2017 Vans Warped Tour Photo Sets

As many of you may already know, Warped Tour has consistently been one of my absolute favorite days of the entire year. Warped was essentially what allowed me to get my start in concert photography and I constantly encourage anyone who's serious about covering shows to consider applying to cover Warped. As always, if you have any questions about how to get started, don't hesitate to let me know! Every year I'm impressed by the variety of the lineup, the caliber of the bands and everyone involved's ability to run the festival smoothly for dozens of dates in a row. If you haven't read my last post about my thoughts on this year's line-up, you can check that out here: http://www.spotlightviews.com/blog/2017/3/26/2017-vans-warped-tour-lineup

I believe this was my 6th year in a row covering the Noblesville, IN date of Warped and the lineup featured some of my all-time favorite bands, including returning Warped alumni Hands Like Houses and Memphis May Fire. I'm going to keep this post to just the photo sets but just know that I only photograph bands that I support! If they're in this, there's a good chance I think they're talented, great people and deserving of loads of support. Definitely give the ones you're not familiar with a listen! 

HANDS LIKE HOUSES

MEMPHIS MAY FIRE

BEARTOOTH

AMERICAN AUTHORS

ANDY BLACK

TOO CLOSE TO TOUCH

I PREVAIL

NECK DEEP

DANCE GAVIN DANCE

OUR LAST NIGHT

SAMMY ADAMS 

SYLAR

WATSKY

2017 Vans Warped Tour Lineup

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/554998354054940504/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/554998354054940504/

Since 1995, rock festival Vans Warped Tour has been traveling around the United States and Canada, bringing the largest and longest running music festival in the United States to dozens of cities every summer. The festival typically boasts a lineup of around 50 bands that, although often containing some overlap, are different every year. The bands are spread out on multiple stages to allow festival goers to choose between a few bands that are playing at the same time- the coolest set up ever. It includes a substantial range of genres in an attempt to introduce fans to new music while also hopefully bringing out some of their favorite bands. Some people have a difficult time understanding this concept and seem to expect to see the same 5 bands every year.... 

The 2017 Warped Tour lineup was just announced on March 22nd. Interviews with founder Kevin Lyman suggest he was taking a slightly different approach when putting together the tour this year, adding a stage dedicated specifically to metal bands and slightly reducing the number of bands in order to ensure all of them were high quality. I'm not sure how successful the new stage will be as it seems to be geared towards a demographic that's very different from the typical "Warped crowd," but I'm not complaining. Everyone from satirical rapper Watsky to hardcore powerhouses Memphis May Fire and pop punk kings Neck Deep will play this year. 

From the second the lineup was announced, my Twitter timeline was filled with low quality complaints and high quality memes. 

Lyman has accurately labeled them the "Warped Complainers" and clearly isn't too upset about their absence this year. 

The whole point of Warped Tour is to find new bands to listen to and give up-and-coming bands a chance to build audiences. It's great to be able to see a few bands you already know and love but there aren't 50 bands spread across various stages just for decoration. If you're upset about the lineup, give some new bands a listen!

Here are just a few of my personal recommendations:

Hands Like Houses- An Australian rock/hardcore band made up of some of the most talented and most genuine people in the industry. They always put on an incredible live show and I honestly have never met a single person that dislikes them, only people that haven’t heard of them.

Sylar-  This New York hardcore band has been taking the scene by storm recently. Their sound is intense and guitar heavy while still polished and lead singer Jayden's stage presence is so much fun to watch. 

Memphis May Fire- My longtime favorites, classified as metalcore but never afraid of straying outside of their genre. One of the most popular bands in the scene and for a good reason.

Dance Gavin Dance- A post-hardcore band with a sound unlike anyone else’s. Lead singer Tilian’s vocals are wonderfully unique and I’m stoked to finally be seeing them live.

American Authors-  One of the more “wildcard” bands this year, this indie band has quickly become one of my favorites. While they have Top-40 hits like “Best Day Of My Life,” their sound is much more complex than that and their true talent really shines through during live performances.  

https://twitter.com/grace_matthys/status/699352999685017600

https://twitter.com/grace_matthys/status/699352999685017600

The only issue I have with the lineup is trying to figure out how I'm going to emotionally prepare myself to see so many incredible artists in one day. Also need to get a head start on mentally preparing myself to spend an entire day outside in the late July heat.... 

