A DPE Interview With Alan Hess!

DP Experience.com is a hip, fresh, young, photography information site that I am excited about. It came about when two talented professional photographers Rick Sammon and Juan Pons crossed paths and decided to unite forces for the greater good. Us, their readers.

Together they have gathered an extraordinary group of photographers from all walks of the photography field to share their experience and knowledge with us.

One of these extraordinary photographers was gracious enough to share his time with us for a mini interview. Mr Alan Hess. Mr Hess is a concert and live-event photography and author of several photography books. His latest being “Exposure Digital Field Guide” Now lets get to the interview!

1. How long have you been a photographer?

I have been carrying a camera around for a long time. I used to take a small point and shoot with me everywhere. I loved to document everything and soon found that the point and shoot was limiting so I moved up to a SLR and the rest is history.

2. What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

My dog… Actually, my favorite subject to shoot is still concerts. I don’t care who is playing or what the style of music is, I still get a jolt of adrenaline and a feeling of excitement as I go into the photo pit and the lights go down. I hope that never changes.

3. What would you love to shoot that you haven’t already?

Everything. I love taking photographs. There are so many things I want to shoot that I could never list them all. I think that is part of what of what makes photography so much fun. I can never see myself picking up my camera and thinking.. nah.. I’ve shot it all, nothing left to photograph. That is just not going to happen. I still want to shoot any music act that I can. I will never turn down an opportunity to shoot a concert. Some of the specific acts I haven’t shot but would love to include Eric Clapton and David Bowie. I have seen both of them in concert but never had the opportunity to shoot them.

I am looking into shooting more sporting events this year. It is a lot harder than it looks. I shot some High School Football and Volleyball last year and was amazed at how tough it was.

I need to shoot more landscape and wildlife photographs and need a lot of practice in shooting people. I was lucky enough to be at a resent Joe McNally shoot and was blown away at how easily he worked the room, got the models in position, and got the pose and look he needed in what seemed like no time at all.

4. What led you to Concert and live-event photography?

That is an easy one, I love music. Back in the early 80’s I started listening to and following the Grateful Dead and they had a very open camera policy. They didn’t care as long as you respected the other concert goers. I got hooked on shooting live shows and have never stopped.

5. What is your favorite lens for concert and live-event photography, and is that the one you use most often?

There are two lenses I use for 99% of all my concert images. The 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. These lenses can give me a huge range of focal length, from wide angle to close up. If all things were equal, I would carry two bodies, one with each lens attached.

When it comes to concert shooting, gear is important. You need to use the fastest glass possible, which means apertures of f/2.8 or faster. I do also use a selection of prime lenses that give me a little stop or two in the really dark places. My favorite is my older Nikkor  85mm f/1.4 which has saved me in many dark venues.

6. Is there anything you would have done differently during your photography career?

Everything…  Nothing….
I never planned to be a professional photographer, author or instructor. My goal was to be a computer programmer for MicroSoft or something similar. I left college with a degree in Computer Science and English and went to work in the family textile business. I was always interested in photography and as manufacturing in this country started to die off I found myself photographing more and more. What started as a hobby has ended up as a full time job and I love it.

Had I known where my life was going to take me I might have paid more attention in the photography classes I took in college but part of me believes that everything has happened for a reason and if any of was different I would not be here now.

7. How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?

There is nothing wrong, or right, about digital manipulation. It just is. It is like saying that there is something wrong with the way photographers used to use the darkroom chemicals to change their images.

If you are talking about photography in the newspaper or National Geographic or some other medium where the image needs to be an accurate depiction of events then adding a extra missile or removing a person in the digital darkroom is not a great idea. However, to think that the photographers choice of lens, exposure settings and composition don’t influence the image is just being naive.

I use Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture and try or test just about every other digital  program. Writing the books on digital photography made it necessary to understand all the options for photographers out there. My favorite programs right now are the Adobe 1-2 punch of Lightroom and Photoshop. I do my importing and main sorting in Bridge (part of Photoshop) then move to Lightroom for tagging, sorting and small edits. I use Photo-shop for those images that need a little extra work, then it is back to Lightroom for output to the client. My main digital editing is to make sure that their is nothing really distraction in the image that doesn’t need to be there. Adjusting the contrast and sometime the color. I don’t spend nearly as much time in Photoshop as I used to. I find that the more I shoot, the better I have become at getting the shot i need in the camera with very little post processing. Since I used to actually work in a darkroom back in college, I still love the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop.

