Guest Photographer: Alan Hess ( @shotlivephoto )

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: May 25, 2011

Category: General

Ever wanted to know what it takes to be a World Class Concert & Portrait Photographer, Educator and Best Selling Author??? Well I had the great pleasure recently of chatting to someone who is exactly that … Alan Hess

Based in San Diego, California Alan very kindly gave up some of his time to talk about a whole host of things from how he first of all came to be a Photographer, teaching, life as an Author and so much more…

So, here’s the content of our conversation accompanied by some of Alan’s incredible Live Concert Photography which I simply cannot stop looking through!
Enjoy 🙂

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Glyn: So Alan, I guess the first thing to ask is ‘How did you become a photographer?’

Alan: Well first off I never meant to be a photographer. I got a degree out of college in computer science and english and I went to work for a textile company that was in our family, so photography was kind of the last thing on my mind but I enjoyed taking photographs and it was one of those like “Well if I’m going to go do something I might as well take  a camera along with me”

A couple of years ago I started having a little more free time…work was slow so I started doing more and more photography just because it was something I enjoyed. It was kind of like making more out my hobby than a job, so it was kind of like a passion and then manufacturing in this country started falling off more and more and more and suddenly it seemed like there wasn’t a very long term opportunity in manufacturing…especially in textiles as it seemed to have moved to China and out of here. I working with my father and he decided it was time for him to retire and I decided it was time for me to try something else and in my mid 30’s I decided it was time to become a photographer and follow that passion that I already had. You know I already enjoyed taking photographs but now I had to actually start making a living out of it which is a big step to take.

Luckily enough at the time my wife had just started a new job so she was secure and suddenly I was the one floating around…

Glyn: So you didn’t initially run it alongside what you were doing with the textiles then? You literally came out of that into nothing and started your photography business?

Alan: Yeah I basically had a bit of time and we had a little money saved away and so it was the right time to do it or I was going to have to start looking for another 9 to 5 office type job.

It didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. It took a lot longer to get some clients, it took a  lot longer to get my name out, it took a lot longer to actually get paid for jobs that I used to do for free. It was very difficult to tell people that now it’s no longer a hobby and I’m no longer willing to do the same work for free that I was doing earlier.

So there was a steep learning curve in setting myself up correctly and if there’s one thing I would tell people now, even if they’re starting out with photography as a hobby they need to start thinking about it in a professional way. So you see I didn’t really approach it very professionally when it was a hobby and it kind of came back to bite me in the butt. It became real difficult to ask for the money off people I’d previously done work for for free.

Around the same period of time there was a photo expo in San Diego and on the expo floor I got into a discussion with Lexar Media before they were bought by Micron and they were releasing some new cards readers and they were talking about the new UDMA cards and all the advances they were working on so they just told me to keep in touch with them and at the same time they asked me to write a blog. So just because I was interested in it and I had the time I thought it would be a great opportunity and that blog for Lexar really kick started everything else that’s happened to me since.

The sad part is that Lexar changed ownership and they kind of changed the way they did things a little bit and I don’t really have too much of a link with them anymore but they did start something that has grown quite nicely.

Glyn: That was actually one of the questions I wanted to ask you…how on earth did you get your name out there and clearly social networking in the form of the blog played a big part…

Alan: Yeah it did. I was a professional photographer in that I actually got paid to take photographs and they were looking at this new technology called blogging which wasn’t really wide spread at the time and they wanted a bigger web presence so there were I think 4 or 5 of us that started a blog and basically I could blog whenever I wanted to and obviously they would prefer it was about photography and through that I actually got an email from my current publisher. One of their acquisitions editors had read the blog a couple of times and thought that I had the ability to write a book. I thought they were crazy but they were adamant so from that blog they contacted me and it took a little while, I mean it wasn’t like I wrote a blog on Tuesday and had a book contract on Thursday, it was more like I wrote a blog entry in February and got a book contract in November. It took a while going back and forth but the next thing I knew was that I wrote 2 books on Sony cameras; the Sony A700 and then right after that the A200. Those are the Sony A700 Digital Field Guide and the Sony A200 Digital Field Guide both for Wiley Publishers.

So that was really interesting because I wasn’t actually a Sony shooter at the time so I needed to go out and borrow all the Sony gear and I bought the cameras which ate into some of the profits but I wanted to make sure that the pictures were all taken using the Sony kit.

Glyn: So did Sony give you some kind of recognition for what you wrote for their equipment?

