Monday, August 8, 2011

Top 5 Coolest Things About Being a Band Photographer

Ever since I decided to become a band & musician photographer in Tampa (sometime in early 2010), I've noticed several things about this genre that I think are flat-out amazing, and definitely reaffirm for me that I've truly found my niche. Here are my top 5 coolest things:

  1. The Audience
    No, I'm not talking about the audience at your local rock concert.  I'm referring to the audience that will ultimately see the images you create.  The truth is, when you're a portrait or wedding photographer, your core audience will typically be limited to the folks who are actually in the images, and then maybe their friends and/or family.  In other words, if you post the images on Facebook, those are the only people who will ever really pay any attention. Now of course, if you happen to be talented (or lucky) enough to create breathtaking, truly magnificent images that are bona fide works of art, then perhaps the audience will extend beyond that.  But for most photographers, the audience is usually pretty limited.

    In the realm of band & musician promos, however, the audience is typically much bigger.  Not only do you get the friends & family of the artists themselves, but you also get the artists' fans as well.  For instance, when a high-profile artist posts one of your images on their Facebook fan page and suddenly hundreds of people get all googly-eyed over it and begin throwing out words like "epic" and "amazing", it can be quite a rush.  I honestly believe that inside most photographers (and artists in general) there's an inherent desire for other people's attention and admiration.  So the more eyeballs you get on your work, and the more positive comments you get, the better off your fragile ego will be.

  2. Suddenly You're A Commercial Photographer
    When I was just starting out in the world of professional photography, I'd shoot pretty much anyone who would hire me, and the only legal documents I ever had to worry about were things like model releases. But once I began shooting bands & musicians, I realized that the images I was creating were (in many cases) going to be used for commercial purposes-- in other words, things like CD covers, posters, hats, t-shirts, etc. Suddenly there was a need to add some additional legal contracts to my arsenal so that I could account for these changes and make sure that I was being fairly compensated for the images I was creating.

    So one of the things that's kinda cool about being a commercial photographer (besides the snazzy-sounding title) is that you can eventually begin charging a bit more for your work. Some photographers negotiate a percentage that they will receive on the sale of any item bearing one of their images. Others charge a flat fee, or simply build the additional cost into the price of the images themselves. No matter which methodology you ultimately choose, the bottom line is that if you become a commercial photographer, you have a legal right to negotiate a higher rate for your work.

    Of course, it goes without saying that if your work is average at best, then you just might have a wee bit of difficulty raising your rates. The world of commercial photography is highly competitive, and your lighting and post-processing skills need to be pretty outstanding to have much success. It's a constant battle to stay up with the latest trends and techniques, and it can be flat-out exhausting. Definitely not for the feint of heart, but to those who persevere, the rewards can be quite handsome.

  3. Partnering With Amazing People
    I have to say, I was very fortunate to meet lots of pretty cool folks back when I was shooting general portraiture, and some of them even ended up becoming good friends of mine. Obviously, you absolutely MUST have some solid people skills to be successful as a portrait photographer, and of course tons of patience. However, at the end of the day, my relationship with my previous clients used to be based predominantly around the business transaction at hand. In other words, I was really only there to help everyone feel as comfortable as possible, take a few pictures, and then deliver a completed final product some time later. Once that process was complete, all social and business obligations were considered fulfilled. Anything else was just a bonus.

    In the case of bands & musicians, however, the relationships I build almost always go much deeper. Part of the reason is the sheer amount of time we typically spend together planning out the creative direction for each shoot. Another factor is my own experience several years ago as a working musician, which helps to create instant rapport with most of my clients. I know exactly what it's like to be out there pounding the pavement trying to make a name for myself in the crazy world of music, and this typically allows me to enjoy an almost instant sense of familiarity and connectedness with the artists I shoot.

    But I think perhaps the biggest source of camaraderie and partnership that I feel with my musician clients is the fact that we're putting these images out there to represent both of our brands. In other words, we both have huge stakes in the images from a quality and "market appeal" standpoint, so we always go to great lengths to ensure that our efforts are as successful as they possibly can be. Of course, this typically involves lots of collaboration and sharing of ideas, which only tends to enrich our relationship further. When all is said and done, there's almost always a solid foundation on which to build a lasting friendship, and that's one of the things I love most about being a music photographer.

  4. Networking Opportunities
    Honestly, I think there are virtually limitless networking opportunities in pretty much any genre of photography, but when it comes to shooting big-name bands and musicians, there is a very tight "inner circle" that can be next to impossible to break into unless you know the right people. As with anything, it's all about who you know, and the lucky few who are out shooting A-listers for Rolling Stone aren't necessarily the ones with the most talent-- they're simply the ones who happen to know the right people in the inner circle.

