Struggle of a Concert Photographer


File Photo: A Sony camera covered in fake projectile blood during a Gwar concert.

Alisha Kirby
Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Approximately 30,000 music fans descended on the Bridge District this past weekend to attend Sacramento’s second annual TBD festival, filling the air with marijuana smoke and Selfie Sticks.

A quick scan of the crowd made it apparent that a majority planned to document the event via constant, blurry cell phone pictures.

A handful of photographers at the event, however, were there to do a job, donning press passes and 15 pounds of gear which appeared to get heavier as the three nights wore on.

Yet many of them are unlikely to receive a paycheck for their work.

“As a concert photographer, I have yet to make any money on concert photography,” said Bryce Fraser, founder of Shiftsync Media, a Sacramento-based lifestyle blog.

A music photographer may be in a constant state of unpaid internship status, often working to convince clients that his or her work is of monetary value.

“When it’s something fun, like concerts or even a sports game, you’re expected to do it for the experience,” Fraser said.

Unfortunately, the cost of a professional grade camera and the various lenses one may need for different jobs quickly adds up, said Carlos Almanza, a photographer at XSiGHT Productions studio in Downtown Sacramento.

“Cost-wise, the gear runs for about $5,000 but I’m fortunate enough to have a studio that backs me and allows me to use the gear for free,” Almanza said.

Almanza, who studied video production and film at the Art Institute and boasts seven years of experience, still finds himself bartering his work for studio time for friends’ bands.

The problem, he said, lies in the misconception that professional-grade photography is as simple as aiming the camera and pressing a button.

“I would say that it takes a certain amount of skill to take a legitimately good photo,” Almanza said. “You need to know your light and composition, because it’s way more than just picking up a camera, saying ‘stand here,’ and pressing the shutter.”

It is difficult to draw a discernible line in the sand to separate those who are considered “real” photographers from those who are not, Fraser said. Some say it all depends on whether or not one earns a paycheck, while others say a degree or a varied portfolio is necessary.

“The line is definitely blurred,” Fraser said, “(but) having some knowledge of photography and what makes a good photo helps. It is an art form, but not many people treat it as one.”

Fraser recounts last year’s After Shock festival, where bands including Weezer, the Offspring and Awolnation took to the stage at Discovery Park in Sacramento.

Almost a dozen people in the photo pit — an area directly in front of the stage barricaded off from the rest of the crowd and only made available to those with press passes — used nothing but iPads and cell phones.

There is a level of professionalism that Fraser said is disappearing, which makes it harder to leverage one’s own abilities when discussing pay.

Despite the frustration of being expected to work for free, however, some photographers say passion will always be a driving force when deciding what projects to take on.

“One time, a band and I set out in the snow with a couch to take promotional photos in the snow,” said Allen Daniel, freelance photographer for 1906 Studios and Joyus, an online department store.

Though woefully unprepared in only a pair of skinny jeans and a windbreaker, Daniel laid in the snow to get the “perfect shot,” something he said he didn’t think twice about.

“It felt like my fingers were going to fall off and I couldn’t feel my feet,” Daniel said with a laugh, “but I definitely learned my lesson and it was blast creating those images for the band.”

No mater the project, the more creative the picture, the more work and expertise it likely took to make it happen, Daniel said.


Secondhand Serenade’s John Vesely dishes about his fans, touring with Boyce Avenue and his upcoming album


Photo Credit: Bryce Fraser/
John Vesely, better known as Secondhand Serenade, sits down with’s Mark Lewis.

Mark Lewis, Arcurrent
April 11, 2012

Prior to a March 19 tour stop at Sacramento’s Ace of Spades club, The Current’s Mark Lewis was given the chance to sit down opposite John Vesely who you may know better as the one man band Secondhand Serenade. Vesely is an extremely popular musician who’s accomplished yet grounded and passionate. During the interview, he touches on beginning his career, his current venture involving PledgeMusic and his ongoing tour with YouTube sensations Boyce Avenue. Click here for a full review.

The Current: Thanks a lot John for taking the time to sit down and speak with us – I know you’re set to take the stage in a half hour or so.

Secondhand Serenade: My pleasure – thank you for the opportunity.

With three studio albums under your belt and a passionate fan base that follow your every tweet, describe to our readers how you began making music and what it was like when you didn’t have a room of people singing along with you during your entire set each night.