Alan: No that’s actually one of the things that was quite disappointing and a real eye opener. Sometimes the camera manufacturers don’t really care what people are doing to really help them to sell cameras and that part from Sony was seriously lacking and it’s one of the reasons that right now I don’t think Wiley Publishers are
going to produce anymore Sony Digital Field Guides. It seems Sony released too many cameras too quickly for any of the books to get a good grip in the market and there was very little support from Sony on the sales side  ie the books aren’t available in the Sony stores. They didn’t lend me anything, they didn’t offer any support you know…it was really tough.

At that time I was asked if I’d edit some books so I was actually Rick Sammon’s technical editor on about his last 4 books with Wiley which was really interesting because I understood how the process worked from an author’s point of view so now I was looking at it from the point of being an editor and it was really enlightening.

Then Wiley came to me and said they wanted to expand on the Digital Field Guide series and would like to write a book about Exposure…the basic concept of exposure and I jumped on that really fast. I thought that would be a great book and it’s turned out to be a really well received.

After the Exposure one did well we went on to Composition and that was the follow up to Exposure and has been well received too and still has nice sales behind it; it seems like it’s taken a little longer to catch on but I’m really happy with the way that book came out.

Now around the time I got a note from Scott Kelby asking if I wanted to come and do a live version of the my Guest Blog that I did on his website covering Concert Photography as a pre conference workshop at PhotoshopWorld and a class on concert photography in the conference and that was really exciting because when the books were coming out I was starting to teach at Photoshop World which I guess was the Summer of 2009 being the first time I taught.

Actually at the last Photoshop World it was the first time I taught a class on Exposure and Composition based on concepts from both of those books that I mentioned earlier.

Glyn: Looking back at some of the pictures all you guys were posting up, I was sat here green with envy that I wasn’t there but it looked like you had an amazing time…

Alan: That was my 4th Photoshop World and it was the best one yet, not just because I enjoyed teaching a new class and I’m a lot more comfortable generally now, but it was the people and everything was great…except for the weather….

Glyn: Yeah I heard it rained really bad…

Alan: There was Lightning and the Thunder all day long and the torrential downpour certainly wasn’t expected but when you’re at Photoshop World in the Classes or on the Expo floor it doesn’t matter at all.

Anyway at the Exposure and Composition Class I tried to do things a little different this time and I so I tried to do it as general concepts rather just sitting down talking about favorite F Stops and all that. I had 60 minutes to talk about Exposure and Composition, you know I might as well say I have 60 minutes to talk about the whole of’s too broad a subject to go into all the details but I was really hoping that people would start thinking about it in broad terms and not get overly concerned about all the math involved. It was a really interesting class for me to teach and different too because this wasn’t in my usual realm of Concert Photography. I was really happy with the way people were coming up to me afterwards and telling me how they enjoyed the class and that it was fun and different.

Glyn: So did you do your Concert Photography Class too though?

Alan: Well we did a Pre Conference Workshop on Concert Photography which is probably the most unique thing I’ve ever seen but yeah maybe I may be a little bit biased, but I only taught the exposure and composition during the conference.

Glyn: Alan one thing I’d love to know…how did you get involved in Concert Photography?

Alan: Glyn I’m a huge music fan so I really enjoy going to concerts and I enjoy taking photographs and this is going back to the 80’s when you were allowed to take photographs at concerts, you know not every show but at a lot of shows and they didn’t really care as much as they do now. I think partly because back then photography was a lot more expensive and of you wanted to take photographs it cost you…you had to buy the film, you had to develop the film, you had to print stuff so it wasn’t just taking 300 digital pictures and posting them on your Facebook or your website. So a lot of people weren’t really bothered to carry a camera around everywhere they went because there was an inherent cost to it.

I used to go to watch a band called ‘The Grateful Dead’ a lot and they had a very liberal camera policy and a very liberal recording policy and a pretty much a liberal everything policy and allowed you to take photographs if you wanted to. Now this was just from the audience and the rules applied that you couldn’t upset anyone or get in someone’s way; generally make sure you didn’t interrupt anyone else’s experience. You know they were allowed to enjoy the show and you were too by taking
photographs and that was fine. This gave me a lot of time to practice, the kind of practice that you just can’t get anymore so I took that and when I was back in San Diego and starting to have little more free time I started talking to promoters here who were putting on festivals and a little more of the Jam Band stuff, you know the hippy music and I got the pony tail so I’m good…

After a while the bands started noticing the pictures and this is all around the same time that blogging and websites and email and the Internet craze you know so all the pieces all started coming together and I actually managed to send the photographs by scanning the prints or negatives or slides and then putting them into an email and creating a website and doing all these kind of things back in the very early 90’s and kind of got a little bit of a ‘leg up’ and the bands started seeing images and the next thing I know they’re asking me to shoot some photographs and I started getting more and more calls.

