Elaine Tantra is a multi-talented director of photography, colorist, and photographer currently based out of Los Angeles. Her work immediately stands out for its vibrant colors and dreamy textures. Equally comfortable in the photo pit or in the studio, it's no wonder that she's been sought out by a wide range of major artists. We were lucky to get a few minutes with Elaine to learn about her influences, her background, and her advice for new photographers. Keep up with her work through her website or on her Instagram.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get started with concert photography?
I got started in concert photography in my last year of high school. I have always loved going to concerts and shooting portraits but I never thought I could combine both of those passions into one. I remember the first artist I shot was Ruel when he performed in Jakarta, Indonesia. The venue was allowing cameras in so I brought my camera and shot from the crowd. Indonesian concert organizers noticed my work and brought me in to shoot the shows they were organizing that summer, including Greyson Chance and The Vamps. These few experiences during the summer of 2019 made me realize how much I love photographing musicians and capturing their emotions in their performances. It just felt very surreal to me being able to stand right in front of my favorite artists and create art to their music.
I then moved to Boston to study film production at Emerson College and joined their music publication called Five Cent Sound. Five Cent Sound allowed me to grow so much as a concert photographer, as I was shooting shows almost every week in my first year of college. They helped me grow my portfolio to eventually join more publications and work for artists.
Is concert photography your full time job? If not, what else are you up to?
I would say concert photography is something I plan to do on the side. Right now, I’m trying to focus on working on music videos, specifically DP-ing and color grading them.
Have you have to overcome any barriers or obstacles in your journey as a photographer?
Definitely. I think one of the biggest obstacles every concert photographer has to face is how low the pay is. Sure, it looks glamorous being able to go to concerts every week and stand right in front of your favorite artists, but I think what people on the outside don’t realize is how much work that goes into it. It’s hours of picking through photos and editing, sleepless nights, and tight deadlines. But all of this for barely any pay.
One of the things we love the most about your work is that your images have a very recognizable style. What went into developing that?
I think I started developing a consistent style during covid, as lockdown allowed me to experiment more with editing my photos. My biggest inspirations back then when I was trying to figure out my style were Derrick Freske and Jerry Maestas. I loved how punchy and bold Derrick Freske’s photos are and how glowy and vintage Jerry Maestas’ photos look, so I decided to try and combine both of those elements together.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration mostly from other photographers. A few of my biggest inspirations are Deanie Chen, Christian Sarkine, and Matty Vogel. I love how Deanie captures such beautiful photos no one else would think of capturing. With all of the different angles and close ups of the performance, I feel like every concert she shoots is a series of photos that tell a story.
I love how Christian’s photos are just all so colorful and punchy, but at the same time they look cinematic. And for Matty Vogel, I’m just fascinated with how he experiments with different styles of editing.
What advice would you share with people just getting started with concert photography?
Honestly, if you work hard and it shows in your portfolio, don’t be afraid to just cold email or cold DM people because you never know who’s gonna respond. I’ve gotten responses from people I never thought would ever respond to me and this made me realize that there are people out there in the industry who are actually willing to really help and support you in your career.
What gear do you currently use?
I currently use a Canon 5D Mk IV with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens when I’m in the pit and a 70-200mm f2.8 lens when I’m shooting from the crowd.
Lightroom, Photoshop, or something else?
I use both Lightroom and Photoshop to edit my photos.
Do you have any goals, for this year or longer-term, that you’re working toward?
I think my biggest goal this year is to start shooting more for artists instead of publications. And longer-term, hopefully these experiences will lead me to being able to work on music videos with these artists.
Where can people see more of your work?
People can see more of my work in my website: elainetantra.com. Other than concert photography, I also take portraits and have directed and colored music videos for some of my friends.