This post is gonna be brutally honest and I’m posting from personal experience, I don’t feel there’s just one way of getting from a – b.
Any time I get an email or message asking how I’m getting to shoot the shows which are taking place at medium to big sized venues / popular artists I never know what to say without feeling like an asshole. It’s only really at the back end of 2013 / this year I’ve been able to shoot some of the more ‘popular / known’ acts, apart from FUN. back in 2012. And to be honest, it was more by chance and right timing.
In all honesty. It’s taken bloody ages to get to shoot at some of the bigger venues / popular / known artists who are kinda mainstream at this time, and I’ve got a way to go before I can make this thing full-time (IF I can… I think I’ll die trying if not!)
So essentially you get access to some of the bigger shows when you have a publication backing you. It took me ages to get into contributing as I was just getting heck of a lot of no’s. It’s paid off though….Persevering.
People think I’m mad for shooting for free at bigger shows, but you can’t make people see your point of view or how long it’s taken to get from a to b and just how bloody challenging it really is to even get to that point when you don’t have any contacts! Maybe I’ve just gone around the long way of doing things but it’s been trial and error for me..
I could easily say it was me with lack of focus, but actually, I remember sending out emails and trying to get an opportunity to shoot for local zines etc a couple of years ago.
This was the answer
I emailed studios to get assisting jobs – And I got a bunch of no’s, no responses and ‘you don’t have a degree in photography so you’re no use to us’.
I started shooting anyway cause I’ve always loved live gigs from a super young age. A colleague of mine at the time gave me a heads up on how to get access to some shows, I didn’t have a magazine backing me cos no-one wanted me, haha, so I sat trawling for contact details and sending out emails for passes.(Thanks Mitch!)
I had no contacts on the local music scene, even unsigned artists as I wasn’t going out to so many gigs at the time, so I jumped ahead of myself and just started contacting the band’s people after getting their contacts details online.
Thank the lord for Brendan Benson’s people! It was one of the first gig’s I shot back at Academy 3. And I kinda fell in love with it. Looking back at the photo’s though, they were bloody awful. But hey we all gotta start somewhere right?
I shot a few gigs then headed out to go travel in 2011 – was out for the best part of a year and I took my camera with 2 lenses with me. I learnt SO much about the camera and the different lenses and read up on several things and kinda just shot so much. I came back and threw myself into my photography. It took me 10 months to get a part time job even with heaps of experience – so depressing! But I was able to shoot so much in that 10 months that I think it’s helped shape my photography up. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise?!
Music photography took a back seat unfortunately, I needed money, haha, but I woke up one morning and was just like – I haven’t even TRIED to get anywhere with the music photography. How’s it even possible to just write it off just like that. So I re-focussed on music photography and have just been trying to make it work since then.
I think for someone that’s not necessarily integrated on the scene / newbie it’s so much more challenging to try and start something or be in the right place with the right people at the right time. It’s truly getting out of your comfort zone and trying to make things happen with no guarantees! I guess it depends on personality traits but for personal reasons, my own confidence was at an all time low 2012 / beginning of 2013, so I flippin’ struggled a fair bit.
I’m also THAT person that embarrass’s myself in new situations / new people. Forgetting people’s names whilst your shooting band portraits. Yes people, that’s me. I may very well start scribbling name’s on the palm of my hands. (I’ve gotten alot better at it!)
For real, I CRINGE at some of the things I’ve said and done in the last 2 years haha. So I reckon it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself and your flaws and ride it out. You might lose opportunities because of it, but fuck it, we are only human. Nothing’s perfect!
Although I’m not really shooting super huge artists yet (or should I say, the likes of Beyonce and Gaga! ) , It’s been awesome this year to shoot artists like Jake Bugg, Imagine Dragons, Bastille, The Strypes, Skindred and omg…GAVIN DEGRAW. 2 years ago when I went and saw Gavin Degraw, for the first time, if someone would have said you’d be shooting from the pit at his show in 2 years time… Think I would have laughed at them, hah! It was surreal!
So people, for those of you who wanted to know how the heck to shoot bigger shows, I have NO idea on how to shoot super huge shows yet, well apart from being backed by a huge publication / agency, but there’s still not much money in it. (C’mon…I wanna shoot Justin Timberlake….Katy Perry…. BACKSTREET BOYS!!!)
I got some tips for you that you might find useful, it’s for people who are starting from right at the bottom like I did.
1. Get a camera that will allow you to shoot in low-light conditions. Personally I started on a point and shoot years ago until I purchased my first SLR a few years back. To work on composition you can literally just shoot even with your phone at first, then buy a camera whenever you can, take a look into a lens which will support lowlight photography. A f1.4 – f1.8 lens you’ll benefit from heaps.
2. Start small. Head on out to your local music venues and ask them if it’s ok to shoot the artist that’s on or get in touch with the band directly and ask them. Unsigned artists are really cool like that and switching between 3/4 different venues gives you insight into different lighting that’s available. Get use to the lighting as bigger shows tend to have no flash, 3 songs only policy. But hallelujah – lighting tends to be a bit of a dream. As long as the smaller venues / artist’s ok with it, it’s cool to play around with flash if it’s something you want to get the grasp of. Flash gun was foreign to me until I purchased one and starting having a play around with it.
3. If you do have contacts at any magazine / publication then amazing, go crazy and get on to them, maybe you can shoot for them. For anyone who doesn’t have ANY contacts, you gotta get out there and promote your work some-how. It’s so much easier to do it these days with social media though & there’s tonnes of music blogs and zines out there you can possibly contribute to. There isn’t much money in music initially though – so if you wanna hang out with rock stars and get paid for it, your in the wrong area of work, haha.I think you have to be the biggest critic of your work but you still have to be able to have enough faith and belief in it to be able to promote it.
4. Learn to say no. The type of industry it is, you gotta shoot for free. But when you do shoot for free, make sure you are maximising what you are doing with the photos. There’s no point of them photos being sat on your computer / drive. Do something with them that may lead to more opportunities or paid gigs. Whatever, shoot, promote, shoot, promote. Don’t stop till you hit your next goal! You’ll meet genuine musicians and artists that appreciate your work and there’s a mutual respect between you guys, but there’s way too many people who want something for nothing. So follow your gut instinct and don’t be afraid to say no. No-one’s going to value your work if you don’t set the value of it.
5. Keep shooting. Shoot smaller venues, when you get the chance to shoot bigger venues, still shoot the smaller venues. It’s great being able to shoot from the pit for sure, it looks great for portfolio work, but the smaller venues are where you can meet new bands and chat to them and what not. Free work generally leads to paid work more often than not, cultivate relationships with people but don’t let them take advantage of you and your skill set. You may struggle to just talk to people depending your background, but once you’ve done it a few times it’ll help grow your confidence in dealing with certain types of people too.
Don’t let people fool you in thinking that there’s absolutely no money in music photography. There is but it can be a long winded goal to hit. I guess it depends on how badly you want it to be able to hit that goal. Along with a bit of luck! It is so much of who you know along with what you know, which is good and bad. But I guess it’s a great way of getting out of your comfort zone to really step it up and reach out and aim high.
I already believe anything is possible, through so many different experiences etc, but after shooting Gavin Degraw, I’m like…. Holy shit… ANYTHING is possible.
You just gotta find a way to believe and drown out the noise of people who say it’s not possible & be up for a huge challenge.
If you wanna shoot music, GO SHOOT MUSIC!
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