Because I love music this was just fantastic you know I can go to the show take some photographs…

Glyn: Geez yeah an absolute gift…

Alan: Yeah sure but at the same time there weren’t  that many people doing it and it was still all film…digital camera weren’t quite out there yet. I mean the first digital point and shoots were coming out and I had some little thing that I can’t remember what it was now, but I used to take it along too and experiment seeing what it could do and how long it would take to get a photograph and get it onto a website and it kind of worked so while I wasn’t doing it full time I did feel likeI was on the cutting edge of technology and some of the local bands really appreciated it.

I found out the hard way that there’s not a whole lot of money in actual Concert Photography . There’s some magazines that will pay but if you’re shooting a lot of live performances, to actually sell live performance photographs and make a really good living it just isn’t going to happen.

So I started doing portraits and I shot some weddings and I’ve done product photography and I found it more satisfying to actually work for the bands and do stuff for their websites. There are a lot of my photographs that have never bee seen by the general public because they’re sitting in offices or promoters living rooms…you know things like that.

Anyway getting back to Photoshop World, what we do there is a Pre Conference workshop for a maximum of 40 people and I work with the very talented Scott Diussa who works for Nikon as his day job but he likes to shoot concerts too. So between the two of us we teach a class and not only do we go through the ins and outs of getting a Photo Pass and the settings for your camera and how to work in a Photo Pit and all that classroom stuff. We also actually have a live concert shoot so we have a band on a stage with as close to concert lighting as we can get and we let them practice where there’s no pressure.

No one else is doing that at this point. I’m sure someone somewhere is going to figure it out and jump on this but we’ve now managed to do it 4 times and each time we get better images, each time we get people who’ve never photographed concerts coming back with images that just blow me away.

Glyn: What’s really interesting Alan is that I think it was a couple of years ago now when I was over in Atlanta with Zack Arias and I got chatting to Allen Ross Thomas who you know is also a concert photographer. I remember Zack doing a review of his portfolio and we got chatting and your name came in to the conversation and then we started talking about how cool it would be if someone did a workshop on Concert Photography but how on earth they would do it, God only knows. Anyway I think it was at the following Photoshop World there was the Concert Photography Workshop and you were running it…freaky or what!

Alan: I’ve talked to Allen a lot. He’s such a talented shooter too and I was really hoping he’d been able to make it out to this last Photoshop World but it just wasn’t possible. We’ve had this discussion over and over again and it’s so difficult to get all those pieces lined up…to get a band that’s just willing to sit there and not play for a crowd and not cost thousands and thousands of dollars, get a venue, have someone running the lights and know what they’re doing without it just being priced out of existence. Now the one thing we have a Photoshop World that we’ve been really lucky with is that they have a stage set up for their keynote speech the next morning so we get access to that stage the day before and Scott Kelby is a great musician and has a great band that he plays with and they’ll come along and play for us and stop and start and pretty much do what we want on a stage that is as close to we can get as a concert stage; so it’s been really great having all those parts come together.

Because of the way Photoshop World has different themes each year we don’t know what the stage is going to be like pretty much until we walk in but that’s very much like the real world; I don’t know what a stage is going to be like 6 months in advance I only know what it’s like from the minute I walk in the room.

What’s kind of interesting is that some of the people that come on the workshop saying  “well I don’t know if I’m ever going to shoot a concert but I kind of want to be able to do this and work in low light photography” and a lot of them leave and the next thing you know is that they’re emailing you saying ‘Well I just asked this band and that band if I can shoot them and I’ve also shot my friends band’ and then suddenly they’re out there saying they had so much fun they want to shoot more concerts, and that’s great for us. I’m all for it and I think the more people out there shooting the better it is.

Glyn: It definitely seems to be something people want to do more of and I’m noticing that over here in the UK too. Last Christmas for example a few friends of mine I know went out to shoot bands at local bars and they’d never have done that before

Alan: I think the digital camera has gotten to the point where you can get really good photographs even if you set it on an Auto Mode. Of course you won’t get consistently good photographs and the composition won’t necessarily be there which is a different story but you shoot say 3-400 photographs on a compact flash card now or an SD card, it doesn’t cost you anything and you’ll get one or two great shots and people really like to see photographs they took of shows they went to.

I worked with The Dead when 48 hours after the concert you could buy a book with photographs that were taken at the very same concert you were at, and people love that.

