Want to know what it’s like to photograph a Tiny Desk concert?

Watch the Sam Smith Tiny Desk concert here.

We all have a favorite Tiny Desk concert. In 2023, NPR hosted 120 Tiny Desk concerts. We asked NPR photographers to share their favorite pictures and their thoughts about photographing Tiny Desk concerts.

Can sometimes be chaotic

Tiny Desk days can sometimes be chaotic, but when it’s all said and done, they are always a blast.

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So when I get the opportunity to be front row with a camera at one of these performances, I want that exuberance and joy that I feel to come through. Some of my favorite images I made this year at the Tiny Desk showcased that feeling.

Sam Smith excitedly huddling with their background singers after finishing their set.

Maluma feeling the beat (and flexing his biceps). And Noname giving me so many options I had a hard time narrowing down my own edit.

But the photo of Hayden Pedigo stood out to me for different reasons. It’s rare the desk isn’t totally crammed with people and instruments behind it. His wonderful solo set gave me a chance to a capture a quieter, somewhat cleaner and more introspective moment, which are some of my favorite kinds of images to make.

— Michael Zamora, NPR Visuals Editor and Producer

How does a set translate to intimate setting

Fred again.. was the first Tiny Desk concert at night since the pandemic, while the timing of this concert was different, I was more curious about how a Fred again.. set would translate to the Tiny Desk.

But after the first few minutes I knew this was going to be a memorable Tiny Desk. It was an honor to see Fred again.. do his craft in such an intimate setting. He pushed what can be done behind this office desk.

While this is Olivia Rodrigo‘s second Tiny Desk concert, this is the first one behind the actual desk. Olivia’s performance was full of Olivia’s emotion and rawness.

Also, she showed her musical range by playing the piano and the guitar and singing with her band and without them. Truly a pleasure to see her perform songs that I have been listening to on repeat since her album GUTS came out.

— Zayrha Rodriguez, NPR Visuals Editor and Producer

From jumping on the desk to voguing with his leg in the air

The first time I heard of Durand Bernarr was on the day of his Tiny Desk. Since then, I have not shut up about his incredible performance and stage presence.

Bernarr is one of the few who used the entire space at his disposal, from jumping onto the desk, dancing amongst the crowd, voguing with his leg in the air, undergoing an outfit change, burning incense and belting vocals throughout it all.

This is one of my favorite images I captured of Bernarr thanking the crowd after his performance, showing his infectious energy and how proud he and his team are – after all, they were dressed as the Proud Family for a reason.

Becky G was just happy to be there, and you could tell.

Although the image is slightly out of focus, I love this frame because it captures her excitement right after performing her first song, “Bailé Con Mi Ex,” where she started hyping up the crowd and her own band.

She’s one of the biggest stars in Latin music, and yet she expressed herself so humbly and with so much gratitude, and even invited up-and-coming artist DannyLux to perform with her during the concert.

Keren Carrion, NPR Visuals Editor and Producer

Iconic songs bring joy to the office

Nile Rodgers and CHIC brought an incredible energy and so much joy to our office. It was an amazing experience to be in the room and listen to their iconic songs in this intimate setting. The Tiny Desk is one of the most special things about NPR and I feel very lucky any time I get to be a small part of it.

Broadway at the Tiny Desk is always such a treat! I’m always so excited to see how these shows take their huge stage productions and share their songs with our audience. It was incredible to watch Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford and all the talented folks from Sweeney Todd share their show with us!

— Grace Widyatmadja, NPR Visuals Editor and Producer

Capturing different vibes

By photographing Tiny Desk concerts, I have not only discovered new music, I’ve also learned how to capture different emotions and comparing the energy each artist brings.

From Ivy Queen‘s spiritual tia vibes to Kany Garcia‘s joyful energy, finding the perfect angle that connects with the ambiance they bring.

— Estefania Mitre, NPR Visuals Editor and Producer

Feeling the energy, emotion and passion through the image

This Tiny Desk photo is one of my favorites because Post Malone is one of my favorite artists (#1 according to my Spotify Wrapped) and it was a dream come true to photograph him. He gave his complete all to his show, despite being in the middle of a tour. I feel like this photo really captures the energy he brought to the desk during his performance.

I had never heard of RAYE before, but attending her Tiny Desk and photographing her made me a fan. I love this photo because you can feel her emotion through the image. She brought passion and vivacity to her performance, and I think this photo exemplifies that.

Juvenile’s show was the most energetic Tiny Desk performance I’ve ever seen. Not just energetic, but so fun. Everyone in the room was having the time of their lives. I love this photo because you can feel that everyone behind the desk is having just as much fun as the audience.

— Catie Dull, NPR Visuals editor and producer

Do we have to leave?

Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita’s Tiny Desk performance had me smiling for the rest of the day. This trio brought such infectious joy and playfulness into the office on that day, and I can’t look at these pictures without thinking about that positive energy.

At one point during this Tiny Desk, Tank says to the audience, “We don’t want to leave. Do we have to leave?”

The response is a loud and clear “No.” Tank’s crowd work here is unmatched. This performance was full of massive hits and impressive vocals, but manages to feel so intimate and laid back.

Caroline Polachek’s Tiny Desk concert was for me, personally, one of the most-anticipated events of 2023. I was already a huge fan, and hearing her effortlessly deliver these flawless vocals live only deepened my admiration for her music and artistry. This video is now in my regular Tiny Desk rotation.

Photographing Anne Akiko Meyers was such a treat. We don’t often have violinists visit the desk, and visually I wasn’t sure what to expect. Almost immediately I was struck by how much emotion was packed into each note. These songs are captivating, and it’s easy to get lost in this performance.

One of the most-rewarding assignments I had in 2023 was photographing the Tiny Desk Contest winner Little Moon. I’ve witnessed many artists, even really popular ones, geek out over the opportunity to perform on NPR’s little stage.

It’s especially gratifying to see how the desk can be a tool for showcasing lesser-known talent. You get to see people living out a dream with their friends and family looking on from the audience with so much pride and love.

— Elizabeth Gillis, NPR Visuals Editor and Producer

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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