“It’s been so rewarding because it shows other people that everyone can do it, even if they’re young.”
In February, AMM NextGen sent photographer Justin Schmalholz to Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia Tour in Boston. We met with the creative afterwards to speak about the experience and his work as a freelancer/owner of his own brand, Justin Lake Productions. Keep reading to learn about Justin’s successful career in photography!
AMM NextGen: What are the ups and downs of freelance work?
Justin Schmalholz: There’s definitely pros and cons to it. The pros are that you can bounce around and experience new things, and I have the freedom to move about the industry in the way I want. I don’t feel like I’m tied to one company. The cons are, you’re always looking for the next thing. There’s not as much security with it. As a freelancer you’re getting paid paycheck to paycheck, you never know what’s coming next. That’s like the only downside to it, I do think the pros outweigh the cons. To be able to figure out what you love, it’s been really good for me because I didn’t really know what I liked to shoot before. I’ve been discovering and trying new things, I love the freelance life.
AMM NG: Can you talk about how you market yourself and your brand to companies when trying to work with them?
JS: Marketing myself, it sounds a little cheesy but everyone has their own brand. To be able to work on that brand, and shape it into the way I want other people to think about my photography, is something I’ve really been interested in. I only have one instagram, [both] personal and professional. Being able to balance, like, this is my personal instagram. I’ll post about my birthday but I’ll also post about Dua Lipa and all this other professional work. It’s pretty cool, it works into my brand. If I pitch myself a little bit and show [companies] my work, it might end up working out.
AMM NG: You’ve already amassed an impressive portfolio and you’re still in school. What’s it like being so young in this industry?
JS: I definitely recognize it, I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. It’s been something I’ve dealt with my entire life, being the young person, the kid doing all these “crazy things.” Sometimes it’s hard because people don’t look at you as seriously. It’s been a little tough juggling school and professional stuff. At the same time, it’s been so rewarding because it shows other people that everyone can do it, even if they’re young. Everyone loves to use their creative brain. I like to think that everyone [who looks at my photos] is inspired to get out there and show their worth, reach out to people even if they don’t think they’re going to say yes.
AMM NG: Tell us a bit about the preparation for photographing a concert like this.
JS: It actually starts way before the show. With these tours, because they’re so calibrated, everything happens at the same moment, in the same spot, every night. Especially for a show like Dua Lipa’s, everything’s on a time code. You can watch a show from a year ago on the same tour, she’ll literally be in the same stride at the same beat of the music every single show, it’s all queued. So before the show, I went on YouTube and watched the first three songs over and over again and found the moments that I wanted to get photos of.
Day of, I have all my gear. I have all my lenses in the spots I want them to be. I had two cameras with me, a wide lens and a zoom lens. It only happens once, so it’s a lot of being in the moment and breathing and trusting yourself. Focus on the shots, once they happen they’re never going to happen again. It’s also not being afraid. Those are big shows, those are in TD Garden with thousands of fans screaming, and a lot of things going on… during the show I’m pretty locked in with my camera. The thing with these shows, I don’t see the lighting until [Dua] comes on. Everyone takes their first few shots, they look at their camera and see that the exposure, the shadows, and the highlights all look good, and everyone does literally 10 second adjustments.
It was stressful for sure, but I’m super happy with it, I got the shots that I wanted. It’s really all about focusing and knowing where to be at the right moment.
AMM NG: What are your plans after graduation?
JS: Still trying to figure them out right now. I’m going to start in New York City, I’m from right outside the city. I’ll be close to family and I’ve always been a New Yorker at heart. I have a few things lined up… this Rosie tour which I’m currently working on right now. She’s an artist that I met freshman year. Like always I went up to the artist after a concert like, Hey, I took photos of you, let me send them to you! We ended up connecting, I shot a lot for her. Now she’s on tour all around the country and I’m her photographer, so I’m bouncing between school and tour for the next 2 months. It’s been a really cool experience, I’ve always wanted to go on tour, that was a bucket list item for me. It’s all experiences that are going to help me in the future, and they’ll improve my creative vision.
Be sure to follow Justin’s photography journey and check out the phenomenal work he’s been up to on tour: @lakejustin