Arizona based photographer and videographer Sanjay Parikh has been pursuing his passion behind the lens of a camera for the last 15 years. But this wasn’t always his dream. In the beginning Sanjay was earning his chops as a guitar player in local bands, but his love for photography and art eventually inspired him to buy a camera and start shooting the bands he was playing with. After a twist of good luck, he would get out on the road and fill in with the band The Family Ruin. While on tour and opening for none other than Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, he would eventually catch Doyle’s eye. After a show Doyle approached him about seeing his work and was amazed at what he was able to capture. That would be all the confidence Sanjay would need.
When his playing days ended Sanjay knew that photography was going to be his next path. Through his contacts in the music industry he was able to shoot for bands as they would come through town, honing his skill set and only furthering his photographic devotion. After contacting a local promoter over time with inquiries about any bands in need of his services, he would ultimately give Sanjay advice that would change his life forever. “Look man. You are never going to tour unless you learn how to do video. That’s the honest truth”.
With the motivation and desire to make his dream a reality, he would devote the next month to learning all that he could about recording video and before long Sanjay would put his talents to work with the bands on Warped Tour. During this time he would be discovered by Asking Alexandria guitarist Ben Bruce and would soon join them on multiple tours that would take him all over the world. But after a couple years with the band, Sanjay would get a text message that would change his life, taking his talents and career to a whole other level.
Due to his high quality of work his name was at the top of the list when Shinedown found themselves in need of a photographer. Guitarist Zach Myers personally reached out to see if Sanjay would be interested and he jumped at the opportunity. Within just a couple of days he would be on the road with Shinedown and Godsmack and the rest as they say, is history. Over the last 3 years Sanjay Parikh has become the unofficial 5th member of Shinedown as the creative force behind the bands stunning imagery on and off the stage as well as all of the emotional and adrenaline fueled music and hype videos.
The advice he was given all those years ago and his relentless drive has led him to become one of the best videographers in the industry. His abilities can not only tell a heartfelt story or throw the viewers into the high energy inferno of a live show, but it’s how he is able to capture the physical emotions of anyone he puts his sights on and have that emotion felt by fans watching, is what truly sets him apart. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Sanjay and talk about what it takes to make it on the road, working with Shinedown and the shot that got away. Make sure you follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and check out Sanjay Parikh’s website SanjayParikhMedia.com where you can view and purchase incredible images from his time with Shinedown and brand new merch.
Let me start by saying congrats on the big announcement on Shinedown hitting the road in September. You have to be pretty stoked about it.
Oh, yeah. I can’t wait man. I’ve been waiting to get back with Shinedown. I did the Smith and Myers run just recently, which was awesome. But to go back with everybody in the Shinedown crew and the whole big show. I mean, I can’t wait.
Has this been the most down time you’ve had in your career?
Yes 100% longest down period absolutely. This was painful. At the beginning of 2020 I went out with Brent and Zach for their Smith and Meyers stuff in LA. and Malibu when they recorded with Dave Bassett. So I was there doing all their studio stuff video wise. So when we got back in March, it was February or March. I had 17 Studio music videos to work on to release throughout the year. And then on top of that, I was still working on Shinedown Live at the O2 the full London show.
I did everything for it. I shot it I edited I produced everything was me. So I still had that on my plate. So basically 2020 was ungodly busy. It was crazy busy for me, but it was all busy at home. I did a couple of their official acoustic videos like the official “Get Up Acoustic” video that we did in Nashville. And then we did a second version of “Get Up Live” video. And we did that one as well. But besides their official music videos that have been out for a while, I do everything that you see, social media wise. Shoot, edit and all of the above.
You’re basically a one stop shop for these guys. Do you sell merch too?
LOL. Na, that’s Mr. Khanna. If I had to do merch, I think I’d go crazy.
When you look back to how you got your start, is it still a bit surreal where you’re at now?
Yeah, absolutely man. Doyle really liked my photos, like he really loved him. And it was one of those things where it’s like okay cool maybe this is the calling. And then there was one person I remember, this promoter. And for years I was hitting him up going “Hey, if there’s any band that needs somebody to do photos, let me know. I want to go on tour”. And I remember I’d text him and I’d only get one response back like “OK” the whole time. And then finally, I text him one day and he called me and he goes “Look, man, you’re never gonna tour unless you unless you do video. And that’s the honest truth”.
