Have a question for the FAQ? E-mail me! (Last Updated 9/23/20)
What does Rukes mean?
It’s a combination of the word “rocks” and “rules”. Also known as a typo for the word “rules” since the L and K are next to each other on the keyboard.
How do you pronounce “Rukes”?
“Roo-ks”. Not “Ruckus” ;)
How many people work for Rukes.com?
Just me. I am the only photographer and all the pics on Rukes.com are all from me (unless someone uses my camera to take a picture of me of course :)
Can I work for Rukes.com?
Unfortunately I don’t see my site as going down the road of “here’s 50 club photographers under my name” route (or even one other person) so for now Rukes.com will be just me.
Why #1 DJ (Photographer)?
It started a few years after starting my career. One of my first big clients was Paul Van Dyk, I did the photography for just about all his major gigs in the USA. Around the same time, he became the #1 DJ on the DJ Mag top 100. So I added to my profile “#1 DJ Photographer”, since I was his photographer. Of course I didn’t initially realize that it obviously could be read the other way, as the #1 photographer for DJs.
After he no longer was #1 on the DJ mag, and I started shooting more DJs, I never really took it off my profile, I just left it there since I wasn’t too into social media. Eventually, everyone just started calling me the #1 photographer for DJs, so it ended up sticking as a description for myself, rather than who I was working with.
Later on, when I started making the DJ Rukes tracks for fun, a few DJs said I was the #1 DJ in the world, so I added the parenthesis as a joke, becoming the #1 DJ and the #1 DJ Photographer at the same time.
Will you be at X gig? Why were you not at X gig?
Please check the calendar I have on Rukes.com. If I am currently on a tour, that’s where you will see the dates I will be at. If it’s not listed, I won’t be there. I purposely hold off some months while I compile dates so I can release them all at once, especially for tours, as well as gigs post-tour. As for why I am not at a certain gig, it’s because I wasn’t hired to do it.
Can I use one of your photos for…
You can use the web photos the following ways, without cropping the logo out:
Posting on any personal or fan page social media outlet, using as a Facebook cover, etc. (It’s fine if the cover crops the logo out, as long as when it’s clicked on, the full version is there).
For use in an online article on a dance music only website/blog without the logo cropped and credit to “Drew Ressler/rukes.com” or “rukes.com”.
Use in any broadcast, other online, or print media must be approved, please send all inquires to
Posting on Tumblr, as long as the logo is not cropped (i.e. the photo is made “vertical” or you add your own Tumblr username to the photo) and a source link is posted if possible (To the original photo or www.rukes.com).
Posting on Instagram without tagging “Photo by @rukes” or something similar. It’s OK if the photo is cropped to square but I would strongly prefer the full photo on Instagram.
You can also use my photos for educational use (such as a school project, etc…), with the proper credit.
Why do some gigs have a location and others do not?
I am based in Los Angeles, so anything in this general area all goes without a location label. Anything outside of the area (like San Diego and around the world) gets the location in the gallery name.
I want a different photo as a print, can you send me that image?
No, I do not send anyone original images unless it’s a business need. If you want a one-off print, feel free to email my manager to work out a licensing deal.
Did you go to school for photography?
Nope, all self-taught. The first galleries on this site are the first pics ever.
Why do your pictures look the way they look?
I am big on depth of field, so I love to use lenses that highlight that fact, such as f/1.2. I also like to make sure my pictures are properly exposed and most importantly, properly in focus. I won’t bump my camera up to f/5.6 or higher just to get what I want in focus, I will try my hardest to use the sliver of focus I have to get it dead-on, or I trash the photo. I also like a bit of high contrast and saturation, to bring out the colors and also to make them stand out in the dark. Lastly, I try to get the photo to capture the moment; that means no blurring or light-trails. It’s very easy to get a “cool” shot with some motion blur, but much tougher to get that same shot with everything frozen in time.
Why are so few of your photos in black & white?
Black & white is great in certain situations, but it’s pretty much a crutch to easily get someone to like a bad photo. By default, since we see the world in color, anything we recognize that is in black & white is automatically “otherworldly”. You can take the most boring picture and make it amazing by just making it black & white. It’s much more difficult to get the same punch with a photo in color, which is what I strive to do. I only revert to black & white if it’s not going to work at all in color. I like to challenge myself.
I’m not saying black and white is bad, but if you see a photographer who’s gallery is all black & white or a majority of the photos are black and white, that’s not a good sign. Especially in the music industry when there are a lot of colors.