Glyn: When it comes to concert photography now it’s not something that I actually do; I tend to work in areas where I can take control and plan what I’m doing, and set things up but with what you’re doing you go in and right off the bat you’ve got to nail it and there’s no chance of ‘can we just do that one shot again’

I mean is it even worth letting folks know what settings you would generally work to when you’re photographing a concert; I mean the best advice I guess for anyone looking to get involved would be to get themselves over to Photoshop World and get in on your Pre Con’…

Alan: I mean yeah of course I’d love everyone to come on over to Photoshop World and get themselves onto the Pre Con’ but I can give you an idea of settings right off the bat now…

When I’m walking into a venue I always have my camera set the same way because it’s a starting point that I’m familiar with so off the top of my head I can tell you that I always have my camera in Manual Mode, my metering is set to Spot Metering, Aperture is set at f/2.8 because most of my lenses are f/2.8 or faster and my ISO is set to 1600 usually and Shutter Speed can be anywhere between 1/160 of a second to 1/200th of a second. That’s just a starting point so when I raise my camera to my eye and take a picture and I quickly look at it and it’s really dark I know I can either drop the shutter speed down to say 1/125 second or I need to increase the ISO up to maybe 3200. If I start off at the same point every time I know where I can go to make the changes I need to make to get my exposures right where I want them. After that it’s very much a case of watching what’s going on..if the lights get brighter then increase the shutter speed, if they darker then decrease the shutter speed. It’s not as hard as people think. I think the biggest problem that people have with concert photography sometimes is trusting their own eyes and their own brain. They really want to do what the camera says because they’re used to the camera having some control and this is one type of photography where the camera has no control. No matter how smart the camera is you have to believe that you are smarter and if you do it long enough you’ll actually be able to meter the light in your head.

Glyn: There’s one thing I find really fascinating is that when I look at Concert Photography and yours in particular, Allen Ross Thomas’ work I can tell now who’s images are who’s and I guess the average person would think it’s a concert…how can it look so different. Style still plays a big part in what you do huh…

Alan: I think I have a pretty distinct style because I tend to shoot sideways across stages as opposed to some photographers who get right in the middle and shoot directly back. I mean I’ll do that if it’s something that’s looks good but I tend to start more on the edges and try to shoot kind of a 45 degree angle at a musician so that I’m not right in front of them. This came from the The Grateful Dead and later with Bob Weir and RatDog when I was working with them and the rule was don’t stand directly in front of the main performer, so I had this beaten into my head over and over again. People come to see the band…they don’t want to see the back of your head, so I tended to edge off to the sides and I kind of liked the angle I got, I kind of liked the look and after a while I started to notice that guitar players tend to turn a certain way and then I don’t have to worry about the microphone sticking out of them and that kind of stuff.

The more I’ve done this I’ve found that the I’ve gotten some shots that other people just haven’t got because they’ve just been following the crowds around. Obviously there are times when you get told that you’ve got to stand in a certain place and that’s what you have so you just try to do your best.

I tend also to shoot a little wider than most so that I can crop later. I found you can’t add to the frame you can only take away from it so working for some of the people they want more space on the top, bottom or sides for using it on a website or whatever and I found it was easier to shoot just a little bit wider.

Glyn: Ok so now we’re talking about shooting styles and settings what kit are you using on a day to day basis photographing concerts?

Alan: Right now I’m using a Nikon D700 with a motor grip and I use 2 lenses for 90% of my photography. I use a 70-200 f/2.8…it’s a Nikon lens, the original VR1 and a 24-70 f/2.8 from Nikon and that gives me 24 – 200 in 2 lenses and pretty much if I can’t capture it in that it can’t really be captured easily. So that’s my kit…one camera and 2 lenses right now.

Glyn: So you’re not walking in with two bodies with each having one of the lenses on?

Alan: I used to but honestly the other body that I’m using some of the time is a Nikon D2x which isn’t all that great in low light.

I found that in the concert stuff and in the 3 songs I can actually switch lenses fast enough to not have it concern me too much. But with all that being said I still plan on getting a Nikon D3s or equivalent later this year…that’s still my goal because it’s one of the the best cameras for low light situations that there is. For big shows or festivals I have been lucky to have the use of a D3 as a second body as a loaner.

Glyn: I’m shooting with a Nikon D3 and love it but you know the more I hear it and I hear it a lot, I tend to wish I’d got myself two Nikon D700’s instead.

Alan: Yeah sure it’s an incredible camera and that chipset…the one in the D3 and D700 is just outstanding. I don’t even worry anymore if I’m shooting at 1600 ISO or 3200 ISO or whatever.

