Toronto-based photographers, Tim Sandik and Alec Donnell Luna are on a mission to change the way live event shooters are paid, booked, trained, and treated. Kickstarting their concert, club and festival photo agency called DED AGENCY last year, the pair have been exploring the musicality of concert photography with wonderful exploration of natural light elements and an incredible knack for seizing impassioned snapshots using fly-on-the-wall vantages. Masterful candid and unplanned portraits have lead these photographers to content featured by brands like Dancing Astronaut, Magnetic Magazine, DJ Mag, and HighSnobiety. Now they’re going global, amassing a talented roster and setting their sights on the sunnier months.

The collective recently wrapped up their second year of SXM Festival, a sophomore outing in Saint Martin as the show’s official photography team. The orange glow of the horizon reflecting in sunglasses, the bubbling of waves shifting across the beach and the colourful epicentre of each stage was captured exquisitely by DED AGENCY. I decided it was time to find out how this troupe of creators went from being club-goers in the great white north to representing the world’s fastest growing international underground music destination.

“Capturing the energy and telling the story of a party through pictures is our role,” says Tim Sandik, co-founder of DED AGENCY. Being a photographer myself, I’ve always felt that there was an omnipresent sense of responsibility looming over live event photographers throughout their entire shoot. Tim clearly heeds by this sentiment. “Shooting people is still how this is achieved – but showing them beautiful candid moments of themselves is a more exciting proposition for both the photographer and the partygoer – everyone wins. Being a social presence at parties is of course part of our role as well.”

17836918_10155080063255120_879473070_o Tim Sandik [Left] and Alec Donnell Luna [Right] ~ TheSupermaniak

Before making the leap into representing internationally renowned music brands like SXM Festival, Tim was caught up in the world of electronic news gathering, journalistic photography that included countless posed group shots and standard images of people with big smiles on their faces. “I’ve evolved into a shooter that brings the art of photography to the forefront rather the aforementioned completely objective style of shooting,” he says, eventually discovering the latitudes that his camera sensor would actually take him and his clients. “The camera is a powerful social bridge that instantly makes you and any stranger instant companions – knowing how to use that power to make someone’s night a happier one always helps.”

Speaking of responsibilities, DED AGENCY is now expanding beyond just being a duo of creatives. “One of the reasons Tim and I initially joined forces was to absolutely shatter the current stigma of what an event photographer is,” says Alec Donnell Luna, the other half of DED’s founding team. “I love it because it’s one of the most versatile genres, it combines the skills of a portrait, fashion, interior design and even product photography – all in one! So taking on projects of all sorts is quite an organic step forward.”

ALEC- MARCH 15 - HAPPY BAY-00 (10)1304171304 SXM Festival 2017 ~ DED AGENCY

One of Alec’s current favourite projects is conducting creative promo shoots for his friends in the industry. “We work with DJs, producers, bands and singers of all genres and calibers. We pride ourselves for supporting our local talent who are working hard to put Toronto on the map, as well as international DJs and producers who are visiting Toronto for their shows.”

“We meet so many outstanding people during our events, so on an odd occasion we get all sorts request from shooting headshots for realtors to shooting fashion, interiors and products, and even weddings! Whatever life throws at us, we are working hard towards building a team of passionate, DEDicated and versatile artists, capable of delivering top notch content day in and night out.”

Although DED AGENCY present a versatile and adaptable mindset for each and every client, there is a powerful style in place through much of their work. Aesthetic off-camera flash techniques and powerful use of ambient lighting are themes that this company brings to the table and to the forefront of many of their projects. Tim says, “Different types of events have more suitable styles of photography in which to be captured – in some cases it is not wise to stray from the norm when the client is expecting a certain product. However, whether it is a corporate event or a nightclub I believe we are hired first and foremost for the distinct style and feel we apply across all kinds of events, even before the quality of our work. Everything we shoot has a little touch of DED in it.”

DIGITAL DREAMS DAY 2 684-EDIT1304171304 Armin Van Buuren at Digital Dreams 2016 ~ DED AGENCY

Tim and Alec’s rapidly expanding brand is currently collecting an entourage of shooters. While the multitalented team produce galleries of content for Toronto-based brands like Coda, Bespoke Experience, Ozmozis and Electric Island from week to week, they have their sights set on some additional out of city destinations through the summer and beyond. Tim elaborates, “Ded Agency will build a team of the most talented shooters that are looking to continuously elevate their game – there is no better way to excel than in a creative collective. We’ve already travelled to Saint Martin to lead the photography team there and took one of our brightest additions along with us. We will continue to grow the team and travel to different festivals around the globe – if this sounds like you, join us!”

Wilson Szeto aka WLSN SZTO, a name you might be familiar with if you’ve been to a Toronto-area trance event, is one of the newest members of the DED AGENCY roster. “Ded agency doesn’t only operate with a strong collaborative attitude, but they’re very inclusive as well,” says Wilson, who joined the photo team at SXM Festival last month before swinging by Miami Music Week’s closing parties. Essentially an unknown photographer at first, he’s been able to pick the brains of his collaborators both from a technical standpoint and business side as well. “Being around these guys you really start to learn a lot. The most important lesson I’ve learnt while working with Ded Agency is to focus more on quality than on quantity. Early on, I would always take and submit to clients hundreds of photos, many of which contained 4 or 5 shots that looked almost the same but had slightly different lights or facial expression. I really learned to cut those out and simply pick the best ones.”

17887210_10105101021643812_297788952_o WLSN SZTO ~ DED AGENCY

Wilson shares the fundamental gear to include in your camera bag before darting out to your favourite music festival with camera in hand. “For anyone aspiring to shoot in a night club or any music event, you’ll need your obvious items: camera, flash or flashes, backup batteries and memory cards. But I have two items that some may not consider essential but I rely on heavily at every event. A strong, comfortable camera strap and ear plugs. A good camera strap will keep your neck and body fresh and overall energy high so you’re always ready to capture that epic moment, and the ear plugs will simply save you from the annoying ringing you feel when around loud music after the event or following day and also save your ear drums long term especially if you’re around loud music very often.”

From their expanding portfolio of portrait, real estate and corporate clients to concert and club events, the DED AGENCY team leave prospective photo takers with some recommendations (aside from just upgrading to a full frame camera). “Here is a secret recipe for success in life: Motivation comes from passion. Confidence comes from excellence. Exercise to strengthen both: get out and start doing what you love. Share your passion with the world. Never stop perfecting your craft, and never get discouraged if you don’t get something from the first try. Your passion will drive you out of the house and guide you to likeminded people – make friends with them, ask questions and help them grow. Develop your style and build a personal brand. If you follow these simple steps, clients will be coming to you (just make sure to put your contact info on your social media or website with a clear understanding of what you do).”

17902063_10155161161152154_278599577_o SXM Festival 2017 ~ DED AGENCY

IMG_06391304171304 Lee Burridge at All Day I Dream ~ DED AGENCY

IMG_27631304171304 Yokoo photo shoot ~ DED AGENCY

IMG_50341304171304 Electric Island 2016 ~ DED AGENCY

MOVEMENT DAY 3 AND BESTIVAL DAY 2 5131304171304 Porter Robinson at Bestival Toronto 2016 ~ DED AGENCY

DIGITAL DREAMS DAY 2 6441304171304 Armin Van Buuren at Digital Dreams 2016 ~ DED AGENCY

TIM - MARCH 19 - HAPPY BAY-0631304171304 Richie Hawtin at SXM Festival 2017 ~ DED AGENCY