So You Want To Be a Professional Music Photographer Part 1

The Professional Music Photographer! What a Dream Job!

Norwich Concert Photography

It really is a nice little number as a Professional Music Photographer! You basically turn up at a concert, pick up your press pass and are then escorted into the arena. You wander into the pit! Your very own little sanctuary to work in. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of screaming fans. The Pit is always an epic place to be. You get a great vantage point. I mean, most of the artists are within touching distance. You’re normally at eye level with the stage and get to listen to some of the best bands ‘on the planet.’ Wow. The life of a Music Photographer is awesome. Just think. You don’t have any heads to shoot over because the crowds are behind you and everybody on the front row is seriously jealous because you have a better view than they get… It’s a gold circle experience. No.. Diamond even! Shoot a few photos and then listen to the concert. And all For Free.

In fact, you’re earning a shed load of cash for doing something that you enjoy and people are so jealous! Back to work. You take a few photos of the artist or band,  upload them online, bang them out on your social media when you get home and then sit back and watch the money roll in when they make the newspapers and online galleries. Cue the next concert!

Now it’s time to wake up from this dream and give you the low down on what really shooting Professional Music Photography is all about!

Professional Music Photography - Lee Blanchflower

Professional Music Photographer

Professional Music Photographer

How do you get to be a Profesional Music Photographer?

Over a period spanning eight years in the Commercial Photography Sector, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a legendary bunch of Professional Music Photographers and photographing a huge genre of Music Artists and celebrities. My own Music Photography career forms part of a larger business that spans Commercial Video Production and Licensed Drone Operations, yet Professional Music Photography still gives me an immense amount of satisfaction. There’s nothing better than seeing your Music Photography in Press Articles, Magazines or websites, particularly when those celebrities you are photographing are some of the most recognizable faces on the planet. But…

First fact! Being a Music Photographer is solid hard graft. I’ve had to change this paragraph five or six times as I write because I’m struggling to convey in words, a narrative that actually conveys what the job really is all about. The easiest way is to separate the various aspects that make up the job in order to make the journey a little easier for wannabee Professional Music Photographers to understand;

Hard work is the key. Most Music Photographers start out shooting free at concerts. Forget trying to blag your way into shooting The Foo Fighters, Muse, The Kings of Leon until you’ve actually carved out a career and gained some experience. Anybody now entering the world of Professional Music Photography has far bigger barriers to cross than they would have done twenty years ago. The Music industry has changed to accommodate social media, copyright and protecting artists and with it come more and more restrictions (But that’s further down the list.) Start out as most Professional Music Photographers have done historically. Learn your trade from the ground up. Firstly, you need to know how to shoot a photograph. Sounds a stupid piece of advice but produce low lit, out of focus, blurred imagery and you’re unlikely to get decent work in the industry. Photography like any other business is about reputation and Music Photography is a heavily saturated market to enter.

Same things, different day!

There’s a recurring conversation in the pit amongst music photographers, that revolves person shooting photos and using the live view screen of a low-end consumer camera that just won’t deliver any usable images. People shooting the set with a smartphone just doesn’t cut it. There is nothing that grated more on a professional music photographer working for a living in the pit, than seeing this, apart from the same people holding their phones or cameras up above their heads so that working photographers can’t get the shot. So you can see from this example that equipment and etiquette (It will be explained shortly) is an important factor in becoming a Professional Music Photographer. There’ is literally so much to cover in this article, that I will be splitting it over a number of pages. You’ll have to excuse my tendency to digress. I’m a Photographer, not a blogger. Hopefully by the end of the article, you may have a clearer idea to help you on your way in the world of Music.

Professional Music Photographer

Professional Music Photography - Lee Blanchflower

Professional Music Photographer

Professional Music Photographer

Finding Your First Work

Your first portfolios will inevitably be low footfall venues (unless of course you’re extremely lucky and find great gigs via the helping hand of nepotism.) Rest assured you’ll probably or definitely be working for free. Many bands start in small venues playing free or for very little money or for free so chances are, you’ve got even less chance of being, particularly if you haven’t got a proven track record for shooting music. Building your reputation and portfolio will be the most important aspects of advancing your career in Professional Music Photography. To find work, get out there and speak to venue managers. It’s great sending out emails to everybody and their dog, but the delete button is just too conveniently placed on the keyboard. Physical meetings are a far better option and the building blocks for networking that should form part of your plan.

Local magazines or newspapers may very well decide to credit you for images, but the trade-off is that you won’t be able to supply good quality images unless you invest in the right tools for the job. I completely understand that we live in an age where money is tight, but, if cash flow and not be able to afford equipment is high on your list, then you may want to buy a laptop and consider a career as a web designer. That statement wasn’t made flippantly. The truth of the matter is, that Professional Photography, Video Production and Commercial Drone Flying are three areas of image production where you can literally hemorrhage money. You don’t necessarily need to change equipment often, but the initial investment will be substantial if you want to take the quality of images expected from a Professional Music Photographer.

Professional Music Photography

Honestly! What Equipment do I need to be a Professional Music Photographer?

It’s the Million Dollar Question and so subjective and every comment is likely to offer different advice. This blog is written from personal experience. I’ve been shooting everything from intimate concerts to Large Arenas and Festivals for almost a decade. Music Photography is about maximising your kit and working as streamlined as possible. Get by with the minimum but use kit that’s going to an important part of your work.

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