Kat Nijmeddin, concert photographer and creative director for Pure Noise Records gave us the inside scoop on how she got her start in photography, a few tips and tricks to battling concert lighting, and advice on becoming a kick butt photographer yourself. Read below to learn more about the fabulous Kat Nijmeddin.
Follow Kat on social media, and check out more of her work on the links listed below!
What is your background in photography?
I am a photographer/videographer/graphic designer/illustrator, essentially a little bit of everything. I am an artist based out of Los Angeles, currently. I’d say I’ve been a photographer since I was in high school, but I didn’t start taking photos of live shows until about 3-4 years ago. I grew up always wanting to take pictures of people. In high school I worked out a deal with my parents, if i got a 4.0 one semester, they’d get me a DSLR. Thankfully I got the 4.0, and started teaching myself about portraits and ended up taking a lot of the photos in my senior yearbook.What inspired you to pursue photography? I’ve always loved documenting things. I love art history and reading about photographers who documented the immediate life around them, whether it was street photography in their home countries, or documenting the struggles their community faced. I loved seeing photos that gave insight about a specific moment of time.
How did you get into this very specific field of music photography?Growing up in Fresno, I wasn’t as active in show going as I am now (because my parents were strict about shows). I always thought music photography would be out of reach, especially since I knew my parents would never let me tour, so I worked on portraits. I started shooting shows my last year of college, mostly just my friends’ shows because I wanted to dip my toes into music photography. I instantly fell in love with it. You gotta be so in the moment when taking live photos, it’s such a rush. I made the move to be a professional photographer when I started interning for Pure Noise because I needed to learn how to do video, so I started taking it way more seriously.
Can you tell us a little bit about your position at Pure Noise Records?I am the creative director at Pure Noise, and I’m in charge of content creation. I create all the promotional assets, so if someone is announcing a single or releasing an album, I make the graphics/teasers that pop up in your feed. I take care of the live photos and live videos as well, so when there are shows you’ll usually see me running around grabbing content. It’s the absolute best, especially since I’m a genuine fan of our roster. There are bands we work with that I’ve been listening to since I was in high school, so I get some cool full circle moments.
How would you describe your photography style? Editing style?My style has changed quite a bit over the years, and because I loved taking portraits, I started treating live shows as photo sessions instead of being completely shutter happy, and hoping I’d get some good live shots. I wanted more live portraits. I’d say my editing style is to be as pastel and dreamy as possible. I shoot a lot of hardcore shows, and I love taking chaotic photos that are incredibly soft, because i think it’s just a wild contrast to what’s actually in the photos.
What kind of gear do you use? What lenses, cameras, editing programs, etc.I almost exclusively just use a Sony A7iii, and a sigma art 35mm lens. I think it does everything I need it to do, from shooting shows in a tight space to creating live music videos. I’ll usually carry around my film camera at shows too, because I love the look of film and I think those photos are more spontaneous than digital. When I moved, I found my old power shot point and shoot from when I was in high school, and sometimes I’ll even shoot on that because everything looks insanely dated. And, I edit everything in Lightroom.
After shooting so many shows, how do you manage to still find fresh ideas and new angles to capture?With the volume of shows I shoot, it IS difficult to find new ideas, but sometimes I’ll just see something and think “oh, this would look really cool.” A lot of times I shoot with a light prism, so I can play with lights further. One time I forgot my prism, but had just gotten my nails done, and one of my nails was transparent with little jewels on it, so I just started putting my fingernails in front of my lens to give me some light leaks. DIY or die baby.
Any tips you can offer to anyone who is battling with concert lighting?My biggest advice when coming to battling concert lighting is to stop battling it and embrace it. You can spend hours trying to constantly color correct photos so they look normal. I used to hate red lighting with a burning passion, but I got to the point where I stopped throwing away all my red photos and started working with what I had. I softened them so they weren’t as harsh, and honestly? Some of my best photos are completely red. Every set is different, so there’s no “perfect spot” to be positioned. You’ll move around a lot, so just work with where you’re standing.
What is the best part about being a concert photographer?The best part about being a photographer is shooting bands I’m fans of mostly because if I don’t have my camera at a show I simply don’t know what to do with my hands.
What advice do you have for photographers looking to follow in your footsteps?Shoot as many shows as you possibly can. I’m not talking about shooting arena shows every night, but shoot those little DIY shows that have 20 attendees. Be comfortable shooting and having to get through people. There were so many shows where I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted because I was too nervous to move around (most times I was the only one shooting, so it was extra stressful.) I’ll also say work on your own editing styles. It’s easy to see someone else’s work and say, ‘wow i love their colors, I’m gonna do the exact same thing,’ and then you’ll get upset that it didn’t come out exactly like theirs. Sometimes it can take years to get photos to look exactly how you pictured them in your mind. Practice truly makes perfect. I think the biggest challenge is that there’s SO many photographers at most shows, it’s hard to get the exact shots you want, and sometimes you have to work harder to make your photos stand out from everyone else’s.
What is the one photo you’re most proud of creating?I think the photo I’m most proud of is the photo of Franz, the bassist of Turnstile mid flip into the crowd. It was a chaotic moment when the crowd accidentally unplugged his bass, so he kinda shrugged and put it down, and I caught him mid flip into the crowd while someone plugged his bass back in.
Kat’s picture of Turnstile:
What artists would you most like to photograph, that you haven’t already?I would LOVE to shoot Rage Against the Machine. I’m incredibly bummed that shows are cancelled right now because I would’ve LOVED to capture their shows. I could only imagine the energy they would’ve brought into 2020. And also Paramore. Hayley if you see this please hit me up.
Do you have any pre-show rituals, or any superstitions that you follow when you’re getting ready to shoot a show?I’m not a superstitious person. Maybe just a little stitious. Sometimes if I’m shooting a show where I’m either the only photographer, or I’m nervous to shoot (because I do get shy sometimes) I gotta give myself a little pep talk before I start shooting.
Besides music, what makes you, you?
I’ve recently been making pastel movie posters to occupy my time. Since there are no shows happening I’ve got extra free time so I’m just creating in different ways. (Or I’m playing Call of Duty.)