Behind the camera: Matthew Shelter

MCS PictWho are you? Matthew Shelter (Stage Light Photography), a Massachusetts-based photographer who shoots concerts and shows in the Boston area and throughout New England. My photos – and album and concert reviews – appear in Relix magazine,,, (the best local music blog in Boston) and elsewhere.

How did you get started? I was originally a fine-art and landscape photographer. I started shooting concerts on a whim in 2007. One of the first bands I shot was Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. They liked my work, and were great about giving me a lot of access to shoot more shows. I was able to gradually work my way in front of other bands and build a portfolio. Grace Potter is still one of my favourite acts to shoot – a concert photographer’s dream.

What’s in the bag?

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon 24-70mm f/ 2.8
  • Canon 70-200mm f /2.8
  • A few primes: 50mm, 85mm, 135mm

Which photographers do you admire?

  • Jay Blakesberg, he’s taken more concert photos I wish I could have taken than just about anybody else.
  • Allister Ann, who’s done wonderful concert and behind-the-scenes work for The Civil Wars.
  • Todd Owyoung and Alan Hess, for their ready willingness to share their expertise with other photographers. Alan Hess’ book on concert photography is the best one out there.

Your top 3 tips for music photographers?

  • Focus is overrated – very few iconic rock shots have tack-sharp focus. I’m a big fan of grain, blur, motion.
  • Don’t fall so in love with your own work – meaning don’t feel a need to post 30 pictures from every concert; 6-8 is usually plenty.
  • Always shoot camera raw – the ability to color correct and tweak exposure after the fact is a godsend for concert photography.

My favourite shot is? This isn’t necessarily my favourite shot, it’s just one I like. It’s of Chad Stokes, guitarist in the jam band Dispatch (and State Radio). It’s from a Dispatch show at the Agganis Arena in Boston on 10/6/12, and was shot with a Canon 5D and 24-70mm lens, at f/4.5 1/100. What I like is that it’s a classic rock guitarist pose, and conveys (hopefully) some of the passion and exuberance Stokes brings to his performances. I like how the stage lights on the right side of the frame balance the guitarist on the left. The original image didn’t really work that well, because there were too many clashing colours that distracted the eye, but when converted to b/w it became much stronger. I still don’t know exactly where Chad’s face is in this image, but it doesn’t really matter.

How can we find out more about you and find more of your work?

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