Hey Glyn, just backtracking a bit now and talking about Photoshop World, this time round I did Portfolio Reviews and I saw 7 different photographers and I was just amazed at the quality of photography coming through that door…it was unbelievable. From Travel to Sports, and obviously they gave me a bunch of concert photographers too but I think anyone who goes to Photoshop World and is serious about their photography needs to sign up for a portfolio review…it’s free! It’s one of those perks you get for going there and I know there’s various types of reviews that will make you cry or tell you that you should try something else, the goal here is to help people to improve their photography and focus on the positives. But it was a great experience to be part of the Portfolio Review team. I was sitting in the room with some of the best digital artists and photographers in the World…Joe Glyda, Bert Monroy, Moose Peterson… You know these guys are just sitting around and one on one helping people with their Photography I mean it’s just an unbelievable thing and people don’t take advantage of it the way they should.

Glyn: Yeah I’ve been to Photoshop World before but it wasn’t something I took advantage of but when we come out in March 2012 I’ll definitely be looking for a Portfolio daft not too.

Alan: Yeah and the way they run it is that they ask you who you and what you’re looking for and if you go “I’m a portrait photographer” and they’ll find an instructor that will kind of match or work in your field so that you’re not getting you know advice from just anyone.

Glyn: Well you may find that next March you have a whole bunch of folks from the UK lining up for reviews because like I said, Dave Clayton and I will be there and we hope to encourage lots of other folks here to take the trip over and experience Photoshop World

Alan: That would be awesome. You know Scott Diussa and myself went over to Tampa in August and recorded a class on Kelby Training [Link] on Concert Photography that we filmed over 3 days and I believe clocks in at around 2 hours so there’s a lot of stuff. We filmed a variety of bands in a variety of situations and actually stopped and talked and had them come back on stage to go through what we looked for when we were shooting them.

We had so many good reviews from that, that we incorporated some of that into the live shoot at the Pre Conference Workshop. People loved how we talked about everything…the lighting, positioning, how many shots we’d taken, what we look for and so on. I can take concert photos all day long but I want to be able to get people who are also trying to do it, to see things how I see things…if they want to of course.

Glyn: So how do you find the teaching side of things? … I mean from where I’m sitting it looks like you really enjoy it.

Alan: Ever since I first went to Photoshop World back in 2002 and saw all these people like Ben Willmore, Julieanne Kost, Felix Nelson all sharing the knowledge I thought it would be really cool to be able to do that. You know sharing the Photography secrets… there really is no such thing, but you know the first time I did it was a little nerve wracking but doing it every time since then it’s actually become more enjoyable. I think it’s great to be able to share this information with people. There’s a story going round from the last Photoshop World where Sports Photographer Dave Black actually had people crying in the closing Keynote with his story and about the teacher that changed his life; the teacher that had him go in a different direction after taking his class but it was more than that it was about the excitement that Instructors have sharing their knowledge.

You see we don’t think it’s something to be kept secret to have an advantage of over someone else. The more people that get this information the more people are out there having a good time and that’s part of what makes Photoshop World so unique from a lot of other places where people can tend to talk down to you. Photoshop World is just full of people wanting to help and to share all their information.

Glyn: I guess some people are scared that if they tell others how they do what they do then they’ll lose business but my attitude is that it doesn’t matter because no matter what, you still put your own ‘stamp’ on what you do…do you know what I mean?

Alan: Listen if I teach someone something and they get so good that they can come and take away my job then I obviously need to start improving my Photography.

Glyn: Absolutely yeah

Alan: In one of the Portfolio reviews I saw a woman who was 18 or 19 years of age shooting concerts with a point and shoot camera from the audience as the opportunities presented themselves and she had some photographs that I would have killed for when I was 18. I mean she had an eye and some of the things she was doing were just unbelievable and some of them were bands thatI had shot in the photo pit and I didn’t even see so its’ not a matter of you know dial in these settings and stand over here, there’s got to be a passion involved.

People ask me if there’s a band that I really want to shoot but let me put it as succinctly as I can…

I will shoot any band at any venue at any time. It’s the idea that I’m there photographing music that makes me happy. Even when they have the after hours party at Photoshop World and Scott’s Band is playing in a bar and I’ve been shooting all day and teaching all day I still can’t put my camera down.

You know if I was to say who are my favorite bands to shoot I’d say the ones who move around more; the heavy metal guys seem to just have more energy on stage which translates into an easier time for me; probably a harder time technically but it’s an easier time for me because I’m enjoying the motion. Last year Slater, Anthrax and Megadeth put on a show together and it was fantastic…each band moving around more than the one previously…just a great, great time. I just Otto shoot the Big 4 show here which was Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. One of the most challenging shoots and one of the most enjoyable shoots all at the same time.

Glyn: Ok Alan so let’s move on now because I want to touch on the iPad because obviously you’ve already had one phenomenal book released called ‘iPad: Fully Loaded’ and now you’ve written a follow up from that so I want to get your thoughts on the iPad and how important you feel it is for Photographers and how you best see it being used. So generally what are you thoughts overall on the iPad?

