Hacks, hobbies, and side hustles: Concert photography

Erica Fasoli experiences music through a new lens

A photograph of a man with shoulder length curly hair wearing a white blazer and a wide flat brim hat. He's holding. a microphone and behind him are a drum set and bright stage lights creating a background of shades of purple and blue.

All photography by Erica Fasoli

Hacks, Hobbies, and Side Hustles is a for-fun internal presentation series that began as a one-time event and fast became a popular way for us to get to know our talented colleagues. It has only two guidelines: finish in five minutes and focus on a passion that exists outside of Adobe. Learn where creativity takes the members of Adobe Design when they’re not working.

I'm a senior designer on the Experience Cloud team. Photography is a hobby of mine and I've always been a fan of live music, but I never considered a reality where I could pair the two. Not until a few years ago, when my journey into concert photography began.

I was at a show in Salt Lake City, and I ran into a friend who was carrying a large camera. I asked how he’d been able to bring the camera into the venue and he told me that before the show he’d emailed the band’s publicist and asked if he could photograph the performance. He said sometimes publicists would say yes and he’d not only be able to get into the venue with his camera but would also be able to go in front of the crowd and take pictures from the pit.

You can do that?!

My mind was blown. I’d always been under the assumption that you had to be a professional photographer, have expensive equipment, and work for the band, which all seemed like an impossible barrier to entry. Apparently, I was wrong.

I thought about it for the rest of the night and snapped a couple of iPhone photos during the show. When I got home, I looked up all the upcoming shows in Salt Lake City. There was a local band that was playing at a larger venue for the first time, so I tracked down the name of the band’s publicist and told her I was “a music photographer” in Salt Lake City and that I would love to photograph the show. I attached my iPhone image as “proof” and waited for a response.

A black-and-white photo of a Black man on a stage wearing a beanie, a T-shirt, and jeans and holding a microphone. On the right side of the stage are two musicians playing string instruments. In the foreground facing him is an audience standing with their hands in the air.
The iPhone photo that started it all.

Somehow, I got one, and after we figured out some logistics, I had my first press pass to a show. I took my Nikon DSLR—at the time, the cheapest one you could buy at Costco—and jumped into the photo pit for the first time. I took somewhere around 2,000 photos that night.

Two photographs. On the left are a white woman (left) and a white man (right) man standing back-to-back. Both are playing guitars. Behind them are stage lights casting an orange and blue glow. On the right, a white woman standing in front of a microphone stand. She has one hand raised to her head and another hand holding a microphone. Behind her is a stage light casting and orange and green glow.
A local Salt Lake City band, Pixie & The Partygrass Boys, perform upbeat, fun folk music.

I was hooked

I used a few of my favorite shots from that night and again I blasted out as many emails as I could to different contacts for any upcoming shows in Salt Lake. I often heard no. Most people didn't even bother to respond. But every so often, I would get a yes and I’d take my camera with my 50mm lens, shoot as many photos as possible, then edit them in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. I started to learn along the way, began building a portfolio that had some legitimacy to it, and started to meet people in the industry.

A photograph of a white woman with long brown hair wearing a beanie, a green T-shirt, and plaid pants. She's looking down and smiling while playing a bass guitar and her bare foot is on a mixing board pedal.
Tash Sultana is one of my favorite artists and their concert was one of the best I've ever attended.

First, I met a woman in the pit who ran an online music blog, and I started photographing shows for her. Then I met a man in the process of revamping his online music publication and we started to work together (I worked on the design, he focused on the business, and we both photographed shows). I eventually met the editor of the largest local online music publication in Salt Lake City, and I started shooting and writing for him. That added a whole new element to my hobby: Not only did I have to take pictures, I also had to learn how to write about music. That job opened so many doors to photographing artists I never would have gotten approval for previously.

Moments in music

When I look at my photos, they transport me back to the experience and remind me what I was feeling the moment I took them. That's ultimately what I hope my photos do for the people who attended the shows… that they’ll look at them and say, “I remember that moment and I remember how I felt in that moment.” And for everyone who wasn't at the show, I want to offer them glimpses into what the experience was like (the atmosphere, the energy, the emotion) at a particular moment in time.

