COVID-19 has made a huge impact on many people all across the world, and its put many people out of jobs and at some high risks etc. So here at The Vinyl we wanted to celebrate the insanely talented creators in the photography business. We are celebrating the Concert Photographers, the Lifestyle Photographers, the Wedding Photographers, the Wildlife Photographers and every other type of Photographer behind that camera that brings such joy to the eye.

Introducing Chris Smyth!! 

The Vinyl: Please introduce yourself and tell us your primary photo location(s)?
Chris Smyth: I’m Chris Smyth, a contributor to Parklife DC where I shoot concerts and write reviews of shows. I have been with Parklife DC for a little over two years now, and absolutely love covering concerts. I’m based out of Washington, DC and cover shows throughout the DC and Baltimore region.

TV: How did you know that being a photographer is something you truly wanted to do, and what/who are some inspirations you may have had/have?
CS: For my normal day job I am a television news photographer. I go out and shoot video and interviews, and then I edit it all together for our stories that air every day. That actually delayed my interest in still photography. I had to shoot stuff for work, so I had no interest in doing it in my personal. But I got my first still camera around 4 or 5 years ago, a Nikon D90, and started messing around and learning the differences between shooting video and still, and I ended up falling in love with it pretty quickly.

CS: What equipment is a must-have for you no matter where you are going to be working? What does your typical photographing setup look like? 
CS: I’m still building my kit and getting by on relatively minimal gear. I only have one body and two lenses. Since I learned on a Nikon I’ve stuck with them and I shoot with a Nikon D750. I really like that camera. It’s not super high end and still allows me to shoot in the darkest shows. The two lenses that I have are a Nikon 24-120mm F/4 and a Nikon 70-300mm zoom lens. For 90% of the shows that I shoot I use the 24-120. From the pit it allows me to get both wide enough and close enough for most shows. The 70-300 works well for when I have to shoot from the soundboard or general admission. I need the extra zoom length to get to the stage from far away. 

I would love to get a second body, and a wider lens- something like a 14-24mm. It would be nice to able to shoot a little wider when I’m in smaller clubs or when an artist is right on top of me. I love the look of the artist looking huge in the frame but still being able to see a wide range of the background. 

TV: What are some of your favorite techniques when it comes to editing styles/ways you present your work? Do you have different aesthetics for different types of work?
CS: I really try hard to present the photos as they were taken. I want anyone who went to the show to see my photographs and feel that they are a true representation of what they saw. The one thing that I try to clean up is the smoke that bands use. They use just enough to make the shots look foggy, but not enough to add a real fun aesthetic to the photos. So in lightroom I’ll use the dehaze slider to clean the shot up a bit. Other than that I may only add a small bit of saturation or a little contrast to a shot. I’ve been doing less and less editing as I’ve gotten better as a photographer.

TV: COVID-19 has completely changed the lifestyle for soooo many different people, how has it effected you? Whether its work/photo related or just all together? How do you. keep yourself busy?
CS: As a television news photographer, I am still going in to work everyday, so my day to day life hasn’t changed too much. We are taking a lot more precautions to help ensure that everyone is being safe and healthy, but I’m still editing stories every day, and shooting most days. But like everyone else, my personal life has changed since we aren’t allowed to hang out in person anymore, so I’ve been doing more Zoom meetings and Google hangouts with friends. Most Saturday nights now are my wife and I sitting on our couch with a cocktail and hanging out with our friends online who are doing the same thing. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s still a fun way to see each other and hang out.

TV: Now that Concerts/Festivals/Events/ Social Gatherings(weddings, reunions, family portraits etc) /Sports etc are being cancelled/postponed all over the world due to COVID-19, how are you finding ways to stay creative? 
CS: I keep trying to come up with ways to keep people interested in checking out Parklife DC even while there aren’t any concerts to cover. I’m working to set up interviews with different bands and artists who I enjoy and I find interesting. I recently had an interview with Marc Labelle, the lead singer of Dirty Honey. He explained that the band is still getting together in their studio in California and continue to work on their next album. I also decided to put out a list of some albums from 2019 that I enjoyed, but may have been overlooked by the general public. 

I had also hoped to actually learn how to play my bass guitar. I’ve had one since college, and back when I first got it I just learned to play tabs to a few songs, but never really learned how to play the instrument. With Fender allowing a free 3 month subscription to all of their online training tutorials, I had hoped to pick it up for the first time in over a decade and finally play it for real. But thus far, my bass still sits in it’s bag waiting to get played. I just haven’t had the time to sit and start practicing.

TV: Once all this (hopefully) goes away, what are some of your plans to get back to a somewhat “normal” schedule? 
CS: Other than seeing family and friends again, the first thing I’ll do once I feel it’s safe to be in big crowds again, is look up what concerts I can attend. I miss going to the shows. I miss looking through my photographs and getting excited when I see that I captured something well. I miss writing the reviews. I just miss it all. 

TV: What are some of your favorite creative pieces/photos/opportunities you have gotten to do in 2020 before all hell broke loose?
CS: I had a very slow start to 2020, and things were going to start ramping up for me just as everything got shut down. In the month of March I was scheduled to shoot four shows. I had only shot two this year. I covered Everclear lead singer, Art Alexakis, at City Winery DC in January, and then just days before everything closed down, I covered Skillet and had a sit down interview with their lead singer, John Cooper. The interview with John Cooper was a big moment for me because until then I had only shot shows and written reviews. This was the first interview that I had conducted in this gig, and I was hoping that it would lead to doing more.

Here are a few of Chris’ favorite photos and a few words about them: The photos of Steven Tyler and Sebastian Bach are both from before I started shooting shows as a job. These images helped me fall in love with concert photography and made me want to figure out a way to do it for real. I may shoot better photographs in my career, but these two will always hold a special place in my heart. Slash has always been and icon of mine, so when I got to photograph him, it was a real dream come true. I didn’t know who In This Moment were until I saw them in concert. Their stage show blew me away and I love this photo of Maria Brink emerging from the smoke. The last you could call my current favorite. I took this at my last
concert that I covered.

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TV: Is there anything you would like to add as we end this interview? 
CS:  My best piece of advice for anyone who is interested in photography is to just go do it. You don’t need the best equipment to get started. My first concert photos were with a tiny point-and-shoot camera that I was allowed to bring into clubs (the Sebastian Bach photo was taken on that camera). You’ll screw up, and you’ll learn. You’ll eventually capture something that excites you and you’ll want to do it again. If you know other photographers, tell them about the issues you are encountering and ask what they would do in that situation. I have come to find that most photogs that I interact with are all pretty cool people and willing to help