In the nearly 12 years since he first picked up a camera, 21-year-old Christopher Almeida never took a class in photography. Now, his self-taught photography skills are blooming into a full-blown career as the Miami-native dashes around his lively city, chasing some of music’s biggest stars at some of the nation’s most famous concerts.
Although the photographer credits much of his success in capturing big names to timing, there is no doubt Almeida is relentless in his courage, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Travis Scott, Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert, and Tory Lanez, while serving as one of Big Sean’s top concert photographers.
Billboard chats with Almeida about what he loves about concert photography, how he captured his famed Big Sean picture, and who he considers his only competition.
How did you get that great shot of Big Sean?
I was working Life In Color in Miami at the beginning of 2015, and Big Sean was one of the headliners. I took pictures of Big Sean and met him backstage. He was a really nice dude. I tried to get him the pictures, but he wasn’t too interested. I didn’t see him again until the end of 2016 at Art Basel. He wasn’t performing, but Jhené Aiko was. When I saw him, I was like, “Hey, what’s up? I took pictures of you at Life In Color,” and he was like, “Oh, word?” I noticed he had grills on, so I was like, “You mind if I take a close-up of your grills?” I took the picture, sent it straight to my phone and [quickly] edited it. I showed it to him when I was done and he was like, “Yo, send me that right now.” After I sent it to him, he posted it, and then all these hip hop blogs started posting it. That picture was everywhere. That’s how I started working with Big Sean.
How do you create a relationship with Big Sean and other artists to get these up-close-and-personal shots?
I received this DM the other day asking how I got to work with people like Big Sean and my response was simple: “Hustle.” And it’s true. I was walking down the lobby at the Delano [South Beach Hotel], and I see this huge body guard. I started looking around and I see this guy smiling, super casual with a button down, and I’m like, “Oh sh– that’s the Guap!” I walked past [Gucci Mane] because I got super nervous, but I turned around quickly and was like, “Yo, Gucci, can I take a picture of you?” and he was like, “Yeah, for sure.” I just gained the courage to go up to him. It’s a matter of not thinking about it. Just do it or you miss that moment.
What draws you to music photography and concert scenes?
It’s fast. It’s almost like an adrenaline rush. I want to compare it to when I was chasing rooftops in 2015, sitting on the edge of these 70 stories-high buildings. That’s the feeling I have when I have to capture the right moment, like when Desiigner jumped into the crowd [during a concert]. I was all the way at the back of the crowd when that happened. I saw him jump, and I ran through the crowd, jumped the barricade and took that picture. You have to be on top of everything. You can’t slack, and I love it.
What happens if you do miss a beat in the fast-paced concert environment?
During the Desiigner show that I worked at, it was low-lit. I grabbed my flash and took that picture [of Desiigner jumping into the crowd]. The picture was completely over-exposed. When I looked at, I was so disappointed in myself. But thankfully, there’s a setting called “raw” in photography and it allows you to manipulate the pictures. I’m extremely thankful for editing software that allows me to do that because I don’t always get the perfect picture right then and there, especially in these settings.
What’s your favorite kind of camera to use at concerts?
I’ve only ever shot with a Canon 6D. It has great quality for low-light. It also has Wi-Fi in it, so I can just transfer the pictures to my phone and send them [to the artist] right there.
What’s the look you go for when shooting artists at concerts?
I love candid shots. There this one [I shot] of Desiigner where he’s springing up in the air, he’s leaned back, and there’s this spotlight over him. I love that because it shows how awesome and hype he is all the time.
What’s your favorite place photography has taken you?
Rolling Loud, the biggest hip hop festival in South Florida. There’s so many artists I’m able to photograph and so many people I get to meet and network with.
Who is your biggest inspiration, photography-wise?
I don’t mean this in a cocky way, but I am my own inspiration. I look back at my older work and say, “I can do this better.” I’m inspiring my own self to become a better me.
What’s in store for you, photography-wise?
I have an artist I’m going to be working with soon. I can’t say a name yet, but it’s a big name in the pop and hip hop culture. I have a few concerts that I’m going to soon that I’m pretty excited about. I’m also working the [upcoming] Big Sean show here in Miami. I’m also continuing my work as a videographer. I have three short films I want to create by the end of 2017. I’m also open to music videos, but my long-term goal is to film a feature film hopefully in the next five years. I love controlling the camera.