I love looking at pictures, whether it be pictures from a show, nature, or even random get-togethers; pictures tell a great story. Adam Elmakias is widely recognized as one of the scene's top photographers; you've probably encountered his work on a t-shirt, a Facebook page, or in various magazines. I was really stoked to talk with Adam about photography and what he's been up to lately. Be sure and pick up one of his lens bracelets, because those are rad.
So you've been working in photography for quite some time. How'd you get your start?
I started when I was in High School, and I got my first camera through a long series of events throughout school; stuff like shooting for the yearbook and talking to my guidance counselor. From there, I started shooting shows twice a week, and I kept making friends with the bands that came through and let them stay at my house; I started networking from there and keeping those connections I had made.
So was there a moment where you realized "Yeah, I want to stick with this as a career"?
I did my first semester of college, and then I realized "Yeah, this isn't for me". So then in early 2008 I drove to Canada and did a few photoshoots over there and then I got on my first tour sortof on accident; I had a manager and I called him up and said "Hey, i'm stuck here in New York, and I need to get a way home". So my manager said "Well, I have one of my bands Just Surrender out there right now", and it worked out; those photos are actually on AP.net, Julia [Conny] posted those for me.
What tour was the first tour that wasn't an accident, and that you were actually invited to join?
My first tour was with Four Letter Lie, and it was about two months after my time with Just Surrender. They were a band I was pretty close with, and one day they called me up one day and asked if I wanted to do a tour for 30 days, and they said "Well, show up in Minneapolis on this day". I remember being there at 5am and their lead singer wasn't happy with me because he had to pick me up. So yeah, I did my tour in a van with them around the U.S., and it was awesome.
It's so intense, because Kevin Skaff is with A Day To Remember, and Derek's doing MOD SUN. Did that tour lead to more tours on your schedule, or was the time in between longer?
Yeah, I didn't know at the time that Kevin was going to go to ADTR, and Derek was going to do MOD SUN. It's just an example of how incestuous the music industry is, everybody goes to different jobs; whether it's working for the label, managing bands, or moving on to another band.
What do you feel are some misconceptions about being out on the road as a photographer?
I think a lot of people think that being out on the road is something like being hired, like if you like to work, you'll be out there. But you're going out with these guys and you're almost family with them; you have to be a really good person and be able to get along with everyone.
On those first couple of tours, what sort of challenges did you encounter?
Well that first tour with Four Letter Lie? I was a sheltered Wisconsin kid man, and I learned a lot the hard way.
I learned how to mind my own business, take care of myself really fast, and help everyone out. A good example is air conditioning in the van; if you're uncomfortable, most likely everyone else is comfortable, so you just have to tough it out. It's the sort of stuff you'd encounter living in a confined space with 8 other guys, you have to deal with a lot of shit, and be really easy going.
Let's talk a bit about someone that might want to get into what you do. First off, what's some good equipment that's not super expensive, but good for a beginner to learn on?
Well, there's some good cameras to learn on for 500-700 dollars; you get what you pay for.
Would you consider buying equipment used on eBay or Craigslist?
The thing about buying used is that you don't necessarily know how many times a particular camera has been used, so you're taking a bit of a gamble there. Also, you have to make sure it's from the right country, so you have the right charging gear. iPhones even are as expensive as some of these cameras, there's a whole culture for iPhone photography.
Yeah, let's talk about iPhone photography. What do you think about apps like Instagram?
Yeah, Instagram's great, I take photos with that all the time. There's also some other apps like Snapseed, Camera Awesome, etc. Most Flickr photos are taken with an iPhone as well. There's someone who said "The best camera is the one that's always with you.", and most people have their phone with them all the time.
What advice would you give to someone who had just purchased a brand new camera, and hasn't used it a whole lot yet, and wants to use it at a show? For instance, I didn't understand stuff like shutter speed and ISO initially.
Yeah, first and foremost, go online and research "shutter speed", "ISO", and "aperture". From there, play around with those outside in manual mode, until you can get that down super quick. When you're at the show, keep at mind that the person running the lights at the show has a set routine, blue, red, green, and white -- you take the shot on white.
On a similar note, what's the right way and wrong way to obtain a photo pass from a publicist?
The best way to ask for a photo pass is to ideally send an email; keep it to 3-4 sentences, and say "Hey, this is me, this is my work, and I need a photo pass for this city and this band on this day". It's important to keep it short and sweet, because they don't care about your life story, and they most likely get hundreds of emails a day. If you're not working for a publication...make one up; the bigger the band is, the harder it is to get in without a legit publication. The more legit your publication is, the easier it is to get passes.
For people who want to learn more in depth, and learning how to set up photo shoots, etc., where can people go to learn that?
Well, there's a ton of sites online, look at other photographers websites. I post blogs and try to teach people how to do stuff. I also have DVD's that teach stuff, because it's pretty overwhelming trying to teach everybody everything, it's another way to learn. But as far as a specific skill set for just shooting, you sortof have to learn how to do portraits and apply it to your own shots. I don't really know any specific sites for band photography off the top of my head.
You have some really popular photo bracelets , and then jeans for sale. What inspired you to start selling those?
In the beginning, the bracelets were photographer to photographer business cards, and it got to the point where a lot of people really wanted them, so I started selling them for $10. I started with one design, now I have 17 designs; they've been featured on Photojojo and other various tech blogs. That was almost a lucky accident.
The pants were just for fun, just to do it, and because Peter Says Denim wanted to do it, so I figured "Why not?". We're still working on stuff right now, I haven't promoted it a whole lot.
Do you have any other projects you're working on, such as maybe bags?
I have some ideas, but i'm focusing right now on new bracelets.
You're doing Warped Tour this summer with Pierce The Veil, Breathe Carolina, and Of Mice & Men. Where else can people find you this summer other than Warped?
I'm doing Warped Tour for the first three weeks right now, then i'm trying to do a little bit with The Devil Wears Prada on Mayhem Festival -- I have to keep asking them until they say yes. I have a blog that always says where i'll be, so if I add more dates, they're gonna be on there.
What's one book and one band that you'd recommend to anyone that enjoys looking at your photography?
Well, my favorite band is Number One Fan; they're not a band anymore, but I love them.
I don't read enough to really suggest a book, but I read a lot of online stuff.
Well, what sort of online stuff do you read?
I just read Reddit.
What's your favorite sub-Reddit?
Starcraft, and Videos.
Wrapping up, where can people get ahold of you online?
People can hit me up on Twitter, @elmakias. Email me, whatever works for you; i'm pretty internet active and good at getting back to others. I have a blog, where I have full write-ups of stuff like Warped Tour and stuff.