If you’re a freelance or young photographer who loves music, then concert photography is the perfect way to combine your passions. Here's how to get started.
Concert photography is a unique art, and since live music continues to be on the rise with countless festivals and artists touring the United States and the world, this is the best time to dive and learn how to become a concert photographer. While it is not easy to get started, you would be surprised how achievable it is to start taking photos of your favorite artists, even if you’re a high school or college student. The only things you need to get started are a professional camera (doesn’t have to be the most expensive or fanciest equipment), a photo editing program (we recommend Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop), and access to a city or town with a steady amount of shows.
Here’s how to get started as a concert photographer:
Research Music Publications
There are countless magazines, zines, blogs, and media channels that capture live music for their audiences. In fact, some of the biggest magazines in the world like Rolling Stone feature concert photography. If you’re reaching out to publications, it’s important to learn their content before you build out your concert schedule. Do they feature pop artists or do they focus more on rock? Do they want to discover new up-and-coming artists or are focused on the biggest stars? Knowing the publications that can give you access to concerts is important, so study them before reaching out. Otherwise, if you pitch an unrelated concert to a magazine, they may not only reject the petition but they might not be interested on working with you in the future.
Build a Concert Schedule
Before you can start reaching out to publications or touring agents, it’s important to get a scope of the concerts in your area. There are a lot of concert photographers located in major cities across the U.S. such as New York and Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cover concerts if you don’t live in a big city. Go to Song Kick or Seat Geek and start building out a schedule of concerts you’d like to attend. We recommend that you focus on artists that fit the publications you’re pitching, but also make sure you’re going to events that you’re interested in. There’s nothing worse than covering concerts that you do not enjoy.
Have a Portfolio
Now, if you’re just getting started, you won’t have a photography portfolio. That’s okay! Your portfolio doesn’t have to be concerts to get access to passes, but make sure you have something where publications can see your work. This can be you attending a super small concert and taking photos, shooting a friend or a local band with a small following, or even go to an event at your school or college and get some shots. You just want to show publications that you have previous work.
Some people think a portfolio can only be a website, but you can send a PDF with your best photos, or even an Instagram page. Just make sure that if you’re sending social media, it looks professional and appropriate for what you’re trying to do. If you send your instagram and all your photos are selfies, then most likely you’l be rejected.
Write an Email Template for PR Agents and Managers
We always think an email with your own domain (firstname.lastname@example.org) always sounds more professional, but it’s definitely not necessary to get access. When creating a pitch email to send to agents or publications, keep it short. These people get hundreds of emails per day, so the shorter and more to the point you can be, the better.
In the subject line, make sure to include the artist/band name, the venue, and the date. Then in the body, introduce yourself briefly, reinstate the artist, venue, and date you’re seeking a photo pass for, and include your portfolio. It’s important that you include what you need from the. Tickets are not the same as a photo pass. A ticket gives you access to a venue, a photo pass gives you access to use your camera during the show. If you already have tickets to a show, just request a photo pass, but if you don’t make sure to get both a photo pass and a ticket since you’ll need both.
Use Social Media for Inspiration
The best thing about concert photography is that you can get creative. Pinterest is a great place to find inspiration, both for angles and photo ideas, but also for editing. Instagram also has a large network of music publications and music photographers for you to follow. Slowly, you’ll begin to craft your own style for photos and editing, so don’t be afraid to try different things when you’re covering concerts.
Another great place to get inspired is your favorite artists' Instagram accounts. Most of them have a designated photographer when they go on tour, and you can see how this person captures every angle of their shows. It's also a good idea to find out who their photographer is, give them a follow, and support their work. Networking can be done in different ways in this industry, and supporting someone else's work can go a long way.
At Last, Email as Many People as Possible
Once you've established a solid schedule of artists coming through your town or city, and have crafted the best version of a portfolio you can show agents, it's time to send emails. Don't get discouraged if your emails receive rejections or no response at all; remember agents and managers are busy people, so that's why we recommend keeping subject lines and email copy brief and to the point. Tell them your name, what artist and show you're requesting a ticket and photo pass for, and give them a link to your previous work. In addition, reach out to small zines or publications in your town and offer to cover concerts for them. This is a great way to build a portfolio since these publications already have connections in the industry, and they'll always be on the search for content that their audience would enjoy.
Make sure to follow MUD on Instagram to learn more about the music industry.