There are people out there who will tell you that you have to have a degree in photography to make it as a music photographer. I am here to tell you that you don't. As a self-taught music photographer, I have learned that enthusiasm, creativity, and passion are just as essential if not more important than any photography degree. Neither is better than the other, but both can get you to where you want to be! When I first started I scoured the internet for people who were established in the music community and were willing to help photographers like me who were, like they were at some point in time, just getting started. I was searching for a mentor of sorts. I became an online student of photographers like Matthias Hombauer and Adam Elmakias, who have unknowingly helped me not only get into shows, but also hone my craft and passion. I wanted to carry on that same kindness that Matthias and Adam have extended to beginner photographers like me and show you that anyone can fulfill their dream to shoot their favorite bands. I am by no means on the level of Adam and Matthias, but I thought I could offer some valuable insight. Here's why!
When I started, I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue how to get into shows. I had absolutely no clue how to use a camera for concert photography. Basically, I was clueless about everything. But, that's okay. Everyone has to start somewhere. I even found that starting from the very bottom was a blessing in disguise, because it makes you work harder, it allows you to find your artistic identity from the get go, and it also makes you appreciate the work more. Most importantly, it blooms out of passion and that is extremely important, because that passion will translate into your photos. I looked into how to become a music photographer and found a lot of information that was particularly helpful to me, but I also realized that each individual's journey is different. What worked for Adam and Matthias, might not work for me. Sometimes you stumble upon the answers yourself through tons of trial and error. However, there are still some universally helpful tips that are really insightful to getting started! I personally got started by creating my own website, which allowed me to get my foot in the door and got me out there shooting shows. That along with many other things got me started. Here's some other tips that I found helpful!
Can't Get in with an Outlet, Start Your Own!
As I mentioned above, I started my own outlet, Currently Streaming! At first, I started Currently Streaming, because I felt there was a need for a passionate news outlet in the music community. But, that's a whole other story and post for another time! Eventually, I realized that music photography would be something that would not only be a great addition to the site, but would also be something fun for me to do on the side. Creatives rarely stay in one box, so it only made since for me to branch out of my comfort zone of writing! So, I used Currently Streaming as not only a way for me to build my photography portfolio, but as a way to live my passion every day! Most labels, bands, or managers require you work for an outlet to get into a show. Not always true, but most do! So, if you can't get in with an already established music outlet, why not make your own? That way you not only get to shoot the shows you want but you also get full creative control. Yes, you'll have to put into tons of work. But, it's the most rewarding way, in my opinion, to get started! If you have more questions on how to create your own website or blog, please email me. I'd love to help in any way that I can!
Don't Have an Ego & Be Kind
This sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many photographers don't abide by these adages. First, let me say that I have had many positive experiences. Many photographers out there want to help others who are just getting started and are respectful. But, like in everything, there are people with inflated egos and lack of respect for others. The big thing here is to be kind to the other photographers, fans, and security guards around you. Also, respect their space. I've personally, at a festival, had photographers barrel me over and gash my arm with their lens because they want to get the "shot" at whatever cost. You don't want someone's lasting impression of you to be something like that. Definitely work the photo pit, but not at the expense of others. Second, the fans are there to see the show so try your best to not block their view of the stage. If there is a stage that is down low, I will always kneel down and shoot, so I don't block any of the fans' views. They paid to be there so it's always important to respect that! Third, it is extremely important to be nice to the security guards. One they are their to protect you and your equipment from getting damaged or hurt. Two, I've had security guards move out of my way and let me slide in for a shot because I respect their space and the work they do. So, always be humble and always be kind! No matter how good of a photographer you are, if you are known for having a superiority complex and not respecting any of these individuals in the photo pit, you won't get very far or be seen in a positive light.
You Don't Have to Have a $1,000+ Camera to Get Started
I personally started with a $600 camera, the Sony a6000. I was always that girl standing in the photo pit with my small inexpensive camera in a midst of more established photographers who had two $2,000+ cameras around their neck. Don't let that intimidate you! Sometimes it is the person behind the camera that makes the shot, not the camera itself. Though, I did later find out that the camera you choose does certainly help! Regardless, that Sony a6000 will always be held near and dear in my heart, because it was my first camera and though it was challenging to use in low light situations, it performed well and I made the most out of it. Some shots I took with this camera have been added below to show you just how capable cheaper, starter cameras are in the photo pit. Plus, it makes you appreciate a more expensive camera when you get one and it gives you the experience and practice you need to fully work a camera and its settings. I now have a Canon 5D Mark IV, and because of that Sony I was more prepared to handle and shoot with it! All in all, that Sony challenged me to work with the light, practice composition, and it made me work on my editing skills more.
Utilize LensRentals for Those Godly Expensive Lenses
Money is always an issue for me as a broke college student, so purchasing a bunch of expensive lenses just isn't in the cards for me right now. As a result, I get a lot of my lenses through LensRentals. The lenses always show up on time and they have been very easy and awesome to work with. Now, I will say that it is a good idea to purchase a cheaper fast prime for your camera as that will save you money down the road and it is an essential lens. I personally purchased the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens, which only put me under $125. It's a great lens to start with and the f/1.8 is great for low light situations. For bigger lenses, however, like my go to 24-70mm f/2.8, I use LensRentals. That is, until I can afford this beauty and finally call it a part of my collection. The point is, though, that there are options available instead of just finding yourself in a hole thousands of dollars deep.
Practice, Practice, Practice & Always Keep Learning
Get out there and shoot as many shows as possible! Practice truly does help, especially in a field where you must be highly adaptable. You never know what you are getting yourself in to, but that's part of the fun and excitement! As a result, get out there and take photos. I've even found that shooting other things, such as landscapes and portraiture, has been particularly helpful in understanding my camera's settings and it has also helped me visualize and create more unique shots when I'm in front of a band. It's also important to note that there is no such thing as an expert in photography, in my opinion. There is always room for improvement. Once you feel like you are the best, there is nowhere to go from there. So, continue to find ways to better yourself! I'll always feel that I need to improve in some form or another, no matter what status or position I find myself in in the future. Never hit that ceiling and always remember why you became a photographer! Hopefully your answer is not money, fame, or to just talk to the bands. Passion and growth are key, always.
Hopefully I provided some unique insight (probably just rambled)! But, these things have helped me over the course of my time doing this amazingly awesome, coolest gig in the world. If you have any questions, feel free to email me! Happy shooting!