Photograph by Tessa Paisan
Interview by Jess Williams
Born and raised in Naples, FL, Tessa Paisan always had an interest in the electronic dance music (EDM) scene. She also knew she had a passion for both music and photography, but it wasn’t until she was in high school that she realized she could make a career out of them. Paisan moved to Tampa, FL two years ago for school and has since been working on building her connections and creating a name for herself. In the short span 24 months, Paisan has managed to support herself as a freelance music photographer, shooting all the DJ’s that flow through Florida. We sat down with the photographer herself to learn more about who she is and how she sets herself apart from other photographers in the industry — often the biggest challenge for creatives.
How did you get into photography — specifically EDM photography? What drew you in?
I’ve been going to music festivals since I was 16 and I’ve listened to EDM since I was about 13. Music has always been super important to me so I always wanted to have a music-related job. I went to my first Ultra Music Festival when I was 17 and I remember seeing the photographers on stage and thinking to myself, “Damn, that’s a cool job.” Since then I knew I wanted to be a music photographer, lol.
What is your favorite part about being a photographer?
I just love to create and to change colors and to make an image completely my own. I think it’s so cool that ten photographers can take photos during the same show and all end up with wildly different images, the possibilities are endless.
If you can remember, what was the first show you shot? What advice would you give to your former self?
The first show I shot was a tiny rap show in Fort Lauderdale, it was a rap show with maybe 20 people in the crowd. The only advice I would give myself is to have picked up a camera a long time ago, I’ve only been shooting for about 3 years so I always wonder where I would be if I started sooner.
Many people think that DJ’s just stand behind a table with a computer but your images capture and entirely different essence of EDM photography. I especially like the way you work with color and the different lighting set ups. How would you say you use both color and light to convey a specific mood within a photograph?
That’s a great question. Every artist conveys a different mood and I really try to visually match that with my color choices and affects. I tend to listen to the artist’s music while I’m editing, it’s almost like a meditative process that helps me establish a mood for my photos.
What is the biggest challenge for you with EDM photography?
Some clubs just have really bad, dark lighting and I pretty much refuse to use a flash(not my style), so it can be difficult to expose my photos properly.
When shooting, what is your typical gear setup?
I was shooting with the Nikon D750 for a while but I just upgraded to the Nikon D850, both are amazing cameras but the D850 is just on another level. For lenses I always have my Nikon 14-24 2.8, Nikon 20mm 1.8, Nikon 70-200 2.8 and my handy dandy 50mm 1.8. Also I always bring a handful of glass prisms for affects.
Who have been your favorite artists to work with?
I really do love all the artists I’ve worked with and I’ve been so lucky to have virtually only worked for artists who’s music I personally listen to and support, but Liquid Stranger and Rezz are my favorites. They both have really unique sounds and stage presence, they make my job easy.
I ask a lot of photographers this — do you prefer shooting shows in clubs/venues or at festivals and why?
I really do love working both but I would say club shows take the cake. The layout tends to be better because I really love it when the LED screens are directly behind the artist (rather than above) because its better for lighting and creating light effects with prisms. The crowd is also more intimate and there tend to be more die hard fans than there are at a fest.
What advice do you have for up and coming photographers?
Work really hard, be personable, and don’t give up. Also, don’t under-sell your worth and please be respectful of stage etiquette- Wear black, don’t stand on stage doing nothing, and be courteous to other photographers. Politeness goes a long way.