Alan: I think the iPad is a really good device. I think a lot of people buy it and then they try to figure out what to do with it later…like playing Angry Birds, watching the news or doing some crossword puzzle or whatever. But, when it comes to Photographers it has a fantastic screen with really good resolution and it’s so intuitive that you can turn it round and hand over your portfolio to someone and you can go through it on the iPad and get it in this really beautiful package. A lot of the conversations I had at Photoshop World with iPad users were on which type of portfolio do you use…you know wanting to know if I just use the Photo App, how are you getting your pictures into the device. Terry White was shooting wirelessly to the iPad the whole conference…you know he had an Eye-Fi Card in his camera and as he was taking pictures they were popping up onto the iPad; he had the iPad mirrored onto a screen so as we were doing events suddenly pictures were instantaneously being shown on the screen I mean this wouldn’t have happened a couple of years back; it would have taken wires and tethering and software and all kinds of things that are now just happening right off the bat.

Another thing with the iPad, it’s really good for doing business out on the road and not having to carry around a computer. I did some work on a book with a wedding photographer out of Chicago who picked up an iPad right when it came out, put his portfolio on it put on a PDF business form you know to hire him and met with clients, pulls out this really slick device which can hold as many pictures as he needs to convince them to hire him and can actually have them sign a PDF contract right there on the iPad and never has to have the laptop, send papers and do the rest of it. It’s a brilliant business device like that.

Glyn: I remember when Jeremy Cowart was on the first Episode of The Grid and he along with Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski were talking about how David Ziser uses his like a modern day business card i.e he’ll actually email potential clients his contact details along with a photo so they then se the photo and remember him and it has so much more impact…I mean such a simple but clever way to use it and to promote yourself.

Alan: I actually spoke to David about the iPad and the iPad 2 and even David Ziser who is a fantastic photographer and is using this cutting edge technology, even he was like ‘is there a good portfolio…how do I hand this out’ … he’s still working through it; everyone’s still trying to find the best way to use it and the limits of what we can and can’t do with it. I know from my personal use that I’m starting to use it for things that I would have previously had to turn to a computer for … filling out PDF forms or keeping on top of my schedule, go through some pictures, take some notes. It’s taken over from a notebook, from a Phone Book you know all kinds of little things.

I’m not going to lie it’s really great as a consumption device for entertainment purposes..I have a TV series, a couple of movies a nice folder full of games but even when I was flying back from Orlando I found myself using the writing Apps and taking notes for some future book projects more than sitting there and watching the latest comedy special or whatever. Whilst all that’s great I actually found myself sitting there in the cramped airline seat, I mean I’m 6ft 2” and those seats are not made for people my size and the person in front of me is asleep and the plane seat is back and I can still use Pages on my iPad to basically flush out a couple of ideas that I’ve had as opposed to hoping I’d remember them later so I actually broke it out as a business tool, emailed myself the file and when I got back to my laptop there my notes were.

Glyn: So what about the iPad books you’ve written?

Alan: I wrote the iPad: Fully Loaded and I tried to add as much useful information as I could and then the rumors started flying around that Apple were going to be releasing a new iPad we started talking about writing a iPad 2: Fully Loaded and I wanted to make really, really sure that although it’s a new book and it’s a second edition for a second version that most of the information in it is actually new. There is still a little bit in there about how you can put your pictures or movies onto the iPad, deal with email and word files but this time I also dealing with Social Networks like Twitter and Facebook and dealing with Educational uses for the iPad and renting text books on the iPad.

I also added some information in what I call the Entertainment Chapters so some of the Cook Book Apps, Music Creation apps …not games, I stayed away from games because anyone can load up as many games as you want but I started tying to get things that were a little bit different from the first book. I still have chapters on ebooks, movies, television and music and some photography but we also now go into video creation because the iPad 2 has a video camera. We also go into editing videos in iMovie and FaceTime and some of those newer web browsers that actually allow you to play some Flash Movies so instead of just going ok and updating the information from the first book I tried really hard to add brand new stuff.

Glyn: So it sounds that even if someone has an iPad version 1 there’s still stuff in this new book that would be valid

Alan: 99% of this can be done on your iPad 1 so thinking that it’s just for people with an iPad 2 is a mistake and we’re trying to make sure that the wording in the ads and on Amazon and wherever it can be bought is that people understand everything in here can be done on the original iPad and the iPad 2 with the exception of things that involve the built in camera; there is no FaceTime on the iPad 1 and there’s no video or photograph taking on the iPad 1 but everything else even getting iMovie loaded onto the original iPad is covered in the book.