I had zero idea about video at the time. And I said, Okay, cool. So I basically hunkered down for about a month straight and learned everything I could about video and then started to go to shows coming through town. And I would shoot video and start putting together a little Instagram video things for bands to promote themselves with. And that’s actually what kind of pushed me into the realm that I’m in now. Or someone saying, “You’re never going to do this unless you learn this, right?”. Here I am. And now I do video for Shinedown. And that’s mostly what I do is video content with photography on the side.
That’s a huge piece of advice. Because if he didn’t tell you that you could have wasted who knows how many months, or even years before you got on the road.
Exactly. And now it’s like, it’s one of those things that resonates in my head. And I’ve had other concert photographers who I love to death, really good people, and I see them at their same venues all the time. And they’re like, they’ve always asked me “What’s the key?”, “What is it?”. And I always tell them I learned video. That is the way.
Bands these days want more bang for their buck and the more skills you have the more valuable you are to them. And I think that’s important for photographers to know going into it.
Ya. If you don’t have the funds, or you don’t want to have a whole team, you need to have that one guy that can really do both. And that’s what I’ve been kind of blessed with learning and teaching myself is to both and I fell in love with it. I absolutely love what I do.
What were some of the things that you underestimated or didn’t think about encountering when you started touring?
To be honest, man, battery life. And that’s the honest truth. I went out and I was like, okay, cool, because I was used to doing shoots at home or local concerts. Next thing I know, I’m sitting there, and I’m looking at my viewers like “Oh, shit, I need to back up on some things”. And it was really just the gear. That’s what I underestimated was the type of gear that I needed, and the amount of extra hard drive space and battery space because it’s not like being at home.
What are you shooting with now on the road?
Right now for video. I shoot with an Sony A7 II. And I have a couple of those. And then I shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6k. And then for photos, I shoot Canon MKIV.
With mirrorless cameras becoming more in demand and the high quality glass that comes with that. Are you thinking of ever switching over?
Yes, and no. I think I have. I’ve had friends that say it’s the greatest thing in the world. And then I’ve heard other people that they stick with your Canon, but I’ve been looking at what is the SonyR IV. I’d like to try and get my hands on one and look at that for photo. And that’s kind of where I’m at man. Like, for me personally, I think the hardest thing about shooting mirrorless is the electronic viewfinder. I still cannot get used to it. Because I’m just so used to just looking through a hole through a camera. There’s my shot. And when you have stuff running a like 24 frames a second inside that viewfinder. I noticed that and I’m like, Oh, that looks off. But I guess that’s just me being grumpy and old.
Who are some of the photographer’s you’ve met throughout your career that have helped you along the way?
Um, honestly, I’ve met a bunch. I could say a couple names. But at the end of the day, they kind of didn’t want me to pursue it. Oddly enough.
So it was the negative feedback that has motivated you forward?
Yeah, it was more like some of the photographers in town like Scott Adams. He used to be out here in Arizona. And I always looked up to his stuff just because he was a great photographer. We still stay in contact. I see him at Shinedown shows he’ll always reach out. But that’s really it, man. There’s been a few photographers that I’ve actually use. There’s one that has used some of my photos in his class saying ” What not to do in photography”. At the end of the day, I take it as a compliment. Because if I’m bothering somebody that much with what I do, that means I’m doing the right thing. But then I’m the kind of person that just kind of looks at it and just says “Cool. Thanks for the compliment”.
I’ve told many people this and this is kind of like the quote that I live by for my photos. And basically I say “If when I’m done editing my photos, if I think it looks awesome. That’s all that matters to me”. I’m not putting my photos out there to make anyone else to make really happy, except the band that I work for. Brent especially has given me that creative freedom of “We trust you, they all have. You’re here because you’re good at what you do. So we trust you”. So when I’m done editing, if I think something looks cool, that’s what we put out. That’s what I put out.
That’s saying something for a band like Shinedown to give you total creative control like that.
Definitely. Like, I know if I’m shooting from a lower angle, what not to put out because out of the 250 or 300 shots a show, you’re only going to get maybe 30 or 40 awesome ones. But you should know what photos a band is going to like and dislike. And that’s another thing that I think has helped me in this whole photography and videography industry. I used to be in a band, I used to tour, I used to get some of these photos back of people shooting, and I go, “Oh my god, that does not even look like me”. Like half my faces up on my forehead. And it’s like “Cool. I’m glad that came out on the internet forever”.
