Two years as a concert photographer. What I learned along the way.

This past weekend marked my two year anniversary as a concert photographer. I got my first press pass for Forbidden Fruit Festival in Dublin and shot the entire weekend as the ‘semi-official’ photographer for the festival. That was extremely lucky and opened up a lot of doors for me — I will go into that later. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to go through the things I wish I knew when I was starting out and hopefully help to inspire some new photographers to get into this exciting and rewarding genre of photography.

Warpaint at Forbidden Fruit 2014, Dublin

You really don’t need the best equipment

Nikon D90

Develop a style

Ben Howard at The Olympia Theater, Dublin 2014
Hozier at Longitude Fesitval, Dublin 2015

Since then, the photos I take are more artistic than journalistic. These catch peoples eyes a lot more than ‘normal’ gig photos and festivals love artistic photos to make their event look beautiful and exciting.

New bands that are staring out in your area also love dramatic artistic photos. It gives the photos a feeling that a ‘professional’ took them and not just one of their friends with an iPhone or even a decent DSLR. You have the skill and that’s the difference. Working with these bands is also very very important. Do some research and find out which bands are working hard and trying to make a name for themselves. Shoot them, talk to them after the show, develop a relationship with them and you’ll always be their go-to guy. A lot of people will tell you not to give away your photos for free, but with young and new bands I see it as an investment. Sure, you could shoot 6 or 7 bands a couple of times and give them free photos and if nothing comes of it you’re working for free. But if one of the bands starts to make it, you will have been there from the start and already have the relationship with them. Then you can start charging for photos. They will also have friends in other bands they’ve met on the circuit and if they’re really impressed with your photos they’ll recommend you to shoot their shows. It’s all about getting your name out there.

Working for music blogs

Most music publications are run by people who love music and love the scene. They’re not there to make money and probably can’t pay the photographers or writers. This is fine. It’s fun and helps you build up a portfolio. More importantly, you meet other photographers in the pit. These guys very from being hobbyists to pros. Make friends with them, add them on the social networks and share your photos from the show on social media. Express your interest into photography and ask them questions about their career and how they ‘made it’. Let them know you have passion and are trying your best to be a photographer. If these guys are ever double booked for a gig they might recommend you for a job or have you come with them as a second shooter. I know it sounds like a long shot but it has happened to me many times and is a great way of building connections that will ultimately help you.

Noel Gallagher at 3Arena Dublin, 2014

Be different

Keep everything. And backup.

Also back up everything all the time. I really don’t need to go into this because you know you should. And I know I should have too, but I lost an entire HDD full of photos including photos for a client I spend an entire weekend shooting. I put close to 20 hours into the photos and they never got them. And I never got paid. Lesson learned.

Jerry Fish at Leixlip Festival 2016, Ireland

Get out there and shoot. It’s amazingly rewarding and you never stop learning. It’s fast paced, tricky, and disappointing sometimes. But when you open up Lightroom after a gig and see amazing shots, it makes it all worth while and makes you want to shoot more.

VFX Artist & Video Editor from Dublin, Ireland with a background in photography // //

VFX Artist & Video Editor from Dublin, Ireland with a background in photography // //