 

 

My Favorite Pictures of 2016

I tend to be a very future-oriented person: I'm so focused on what's ahead and moving forward that I don't give myself any time to reflect on what I've already done. I really have no desire to change this trait as it helps make me ambitious and driven but it does get exhausting. As 2016 comes to an end, I'd like to pause and take a minute to look back on the work I've done this year. I started an internship as the photographer at local radio station WXPN (which I'll write a full post on later!) and ended up shooting more than I ever have before. In this post I'll just run through some of the best pictures I've taken this year, briefly explaining ones with fun stories and just throwing in others. Thank you to everyone on Twitter who voted for this post, I'm stoked people like my work enough to be interested in reading this! Hope you're all enjoying the holidays! 

NEW YORK CITY

Financial District

Financial District

Financial District

Financial District

The Met

The Met

LAUNCH MUSIC CONFERENCE

LAUNCH is a music festival and conference in Lancaster, PA where they have panels with music industry professionals early in the days and tons of concerts in different venues in the afternoon-night. They get tons of smaller artists to play and usually bring in a big headliner (Panic! at the Disco headlined a few years ago). This was absolutely one of the most unique and rewarding experiences of my life. If you live nearby I highly recommend going, especially if you're interested in working in the music industry! The Ice Nine Kills set was incredibly hard to shoot (barely any light, no photo pit, tiny but completely packed venue) so the fact I still got two of my favorite pictures from that set is something I'm really proud of. 

PHILADELPHIA

South Philly

South Philly

The Art Museum/Skyline

The Art Museum/Skyline

South Philly

South Philly

VANS WARPED TOUR

My favorite day of the year as most of you already know. I know it's common to make fun of Warped and the jokes are honestly hilarious but even with it's flaws I have no interest in belittling the festival that's pretty much the main reason I'm able to do what I do and has opened up countless doors for me. This summer's pictures are definitely my best from the last 5 years I've covered it and there were just so many excellent bands, I love this tour. 

PORTRAITS

My sister's family- my nephew is so used to photoshoots I didn't have to direct them for this one at all, he was READY

My sister's family- my nephew is so used to photoshoots I didn't have to direct them for this one at all, he was READY

Malia

Malia

My nephew

My nephew

Malia

Malia

MISC

These are from my family's trip to Hilton Head Island, SC and just in my backyard. The portrait of my mom gardening is one I took for Adam Elmakias' photography challenge and it's truly one of my favorite photos I've ever taken, it just captures her essence so well. The one of my little brother does the same, he's gotten used to modeling for me after years of making him pose for pictures. 

CONCERTS

Hands Like Houses

Hands Like Houses

The Fray

The Fray

Palisades

Palisades

The Fray

The Fray

If you have any questions about what gear/settings I used on specific photos or about how I edit please feel free to send me a screenshot of the photo & ask whatever you're curious about! 

Streaming or Stealing?

The value of streaming services has been widely debated since their introduction & they really became a hot topic when Taylor Swift decided to pull her music from Spotify in 2014. Many people don't understand why some artists hate Spotify or how the music streaming service really works. In this post I'd like to very briefly summarize why it's so controversial and also present my own views on the topic. 

The main issue with Spotify is its revenue model. Artist make an average of about $0.005 per stream which is clearly next to nothing, but there are also plenty of artists that you've never even heard of getting millions of streams and making a relatively decent amount from that. The biggest problem with the revenue model is how that money gets distributed. If the artist is signed to a record label, their label and/or whoever else owns the rights to their music are getting a huge cut of that money, leaving the actual artist with even less than they would have initially gotten. 

As someone who supports tons of small artists, my opinion on this issue will probably surprise a lot of you. Streaming services are making music much more accessible & they allow independent artists to get their music out to a much bigger audience. Spotify is changing the industry. Not to be rude but you either adapt or you get left behind, that's just how this fickle and fast-paced industry is. Should artists be protesting the revenue model? Absolutely! It's screwing the artist and needs to be revised asap. Will it be revised? Probably not. I honestly don't have much against most major labels and there are many benefits to being signed, but keep in mind that their main goal is to profit. Rather than waiting for some magic change to happen, artists and (especially) artist managers should be looking at every other possible way to make money. 

You've probably noticed that recently it seems like your favorite bands are touring nonstop. This is just one example of how streaming services are changing the industry as touring is where a giant portion of most artist's revenue is coming from. Another large portion of their money comes from selling merch. Album sales used to make up a huge section of where their money was coming from but the average consumer is currently buying about two albums a YEAR so that's simply not the case anymore. My Mac doesn't even have a CD slot if that says anything about the future of album sales. 

