How to Become a Music Photographer

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  By Jennifer Berube
How to Become a Music Photographer

If you’ve decided to step out into the exciting world of music photography, you may feel a little lost and wonder how to get started. There are a few things you need to know right off the bat. If you follow these steps and tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional music photographer.

There’s Always More to Learn

Even if you’re already an expert photographer, you still have things to learn. A photographer is also a small business. Whether you’re an expert or beginner you need to know how to market yourself in the industry, how to speak with professionals, how to effectively manage money, and how to brand yourself.

No matter how well you can handle a camera, you should always seek to improve your skills as well. For the novice, consider taking courses. There are many courses available online and in traditional university settings, and you can get started with professional web tutorials from established experts.

Be sure to focus on people who work specifically within the music industry so you will learn what is expected. Photographing a band is not just about getting a good image for their album cover. The image should be framed, lit, and laid out in such a way that it captures the essence of their music and style. You’ll need to use the right settings to ensure you capture a quality motion image in a low-light area.

In a 2013 interview with, legendary music photographer Steve Gullick gave the following advice to people getting started in the industry:

“You have to be absolutely single-minded and dedicated to perfecting your craft, there are loads of talented people that want to do the same thing, you have to be better than them; if you don’t do this, you’re probably wasting your time and should concentrate on photography as a hobby.”

Build a Portfolio

Education matters, but not as much as having an impressive portfolio of images. You can begin putting together a professional portfolio at any time. Go to concerts and music events in your area, follow your favorite bands on tour, and take as many pictures as you can. Choose from the best and use them to create a portfolio on your website.

Make Industry Contacts

This one might make you nervous, but building a professional network is a basic component of any kind of business. So how do you make industry contacts?

The same way you build a portfolio: get out and interact with the musical community. Go to shows where the band has yet to be discovered, you’ll have an easier time getting to know them and their manager. New bands are always looking for professional photographers to help capture and design their image, and you can work with a new band for a discount rate. Use those connections to build your portfolio and get your name out there. As your notoriety and skills increase, you can increase your rate to match them.

Refine Your Craft

Your craft is photography, first and foremost. The secondary aspect of your craft is a business. Pay attention to your successes and failures. Has anyone complained about your images, work ethic, or how you present yourself to professionals? Find ways to correct these mistakes and you’ll continue to grow as a professional music photographer.

Continue to study photography. Learn how to use lighting and angles to capture the essence of a moment, the music, and the band. Make a study of how other photographers have worked with musicians to create sets that appeal to the audience and the performer.

Study the Masters of Your Trade

It’s easy to lose heart when you’re starting out in any endeavor. Taking the time to study the careers and lives of other professionals in your industry will help guide you through the rough terrain and give you the hope to keep going. Study the top photographers currently working in the music industry and learn from them.

Tips for the New Music Photographer

Now that you have the basic steps to get you started, here are a few tips to help you further down the path ahead:

1. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there

If you have a killer idea, don’t be afraid to pitch it.

2. You don’t need the most expensive equipment to start with.

While you will need to get expensive equipment as you progress, you can start with basic equipment.

3. Learn how to use social media platforms to build your notoriety.

Figure out which social media platforms work best for you and learn how to use them for marketing. Choose one or two to focus on at first, otherwise, you’ll be spending too much time building those accounts.

Now that you’ve learned the basic steps to getting started, grab your camera and find a show: you have some pictures to take.

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Before I became Editor-in-Chief of PHLEARN Magazine, I spent over five years specializing in Photography Writing and contributed articles regularly to sites like PictureCorrect, Sleeklens, and PhotoWorkout. Photography has always been a huge passion of mine; I may not be professionally trained in the art, but the knowledge and experience I have gained writing about photography techniques, interviewing some of the biggest and most inspiring photographers out there, and covering industry events has been invaluable!

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