Just being in the industry and being able to play the music also helps me know the timing and know when someone’s going to jump and what I should expect to capture at that moment. I don’t mind going out in the crowd either. I’m never too good for anybody in the crowd. I am a part of the crowd. So I love going out and shooting as long as I’m not in anybody’s way, and people are typically super kind to me about it. Go into the crowd and use your 70 to 200. It’s like okay, I’m going to be far back.
Do you ever bring anything bigger than that?
No, I have the 70 to 200 and then I have the two time canon extender for it. And I mean that’s my that’s my biggest focal length I’ll use. And I mean, I’ve even shot Download Festival with that.
Do you prefer to shoot like the full action of a Shinedown or do you like the subtlety of the Smith and Myers gigs?
To being honest, I’m a sucker for Pyro. So I absolutely love hearing the full blown Shinedown show.
Have you ever had any close close calls with Pyro?
No, that is the one thing I have not. Because when I started in this camp, I run in ear monitors. So I have Brent’s mix and feed and click all in my ears. And that helps me. That was one of my ideas that I brought up and they loved it. I run monitors and that way because at that time we were doing arenas and I’m running all over the place. It’s nice to have a clean mix of exactly what I’m hearing. And the exact timing of when this Pyro is going to hit because it’s like the first few shows I’m getting used to where all the hits are and we go over it. But then when you’re at the back of the Staples Center or whatever, it may be some arena that Pyro hit goes off before. So to actually run monitors in my ears and be able to go anywhere and have the click it actually is a huge advantage to know exactly the timing of everything.
That’s a really inventive thing to really come up with.
They’re JH Audio Roxanne’s. That’s what I ended up getting. Yeah, it’s just different though. Because most bands, even if they bring somebody out, they wouldn’t do that. That’s not a thing. But with these guys it made sense. We did it, it worked. These guys don’t put me in any sort of bubble of like “Okay, well you can’t be here, you can’t be here. You can’t do this or make sure you’re not here”. It’s like these are some of my closest friends. And I work for them. And I’m there to do a job. And we all kind of work together to make sure it all gets done. And it always does.
Having the access that you do, you are able to capture some really stunning candid shots of the band backstage and before they make their way out.
Ya it just kind of happens. There’s been times where I’ve been asked to get more candid moments and kind of be around more. With these guys there’s no real off limits. We all respect each other’s space and stuff. But they know that I’m there to do a job. So they’re never like “Oh, get out of the dressing room”. Unless they’re having like a meeting and you just kind of feel the room. But they’re always so welcoming. They’re always so awesome about just me walking in the door and just doing my thing and we’ll have fun with it. Sometimes Brent or Zack or whoever will give me the funny face, or I’ll be in the middle of a conversation with Brent, but I’ll see something. And I’ll just grab my camera real quick in the middle of a conversation and snap it. Just one of those things.
There was a picture of Barry on tour where he’s screaming into a mirror but also he is staring back at us. What did you use to pull this off?
Yes. That was one of those things where I saw a mirror and I was like “Oh, this might be really cool Barry come here”. “He’s like, what’s up?”. I was like “I need you to look into this mirror”. We did a couple of them and then I said “You know what, give me that Barry scream”. So he did. And then I had it in black and white. I think and I was just messing around with it. And I was like wonder what this looks like. And I just duplicated in Photoshop and it just turned out really cool. And I was like it goes back to what I was saying earlier. Like, I thought it looked cool. And Barry was like dude, this is awesome. So we kept it.
With shooting an entire tour do your settings change much?
I start every concert probably with the same settings. And that is I’m 1600 ISO. I’m a wide open aperture of 1.2, 1.4 or 2.8, whatever that lens is. And then I’m at 250th of a second. That’s my starting point and I adjust from there. I’m adjusting on the fly shot after shot. I’ve just kind of gotten my pointer and my middle finger have become my best friends of adjusting because there’ll be times where I’m walking and I know I clicked my shutter down three spots because there’s going to be a Pyro hit coming or something like that and I don’t even think about it now. But as I’m walking to get the shot, I’m adjusting.
How many shows have you worked for the band?
Probably a high number, maybe 350 to 400 shows at least I want wanna say. Honestly, I think we were the most toured band in 2019. That record cycle there was 200 something shows. Yeah, so I would guess is 350 to 400. I’m sure it’s way above that. And then before that it was on a record cycle with Asking. And I think we did part one and part two of the Resurrection Tour with Asking Alexandria and Black Vail Brides and that was US and UK. What a tour. Yeah, that was fun. I had a lot of fun on that one.