Think about it from the consumer's point of view. If you have to choose between spending $10 on every album you want to listen to or paying $10 a month to listen to basically every album you could ever want, the choice is pretty clear to me. I use Spotify for a couple hours every day & pay the student rate of $5 a month. From a financial standpoint, why in the world would I stop using Spotify? Purchasing every album I listen to on Spotify would run me literally thousands of dollars but I'm only paying $60 a year. Just as a disclaimer, I still purchase my favorite artist's albums, concert tickets & merch to support them but I think it's important to realize Spotify isn't going away any time soon. I completely understand the frustration with Spotify and agree that the concerns are completely valid and real, but I do support Spotify and think it's unrealistic to expect it to change significantly. 

Warped Tour - 7/19/16 Noblesville, IN

If you follow any of my social media you probably know that Warped is my favorite day of the summer. This year was my 5th time covering it & the most successful. This lineup is probably my favorite so far and the schedule worked out perfectly, allowing me to see/shoot basically everyone I had planned on seeing (even if it did involve a lot of running from one side of the venue to the other). I had also been itching to use my new lens at an outdoor concert and it worked even better than I expected it to, leaving me with what I consider my best work yet. 

First band of the day was one of my all time favorites, Crown The Empire! I have shot and seen this band many times (more than any other band actually) over the course of about 3 years. They've grown so much over the last few years & the release of Retrograde really represents a new chapter for them. It was nice to hear songs off the new album & I'm very happy to see them continuing to move forward! 

Another one of my favorite bands & the band I was most excited to shoot was Issues. Even though I saw their set on Warped 2015, I missed out on shooting them. They are some of the best performers and seeing them again really solidified how well deserved Sky's APMAs' win for "Best Bassist" was. 

Another must see set is Atreyu's. I started listening to them at the most unfortunate time (right after their hiatus began) & I was convinced I'd never get to see them. Not only did I get to see them, but I got to shoot them on their first Warped 2016 date. Alex was incredibly interactive with fans and probably spent more time in the crowd than he did onstage. My only "complaint" is that I was hoping we'd get to hear Brandon's vocals more as not only is having a drummer do lead vocals very unique but he's also incredibly talented. 

I love so much about this tour, from the people on it to the people running it to the people attending. If you're into photography, I cannot stress how great of an opportunity Warped is. Applied this year but didn't hear back? Don't give up, apply again next year!! This year I got really lucky and had the woman who helps run Sleeping With Sirens, Crown The Empire, Good Charlotte & Yellowcard's social media reach out to me & ask if she could post my photos of them. Just that one email is allowing my work to be exposed to THOUSANDS more people than it normally would be. Not only is Warped itself great and a big opportunity but it also opens so many doors! 

I could spend years talking about Warped Tour but, instead of doing that, I'll leave you with photo sets from the rest of the sets I shot. Below you'll find pictures of Sleeping With Sirens,  Good Charlotte, Yellowcard, The Maine, The Story So Far, Secrets, Ice Nine Kills, The Color Morale, Chunk! No Captain, Chunk, and Mayday Parade (not listed in order).

Editing Photos

I feel like editing photos is often equated to making your photos look fake or trying to cover up "bad photography." I completely disagree with this and I actually think that, in order to really access the full potential of your photos, you have to be able to edit them. Not only can you correct errors in post-production, but if you know how to use your editing software you can change the whole mood and impact of your photos. If you're serious about photography, I think Adobe Lightroom is completely worth the $10 a month. There's nothing else that has nearly as many features as Lightroom and it can really take your photos to the next level. 

There are plenty of Lightroom tutorials made by people who understand it much better than I do so rather than walking you through how to use it, I'm just going to share my favorite features and show how I like to use it. 

With concert photography especially, basic corrections like fixing exposure can really save a photo. Here's a before and after where the first picture is just straight from the SD card, and the second is cropped with a huge boost to the clarity, whites and highlights. Even just those changes that take about 10 seconds to make make a huge difference! I also changed the tint of the second picture to make the lights pink/purple. 

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You could always just make those basic edits and leave it at that, or you could really play around with all that Lightroom has to offer. I love to change the lighting and colors of concert pictures. Right underneath the "Basic" edits section, there's a smaller rectangle labeled "HSL / Color / B & W." These are the sliders I use to help change tones and make light beams really pop. After making basic edits, I was really able to bring out the light beam behind him by bumping the luminance of the color blue. 

