A few years ago, California Rock News was lucky enough to have photographer Steve Rose contribute some photos for various all star jam events in Hollywood. Not only were his pictures wonderful, but they were delivered in an e-mail link before the sun came up after the show, which is an editor’s dream.
Steve’s excellent concert photos are of very unique and high quality that make them stand out. The fact he’s an absolute pro really puts him over the top.
Steve’s photography and hard work paid off when he was noticed by Neal Schon, who brought him on as a tour photographer for Journey.
Steve is also the house photographer for The Shrine and Hollywood Palladium. We reached out to him to explain what in particular makes a good photographer successful.
“My first 2 years as a concert photographer, I photographed 3 bands a week for 2 years. That’s over 150 shows a year – all unpaid.
When I got started, I tried to cover as many bands as I could. That meant bands or artists in all genres as well. Because shooting a rock show is a lot different than shooting a rap show. I learned this was the best way for me to prepare for all types of different shooting conditions.”
“If you’re doing this to hang out with your favorite bands and get paid, this is the wrong industry for you. You’ll need to put in a lot of work before you start making any money.”
“I think my success is directly related to my work ethic and the expectations that I have placed on myself. Usually I’m given the three songs to shoot like anyone else and instead of staying for the show, I will go home and begin editing. I have left a number of great shows so I could start working. I will edit immediately after a show and will not go to sleep until all the photos are edited and sent off to the appropriate party. That meant that some nights I would get anywhere from 2-4 hours of sleep before having to go to work in the morning. But because of that way of working, it led to me and my work to get noticed and eventually being hired by Neal Schon of Journey.”
February 2015 – Cannibal Corpse – First show with a photo pass
August 2015 – Heart – The Hollywood Bowl! My fifth show as a photographer and I made it to the Bowl
August 2016 – Adele – I didn’t have an outlet for this show and wasn’t given a photo pass, but I brought my Leica point and shoot and took a photo that was published in a book by the Smithsonian.
December 2016 – Metallica – First time shooting this legendary band
February 2017 – Method Man and Redman – First show working for Goldenvoice and the first time I got paid to photograph a show
May 2017 – Dweezil Zappa – Dweezil used one of my photos from this show for his album cover.
June 2017 – Journey – This show at Dodger Stadium led me to getting hired as their tour photographer.
January 2018 – Marilyn Manson – Manson only allows one song and usually kicks the photographers out of the pit before that song is over. I had 3 minutes to get my work done. This was my first show for Live Nation.
June – October 2018 – Journey – I was out on my first tour!
December 2018 – Nine Inch Nails – NIN played 6 nights at the Palladium. I covered the first two for the Palladium and the last two for NIN.
June 2019 – Mastodon – I’ve covered Mastodon a few times before, but this was the first time I was doing it for Orange Amps.
There are times when I want to cover a show for an outlet and those are always free. I am fortunate to get a number of paid shows, but still do a lot for free. I try and photograph as many shows as possible. That’s what got me to where I am and I’ll always have that drive.
Earlier this year, I did a show at the Palladium to benefit those that were affected by the Malibu fires. It was called the Malibu Love Sesh and freatured Beck, St. Vincent, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great gigs in my four years as a concert photographer. Here are a few of some that stand out for me:
Metallica – Fonda Theater
Journey – Dodger Stadium, Madison Square Garden, The Forum
At the Drive-In – Shrine
Billie Eilish – Shrine
Slipknot – Glen Helen Amphitheater
Marilyn Manson – Hollywood Palladium
Nine Inch Nails – Hollywood Palladium
Joe Bonamassa – Terrace Theater
Dave Matthews Band – Hollywood Bowl
Lenny Kravitz – Hollywood Palladium
Foo Fighters – Safeco Field
“It’s fantastic to work with a band like Journey. I’ve been able to have experiences that I wouldn’t normally be able to have and I’ve shot at a lot of great venues like Madison Square Garden, Wrigley Field, and Fenway Park. It’s also a lot of work and something that not everyone would be up to taking on. You need to find different photos each night so each so doesn’t look like the last. You’ll need to deal with a lot of sleepless nights because like I mentioned, I edit after the show and editing a 2 hour show is a lot different than editing 3 songs. For example, last year in Detroit we had a show at Tiger Stadium and the show ended at 1030. I was back at the hotel by 11 and edited till 3 in the morning. I was then up at 7 to be ready in the lobby by 8 for the 4 hour drive to Chicago for the show at Wrigley Field that night. It’s a very rewarding job that I’m very fortunate to have, but you need to be dedicated and locked in on getting the job done night in and night out. ”
A few weeks ago, Steve tweeted some pictures he took at The Forum that were getting thousands of retweets.
“I was recently hired to cover the K-pop band, GOT7 at the Forum. I was unfamiliar with their music, but knew that this genre is really big right now and was up to the challenge. I was expected to get great photos of the band and each of the seven members, as well as venue photos and a stage shot at the end with the band at the end of the stage. It’s a lot of pressure to capture these moments for a client who expects the photos to be perfect and there is no room to make a mistake. You have one chance to nail the stage shot and if you don’t you won’t get hired again. Luckily, I was successful at getting these and the client and band loved what I was able to get. This band has a rabid fanbase and within a few hours of posting some select photos, my Twitter account was getting thousands of retweets and likes. Following this show, I was hired for another K-pop band a few weeks later at the same venue and I was also successful during that show as well.”
“I’m always working on finding new clients and new outlets to shoot for. Because I’m exclusively a concert photographer and that is my sole source of income, I am constantly reaching out to bands or their managers trying to find opportunities to cover their shows or to be taken out on tour. I’m lucky to be the house photographer at the Hollywood Palladium and The Shrine, but that alone doesn’t pay the bills. Luckily, my reputation as a photographer and my professional relationship with my clients has afforded me a lot of great opportunities.“
Being able to photograph a few of the Jam Nights at Lucky Strike was great in helping me hone my craft and really figure out what I can do with the camera. I’ve been able to photograph Steve Vai, Tom Morello, Nuno Bettencourt, and Dave Ellefson. If you get the opportunity, do your best to turnaround your work as quick as possible so outlets can run coverage the following day and help showcase your work.
DJs and Festivals
I don’t enjoy photographing DJs. They just stand there and there isn’t a lot of variety. I also don’t like covering festivals. The stage is usually pretty high which means most of your photos of the band are all from the waist up and they usually allow too many photographers and that can limit the availability to get unique photos because the pit is so crowded.
At some point I hope to have a gallery show and display my work for people to come and view and not just on their phone or computer.
In this industry, anyone with a decent digital camera can be a “photographer,” so I need to find ways to set myself apart from everyone else in the pit.
Advice for other photographers
Being a concert photographer is a fun and rewarding job, but it requires discipline, respect, and professionalism to successfully capture unique perspectives and key moments of a show that really highlight the artist.
That doesn’t just mean taking good photos. It also means you need to conduct yourself professionally when at a venue, with publicists or managers, and how timely you turnaround your work.
Remember, you are in the pit representing yourself and that outlet that you are covering for. Any questionable behavior – like shooting beyond the 3 allowed songs, will reflect poorly on you and your outlet and could possibly sever the relationship that the editor has with the publicist or manager. Also, learn to manage expectations. If you’re just getting started, be realistic in what bands you’ll expect to cover. Stay in the clubs and pay your dues and really develop an eye. You’re not going to cover Metallica or the Rolling Stones right out of the gate, but will eventually if your hard work pays off.
Nuno, Vai, Kotzen, Stu Hamm