Steve Aoki's Tour Photographer Shares His Secrets to Instagram-Worthy Festival Photos: Exclusive

Coachella 2016
Caesar Sebastian

Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.

Coachella starts Friday (April 15), and that means festival (and selfie) season is officially upon us!

Coachella 2016: All Our Coverage

In order to get the most out of your Instagram photos, we asked one of our favorite music photogs, Ceasar Sebastian (who also happens to be Steve Aoki's tour photographer), what some of his best tips are for working with the ever-changing outdoor conditions, snapping pics during late-night sets, and yes, how to get the most Insta-worthy selfies in all the 'Gram. 


When shooting at a festival, how do you manage the light and consistently changing outdoor conditions?

I am always looking for light. Music festivals are very interactive nowadays, it’s not only about the music, but also about art installations, food vendors and incredible stage designs. I use all of these elements to get creative with lighting. Neon lights, strobes, LEDs, carnival rides and even food vendor fluorescent lights. Instagram has amazing settings which allow you to adjust the exposure, highlights and shadows. So if I need to make last minute adjustments, which I usually do, I use these settings. 

Tips for using cell phone cameras?

Work on your steady hand so your images will be sharp. If they come out a bit blurry, I love using the Structure and Sharpness tools in Instagram, they are really advanced and can save your image. Use the exposure lock to get the best exposure balance in your photo. Use HDR too sometimes, especially outdoors and during the day.  Instagram lets you upload in Portrait vertical mode (8x10 ratio) now, so if you’re shooting vertical on your iPhone, your photos will look larger on your mobile. 

Any advice on taking photos at night? How can people get the most detail out of their photograph when it’s dark outside?

Don’t use flash. If you’re using a professional camera, use your ISO and slow shutter to get the best lighting, but you have to keep steady. If you’re at one of the stages and the strobes are going off, try to use them as a flash to get the entire crowd. This usually happens during a rapid part of a song or a drop. Remember that you can use the settings within Instagram to adjust brightness and one of my favorite tools called Structure (triangle icon) in order to bring out the detail of your photos. 


Favorite Instagram filter and why? 

This is a tough one because they all work differently for different types of light and colors, but I would have to say Dogpatch. It gives your photos an automatic burst of energy. Works well for day and nighttime. The good part is that I can always reduce the strength of the filter ranging from 0-100%. I usually go about 60% and work myself up until it looks right.

What are your three best tips for taking the perfect selfie at a festival?

Wait for the right time of day such as Magic Hour (right before sunrise, or before sunset).Take some time to find the perfect spot in the festival where you don’t see everyone taking the same selfie. Be creative, don’t be afraid to be yourself, you don’t want to have the same pose in every photo! 

What is something that automatically gives away if someone is an amateur?

If you’re onstage shooting for an artist, I would say lurking around so much that you make yourself noticeable to the audience or stage manager. A good photographer keeps themselves incognito as much as possible.  

But if you're in the audience, find unusual angles, even if you look strange doing it, you might get an amazing shot that you never knew you could make. Explore the Instagram app and all its tools to upload your best photos. Meet new friends and take memorable portraits of them. Tag them in your photos and make a friend for life. Use art installations as props or backdrops. Get creative by getting a group of friends and making an interesting pose out of it -- don’t just wrap your arms around each other.