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Another one of my favorite features in Lightroom is the Tone Curve. I just recently learned how to use this and I'm really enjoying how it changes the feel of my photos and gives me that vintage, matte/film feel I was looking for. The following picture is one I applied the preset I made to. The preset future basically allows you to create your own filter by saving the settings you want applied to your picture. The preset I use on basically all of my photos adds some contrast, bumps the highlights a little bit, bumps the clarity a lot and adds the custom tone curve that sort of dulls the blacks and makes the picture look matte. 

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Presets are just a way to shortcut the editing process. Rather than changing each of these settings individually on each picture, I can just throw on the preset and then fine-tune the settings if needed. I like this not only because it saves time but also because it helps my pictures look similar/more cohesive and helps me create an editing style that's more uniquely mine. 

Play around with Lightroom! Watch some tutorials, go crazy with editing on a bunch of pictures and just see what all it can do. It's a really impressive program that can help you have some really impressive pictures. It not only allows you to change the style of your pictures, but it can also save pictures you may have considered unusable before editing. The rest of this post will just be a few more before and afters to show how, while the original picture is very important, editing can be just as important.

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Getting Photo Passes

Some of you may be thinking "Ok, I already have all of this equipment, now what do I do with it???" In this blog I'll talk about how to start shooting shows. This is a tell-all blog where I reveal all my secrets and if you read this you're guaranteed to become a successful concert photographer (I'm definitely lying you'll probably be upset once you realize how easy it really is).

You may already have a portfolio full of beautiful portraits and landscapes, but concert photography is quite different. While we know a great photographer can shoot anything, the people handing out photo passes are a bit more close minded and want to see a portfolio full of great concert photos, not just great photos in general. Start small so you can build your credentials. Reach out to a smaller local band, they'll be stoked to have you shoot the show and it'll be a great opportunity for you to get used to what settings and techniques you'll have to use for concert photography.

Upload your photos either to a personal website or just to Flickr. Make an album/portfolio with shots that you consider your best so you can quickly and easily link people to your favorite work. Once you feel like you have a good amount of photos that prove you can shoot shows, start reaching out to more bands. I've found that the majority of bands I'm trying to cover have their managers' or press' emails posted online. Check the "about" section of their Facebook page, Google "*artist name* press," "*artist name* manager." It's so much easier than you'd think it would be! Most of the time you don't even need to have some sort of inside contact to get in touch with the right people, you just need to know how to find them. If you can't find the headlining artist's contact info, try looking for the openers'. 

Once you find who to get in contact with (preferably their press agent, if they don't have one contact the manager or (as a last resort) contact the band directly), send them an email including who you are and what you want. Be sure to include the date and location of the show and a link to your portfolio.

My basic email template usually looks something like

"Hello! I just wanted to inquire about covering the *band* show in *city* on *date*. Here's a link to my website *website link* and you can see more of my work here *Flickr link*. The band is more than welcome to use the photos for promotional purposes, let me know if we can set something up!

Best, *full name*"

I also always include the band name and date of the show in the email subject. 

I recommend sending these emails about 2-3 weeks before the date of the show. This gives them plenty of time to see and grant your request, but it's not too far ahead of time. Sometimes they'll get back to you within a couple days, sometimes they'll wait until the day before the show, sometimes they won't reply at all. Have patience and be persistent! If you haven't heard back from them about 2-3 days before the show, send a follow up email. Just connect it to the first email you sent and say something simple like "Hey, just wanted to follow up on this request. I'd still love to set up coverage!" This not only ensures that they've seen the email but it also show that you're genuinely interested in covering the show. 

If you're granted a photo pass, you'll be able to shoot the first 3 songs of each set (no flash). Sometimes, if you're guest listed by an opener, you won't be able to shoot the headliner's set. They'll be sure to let you know if that's the case! I usually go to the box office about an hour before doors are set to open to see if they have the guest list. They often won't get it until RIGHT before doors but I always like to be there early anyway. Also try to check whether the venue has a photo pit or not beforehand. If they don't have one, you'll probably want to get to the show earlier to make sure you're at the front of the crowd and have a good spot to take pictures from. If they do have one, you can basically show up whenever and walk in front of the barricade so you don't have to worry about being there too early.