8. How do you feel about cropping?

hahaha.  I crop.. There are times I have to. When shooting live events, stuff can hap-pen. The 70-200mm sometimes just doesn’t have the reach I need, the shooting area is moved from in front of the stage to the soundboard, the angles are off. I try to fill the frame how I want the image to be seen, but I have no problem cropping if I need to.
I did it in the darkroom when using film and still do it when making 8×10 prints for customers. Right now, I use a full frame Nikon camera that does allow me to use part of the sensor in a crop mode, but what is the difference between switching to the cropped mode on the camera or cropping later in Photoshop orLightroom?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone else to crop my work.

9. What drives you as a trainer?

I have come across many photographers who want to keep the information secret. I have never understood that. I like learning from other people and I really like giving others the tools to create the images on their own.
Being an instructor at Photoshop World is amazing. The amount of talent and information that is available is staggering. What really gets me excited is when someone takes the information they got from me and then goes out and puts it to use. After we taught the concert photography pre-conference at Photoshop World in Las Vegas I had a student come and tell me how they went and put the advice from the class to use and scored a photo pass the very next day to a local concert. Not only that, they successfully shot the show and had a great time doing it. I love stories like that. It makes it all worthwhile.

10. How has your career in Photography led you to DPE?

I have written three books for Wiley, two on Sony DSLRs and one on Exposure. During the writing process, I was offered a job as Rick Sammons technical editor, which I immediately took. I have edited the last four of Rick’s books and during that time, he asked me to join the DPExerience team. It feels great to be a part of the DPE team and I think that Rick and Juan have put together a great team that covers a wide range of photography subjects. I tend to cover the Nikon announcements and will continue writing articles on concert photography and other basic photography subjects. Right now, I have written a series of articles to do with photography at the zoo and after that, well you will just have to wait and see.

11. What are your hopes for DPE and how do you think your experience in photography will help DPE and it readers to grow?

I see DPE as a place for photographers of all skill levels to go and get some inspiration, some instruction, and some news. The wide variety of subjects and styles means that there is something for everyone. The website has about two new posts everyday right now, and that’s a lot of information coming out everyday. Add the podcasts and live events and you have a great place for everyone to learn about photography.

Well everyone, that is it for this interview. I would like to send a big thank you out to Mr Hess for his time and a very interesting interview. If you have enjoyed learning about Mr. Hess as much as I have. You will find some great links below to some of his articles at DPE.  For me as a photographer in training, Mr. Hess’s articles and the rest of DPE articles are an essential read. They are actually the first site I hit in the morning after I have put on a fresh pot of coffee. There is nothing better then a hot cup of coffee and some good photog reading to start the day off right. And I’ve not even mention the pod casts with Rick Sammon and Juan Pons. However, I don’t think Mr, Hess will mind if I slip the link to the pod casts in here. 🙂


I am excited to watch DPE grow. Because I know, as it grows, so will I. Thanks again Alan it has been a great treat to get to know you better. You ROCK dude!

Here are those yummy links I promised you.

Manual Mode Rocks!

Off to the zoo

Back to the zoo

Here is a great article he wrote on Concert Photography at Scott Kelby’s blog.
His newest book release.”Exposure Digital Field Guide” This book has been flying off the shelf!
Contact information.
Website/Blog: http://www.alanhessphotography.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/shotlivephoto

email: alan@alanhessphotography.com

Next week we will have another great interivew from Juan Pons at DPE who is a nature and wildlife photographer. I am really excited about this one too. You guys know how much I love to shoot animals and nature.


~ by mitzs on February 15, 2010.

4 Responses to “A DPE Interview With Alan Hess!”

  1. […] more from the original source: A DPE Interview With Alan Hess! « Pursuing Photoshop Tags: also-use, little-stop, nikkor, older, Prime Lenses, stop-or-two, the-really « […]

  2. […] I had the great pleasure of being interviewed over at Pursuing Photoshop. The interview is HERE […]

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by jpons: RT @mitzs: New Blog Post; A DPE Interview With Alan Hess! http://bit.ly/b7gaZi

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