years ago. I don't remember the exact year and fantastic Band live, so enjoyed photographing, these guys, and when I got this shot, I posted it on Instagram and I did all the normal tags. And I tagged the bass player here that's in the shot. And I tagged the band And and use hashtags as well as that tags. And little did I know because I had not been familiar with the band. Before I photographed them, they are huge in Japan and all the fans found that shot and it got so bad that I had to turn off notifications for about three days."
I chose this photo because it tells a story of the fight at Pala Casino in Southern California. The layers in the image, from the foreground to the middle and background subjects help to create a narrative. In the foreground, the large fighter is being counted down; in the middle, David Pacheco looks smaller but is pacing with anticipation; in the background, Joey Paul You. So and Brian Runs are together, watching the countdown and hoping for the ref to call the fight. Transcript: "Can you show one of your photos? That's worth a thousand words and explain why you chose it? Yes, but let me do a little disclaimer first, I don't know that any image is worth a thousand words. However, I do have an image that I love for a number of different reasons. Number one, the way it layered out each layer, foreground mid-ground. And background subject AIDS in telling the story of the shop. This is a Muay Thai fight at Pala Casino in Southern California from years ago, and it's a type of photography. FEI don't do very often anymore, fight sports but I have been in martial arts for years and years couple of decades. And so I knew the promoter of this fight and one of the competitors in this fight also trained at the dojo that I trained at. So, I had access to this and I love the way the layers in this image, came out to help tell the story. Let's start in the foreground, first of all, the person that you see the back of looks much larger than the other fighter because they're closer to you, also, he Was a little bit bigger than the other fighter but he is standing in the corner, being counted down that other fighter, that's in the distance, knocked him down. So the referees fingers are up in front of his face doing a countdown. Then, when you move to the middle, you see David Pacheco. David is pacing. His feet are separated. His hands are separated. His hands are not at his side, and he looks so much smaller than the big guy, but he's pacing and has a demeanor of come. On let's going. I can't wait for this to continue. Then when you move to the background subject it's outside the ring behind David his to Corner people. Joey Paul you. So and Brian runs and they're both watching the countdown hoping that the ref is going to call the fight their hands together. Like they're praying and there's little things in this shot that I loved as well. For example, the large fighter in front is separated from David who is separated from, From the corner people, the two people in front, their heads are mostly in a clean spot between the flag and the LA of Paula Casino. You can see a little bit of the p and the a coming out of the fighters head, nothing I can do about that but this is one of my favorite shots. Thanks for the question."
Photos are not dead; they still tell powerful stories and can capture moments in time that motion video cannot. People still take selfies, photos of their kids, and pictures of their favorite bands, showing that photos are still a popular form of expression. Transcript: "Instagram says photos are dead. What do I think? Well, boy, do I have a pinions on this one? When you freeze a moment in time, and you do it, right? And that moment in time, that Frozen moment tells a viewer, a story, there's very little more powerful than that. And arguably motion video can't tell the exact same story as a single moment in time. And I'll give you an example. If you're watching the news, it looks great in the anchors. Look fantastic. But if you ever noticed, if you ever try and pause the television, you will never pause somebody with their face, looking good and normal. You'll almost always pause them in unflattering way. While that's not something you're going to show people. It's not something you're going to use, is a photo. I want you to think about that. As an example of a frozen moment in time that says something different to you than what the video did people. Still want to see their favorite bands. In a photograph people. Still want photos of their kids. People still take selfies and when they take a selfie they're not taking video, they're taking still photography. So, while Instagram is a platform and has to decide where the runway is for them, and where they want to go next and have decided that it's motion and reels. That's fine. Hey, more power to them, but photos are not dead. Brett, thanks for the question."