After the show, sort through your pictures and edit them. Upload them all into an album, preferably dropbox or Flickr, and send them to whoever gave you the press pass. I usually say something like "Hey, here are the shots I took of *band* on *date.* If they want to share any of the pictures, they can credit *Instagram name, full name, whatever you want.* Thanks again!" Try to get this process done within about a week of show. This shows them that you were serious about covering the show and weren't just trying to get a free concert ticket. It also encourages the artists to post your pictures, in-turn gaining you more exposure!

Warped Tour is also a FANTASTIC place to get started! The people covering it are a mix of crazy experienced photographers with thousands of dollars of gear to teens who have never covered a show before. It's such an incredible opportunity to network and, since you're able to shoot whatever bands you want to, you have the chance to shoot some really great (and well known) bands.

Not only that but everyone covering Warped gets put on a list that is sent out to basically all the press agencies/managers/talent groups with bands on Warped. What does this mean? You're now on your favorite band's press contact list. This gives you the opportunity to start working directly with press agencies who may send you show invites and other coverage requests. Going through a press agency for photo passes is SO MUCH EASIER than going through the band or venue because they have all the contacts and credentials and basically do all the work for you. It looks much better to have a respected agency send an email asking for coverage than it does to have it come directly from you (nothing personal of course, they just get a lot of requests and if it's coming from someone they know and trust they're much more likely to pay attention). Even if you don't think you'll enjoy many bands playing I promise this is an invaluable opportunity & I can't stress enough how much it's helped me!

Unfortunately this summer's applications for press have already closed but be sure to check http://vanswarpedtour.com/contact/#press around April next year to apply for next summer! 

Hopefully this blog explained the process of getting photo passes well enough, don't hesitate to ask me if you have any questions or are confused about anything at all!

Concert Photography Equipment & Settings

Today's blog will be sort of an extension of the first one. While the first was basically just general equipment info and suggestions, today's will be specifically geared towards people interested in concert photography. 

Concert photography is like combining action and low light photography, which are essentially the two most challenging. Not only do you have to worry about capturing the quick movements of the performers, but you also have to do it in unpredictable and super dim lighting. You'll want to make sure you have equipment that can handle these conditions. 

I see a lot of photographers say that it's not about the equipment, it's about the talent of the photographer. I agree with this to an extent, but this is also usually coming from photographers that own thousands and thousands of dollars worth of equipment. I saw a pretty drastic change in my photos when I switched from a kit lens to my current lens and there are certain things some equipment can't do regardless of how talented you are. 

For concert photography, the main thing I would focus on in terms of lenses is the aperture. Aperture is how wide the opening of the lens is, which is directly correlated to how much light the lens lets it. The aperture of a lens is written in the form of "f/" followed by a number. It's sort of backwards because the lower the number is, the more light it lets in. In such challenging lighting, you want a lens that lets in tons of light. You can find prime lenses (fixed focal length lenses that don't zoom) that go all the way to f/1.4, although 1.8 is more common. If you want a zoom lens, f/2.8 is the largest aperture you'll find 

A Nikon 35mm f/1.8 would be an excellent lens to start off with. While it doesn't zoom, you can always crop the pictures post-production and this lens is quite budget friendly.  

If you decide you'd like to have the option to zoom, a range somewhere between 14mm-100mm should suffice. I often see people recommend the 70-200 telephoto lens for large venues and the option to take extreme close-ups. This lens isn't good for intimate venues though as having 70 as a starting point really only leaves you the option to take close-ups. The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is basically my dream concert photography lens but it's so pricey it'll probably be another couple of years before I can afford it. 

Camera settings are just as important as equipment. I tend to use just about the same settings for both indoor and outdoor concerts as, even though outdoor concerts have much better lighting, leaving the aperture wide open helps create a nice shallow depth of field (distance between nearest and farthest object, sharpness of object in focus vs blurring of background). 

First, I set the aperture as wide open as it'll go. I then switch to "Shutter" mode and set the shutter speed to around 1/300 of a second. The only drawback of setting the shutter speed so high is that the faster the shutter is clicking, the less light it's able to let in. To make up for that a bit, I tend to set the ISO to 1600 (going much higher will make your pictures noisy (visibly grainy)). I also add around a stop of exposure compensation to help the lighting a bit. Go into the photo pit a few minutes before the band goes on to play around with settings. Take pictures of the empty stage. Photos coming out too dark? Try lowering the shutter speed a bit.  

Take TONS of pictures. It's much better to have way too many than take too few and realize they all stink when you're trying to edit them! I always leave my shutter on continuous release since the performers are moving around so much. I usually end up with at least 300 photos from just the first 3 songs of one set. 