Do you prefer the larger European festival shows or do you like the U.S. arena tours better?
I would say arena USA shows because it’s inside and there’s air conditioning. Because that’s always nice right? But I mean, there’s something so cool about the festivals. The coolest was Interlocken in Greenland. I literally woke up on a bus went outside to smoke, and I’m standing there going “Oh my god, did I die?”. Like this festival was literally between the greenest, most beautiful mountains of the Swiss Alps. It was so cool.
I shit you not there were people running off the mountain and hang gliding. Like there was like one of those moments that I was like, this is really happening. I’m watching these people run off a mountain. And they’re hang gliding. And I’m standing here in the middle of the Swiss Alps. It was one of those “Take me back” moments where it was like, Wow, this is awesome.
The video for ATTENTION ATTENTION Day debuted last month. Was that something that was put together over the course of a tour or was all that footage from a single show?
That one is plethora of shows. I got a call from Brent and he told me about it. He was like “I’m sorry to drop this on you. Do you think it’s possible?”. And I said yeah, because I try to say yes to all that. And the turnaround on that I did in a day and a half and got it back to because I pulled from a lot of stuff that we’ve done. That was one of those “Let’s get this done and see if we can do it”. That was pulled from 200 different shows. That’s one of the things that people also ask me a lot “Is turnaround a big deal?” and I say absolutely! The turnaround time needs to be it’s a real thing. You got to be able to turn and burn.
Do you have presets that you use to kind of give you like a baseline to help you fine tune each photo?
Over the years, I’ve actually built out my own presets. And I have those saved, especially now working with Shinedown. And I know the looks, I know the colors. So I’ve built out my own presets for the tour. So I have a base color of all the photos. I have a base preset that I’ve made that if something’s too red, I already know I can go to a get my base color and go from there.
Something I noticed during the ATTENTION ATTENTION Day Video, as well as the photos on your website. Is that Shinedown looks like they’re one of the most engaging bands that you could possibly meet.
I will 100 and 100,000% back that. I have never seen another band that is so unbelievably amazing with their meet and greet fans. I mean they do not just say Hello, thank you and push you aside. They take time. They are kind, they are willing to listen to their fans. They’re just a whole different ballgame of being great with them. And they’re awesome people man, they actually give a shit about what their fans have to say.
It was awesome to see how they work the line from start to finish and you can see how much the fans appreciate it.
Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what they do. I’ll try and capture certain moments in that too. There’s a couple that have really stuck out to me. But Matt who runs all our meet and greets, he’ll let me know if somebody has something special and kind of get me first. So that way it’s like cool, I know when the guys get there there’s going to be really cool presents for them. So one of them was a woman who adopted an elephant for Brent and I was blown away cuz Brent loves elephants. They adopted an elephant, somewhere in this world to give to him. ( video)
That best part is that he can actually go see if he wants and they have pictures and stuff. And then there’s been a few proposals, which again, that will let me know, like, hey, this guy is gonna propose to this girl. He’s wearing this, he’s over there. So I keep my eye on stuff like that. And then when it comes time, obviously, I’ll take all the shots I need for the video. And yeah, meet and greets are awesome.
Are there any photographers on your bucket list who you’d want to shoot a show with?
Honestly, if I have to choose one of them and that was Rafa Alcantara who shoots for Avenged Sevenfold. For years I followed Rafa’s stuff, and I guess if there was one person that I kind of looked up to with their photography and video work, it was him. We ended up touring with them in Europe while I was with Asking and their manager was Avenged Sevenfold’s TM so it kind of worked out and ended up shooting some Avenged sets on the big festivals. Rafa and I became friends and every now and then I’ll hear from him. He’s a great dude and a really good person behind the camera.
You had taken a really great shot of Zach sitting on the stage while the entire arena is lit up by the fans cell phones. Do you remember where that was and was that something that happened every show?
I have zero clue where that could have been LOL. But ya, sometimes Zach would come to me and be like “Hey Im going to sit down over here” or I’ll tell him like, Hey, I’m gonna run up there. And he’ll throw up like the peace sign or something and there’ll be nights after a few shows where it’s like, if that’s gonna happen, I’ll go to Zach. And we’ll kind of get that shot. But yeah, with the lights coming up. And I think on that run, they would do that for Get Up.
