The Challenges of Concert Photography in the Greater Austin Area. - My Experience and What I Have Learned.

“By presenting yourself in the best way you can, you can relieve yourself from worrying about how other people perceive you”
― Anas Hamshari, Businessman With An Affliction

The Venues

Local venues, especially in Austin, are a great place to get started, when learning to photograph musicians. Be prepared, the lighting, your most crucial element, varies from bad to somewhat good. There are a few gems.

The Saxon Pub provides a simple consistent lighting environment allowing the photographer the best opportunity to get phenomenal shots. Richard Vannoy is the perfectionist every photographer wants on his side. The lighting is exceptional. When full of fans, this intimate place becomes a challenge in maneuverability.

The Haute Spot is another exceptional local venue to photograph at but you need permission from Lightstream.  When Sean Semler is there, failure to get great shots is a personal issue.

Buck's Backyard is also a venue that offers an opportunity for great shots, especially on the outdoor stage. Permission will be needed for the outdoor events. The indoor stage does offer an opportunity but is a bit inconsistent. The outer edges of the stage tend to be more shadowy and the drummer in the center back is less lit.

The Railhouse Bar in Kyle, Texas has stepped up, especially on their outdoor stage. Simple lighting that can be dealt with. Indoors can be a challenge.

Come and Take It Live is a dynamic and fabulous location for great photography but is also inconsistent in its delivery of lighting. Their biggest fault is overshadowing the bands.

Armadillo Den is a venue that has such potential. The sound/lighting engineer has always been open to suggestions. I have gotten spectacular shots here.

Friends Bar is another venue that has potential. The tendency to use one color and no clarity, i.e. too much shadow, is the only reason I do not patronize this great venue often.

The Far Out Lounge and Stage is an interesting place to photograph when the band plays in the box. Lighting in the box is adequate and the photographer has many opportunities to capture great shots.

I was honored to photograph at the amazing Parker Jazz Club.  The lighting under Mac McDonell is spectacular. When he placed a soft spotlight on the musician playing, my first thought was, "Oh My God, he read the book."

Opal Divine's  - this place blew me away. Simple, simple lighting that allowed me to get some great shots. A definite "Go To" place.

A common lighting abuse by most Austin venues is the overuse of magenta and shadow. Singular color is fine so long as clarity is an element. There is no quick guide to mastering the differing venues. Each day can be different causing one to constantly reevaluate their camera settings during a shoot. In summary, the venues in the greater Austin area offer many opportunities for Iconic shots. Learning to overcome these challenges has made me a better photographer and forced me to learn and master editing software.

Below are articles, videos and instructor lead courses I have found helpful to learn from in my journey. The Netflix series: Chef's Table is inspiring.


There is a correlation between the passion of a chef and that of a photographer. Each strives to create a moment of excellence for others, acutely aware of every imperfection presented and the determination that next time they will do it better. -  Michael Wright

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