I also shoot RAW. You'll have to do more processing with this file type but the quality is excellent and it leaves you tons of room to edit however you'd like to. RAW files record higher levels of brightness to begin with and you'll be able to correct more exposure issues when editing. Just make sure you have a huge memory card that is able to process images quickly as these file types are much bigger. You can find fast 64 GB memory cards for around $30 on Amazon. Also make sure you have an editor that knows how to process these file types (such as Adobe Lightroom) as they aren't anywhere near as compatible as JPEGs & you'll have to convert them when exporting.

I'll talk more about actually putting this equipment to use in my next blog! 

Getting Started

I've been asked everything about photography from what equipment I use to how to get photo passes to "What button do I push?". I really enjoy talking about it and helping other people get started so, in an attempt to share a few tips, tricks and basic info, I'm starting this blog. If you have any questions or topics you'd really like to see me write about, feel free to submit them through my contact form

Disclaimer: While I have about 4 years of experience, I am still essentially an amateur photographer. I thought myself 90% of what I know and I've just been learning as I go along. These blogs are meant to help people and are mostly just suggestions, not facts that are set in stone. Hopefully this helps people who are interested in photography, enjoy! 

This first blog will be about equipment. I know a lot of people that swear by one brand or another but, when you really break down the make-up of brands like Nikon and Canon, there isn't a huge difference. Both have a wide range of lenses, bodies and accessories to choose from and I'm sure you'll be very satisfied with whichever you choose. Just be careful when veering away from these brands as quality and selection can vary greatly. 

A couple things to consider when buying equipment: 

  • Purpose- Do you just want a nice camera to bring on vacation or is your goal to become a professional photographer? What will your primary subject be? While there are some lenses that will work for just about any project, your preferred portrait lens is probably going to be extremely different from a lens used to photograph wildlife. 
  • Budget- How much are you willing to spend? DSLRs are much more affordable now but they are still not cheap by any means. Do you want to invest in a $1000+ lens now, or start off with a kit lens and work your way up to that? Are you someone who feels like they need to stick with only brand name lenses or are you willing to sacrifice a bit of quality & buy from a third party such as Sigma? 

Do your research!! There's tons of information out there and you should definitely use it. There are side by side comparisons of comparable Nikon and Canon bodies (which usually result in them finding little to difference to be honest) and tons of lens reviews on YouTube (I love Matt Granger and Christopher Frost's reviews). 

WARNING: When buying lenses, double check to make sure the lens you're interested in will fit your camera body. Full frame lenses will fit on crop sensor bodies, but the reverse may not be true! Full frame lenses also may not autofocus on crop sensors. Be aware that Nikon and Canon have different mounts so be sure you're buying the correct version of third party lenses.

I currently own a Nikon D5100. Arguments for getting a much more expensive full frame body include less cropping of images, faster autofocus and the inclusion of two memory card slots but I really haven't felt the need to upgrade mine. I wouldn't stress too much about picking a body or a brand. Do your research and make an educated choice but the differences in between many of these bodies are minimal and won't really affect your work in the long run; you can also upgrade later. The only difference I recommend really thinking about the difference between crop sensor and full frame as if you decide to upgrade to full frame later on, you'll probably have to switch a lot of your lenses out too and that can be a hassle. I used a kit lens for years and it worked fine but, after finding my current lens, I'm extremely upset I didn't upgrade earlier. 

I've been using a Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 since Christmas and I'm incredibly happy with it. The images are crystal clear, its fast enough to use at concerts and I only paid about $300 for it (although $400 is a more common price for it). The autofocus is a little slow but for the price I really can't complain. I've been using this lens for EVERYTHING and almost every image on my homepage was taken with it. 

I also have a Nikon 50mm f/1.8. This is one of those lenses everyone should own. It's inexpensive and buying directly from Nikon will run you about $220 but you can easily find it for less (I only paid about $130 for mine). I occasionally use this lens for concerts and it works beautifully, I just like having the option to zoom so I don't use it very often. This is my go-to portrait lens. The bokeh (background blurring) is very nice and having the option to open the lens all the way to f/1.8 is wonderful. No complaints with this lens, definitely the quality you'd expect from Nikon. 

My collection is tiny as I'm a broke college student but I'm saving up so I can expand it. In an attempt to keep this relatively short, I'll go into specifics on what to look for in equipment for concert photography in next week's blog!