There is a photo of Eric playing bass that has flames surrounding him that is drastically different than all the other photos you’ve taken. What editing process did you take with this photo?
That one of Eric that was in Photoshop where I just cut him out and added different abstract elements behind and in front. And just one of those things where it’s like, I want to try something different, trying to be creative and have fun. Yeah, that’s just cutting him out and masking it, and having fun with different abstract shapes and kind of seeing does this work? No. Does this work? And going from there. Again, if I think it looks cool, it was done.
With well over a thousand photos on your site, there was one photo that I had the most questions about. And that was the shot of the band. Totally nude. In a field. Please explain LOL.
That was at the location of Woodstock. And we just all walked up there just talking about like “Imagine what it would have been like”. And I believe it was Eric he just goes “Yeah, they would have been, they would have been fucking naked they would have been free. You know what, take a shot of this” and he just drops his pants and puts the fist up and next thing I know, we are planning a shot of the four dudes standing in the Woodstock field covering their junk. To me It was one of those moments where we just had fun with it. We were just dying, laughing and it was fun. And then I got back to edit them.
And everyone was excited. We’re like, we have to see how this turns out. So I found the Woodstock font online, typed out Shinedown. And then I just started editing and actually those clouds didn’t even exist. Those there was a completely blue sky that. I added that just to give that photo that would stocky fun, sunset feel. And it just kind of worked out. Yeah, it was one of those moments where we’re all just laughing and having fun and it worked out it was turned out to be a really cool shot.
Having the unique advantage of knowing all the aspects of Shinedown’s shows, I would imagine that there’s not much you don’t catch. But is there a specific shot that you did miss that you really wish you had back?
Yes, that would be. There’s a shot at Welcome to Rockville that I talked with Brent about. They were going to have a big fireworks display at the end of their set. And I was at the very back in front of house getting ready for that shot. And a security guard decided that he didn’t see my photo, or my all access pass. And he comes up and he’s talking to me and I’m like, Look, man, I really got to get this shot. I work for the band. Please stop talking to me. And I don’t know what it was.
But he just had it out for me that he hasn’t seen me there. And he needs to confirm this and kept standing in front of my lines. I ended up getting the trail end of some fireworks coming down. But that was one of those ones I still remember. And it’s funny. I would have never thought of that unless you asked me that question. But yeah, and at the end I was pissed, man. I was like, seriously, this bullshit. This wasn’t just like a little Pyro like it was a full display for about 10 seconds.
Were you planning on a higher shutter? Are you going to go with a longer exposure?
I was actually shooting that very fast, because my plan for that was to do it almost as stop motion. And I was gonna shoot it probably a 1,000th of a second. I was trying to take a bunch of wide angle shots, because I’ll do that a lot too. Or I’ll take 500 shots of something and move my camera around and then Batuman and then make a stop motion video out of it. So stuff like fireworks and it looks really unique and cool. And that whole thing got ruined. That’s funny. Again, I never would have thought of that. I’m upset with that guy all over again.
I hate when that kind of shit happens. It’s like it could have been any other song at any other moment. And I was really stoked to get this one shot and try it out and it didn’t happen. But with knowing Brent Smith and David I have a feeling that wasn’t my one and only chance with fireworks because I know they all love fire a lot. They work with Reed a lot and I’m sure there’s going to be a ton more fireworks in the future so I forget that guy.
How far in advance do you get word of when the next tour starts?
Pretty far in advance. This year has been a little different, just with kind of getting back into it after everything. Like stuff that we had planned last year that we’re all aware of got pushed back, and then it got pushed again, and then it got canceled. It’s like, kind of getting back into it. But I actually talk with Brent often throughout the week. And he’s really awesome about keeping me updated, because he always wants your family to know.
You can tell Reese who’s my wife, he can let her know like “Hey, these are the dates”. So I mean, we know pretty far in advance. This this year has been a little different just because trying to get everything figured out. But then we get, we get four crew emails from our guy, Charlie, who’s our production manager, and that will have all the dates and days off in the whole tour schedule.
Sanjay thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure to sit down and talk with you and I hope to catch up with you at Earthday Birthday in Orlando.
Awesome. Thank you so much. If you have any other questions or anything and just reach out. I truly would love to meet you. It’d be really cool. Hopefully man, I can see you in Florida.