How to get started in music photography
The way I got into live music photography and touring work wasn’t necessarily the easiest or most traditional route, however it’s based off the principle of networking and building a client base which is something that I think its fundamental to breaking into any industry. I’ve compiled some pointers for getting started in music photography. These are based partly on personal experience, and partly on what I’ve seen works for others.
01. START SMALL
Shoot small bands in small venues - support your local scene. Some small venues will allow you to bring in a camera without specific credentials. It’s always best to check with the venue first on their camera policy. For venues that require credentials, or venues with photo pits, it’s best to look for blogs or small publications that you can contribute to. These publications will be able to give you credentials for gigs. The best place to look for these publications is on facebook networking groups.
02. DON’T WORRY ABOUT GEAR
Don’t let you gear stop you from shooting. When I first began shooting live events I was using a second hand crop-sensor camera (Canon 60D) and a single lens (Sigma 18-35mm). You can shoot with anything! Working with less efficient gear can really teach you how to use a camera, the room, the lighting etc. Use poor gear to your advantage. If you’re interested in reading more about what specific gear I use and recommend, look here.
If you’re anything like this, the idea of socialising with people you’ve never met probably strikes fear. However, networking is the most valuable tool when breaking into any industry. When you first begin shooting gigs, or even when you’re just attending, make sure to say hello to the other photographers, venue staff, merch sellers, anyone you can! One of these people may be able to give you a job in the future.
04. UNDERSTAND INDUSTRY STRUCTURE AND HOW IT ALL WORKS
I’m not saying you need a detailed and intricate understanding of each role within the music industry, but it helps to understand the roles of music publicists and managers. Publicists are probably your go-to person when asking for credentials for a show, whereas managers are people you’ll want to know if you’re looking to work with a specific band one-on-one.
05. SHOOT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING
Shooting small shows is a good way to get started, but don’t let your infancy within the industry hold you back from applying for credentials at bigger venues/shows. Reversely, don’t let your experience stop you from shooting smaller, more intimate shows. I have experience shooting on huge stages at festivals, however I recently have been shooting smaller intimate shows without photo pits. Shooting these smaller shows has been really good for improving my technique; often shooting in smaller venues is significantly harder because of the more difficult lighting situation and lack of space.
BONUS TIP: ALWAYS REMEMBER WHY YOU DO IT
I have to remind myself every day why I do this. This industry is tough and almost feels impossible at times. You’re going to have countless hurdles to get over and countless set-backs. When you have successes stay humble and use these to springboard you forward to many more.
HERE ARE SOME RESOURCES FOR YOU
GBTRS Music Industry Networking Group - for women and non-binary individuals looking for support and community within the music industry