    Thus far in my career as a commercial band photographer, I've noticed that people in this genre play things extraordinarily close to the vest. Unlike with portrait or wedding photography, where there are countless thriving forums filled to the brim with experienced professionals who are always willing to help the newbies out with a nugget of wisdom, it's next to impossible to find any actionable information on music photography. In fact, the only source of reliable information I've found to date is the School of Hard Knocks.

    However, in terms of networking, as you progress through a career in music photography you'll slowly begin to figure out who the "power players" are in your local scene. These are the folks who are extremely well-connected in the music community and have the ability to put you in front of the artists you really want to work with (or at least get you in touch with those who can). So if your work is pretty stellar, and you manage to befriend these kinds folks, then the sky's the limit in terms of what you can do. Heck, even if your work isn't all that stellar, knowing the right people can still pay hefty dividends (see above).

    I've been quite blessed to meet some pretty amazing people thus far in my journey. A couple of the artists I've shot recently are on the verge of blowing up on a national level, and when that happens, it'll also open up new doors for me. So the networking opportunities in this genre are actually pretty minute you could be shooting what you think is a pretty typical client, and then before you know it your work is being looked at by people in that vaunted "inner circle". It can happen that fast, so you gotta make sure you're pouring everything you've got into each and every shoot-- you never know when your moment will come.

  5. Endless Possibilities
    I got my first DSLR as a birthday gift less than 3 years ago. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about photography, and never could have foreseen the impact it would eventually have on my life. But even when I incorporated my business in December of 2008, and set out to be the best [baby, maternity, family, fashion, glamour, whatever] photographer on the block, this was always destined to be a side project and could never replace the income from my primary day job. There was just no way that I could ever dream of walking away from a "guaranteed" paycheck for something so speculative.

    Flash forward to a few weeks ago, when an artist management company flew me up to New York City to photograph two rising Christian artists, and my perspective on things quickly began to change. Suddenly the idea of leaving my day job to pursue a career in photography didn't seem so out of the question. If things continue on this path, I may eventually get to a point where it's an actual topic for consideration, which just seems crazy to even think about. Even though I've still got a long ways to go, just knowing that my hard work and determination might eventually lead me down that path is enough to keep me swinging for the fences.

So there you have it-- my top 5 coolest things about being a band photographer. Can you relate with anything I've mentioned? Do you have any questions about something I haven't mentioned? Please sound off below and share your thoughts!

Also, please take a moment to check out my band & musician portfolio site,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Band Photos and Musician Promos and Tampa Music Photography-- Oh My!

Over the past few months I've completely refocused my business on band & music photography in Tampa. It was a natural progression for me, being an aspiring professional musician for many years through my teens and twenties, and it represents a perfect blend of my two biggest artistic passions in life. What's more, shooting band & musician promos, CD covers, magazine photos, etc. plays perfectly into what I believe to be my strengths as a photographer-- namely lighting and post-production (Photoshop). It's a match made in heaven, and I couldn't be happier.

With that said, I've given lots of thought to how I might be able to leverage this blog for the betterment of the photography community moving forward. After all, I've devoted a good chunk of my life to developing it and filling it with [hopefully] valuable content, so I certainly don't want to just walk away and completely abandon it. At the same time, I now have a brand new website/blog to manage, so I'm gonna have to develop a solid posting strategy to ensure that I can handle the load.

To that end, I'd appreciate it if you'd sound off with a comment below to let me know what you'd like to see me focus on moving forward. If you'd like me to continue posting my latest work here, along with before & afters and behind-the-scenes info, just say so. On the other hand, if you'd prefer to see content of a more technical nature, such as lighting and post-production tips, let me know that as well. I'm a firm believer in the concept of "pay it forward", so I'm here to serve you and help you in any way I can. But as they say, help ME help YOU. :)

Lastly, I'd truly appreciate it if you'd take a moment to check out something that's truly near and dear to my brand new music photography website, Tampa Band Photos. Please blow it sky high with comment love and help me get off to a great start. Thanks everyone, and I look forward to your feedback! :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Extreme Makeover: BAND EDITION

Are you a musician, band member, DJ, or producer? If so, do you need some world-class promotional images to take you straight to the top?  Of course you do.

Well, you're in luck-- I'm giving away a package worth over $2000 in the very near future. All you gotta do to enter is post a picture on my Facebook fan page wall by October 24th at midnight.

