Interview: Alyssa Howell (Concert Photographer)

Shaggy & Sting (Photo by Alyssa Howell)

Hazy Eye Music Media is proud to announce the first interview in a series of interviews I’m currently conducting with some of my favorite concert photographers. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and have begun picking the brains of some phenomenal photographers. My interviews in this series focus on “local” concert photographers. That is photographers around DC, MD, and VA. The DMV as we call it.

Anyway, check it out! I, Andy Jillson, was fortunate enough to interview Alyssa Howell. Alyssa is an amazing concert photographer and is also the owner of her own media outlet. She has photographed some great artists over the past 5 years. Continue reading below for my full interview with Alyssa.

Travis Barker of Blink 182 (Photo by Alyssa Howell)
Post Malone (Photo by Alyssa Howell)

AJ: Hi Alyssa! How are you?!?

AH: Hello! I am well. Hanging in there, taking day by day! Also very bored. Hope you’re doing well too!

AJ: Can you introduce yourself and tell us your general location and where you primarily shoot shows?

AH: My name is Alyssa Howell. I am from Frederick, MD but my primary shooting locations include all over the DMV and some dabbling into PA.

AJ: You’re definitely among the most talented concert photographers around DC, MD, and VA. When and how did you start shooting concerts?

AH: Wow, thank you so much! That means so much to me since there are a lot of super talented people in this industry. I first started photographing shows at the end of 2014 and officially started getting more and more shows in 2015. How it started was when I helped a former colleague with some band interviews; long story short I asked if I could take some pictures for her publication and that’s where it pretty much when my love and passion for concert photography began. I had such a love for music and going to concerts as a fan. I just decided why not put a hobby and a love together.

AJ: What inspired(s) you as a photographer? Why photograph concerts?

AH: There are a few things/people that inspire me as a photographer. To start, my cousin Kelly used to be a photographer and I always loved seeing the work she had done. She always had such a good eye. I was young when she was a photographer, but I always had a love for cameras. Then as I got older I decided to take photography courses in high school. Unfortunately, due to the lack of material/guidance in the school system, the classes were never properly taught. For example, we were never taught how to work a DSLR or the logistics of photography. It was all point and shoot this point and shoot that and the basics of Photoshop. The lack of knowledge inspired me to actually pick up a DSLR and just teach myself how to use it properly. I was also inspired by the same colleague who gave me a shot to photograph for her publication. I had no clue what I was doing. As for the “Why Photograph Concerts” part I honestly love music and love being in the concert atmosphere. Again I thought, why not put two of my favorite things into one.

Snoop Dogg (Photo by Alyssa Howell)

AJ: What are some of your favorite venues to photograph in DC, MD, and/or VA?

AH: Ahh! My favorite question; which is also a tough one. My absolute favorite venue to photograph at is The Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD. It’s honestly my home away from home, and I have become friends with many who work there. They always look out for me when photographing in the pit. They’re good people. I’m also a fan of The Anthem in Washington, DC. It’s a beautiful venue right on the water.

AJ: What type of camera equipment do you normally use when shooting shows? What are your preferred lenses and camera settings?

AH: When I first started photographing shows I had the most basic gear; a Canon Rebel T3i. As I started becoming more and more invested in photography I upgraded my gear to what I currently shoot with; a Canon 6D Mark II and a Canon 6D for the bodies. For lenses a Sigma Art  24-70 f/2.8 and a Tamron 70-200 f/2.8. That’s my go to gear unless I’m photographing baseball or a soundboard show; then I use my Canon 300mm f.4 lens. As for my preferred settings it all varies on the situation I’m looking at. Whether it’s a show or baseball or family portraits. It varies.

AJ: How do you edit your photos? Any particular editing programs or techniques you regularly use?

AH: I know a lot of people who have used or do use presets. I see so many talented photographers using presets/edits, but I’m more of a “clean edit” type of photographer. I ‘m not really a fan of using color tones or grain and all that other jazz. I tend to try to do as little as possible when editing my photos unless they absolutely need it. However, the main editing programs I use are Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop on occasion.

Wiz Khalifa (Photo by Alyssa Howell)

AJ: What were the first 3 shows you obtained photo passes for? How were you able to obtain the photo passes? What were the experiences like?

AH: Oh wow…the first 3 shows?  That was a long time ago. Well I know my first photo pass was for New Politics when they opened up for Fall Out Boy and Paramore. Long story short there was lack of communication between event security and tour managers. We were told we could shoot all the acts, but that was not the case. So after being scolded and the whole nine for the miscommunication, the tour managers allowed us to shoot Fall Out Boy. I was on cloud nine. The other two shows were Demi Lovato at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore and Panic at the Disco (before they blew up) at MECU Pavilion in Baltimore (Formerly Pier Six Pavilion). I honestly don’t know how I got those passes. I think it was luck because back then I was a nobody shooting for some “rock magazine” that never even published my work. I was just their graphic designer with my aunt when she needed an extra hand.