Once I’d finally learned the process of shooting and editing, I was able to adjust my photos to feel the way that I wanted them to. When I look back at the following photos, I love them not necessarily because of the quality, but because I think they’re an accurate representation of the music and the experience at the time of the show.

Two photographs. On the left is a white woman with strawberry blonde shoulder length hair standing in front of a microphone on a stand playing some sort of percussion instrument against a backdrop of stage lights casting a vibrant blue glow. On the right is a black-and-white photo of a man with shoulder length curly hair wearing a button down shirt and a wide flat brim hat. He's holding a tambourine in his right hand and a microphone in his left against a smoke-filled background.
The Head and The Heart was backlit, and the lights were so bright, that they created these incredible silhouettes. It made for a certain ambiance and atmosphere, so I tried to reflect that in the photos by drawing attention to elements like the brightness of her hair and how it contrasted with the lights.
Two photographs of the same white woman with shoulder length blonde hair wearing a sweatshirt and a playing a bass quitar. On the left she's standing in front of a drum set against a background of blue and purple haze and on the right she's standing with her head bowed looking at her quitar against a smoke-filled background of stage lights and purple smoke.
The Japanese House creates a very dreamy, melancholy type of music and this image—with her face hidden behind her hair, the purple and blue hues, and the smokiness—portrays that in a photograph.
Two photographs of the same white woman with her dark hair styled in a modified mullet. On the left, she's waearing a white tank top, dark pants, and boots and is playing a bass guitar strapped over her shoulder. She has one foot in the air and behind her is a row of amplifiers, a graffitied wall, and stage lights casting yellow, purple, pink, and blue light onto a smoky background. On the right, the same woman is standing in front of a white man with long dark hair wearing a baseball cap and a T-shirt seated at a drum set with the words Tell Me How You Really Feel stamped on it. He's holding a drum stick in his right hand and looking up at her as she holds her bass guitar straight up. They're both on a very small stage against a backgroud of stage lights casting an amber and blue hue on a graffitied wall.
These two photos are among my favorites because they capture two fleeting moments in live music: on the left, Courtney Barnett’s movement when she’s on stage and on the right, when she connects with her drummer at the very end of a song.
Two photographs of the same white man with short blonde hair wearing glasses, a plaid button down shirt, and jeans. In both images he's singing into a microphone on a stand but in the image on the left he has both hands behind his head and in the image on the right he has his left hand behiind his head and his right hand on the microphone. The stage lights are creating a bright white light against a green background.
The singer of The National has a very distinct way of moving and these photos capture his energy, his body language, and his performance persona.
Three photographs of the same white woman with a shaved head. She's wearing a loose dark green pullover hoodie over an orange long-sleeve T-shirt, orange pants, and white sneakers. In the photo on the left, against a green and orange background, she's holding a microphone in her right hand, jumping, and looking up at the ceiling. In the middle photo, against an orange smoke-filled background, she's holding a microphone in her right hand and looking to the right of the stage. In the photo on the right, she's standing in a narrow lunge, against a green background, while facing straight ahead with her eyes focused upward.
When she’s performing, Bishop Briggs literally runs back-and-forth from one side of the stage to the other. In these photos I tried to reflect that unbridled energy and edginess that’s also rooted in her music.
Two photographs of women performing. On the left is a white woman, against a smoke-filled orange and black background. She has a shaved head and is wearing a loose dark green pullover hoodie over an orange long-sleeve T-shirt, orange pants, and white sneakers. The image is blurred to show movement. On the right is a white woman with shoulder length blonde hair wearing a sweatshirt and jeans with a bass quitar strapped over her shoulder. She's standing, facing right, and singing into a microphone on a stand against a background of stage lights and a blue smoke-filled haze.
I’ve started to use editing techniques to capture and craft stories in a single image.

It’s hard to believe that I started with a single iPhone photo and now I get to create photographs like the ones above that bring me so much joy. I'm so grateful to be able to do this and if I hadn't pushed myself out of my comfort zone, if I hadn't asked for something I wanted, none of it would have become a reality for me.

I’ll end with this: "If you put yourself out there, and you ask nicely, you never know what might happen." You can find more of my concert photography here.

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