How did you get into this line of work/how can I do it?
I got in it at a time when digital SLR’s were pretty “new” (Canon 20D just came out) so I was usually the only one photographing at a club. Now it’s tougher since just about everyone has a camera, and can get in regardless of actual talent/reason (usually to meet drunk girls, unfortunately). I got started by asking the booking agents/promoters for a press pass in exchange for providing the photos (since back then I knew nothing about cameras, so I wasn’t giving up any groundbreaking work). It’s good practice, but working for free is a big no-no once you have a foot in the door. In this day and age, it’s best to do a few things. Practice as much as you can. Work with a local musician who might not have the budget to afford you, but you don’t mind practicing on. Once you have a good portfolio, shop yourself around to artists and promoters who could use a photographer. Remember, photographers are human beings that can’t teleport. Photographers generally can’t cover two gigs at once, so there are always opportunities. On a recent tour, I had to deny shooting some big gigs from another big DJ, just because I was booked already. They went with another great photographer, so it’s not like they will give up looking for someone.
Also, try joining up with local sites that send out photographers for better ways to get noticed/get paid a little/get into events. Leave as soon as you can support yourself. You will never be successful working for one of them, when you could be doing it all yourself. One big no-no is to try to bump out a current paid/house photographer by trying to work for free at the same time. That will most likely piss off the paid photographer, but also the promoter too. Let the promoter know you are around, and if they need you (such as their usual photographer is out of town/sick) they might hire you as the backup/replacement. If you manage to replace a paid photographer with you doing work for free, that’s a failure too, since that means the promoter/person who was paying the photographer has no money (and was looking for a nice way to get out of paying a photographer) and won’t ever be paying you anytime soon. Good promoters/artists who make money CAN afford photographers, at varying degrees, so consider the “we can’t pay you to take pics” a huge warning sign of impending failure. Never work for free unless you are learning how to use a camera.
Do you have any tips? Can you check out my pics? How can I make my pics look like this?
The best tip I can give is to work on using Manual mode as much as possible. I use a combination of M, Av and P for most gigs, depending on the situation. For my 1DX II, I set it at around 1600 ISO (and never go above 3200) since that has little noise; so I suggest you find the ISO that has the most noise you can deal with and use that. I wish I could check out everyone’s pics, but honestly the only pictures I truly love are the ones I take, so I would have to end up comparing your pictures to mine. While I could say some positive things about your work, it will overall just be a distraction and might not be fully honest. Your goal should be to not care what anyone else’s photos look like and 100% care about what yours look like. If you feel like emulating someone’s style while learning photography/a new camera, that’s perfectly fine, but in the long run you NEED to develop and find your own unique eye for photography and not compare or rely your work to anyone else’s.
Any more advice for a budding photographer?
Just do what looks good to you. Use other photographers for inspiration, and only try to copy shots when honing your skills. You should be the master of your own creativity than the follower of someone else’s. Make sure to have an easy way for people to see your work. A simple portfolio website is perfect, and a great thing to send to people when requesting a press pass. If your photos capture the moment well, nobody will really care if you don’t have a certain amount of followers on some social media site.
At a gig, just use the access you have to your advantage. Sure, some other photographers might be able to shoot longer and go to more places, but that shouldn’t hurt your photos. Work within limitations.
Do you have any more pics of…?
If I took it, I put it up. If it’s severely out of focus, only then might it not make the final check. Please don’t ask me “Is that all you have?” because I am not trying to hide photos from people just to say “Oh, you caught me, here’s the rest!”.
What’s your current gear?
All Canon: Canon 1DX MkII, Speedlite 600EX-RT, Canon 16-35L f/2.8 III, Canon 24-70L f/2.8 II, Canon 85L IS f/1.4, Canon 40 f/2.8 STM, Canon 35L f/1.4 II, Canon 8-15L Fisheye f/4, Canon 70-200L IS II f/2.8, Canon 90 Tilt-Shift f/2.8, and 2.0x Extender III.
Do you use a tripod? Some of those shots/settings are impossible without one!
Nope, I don’t. I guess I was gifted with a steady hand with photography! I can usually put the shutter speed at 1/4 and still get stable shots without a tripod or IS. I do have a monopod for high behind-the-DJ shots as well as a Photomast for wide sweeping crowd shots.
I hear you don’t drink?
I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I have drank a few times in my life, but I can’t get used to the taste of alcohol.