I often get emails from photographers asking for advice, or to do portfolio reviews or critiques on their images. While I can't always respond to each individual request for feedback, I recently got an email with a simple request for advice. The aspiring photographer wrote to me:
My dream is to become a tour photographer, but I have no idea how to do it.
This sentiment is something that I get emailed about very often, so I thought I'd post my response. My advice isn't the kind of advice directing them to management companies or anything of the sort — rather, I suggest a few simple things they can do that I think would help any young, aspiring photographer whose passion is photographing musicians.
Here's my email response:
My best advice is to immerse yourself in making photos — fall in love with photography. Go to shows, bring your camera. Contact bands who are coming to your city, even bands who are playing smaller venues or bands opening up for larger acts. The smaller the band, the better access you're likely to get. Reach out saying you'd like to photograph their show. If they're up for it, hang out with them while they're in your city and offer to show them around. Shoot sound check and load in, what they're doing on the bus or van.
These can be small bands no one has heard of. The important thing is that you build up a portfolio. As you become more comfortable working with artists, and as your portfolio grows, start approaching larger bands and their management about shooting. Go out for a weekend at first with a young band.
All the while, shoot as much as possible. It doesn't have to be just music — photograph your friends, photograph your life.
I hope this helps. Good luck, but more importantly, have fun.
So there you have it — my advice to an aspiring tour photographer. If you're a young photographer, this is my simple and best advice: fall in love with photography first. Surround yourself with music and your scene, and you'll be on the right path.
Tour photography starts with music photography, and more importantly, just photography. To capture the life of a band on tour and on the road, it means being able to form a rapport with your subjects, knowing when to shoot as much as how, and so many other factors. These are skills for any photographer, and the best part is that you can practice these kinds of universal skills simply by shooting as much as possible around your friends and bringing photography into your own life before you bring it into a band's.
Have Advice for New Music Photographers?
Have your own advice for young photographers who want to pursue live music as their subject? Have your say in the comments section.