Zack Knudsen (@zack_knudsen) is a concert and tour photographer from Nashville, Tennessee. After a few years in a not-entirely-fulfilling job as an HR manager Knudsen found himself in his boss's office, quitting his job and going all-in as a photographer. With his wife and two cats he made the move to Nashville and started jumping on busses following country, pop and Americana touring musicians with his cameras. Prior to COVID, Knudsen traveled extensively, but then in 2020 everything changed, and Knudsen adapted. "My Sony Alpha set up proves itself again and again," he says, "and while not currently touring, my rig has transformed into a live-streaming machine. If you see me out and about, you are guaranteed to find this set up tucked away in my Pelican." He connected with him to get the details about a live music photographer turned livestream content creator.
This concert photographer ditched his 9 to 5 job to follow Nashville's music scene. See how he uses Sony Alpha and a G Master zoom trinity for live shows & live-streaming.
Sony Alpha 7 III (2): If it’s shooting a show in low-light or mashing the record button to get a guitar solo on video, the Alpha 7 III is the best all-around camera, period. I’m a big fan of being prepared, so I carry a pair of Alpha 7 III’s on every show. Not only is one a backup, but it allows me to run with a pair of lenses simultaneously so I don’t miss a moment. The 24MP sensor gives me files large enough for decent sized prints, but not eat up too much space on the hard drives. These cameras are beasts.
Russell Dickerson. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/250, f/3.2, ISO 2000
Drake White. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/160, f/4, ISO 640
Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master: If I were to pick one lens to rule them all, it would be the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. You will find this lens on my camera 90% of the time and for good reason. This lens gives me the versatility to grab both wide audience shots, as well as, intimate moments, and the fast auto focus keeps up with the high-energy on stage like a champ. When not shooting shows, this is also my go-to lens for portraits. The focal length gives you space to flex your creativity - from wide, exaggerated looks to classic, soul-deep photographs.
Drake White. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 2500
Dan O’Rourke. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/160, f/5.6, ISO 250
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master: One of my goals when shooting a show is to make the viewer feel like they were there, and no other lens helps achieve this better than the 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. I love using this lens to get up close and personal with the artists and band members, especially drummers. Once the band gets comfortable with you putting the camera right in their face, the 16-35 can make for some super-fun candid onstage images. It also gives me the option to capture entire rooms to show scope of the size and vibe of the shows. Energy is translated well through this lens and it has found its way onto my camera more and more as of late.
Zac Hanson. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/160, f/2.8, ISO 2500
Hanson – Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/160-sec., f/2.8, ISO 4000
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master: Rounding out the trifecta is the 70-200. I don’t know any concert photog who doesn’t have this lens prepped and ready to go at all times. This lens is typically found on my second α7 III and is one of my all-time favorite lenses. I love being able to use the compression with the stage lighting to get creative. The 70-200 allows me to also capture the intimate and candid off stage moments while the artist doesn’t feel like there is a camera in the room. This thing is a tank, and will always have a space in my case.
Preston Hayden. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/320-sec., f/2.8, ISO 4000
Paul McDonald. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/500-sec., f/2.8, ISO 2500
When it comes to accessories in my case, there are a few things with me all the time.
Batteries and SD Cards: What good is a dead camera? Or worse a fully charged camera with no SD Card - we’ve all been there once, I’m sure. So in my case at all times are 4-5 Sony FZ-100 batteries and the charger, as well as a number of Sony 64GB G and M SD Cards. I’ve found myself using the M cards for photos, while I opt for the G cards for video. Knock on wood, I’ve not had an issue with any of the cards, but I did utilize the recall on a few of my cards and was super happy with the turn around from Sony.
Lacie Rugged Drives: When on tour, getting photos and videos turned around quick is the name of the game, and my Lacie Rugged drives help me get things cranked out. I carry two drives, one working and one as a backup. This gives me the peace of mind knowing my data is safe.
Drake White. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/500-sec., f/3.2, ISO 2500
JH Audio Roxanne IEMs (In Ear Monitors): Concerts can be loud. Ear protection is vital. So is communication. My JH Audio Roxanne IEMs tick both boxes. I am able to get a mix from the artist’s monitor engineer so I can hear the show, and any communication that needs to come down to me, as well as, keep my ears safe when i’m standing in front of the speakers.
Zoom H5 Recorder: I started carrying this little recorder last year when I was shooting some behind the scenes interviews for a project, and it hasn’t left my case since. It comes in handy for capturing board mixes from the shows to use in recap videos, and for special projects that may come up during the run.
Drake White. Photo by Zack Knudsen. Sony α7 III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/250-sec., f/3.2, ISO 1250
Camera Stabilizer: Not technically IN my case, but it rides on top of my case when traveling. When shooting video with my α7 III, I love having my rig on a stabilizer. This lets me get super smooth shots both on stage and off.
Well there ya have it - all the stuff I throw in the bus bay. Thanks for reading, and I hope to meet you at a show down the road. Cheers!