Music Photography: It's not about you, the photographer. (HINT: It's about your client)Feb 14, 2023
It's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about you.
If you were to ask a random sample of music photographers why they do what they do, at least nine out of ten of them would say, "Because it's fun!", or, "I love live music, and get to see my favorite bands up close and personal!"
Not that there is anything inherently wrong with those answers and enjoying yourself while shooting a show, but the remaining one out of ten, or less, would say something like, "Because I want to create high-quality images for my client, while doing what I love to do."
See the difference?
Funny enough, most music photographers are not getting paid for their work. Far more than 90% of them, in my estimation, are most likely shooting for free, or for a free ticket.
The rest are having just as much fun, but getting paid for what they do.
Why are the minority getting paid, and most others aren't?
Sure, there is a quality issue to be considered, and the "best" photographers are more likely to get paid. But, there's also a "focus" issue (no pun intended), where the guys and gals getting paid are focused on their clients' needs, and not solely on their own objective to get a free ticket to a show, have a good time, and get a bunch of Instagram likes from their friends and family.
BUSINESS HACK: It's not about you, music photogs (or, any pro photog for that matter). It's about your client, and the relationship that you build with them.
If you want to get compensated for your talents, and your significant investment in gear, you need to shift your mindset. It's the difference between being a professional, and being a mere "fan with a camera".
Take your pick, but if you choose the latter, then don't complain that you're not getting paid gigs.
Every day on social media, I see countless photographers talking about themselves and their photos, rarely mentioning who it is that is ultimately benefiting from the photographer's efforts and experience (i.e., the client), or how the images are being leveraged for such benefit.
If you want to be seen as a true professional photographer, then you need to shift your focus from yourself to your clients, or at least to your potential clients.
Who do you think a band, producer, venue, publication, etc would prefer to hire?
Someone who is going to put in their best effort to produce quality photographs, and ultimately help sell tickets, albums, and merch?
Or, someone who is merely interested in a free ticket for themselves, in exchange for a few photos?
Are you shooting for an artist? Then, talk about their performance, their tour schedule, etc.
Are you shooting for a venue? Then, talk about the venue, the crowd experience, the schedule of upcoming events, etc.
Are you shooting for a publication? Same again. Promote your client / sponsoring publication.
The more you help to elevate the users of your images (i.e., your client), the more likely they are to retain you for paid work.
Presumably, when you go into a shoot, you know what your client's / sponsor's objectives are. If not, then don't assume -- ask! You, as the photographer and fan, may want to photograph the performances, but perhaps, for example, crowd shots may be more important to your client when it comes to their marketing.
Sure, if you're there with a photo pass you will be photographing artists. But, if you really want to impress and tell a story, then make sure that what you are producing is what will provide the most value to your client.
You are not the hero of the story. Your client is.
So, I'll say it once more: It's not about you.
If you hone your craft and always strive to be the best that you can be, you can serve your client and still have as much fun as you had when you were offering your services for a free ticket and a drink voucher.
Wouldn't you rather get paid for what you do, and still get that ticket, probably a +1, and maybe two drink vouchers?
Want to learn more about photography, both the creative and business sides? DSP can help:
DSP Photography Instruction
Lead photo: Salvage Station - Asheville, NC
Middle photo: Pisgah Brewing Company - Black Mountain, NC
Bottom photos: Beech Mountain Resort - Banner Elk, NC