Continuing our Sound Off series in which we talk to friends, fans and customers of Flare Audio to find out a bit more about their lives and how our products fit into them, we've been chatting with Matthias Hombauer.
Matthias is a concert photographer who has worked with the likes of Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel and The Prodigy. He also helps those who want to follow his career path by providing advice via his website How To Become A Rockstar Photographer.
FA: How did you become a concert photographer?
MH: Everything started when I was doing my PhD in molecular biology. I wanted to be a researcher, but I soon found out that was not really my passion. I started doing concert photography - going to small concerts and clubs to take photos - and realised that was what I really wanted to do. I’m a self-taught photographer. I’ve since been on stage with people like Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel and travelled around the world touring with bands.
Do you have a favourite photo that you’ve taken?
There are some nice ones of Iggy Pop, but there is one particular photo that’s my favourite. It’s of Vintage Trouble, an LA band. They were supporting AC/DC in an open-air concert in Austria. It was the biggest open-air concert ever in Austria. They invited me to come on stage with them and standing on a stage in front of 120,000 people was incredible.
Why did you start How To Become A Rockstar Photographer?
I’ve seen from my own career that there are some struggles we all have when we get into concert photography. How do I get started? Which camera should I be using? Which settings? How do you get a photo pass? I had to learn all that as I went along, but I try to help people so they don’t have to struggle for years to find out the answers for themselves. I have 3,000 email subscribers and I’ve just launched a podcast in which other concert photographers share their advice.
When did you first become aware of Flare Audio?
That was when I noticed the Kickstarter campaign. I was very interested in what you guys were doing. I think the ear plug market is very challenging. There are lots of companies offering products from $1 to $400, so I decided to do an in-depth blog post testing 14 or 15 different models. I downloaded an app to measure the decibels in the photographers’s pit. For rock music, it’s around 90-95dB and you shouldn’t be in that environment for more than a couple of minutes without protection. I need something that is safe to use, safe for my hearing when I’m standing in front of the stage. I’m also a music lover, not just a photographer, so I don’t want the music to be muffled.
With ISOLATE Pro Titanium I felt comfortable. They fit my ear canal well, but I could also clearly hear all the instruments. I always keep them with with me and I use them from when I first enter the pit. I like the fact that you offer different sizes of foam. Some companies only do one size fits all, but Flare sends all of the sizes when you buy the product so you can find the one that fits.
You picked ISOLATE Pro Titanium as the best pro concert photography earplugs after your testing.
Yes, I had three categories: entry level, advanced and pro. Price is everything for a lot of people. Cameras and kit are expensive when you’re starting out in photography. In the pro category, I was thinking about people like me and I concluded that ISOLATE Pro Titanium were the best for me.
But I think there is a lot of work to be done to educate people. I was testing ear plugs at an Asking Alexandria concert. I turned round and the front row was 13 to 16-year-old girls, all standing 1 metre away from the speakers and getting that blast for 90 minutes without any ear protection, so it is the public and not just photographers who need to think about avoiding damage to their ears and tinnitus.