Photoshop World Concert Precon Review w/ 1 Year Later Update

I took Alan Hess and Scott Diussa's Concert Photography preconference at Photoshop World last year in Orlando. While they didn't offer it in Las Vegas, it's coming back for the upcoming DC show. I'm reprinting in full my original review for those who may be interested in signing up for it, and am adding a "how has it actually helped me a year later" section at the end, so make sure to look for that!

And now, without further ado:

Photoshop World Orlando 2011: The Concert Precon

This is the first of a few parts of my Photoshop World Orlando 2011 wrapup.

Orlando Photoshop World 2011 is in the bag. This was my second Photoshop World, and still had a lot of the same excitement as my first, the difference being I actually knew people this time.

Instructor Dave Black said that Photoshop World reminds him of summer camp, and that is one of the best analogies I've heard. It's so true. With my first PSW last September in Las Vegas, I didn't know a single soul, but I'm at a point now in my life where I really enjoy meeting new people, and try to be as social as I can. I met a lot of great people there, and have been talking to them over Twitter and email for the past 6 months. While not all of them attended the Orlando show, enough of them did so I was looking forward to seeing them again.

Last time I took the Photo Safari precon, this time I took the concert precon with Alan Hess and Scott Diussa. At the time I signed up for it, I really was just doing it because it sounded like fun. In the couple months before the precon, I had an opportunity to take photos of my first concert, and really enjoyed it, so decided to try pursuing that. 


Alan and Scott are not just amazing photographers, but amazing teachers. I had already watched their class on Kelby Training, and read several articles that Alan had written on the subject,  but there just was no substitute for the real thing.  The first part of the session was lecture/slideshow.  They presented the information in a clear way, followed by great examples, and had no trouble sharing their "secrets" with the class.

The second part of the class was the actual concert shoot. Big Electric Cat played, and just like in the real world of concert shooting, everybody only has the first 3 songs to shoot. You really need to try having all your camera settings dialed in before the shoot begins so you don't waste too much time fiddling with your camera. 3 songs really isn't a lot of time, so everybody was running all over the place trying to get shots. 

The only part which annoyed me about this, which I'm guessing is accurately reflecting a real world scenario, is the fact that Alan and Scott made a huge deal about what to do, and what not to do in the photo pit. Once we got to the shoot, I appeared to be the only one following any of these, especially the one about being careful if you're going to move or stand up so you don't get in somebody else's shot. It's like everybody was out for themselves without realizing it's much better to work as a team. There were even people leaning on the stage (a big no no), and creating weird shadows for the other photographers (Scott did talk to those people a few times, but considering how many of my second set photos have that same person's shadow, I'm guessing it didn't work). I guess I'm just too nice. :)


After 3 songs,the band stopped playing, and Scott and Alan got on stage and gave us real world advice pointing out things they noticed us doing or not doing, or certain aspects about lighting or positioning. This was something you couldn't get in the Kelby Training online class, and was easily the most helpful part of the whole precon. For instance, Scott pointed out that when Scott Kelby was singing, from the left side, you'd get a mic shadow on his face, but not from the right. So, if you were on the left, you either couldn't get a good shot of him singing, or you'd have to wait for him to pull back from the mic.  

Then the band played another set, this time with a bonus 4th song with Scott Diussa on guitar. With new knowledge in tow, we all set out to get some more shots. 

After the set, we did another small session in the classroom with info on workflow and post processing. It was then that we found out about the contest. If you're shooting for a service, you sometimes only have a little time to pick out your one best shot and submit it, so that's what we had to do. We had until 10pm to submit something, and the winner would get a new Nikon camera. 

I looked through all my shots, and while I thought I had some decent keepers, the one that really caught my eye was one I got of Scott Diussa on guitar. The pose was pure rock and roll, the lighting was nice, and it was in focus. Using Nik Silver Efex Pro I converted it to black and white, and submitted it. 

Scott Diussa shreds

It wasn't until the next morning at the opening keynote that I learned mine had been selected as one of the top 3 finalists!  While I didn't win, it was still awesome to have been chosen as a finalist. 

I highly recommend the precon to anyone, even if you don't necessarily shoot concerts, because besides being fun and having a couple of natural instructors, you learn a lot about low and odd light shooting situations which can be applied to other photographic pursuits. Shooting concert photography is extremely difficult, and takes a lot of practice, and I feel a bit better prepared now.  I'm hoping to apply this new knowledge in situations in the future.

Update: 1 Year Later

It's been almost a full year since I wrote that original post.  So in that time period, where have I gone since that initial class?  Prior to taking the class, I had shot 2 bands. 1 was just because it was part of a snowboarding competition that I brought my camera to, and the other was at a very very small local club.

When I got back from that Photoshop World, I started sending out letters to bands that were coming to town.  I didn't target any big bands or singers, I targeted bands that were playing a small club (but a step above that really really small club).  Was it scary at first to contact these guys? Yes, but I figured, "if they say no, I'm not any worse off than I am at this moment."  As I wasn't shooting for anybody but myself, I took Alan's and Scott's advice, and just said that up front.

Dear XXXX,

My name is Michelle Hedstrom, and I'm starting out in concert photography. I don't shoot for an outlet yet, but I wanted to ask you if it would be possible to get a photo credential for the XXX show in Denver, CO on XXXX?

Even though I'm just getting started, I definitely will not use any flash photography, and I'm very respectful of other photographers in the photo pit.  I also will adhere to any rules you put forth.

I thank you for your consideration, and hope to hear back from you

While I never heard back from the majority, I heard back from enough to at least let me start shooting.  Josh Gracin (from one of the earlier American Idol seasons) was my first, followed by One, a Metallica cover band.  It turns out these were all at the same club, so I started talking to the owners, who then gave me the go-ahead to come in and shoot whenever I wanted, which led to Bret Michaels.

At one of those concert shoots, I met a fellow photographer, Kate Martin, who told me about  It pays per page view (so, virtually nothing), but it was a good next step to being able to say "hey, I now shoot for these guys," and hopefully would get me better credentials.  I was accepted to that in May (for sports, I didn't start doing concerts for them until July/August), which started leading to bigger bands and bigger concert venues.  Hot Chelle Rae.  Queensryche.  B-52s. The Mayhem Festival with Anthrax and Megadeth. (you can see my stuff at I got to shoot the bands that I wanted (assuming I could get the credential), but I started getting more and more "yes" answers when I asked for a credential because I now had a valid outlet.

I knew I needed to move forward still, so started sending emails to some of the newspapers around here who had entertainment sections online.  I definitely got a lot of "we're full" emails back, but a few of them said, "ask again in a month."  I made sure to followup with that (a calendar is a wonderful thing), and just recently got a hit back from the local Reverb site.  I still can shoot whomever I want, assuming nobody else has taken it first from Reverb, and the editor gets the credential for me.  I just shot my first concert for them in the best-lit venue I've shot in so far:

So a year later, would I still recommend the concert precon?  Definitely a resounding YES.  If you're at all interested in concert photography, and want information and you have the personality to handle the follow-through afterwards, then definitely go for it.  And besides, it's just fun. :)




Hey Michelle, I took that

Hey Michelle, I took that class with you and met you briefly elbowing for a spot at BB Kings photographing Electric Cat. We exchanged cards. Are you coming to PSW DC (my hometown)? Would be interested in chatting with you about your concert photography. I have been doing the same however gravitating more towards working with small bands to help promote themselves and delving into band portraiture. I'd like to pick your brain a little; compare notes. Let me know; fly me an e-mail. - Dan