Based in Maryland, Alyssa Howell got her start in music photography a little over two years ago and since then, she has snapped photos of artists such as Taylor Swift, Fifth Harmony, Selena Gomez and more. Opening up about the person that sparked her interest in photography and why photographers should branch out and photograph a variety of artists, Alyssa’s story gives us all a look inside what it’s like to be a camera’s length away from some of the world’s most famous musicians.
When did you start showing an interest in photography?
The first time I took an interest in photography was when I was a freshman in high school, but suddenly lost interest for a good while. I believe it was 2014 when the interest really sparked back up after I met Christina (who is an outstanding photographer in this field as well) at an All Time Low show. She had her own publication that she started and it all pretty much started from there a few months after befriending her. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for her, so a big thank you to her for leading me in this direction.
Have you taken any photography classes or were you self taught?
I am practically self taught, but I did take two classes back in high school. Although I wouldn’t really consider those classes “photography classes”, they were more of a point and shoot type class.
What gear do you typically shoot with?
I’ve only been doing concert photography for a little over two years so I’m not fully equipped with “the best gear”. I currently photograph with a Canon Rebel t3i body and for lenses I use a Tamron f/2.8 28-75mm , a f/1.8 50mm, and a f/2.8 24mm lenses.
A lot of young photographers have a mindset that you need the most high-end equipment to achieve the best photos, do you agree with this idea?
Not necessarily. I mean, obviously you get what you pay for, but sometimes it’s not always a bad thing. No matter what kind of gear, you can always make a good picture.
What was the first show you ever photographed?
This question always makes me smile. The first show I ever photographed was Fall Out Boy even though I wasn’t approved for them. This was back on Monumentour. I was only approved through New Politics, but was told otherwise by security that we were all clear to photograph Paramore and Fall Out Boy as well. I was so excited. Long story short, Paramore’s manager wasn’t too thrilled and had us all kicked out of the pit and if I recall, I was a little mad, but it wasn’t the fault of the other photographers or myself, it was security. So to make up for the lack of communication, the tour let us photograph Fall Out Boy’s set. It was a great night.
When you first started out, did your taste in music impact what bands/artists you photographed and is that still something that happens today?
Yes, I will admit I only wanted to work with bands/artists I liked, but as I grew and learned more about the field and started working with actual publications, I learned that it’s not about getting to work close with your favorite band/artist. It’s about branching out and getting to work with many different types of musicians and artists in many different types of genres. It’s better to work with a variety of different genres of music instead of being stuck in just one genre. It’s good to mix it up once in a while.
How would you describe your shooting style?
I don’t really have a specific shooting style. I usually aim for clear, colorful bright photos. Although, I am a huge fan of black and white.
Out of your portfolio, what photograph are you the most proud of and why?
That is actually a tough one for me. I’ve photographed so many artists I can’t even keep track of a favorite photo, but if I were to choose just one, it would probably be a photograph of Taylor Swift. Not because she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world, it’s that the production was out of this world. She’s a fantastic artist and it was such an incredible opportunity to even get a chance to photograph her.
Especially these past few years, the amount of photographers in the music industry has increased. Do you ever try and separate yourself from the group to stand out or is it something you don’t think about?
Oh absolutely. I definitely take my work a lot more seriously, it’s something I’ve grown so fond of and I would one day like to actually travel with bands and make this into something more than a hobby (as does everyone else). I like to think of new ways I can get different angles and I also like to create filters in Lightroom just to make an image stand out.
What is the best advice you could give to young aspiring photographers?
Never ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Never ever let anyone put you down. No matter what always keep trying to do your best and one day all the hard work will pay off.
Interview by Rachael Dowd