In the beginning when I recorded “Awake” before it was re-released, I spent a lot of time – like four or five hours a day on the computer pushing it. I wasn’t just being like abrasive but I wanted to get my music out there and just allow people to hear it and let them know that it’s out there. It really all started picking with MySpace which an amazing vehicle for “Awake” because the site had a lot of tools on it that other social networking sites don’t have anymore. For instance, tacking a song onto your page then letting people click on the player which would take them to a band’s page. Me, Colbie Caillat, Hollywood Undead and a lot of these huge artists were found through just doing well on MySpace and the reason for that is because MySpace had lots of things that you could customize like banners, songs and links. It was great. I had a really a cool time getting my career started. Now I’ve kind of come full circle because I’m about to embark on that exact same journey in a sense. I just recently left my label and I’m about to really do the exact same thing as I did early in my career with MySpace only this time on a much bigger scale.
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Patrick Stump Current Q and A


Photo Credit: Bryce Fraser/American River Current

Mark Lewis, Arcurrent
October 21, 2011

Mark Lewis, News Editor sits down with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, to discuss the band, his solo career, and his new album “Soul Punk.”

Mark Lewis:  Patrick you’ve acted on television, been the lead singer of an enormously popular punk band, produced music, learned to play multiple instruments and now you’re entering the arena of the solo artist. You’re only 27-years-old – what have you yet to accomplish that you’d like to?

Patrick Stump:  I mean I haven’t done… well I don’t know. I guess I haven’t made the perfect record yet but I don’t know that you ever get to that. It’s the thing that keeps me going. I was just watching an interview with Tony Bennett and he was asked how he keeps going after doing decades of shows and he’s like he wants to keep doing better than the one before. The longer I do it and the more I know – the more I want to do it.

Mark Lewis:  With February’s “Truant Wave – EP,” you wet you fans’ appetite for your first full length solo album, “Soul Punk,” which comes out on October 18th. What can we expect from the new record that is different from the six songs on “Truant Wave – EP?”

Patrick Stump:  It’s a lot funkier. On “Truant Wave”there was a few of songs that might have made sense musically with “Soul Punk” but not lyrically. “Soul Punk” is much more the funkier side of “Truant Wave.” I think “Soul Punk” is a lot funkier than “Truant Wave” and I don’t mean that word in the crappy high school flat-based punk band kind of way.  I mean Rhythm & Blues, Hip Hop and Soul music are all influences on what I do. The most recurring comparisons that I’ve gotten are to Prince and Michael Jackson. In fact, many people will say that my music is just a Prince knock-off or a Michael Jackson knock-off and I think people saying that makes me happy because it doesn’t sound like the same thing.
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Mirror of Michael


Photo Credit: Shanel Royal/American River Current
During ARC’s Club Day, Sergey Lukovich performs the authentic crotch grab move made famous by Michael Jackson. Photo taken March 10, 2011

Bryce Fraser, Arcurrent
March 28, 2011

The glove. The fedora. The crotch grabbing. Michael Jackson may have died in 2009, but his spirit lives on at American River College in student Sergey Lukovich.

At a recent ARC Club Day event, Lukovich took the stage and wowed the crowd; leaving many to wonder “Who is this guy?”

A self-taught dancer with no professional training, Lukovich shows his dedication to not just looking the part, but really becoming Jackson. He spends 45 minutes up to an hour getting into costume and preparing for his performances.

Having been a fan of Jackson since he was 7 years old, Lukovich’s favorite song by Jackson is “Give Into Me.” He favors the song because, “it appeals to any guy who has ever been dumped or cheated on by a girl.”

Not a one-genre type of person, Lukovich enjoys a wide variety of music from artists such as Lady Gaga and Bach. He is not a fan of bands such as “Slipknot” of which he says, “I have to understand the lyrics. I don’t understand a single thing they (Slipknot) are saying.” Then again, he never really “got into the Grunge scene,” he says.

Lukovich plans to be a constant on Club Day’s stage in the future. He has been performing his Jackson act since ARC’s Haunted Festival of 2010. His dedication forced him to rehearse for a year before then.

Lukovich has also taken his act off campus. He has performed at clubs, birthday parties, and the Radisson hotel, when it hosted Sac Anime in 2010. Lukovich even made some money from his appearances, but he says he knows he can’t make a living out of it. His biggest performance is at the upcoming event for “Girls’ Self-Esteem Program,” on July 9, which he is doing for charity.

When not tapping his toe to a Jackson beat, Lukovich attends ARC as a nursing major and he hopes he can be involved with physical therapy and rehabilitation in the future. Not one to stop at just accomplishing his some of his goals, Lukovich plans to become a surgical technician someday as well.

Ask him about where his inspiration comes from and he’ll say that, “there is nothing that comes closer to or even remotely similar to when people are actually cheering in approval for you, you are bringing a moment of happiness to whoever is watching.”