Yes, an image can be technically perfect but emotionally lacking. This is because while the recipe of taking a good photo can be followed, there is often an artistic vision that comes with a photograph that goes beyond the technical instructions. Transcript: "Can an image be technically, perfect, but emotionally lacking. Yes, I'd argue a lot of images are, if not most because most images are snapshots, right? Most images are pictures where somebody use the gear properly, they understood technically how to operate the camera, how to get focus. And if it was on a phone, the camera did the autofocus. They understood white balance again phone. Probably did the white balance form and maybe just from their life, they understand subconsciously. Lee a couple of good compositional rules and managed to capture a composition that works to the strengths of the image, but getting an emotionally. Impactful image is much more than that. It's more than just following the recipe. I'll give you an example. If you're in the kitchen, we all know somebody that's gotten a really good recipe from a family member and they go into the kitchen and they try and make that recipe and they follow it to the T. And at the end they say that doesn't taste like Like my mom's, but they followed it perfectly. It's technically perfect to the instructions in the way, the equipment was supposed to be used, but what they don't know. Is mom had a slight bit of artistic Vision, she put a pinch in here and there, she had her own artistic voice and that goes beyond the technical. Thanks for the question."
I chose live music photography as my niche because of my experience in radio. Backstage meet and greets gave me the opportunity to photograph artists, and I fell in love with low light action photography while photographing my son's marching band. My experience in traditional media gave me an advantage over other photographers who started out at bars and nightclubs. Transcript: "Hi Cynthia. Great question why did you choose your particular photography Niche? And the answer is I've been in radio for over 40 years, it was over 30 years. When I first started live music photography and in the old days of radio we used to get backstage for meet and greets. The meet and greets were all industry people radio and record company people. And so we used to get backstage to meet artists. In today's world that doesn't happen, the meet and greets now are sold. As part of VIP ticket packages but back in those days when I would get backstage to meet artists, I went to my boss at the radio station once and I said, you know, we get backstage for these meet and greets. I've kind of gotten into photography. Now I was photographing my son and high school band marching on a football field and I fell in love with that act of photographing at night in very, low light with the band moving very quickly. So low light action photography and I looked at my boss at the radio station. I I dunno if we can, we can get in to take photographs of concerts and his response to me, was, I don't know, go ask somebody. So I said to him, I'm probably going to need a business card to prove. I work for KCAL. I'm a DJ salespeople, have business cards, we don't have business cards as DJs. He said, no problem sent me the logo, made a business card. And two weeks later, I was photographing Def Leppard and heart at the old Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. That doesn't happen for most people. Most people People start photographing in bars and nightclubs, I just happened to be a traditional media being in radio that kind of gave me a leg up, but I've always been around music and so live music photography was the normal extension of that."
It is okay to clip your histogram in order to have more freedom with your art - it is your story and your voice. Keep in mind that if you are clipping the red channel, the blue and green may still contain detail which can be recovered by changing to black and white. Transcript: "I've actually been watching this question to see if other people answered it because I'm not exactly sure what you're meaning is here. Is it ever okay to have tones cut in a histogram? So I'm going to go with what I think you mean and that is is it over okay to have your histogram clip on the right side or clip on the left side? Meaning you've clipped your highlights or you've clipped your blacks and the answer is yeah. It's your art, it's your story. It's your voice right at your artistic voice. And do whatever you want with it. If you want your blacks clip to clip your blacks, if you want your whites clip to clip your whites. Now, in my particular case, it may not be something I want or care about, I photograph live music. So with what I photograph, it has nothing to do with what I want. There will 100% be something in my scene that is clipped on both sides. A lighting director's job is to push or can be their job. Is to push the extremes of the human eye. The visual experience that the audience is going to see in doing that. When I take a photograph, those lights will clip Almost 100% of the time at the light fixture. The beam of light probably won't be, but the light itself is probably clipped as well. Depending on how it hits that artists. I might have their face perfectly exposed but the back of their head or their hair is completely We blown out. I can try and save that but their face then might be three stops underexposed and difficult to recover. So I am always going to have highlights blown out in the same thing. I might have a singer in the middle of a stage under a spotlight and to expose for them, the back of the stage is going to be 100% or behind them whichever angle I'm photographing at is going to be 100 black clipped a hundred percent black so assuming that that's what you meant and yeah, absolutely. And one thing I'll add really quick, I've only got 20 seconds. One thing I'll add really quick is a lot of times we would I photograph people are lit up with nothing but red if the red Channel clips and a face is completely gone of detail. Keep in mind that the blue and green Channel, probably are not clipped. So changing to black and white will bring a lot of those details back."