I also covered something this time that I thought was really interesting and that’s Remote Desktop which allows you to control your computer with you iPad and is something I now do on a regular basis because I’m really quite lazy and don’t like to go from the living room to my office if I just want to check one little thing.

Glyn: Now that sounds great because all I’m using to allow me to do that kind of thing is Dropbox

Alan: Well there’s actually a couple of Apps that allow you to have total control of your computer so you can see the screens, you can navigate around and do some cool things

Glyn: Ah man, this is just teasing…when the hell is the book coming out???

Alan: It’s actually available for pre order right now so it’ll be shipping real soon. I just want to make sure that people understand both of the books can live on your bookshelf because they both offer something different. Yes there’ll be a little bit of overlap but certainly a lot of new stuff to keep everyone interested.

It would have been great to release the books like Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Series 1, 2 and 3 but since these books are on different products. You know as a side, Scott Kelby does an amazing job; he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for inviting me to speak at Photoshop World in the first place.

Now there was a question that came in I remember seeing on Twitter and that was asking about my camera straps so I’ll just dive out for a second and make sure it’s covered…

When I’m shooting with 2 camera bodies, one of them has a Lowepro Strap on it that’s made out of neoprene that I carry round neck and the second camera is on a Rapid Strap so that it hangs down by my side and they stay out of each others way, but honestly I’ve been using one camera body for a while and I kind of like it.

Glyn: Alan I’ve just noticed time has flown by and I really don’t want to keep you for too long so maybe we should look at wrapping up but before we do there’s just a couple more things I’d like to cover with you…

Alan: No problem

Glyn: Ok so Social Networking…Obviously you’re online with Facebook and Twitter but what are your thoughts on it? Are you on it because it’s well…it’s the done thing or do you see it differently to that?

Alan: Let me tell you what’s happened with me…

I don’t use Facebook all that much as I haven’t got round to setting up an official Facebook site and I tend to have the Facebook account for people I know in ‘real life’ you know friends of friends and what have you. Facebook and I don’t get along very well, I don’t use it very much but Twitter on the other hand has been one of the amazing learning experiences. I started out with like 2 followers and I didn’t know who they were and I started realizing there was so much great information on Twitter from so many great photographers that I started following. I think at the moment I’m only following  about 200 – 220 people right now, it’s not huge…I still get a little overwhelmed by Twitter sometimes but the people I follow are either personal friends that I happen to know and I’m interested in what they have to say or they’re photograpers…Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Scott Kelby, Matt Klooskowski…you know the guys that I look up to as either educators or photographers or a combination of both. It’s growing all the time, more and more friends are joining Twitter but I found out that Twitter is actually a really great place for me to sell myself a little bit and be a little bit more out there amongst the general public. It’s all very well being some guy who wrote a book or some guy who teaches but on Twitter there’s a little bit of a back and forth and I can throw out ideas and thoughts and things that interest me and I can get into short conversation with people about subjects I’m interested in and I can walk away from any conversation without hurting anyones feelings because they have come to expect that from Twitter and I think it’s an amazing marketing device.

I’ve done some book giveaways on Twitter that has worked fantasticly not just in terms of people getting free books from me but getting people reading my comments and commenting on my website and sending me emails and I have to be real honest: I try to sell books, I’m an author, I teach at Photoshop World and I need customers and this is one way for people to find out a bit more and for me to push myself out there without it really costing much except for a bit of time.

It’s really interesting because there are people I met at Photoshop World that I’m connected with on Twitter and I feel like I’m friends with them and know them before I actually meet them. Its like I have had some kind of interaction online and when you meet them for the first time face to face it doesn’t actually feel like the first time.

Nancy (@NAPP_news) is unbelievable at making sure these things happen at Photoshop World. I look at the way she tweets…it’s a company but then she’s a person so there’s a personality plus she not going over the top and throwing things out she believes in without it being backed by the company. I’m an individual but I’m also my own company and I really have to take that into account and know that Twitter is a very public face of who I am.

Social Media has just taken off like crazy.

Glyn: Ok then last thing to finish off and this goes back to the Photography side of things, and this is a really open ended question here…

A Golden Nugget…if you were to give Alan Hess’ Golden Nugget of advice to anybody involved in Photography, wanting to get involved in Photography what would that be?

Alan: The one thing I think a lot of people don’t do and should do is…

They need to learn how to shoot their camera in Manual Mode and they need to know where all the controls in the camera are because I believe that unless you know what all those buttons and whistles, knobs and dials actually do you’re not getting the most out of it. You can go and grab the biggest and most complicated camera in the world that has all this stuff on it but if you can put it into Manual Mode and control the shutter speed, the aperture, the iso and so on then you’ll see it works just like any other camera that’s existed in modern times. I firmly believe that people need to go out and shoot their camera in Manual Mode. After that and you’ve got it then yeah go ahead and set it on whatever mode you like but at least you know what the camera is doing…at least you understand the concept behind making that photograph.