AJ: Can you tell us about The Vinyl and AM Media LLC? When and how did you begin collaborating w/ The Vinyl, and when and how did you launch your own music media company?

AH: I started collaborating with The Vinyl about 3 1/2 years ago. I met Amy on a photographer page on FB and then we became good friends. She would let me shoot for her even though I was still shooting for Sound Check 411 at the time. Then eventually I found myself co-running The Vinyl with Amy and we worked our asses off to get where we are. We networked, created relationships with management teams, press companies, some bands/artists, and we really turned The Vinyl into something I always dreamed of. A successful media outlet. I was always under the name AMH Photography. That is what I went by, but as I got older and I started branching out doing more and more freelance work it was time for me to grow up, get my business license, and make myself official. That was honestly the best thing I’ve done.

AJ: Any news/updates about AM Media LLC you’re able to share? Any projects planned for the near future?

AH: AM Media LLC isn’t just a music media company. I decided to branch out and not only focus on concerts, but to also focus on shooting weddings, family portraits, corporate events, sports, and other events. As of right now I don’t really have much going on with AM Media due to COVID-19, but I am hoping (once I get the okay) to begin photographing summer events/gatherings and build up a solid clientele.

John Rzenik of Goo Goo Dolls (Photo by Alyssa Howell)

AJ: When and where was the last show you photographed? What bands were playing? What do you remember about it? Anything particularly interesting about the last show you covered?

AH: The last show I got to attend was Silverstein at Rams Head Live in Baltimore. It was a good show; however, I was not pleased with the outcome due to the terrible production. Before everything shut down (minus the Silverstein show), I got to work with Tyla Yaweh. He opened up for Post Malone and I ended up with a working pass. I got to watch one of my absolute favorite artists from backstage and it was surreal. Post Malone is one talented dude and the show was just unbelievable.

AJ: How have you been staying active/keeping yourself busy since coronavirus altered our world?

AH: Thankfully I am still employed at my day job so that has been keeping me busy. On my off days I take little road trips/day drives with my grandfather and mom. I take my camera on these little drives. We have been to Lancaster, PA and  Burkittsville, MD. I got to explore a different side of my love for photography.

AJ: What have you been listening to lately? Any particular artists and/or albums you’ve recently discovered or rediscovered?

AH: I have been listening to a lot of Post Malone, but I have also been listening to a lot of new material that artists have been putting out. Like, G Eazy’s new material. Which at first I was like no. I hated it because it wasn’t his usual hip-hop music, but as I really listened to it I grew to love it. I’ve also been re-exploring some older material ranging from Kanye West and Carlos Santana to throwing it back to Yellowcard.

AJ: Have you watched or read anything interesting lately?

AH: I’m honestly not much of a TV person, but I have been recently watching a lot of Guys Grocery Games and re-watching Shameless. I also found a new show that my mom and I make it a point to watch together every Monday; The Baker and The Beauty.

Logic (Photo by Alyssa Howell)

AJ: What are your best memories/proudest moments of being a photographer?

AH: There are so many amazing memories/proud moments in my career, but the one that will always be #1 in my book is getting to work for Sting for a few days. He and his team hired me to take photos of his short residency at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. Not only did I get to have free reign at a Sting show, a good handful of my photos were put into his “My Songs Tour” program book. I was over the moon excited. There are a lot of other opportunities I’ve had, but I try to stay humble and cherish all the opportunities I had.

AJ: Any funny, embarrassing, or awkward moments while in a photo pit?

AH: I cannot really think of any awkward or embarrassing moments. However, a really cool moment I had in the photo pit was when Joey Belladonna of Anthrax took my camera and tried to take photos of the crowd. To be honest I was thinking the whole time “please don’t drop it.” When he handed it back he shook my hand and gave me a guitar pick. It was pretty cool.

AJ: Top 5 best concerts you’ve photographed?

AH: Taylor Swift, Sting, Blink 182, Post Malone (Capital One Arena), and Firefly Music Festival 2019 (Post Malone & Travis Scott were my highlights)

Jeremy McKinnon of A Day To Remember (Photo by Alyssa Howell)

AJ: Top 5 All-Time Favorite bands/artists?

AH: Taylor Swift, Post Malone, Snoop Dogg, Logic, and SILAS

AJ: What artists are on your bucket list? Who do you dream of photographing one day?

AH: AHHHHH!!! There are so so many. To name a few it’s Foo Fighters, KISS, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The 1975, and Kenny Chesney.

AJ: Anything you want to add to this interview? Any final words for the readers?

AH: Thank you SOOOO much for taking the time to chat with me, Andy! I want to thank my friends and family for all the support with the dreams I have. I cannot wait to get back into the photo pit with all my photog friends!!! Stay safe and be well.

AJ: Thanks Alyssa! Fin.

Check out Alyssa’s official website, AM Media LLC, to see more of her work!

Lizzo (Photo by Alyssa Howell)
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