Top 10 Live Photos of 2014

This year was a really exciting one for me, as I finally got to live a long-time dream of mine and photograph a concert -- in fact, I photographed nine of them in a short five months.  I shot shows everywhere from 100 capacity bars to an 18,000+ capacity arena, all with very minimal experience and equipment, so I view this as a pretty decent accomplishment at just 18 years old. 

A lot of my photographer friends have been compiling lists of their Top 10 photos of the year, so I decided to follow their lead and make my own.  I'm not purely looking at this from a structured standpoint, these photos are not necessarily my ten best, but rather ten of my favorite images of the nine shows and 20+ bands and artists I photographed this year.  

10. Pharrell in Chicago, IL at Allstate Arena on December 6th.

What eighteen year old just starting out in the concert photography world gets to photograph Pharrell in an arena?  I still feel like I'm floating when I think about it.  I mean, the guy is famous for his crazy hats and just below this is a photo that I took of Pharrell in a crazy hat.  

Although his lighting was difficult to work with and my arm was really tired from holding the heaviest lens I have used so far all night, I thought this one turned out pretty decent!  (As I'm typing this, "Get Lucky" came up on shuffle, so that's kind of ironic, I think.) I like the chemistry of Pharrell and his dancer in this shot.


9. Jean-Philip Grobler of St. Lucia at Metro in Chicago, IL on November 11th.

I have St. Lucia to thank for this website -- I won a contest to get a photo pass for their show and a free year subscription to SquareSpace, the host I'm using right now for this website.  Unfortunately, this show was difficult to photograph because of how close to the stage you are in the photo pit at Metro.  I don't have much in the way of lenses to use for shows right now (broke college student problems / not a photography student problems too) so I used my 50mm which made me waaaaay too close for a lot of good shots.  By chance, though, Jean-Philip bent down for a minute and I snapped this. 

Usually I try to edit the lighting in Photoshop or Lightroom and tone it down a bit so that you can see more of the facial features, but St. Lucia loves bright, crazy lighting, so I thought I'd keep this one the way it was.  


8. Dylan Scott of Young Rising Sons at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, PA on December 15th.

Bless Stage AE and Young Rising Sons for having great lighting.  I absolutely loved shooting these guys on The 1975 tour.  I saw them twice on that tour and both nights they proved that they should be headlining shows very, very soon.  I was especially impressed that they stuck around for a long time after each show to meet all their new fans.  

This was one of my favorite photos of the night.  I'm not really sure why I love it so much, but I think it has something to do with the light on the left.  My only regret is cutting off the bottom of Dylan's guitar.


7. Bleachers at the Vic Theater in Chicago, IL on November 15th.

Photographing Bleachers was quite the honor.  A year or so ago, I was looking at a friend's Flickr page and saw the photos she took of fun. and I was really inspired to start photographing shows of my own.  Since fun. is on a bit of a break, the next best thing was being able to shoot one-third of the band.  Jack Antonoff's music as Bleachers is absolutely incredible and just proves my beliefs that every individual member of fun. has more talent in their left pinky toe than I do in my entire body.  That aside, Bleachers was probably one of my favorite shows of the year, purely from a spectator's point of view.  

From a photographer's point of view, it was not the easiest show to shoot as the lights were relatively dark, but I had the pit almost entirely to myself, so I had a lot of room to move around.  I really loved Jack's jacket and guitar, though.  They created a great contrast alongside the really dark background.  


6. Kris Allen at the Vic Theater in Chicago, IL on November 1st.

I religiously watched American Idol when Kris Allen was crowned winner, so getting to interview him and photograph his set for my magazine was an awesome opportunity.  He was ridiculously down to earth and he put on a fantastic show.  

I love this shot because of the light all around him and the almost rustic feel of the picture.  I don't take a lot of vertical photos at shows, but I love this one and I'm glad I decided to try a couple verticals at this show!


5. Ariana Grande at Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL on December 6th.

I can honestly say that I was extremely nervous to photograph Ariana Grande after rumors that she only allowed photographers to take pictures of one side of her face.  Turns out these rumors are false, at least as far as I know.  I had also never been fond of Ariana prior to Jingle Bash, but that night sparked some sort of love for her.  She's potentially one of this generation's most talented performers and her set was incredible.  She was also ridiculously easy to photograph compared to the rest of the artists at this show, so that definitely helped matters.

I came out of this show with tons of good photos of Ariana, but this one was my favorite because of her expression, and you can just tell that she was belting out one of those crazy notes that only Ariana can pull off live.


4. Tony Oller of MKTO at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, PA on August 5th.

I had to include a photograph from my first show with a press pass, of course, so here's my favorite from that night.  I couldn't have asked for a better first show to photograph.  MKTO had great lighting and I came out with some shots that I still love.  I was ridiculously nervous to shoot this show but seeing as the images I got didn't suck, I got a lot of reassurance that concert photography is something that I could actually continue to do... and that's just what I did for the rest of the year and will continue to do next year!

Side note, the MKTO guys are really great and I was lucky enough to photograph them twice and see three of their shows this year.  They always like and comment on photos of them and have reposted my photos twice now -- WITH CREDIT!  That's always ridiculously cool.


3. Michael Clifford of 5 Seconds of Summer at Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL  on December 6th.

I have been a fan of 5SOS since right before their first tour with One Direction in 2013 and have had the privilege of watching these four Aussie boys go from an opening act to the headliner in a very short amount of time.  I have seen them twice in arenas, once in a 1.5k theater, and once in a stadium, and I look forward to (hopefully photographing) them playing amphitheaters this summer. 

Being a huge fan of these guys made photographing them an unforgettable experience, and I absolutely love how this one came out.  The orange and purple light and Michael's fiery red hair make this image one of my favorites.


2. Charli XCX at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, IL on October 13th.

Since 2012, I have been a massive Charli XCX fan.  I was fortunate enough to stumble upon her very randomly when she opened for one date of fun.'s 2012 summer headlining tour in Los Angeles.  I knew nothing of Charli going into the show, but I left a huge fan.  2014 was Charli's year, between her catchy chorus on Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" and her own hit single (finally!) "Boom Clap."  This was only the second show I photographed, and I had to do it from the crowd instead of the pit, which was a challenge. My friend bailed on me last minute, so I also had to take the train alone and go to the show alone (sorry for never telling you that, Mom, but I survived, don't worry.)  

This was one of my favorite images of the night, regardless of all of the cameras and phones in the way.  It shows how intimate the show was, with only a 700 capacity and no barricade, Charli got up close and personal with her fans as she played songs from her new album "Sucker" months before its release.    

charli bw.jpg

1. Matty Healy of The 1975 at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, PA on December 15th.

I think anyone who knows me knows how much I love The 1975. For the past year, they have been a staple in my playlists and was lucky enough to see them in both Chicago and Pittsburgh on this tour. Although this show was the hardest that I shot this year -- very sporadic lighting and lots of strobe that my camera could not quite handle.  I didn't come out with a lot of images to pick from, but I did get a few that I loved, including this one!  I love the blurriness in essentially every part of the image except Matty's face and hair and there's just something about it that made this image my favorite of this year.


I hope you enjoyed my 10 favorite live photos that I took this year!  Here's to 2015 and hopefully many more concert photography opportunities.

- Allison