I also believe you need to be able to adjust those things without looking at the buttons so if you’re holding the camera up to your face and you think you need a faster shutter speed then you can just do it or if you need to adjust the aperture then you can do it without bringing the camera down.

In concert photography then you need to do this stuff quick but say for example if you’re a wedding photographer and you’ve set up a group shot with the bride, groom, parents and everybody and you’re having to look down at your camera and figure out how to change a setting then confidence in you is lost instantly and people are looking at you thinking “You are not a professional!”

So if I can sum it up I’m saying you should be capable of shooting in Manual Mode and confident that you know where all the controls are

Glyn: Well that makes perfect sense.

Alan, I just want to again say a huge thanks to you for taking time out to chat…I really do appreciate

Alan: No problem at all Glyn; look forward to seeing you guys at Photoshop World

•    •    •


Kelby Training Class on Concert Photography

Author of the iPad 2 Fully Loaded (coming soon)
Author of the iPad Fully Loaded
Author of the Composition Digital Field Guide
Author of the Exposure Digital Field Guide
Author of the Sony A200 Digital Field Guide
Author of the Sony A700 Digital Field Guide

Don’t Miss This!!!
On Friday 24th June 2011, Alan is hosting a Webinar for Nik Software on the use of Silver Efex Pro 2 in Concert Photography.

Register for FREE for clicking on this [Link] or the graphic below:

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Interviewed by Ron Clifford
Interviewed by Ron Clifford

A few weeks back I was invited onto Ron Clifford YouTube LIVE Channel to speak with him about all things photography....


  1. Scot Baston

    An excellent read and very informative blog. Thank you both to Alan and Glyn, I particularly like the organic feel to Alan’s early days in professional photography.

    Also great to see someone else that believes in sharing knowledge rather than hoarding.


  2. Todor

    A great post and was definitely worth the read. Yet another great photographer showing that to achieve great images and work you don’t need loads of expensive equipment. You just have to know – and be confident in – what you are doing!

  3. David Kelly

    Alan / Glyn – great post.

    Nice to read Alan’s back story as to how he got into photography – I always find such info beneficial, as it helps to give more perspective of who the photographer is behind their images. It’s always good to be able to read how things grow from little acorns.

    Interesting to read Alan’s comments about the heavy metal bands and their presence on stage – you can certainly more easliy see this raw energy looking at the shots he captured of the big 4 above, though you’ve got to take care &look after your hearing a lot more with such bands 😉

    Alan & Scott’s ‘Concert Photography’ course on Kelby training was really good – a real in’s & out’s / A-Z on the subject – and I look forward to possibly taking it as a Pre-con when we all head over to the Orlando #PSW 2012 (I’m sure Alan will be pleased used that hashtag correctly there ;-)).

    I readily agree with Alan’s comments re: twitter. There’s a lot of US based NAPP members or photographers that I’m following and have interacted with and it’s kinda weird feeling like you know someone before you’ve actually shook their hand face-to-face. It’ll be strange seeing many of these faces in Orland next year (fingers crossed). Social media it a great tool that is helping a lot more people get more out of their photography that was ever possible when I first got into it.

    Thanks again for a very informative post – definitely the best guest interview to date IMHO – yes, even better than Matt’s which was a great one too!


  4. Miguel Campos

    Very informative and inspiring.
    There is still hope for me 🙂

  5. Michelle Hedstrom

    Really really good interview, Glyn, and Alan! I took Alan and Scott’s concert precon last PSW, and learned an incredible amount, more so than from the Kelby Training class since they were there live. I highly recommend taking it the next time it’s offered.

  6. DaveT

    Wow this interview is loaded with so much great advice and information. Thanks to Alan for sharing all that knowledge, and to the effort you put in here Glyn – it’s very much appreciated.

  7. Paul Dakeyne

    Thanks for bringing this together guys, an awesome read, top to bottom 🙂

  8. Maile Hatfield

    Having hired Alan over the years to shoot concerts or portraits, clearly I love his work, but in the last year i’ve also worked with photographers he tought, and have seen the quality of their work reflecting his same professional standards: respectful of the bands, courteous to the audience, great composition, and most importantly… EDITED. Nothing worse than getting 300 pictures from a show… Alan always sends the one or two most magic moments that take my breath away. Keep up the good work Alan!

  9. Oliver Kremer

    Thanks so much guys. This gave a wonderful insight into photography overall, not just concert photography. Soooooo encouraging. Thanks for sharing this brilliant piece of information. Best, Oliver



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