Complete contest details, along with several examples of my work are here:

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Before & After, Episode 17

Here’s another great example of the sheer power of Photoshop, and a case where a little bit of forward thinking on my part really paid dividends once the shooting was complete.  If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you already know that when I’m commissioned to produce promo images for a band, I almost always shoot each band member separately in the studio.  It allows me to work within the confines of my relatively small studio space, and affords me much greater latitude in post-production.  But here’s a case where I took things a step further….

When I was originally planning this shot, I decided that it might look really nice if there were a gorgeous sunset behind the band, and I knew I could accomplish this later in Photoshop with a reasonable amount of effort.  However, I also knew that folks with sunsets at their backs tend to have an orange “rim light” that appears along the edges of their clothing and hair, and this, on the other hand, is *extremely* difficult to simulate in Photoshop.  So I knew that I’d have to find some way to produce an orange rim light around each person in order for the final composite to be believable.  As you’ll see from the “before” shots, I accomplished this by placing a strobe behind each person….but the key is that I placed a full CTO gel onto each strobe to color the light orange.  If you look closely, you can see that this does in fact give the resulting light the appearance of a sunset.

Using Photoshop CS5’s new Refine Edge tool (which, by the way, is an absolute godsend for digital compositors— I hardly ever have to rely on channel masks anymore), I extracted each band member from their respective original shot, and placed them all into a new blank document.  I then dropped in a new sky with a nice glowing sunset, and proceeded to really increase the light intensity in the sun area by applying a Levels adjustment with a radial gradient mask.  I also increased the lightness levels along the sides of the two band members’ faces who are standing right in front of the sun.  Next I added an artificial lens flare to really drive home the effect.  I also had to add a couple of shadows, since band members standing that close to one another would undoubtedly cast a shadow on the adjacent person.  I dropped the exposure of the bottom quarter of the image to draw the viewer's eyes upward where they need to be.  There were LOTS of local contrast adjustments along with the usual dodging and burning, and finally I introduced a slight orange color cast to the entire image with a warming photo filter.

Here are the before shots. Notice the light stand on the floor behind each band member (with the full CTO gel, as previously discussed).

individual band members

And here is the final composite, complete with all of the adjustments mentioned above:

Tampa band promo glorysound

Your comments—good, bad, or indifferent—are always deeply appreciated.  And of course don’t forget to Like/Share!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How To Create a "Share Us" Tab on Your Facebook Fan Page

Ever since being featured in Mari Smith and Michael Stelzner's webinar, "9 Companies Doing Facebook Right (And What You Need to Know)", I've seen a surge of activity on my Facebook fan page, and most new fans seem to be particularly interested in how I created my "Share Us!" tab.  So in lieu of sending PMs to each person who asks for help (which is what I've been doing thus far), I decided to go ahead and post my entire FBML code here for all the world to see. 

As I mentioned in my recent interview on the Composure Marketing Blog (be sure to check that out if you're interested in learning about the social media strategies I've used to grow nearly 1500 fans on my Facebook page), I'm not a web developer by trade.  And since Facebook is constantly changing the way FBML and fan pages work, my code generally needs to be "touched up" fairly regularly.  With that said, below is the way my code looks at the time of this writing.

Before we jump right in, however, there are a couple of key points worth mentioning.  First off, you'll need to generate a custom/alias URL that points to your fan page's main address, because using anything with "" in it will will yield errors when folks actually try to use your Share tab (it has something to do with the fact that Facebook's domain has been blacklisted by anti-spam companies).  I used to create my alias, but feel free to use whichever service you prefer.  Once you've done that, just plug in your custom URL wherever you see "YOUR PAGE ADDRESS" below, paying special attention to the quotes (don't add any or take any away from what's already there).  And of course replace anything else in RED letters with your own info.  Here's the code I currently have on my "Share Us!" tab:

" />'
actiontext="What you want the invitation to say-- e.g. Check out my super-awesome page"

Naturally, in order to be able to use the above code, you'll need to have the Static FBML application installed on your page.  Check out this great Custom Landing Page tutorial on Mari Smith's blog if you need help.  Alternatively, a quick Google search for "install Static FBML" will yield plenty of step-by-step tutorials as well.  It's really not very difficult at all....just a few steps.

Please click "Like" and leave a comment below if you found this code helpful, or if you have any additional questions about the methods I used to design my page. Thanks!

About Me

My photo
Tampa, FL, United States
I'm a commercial photographer in Tampa, FL specializing in band & musician promos, CD covers, press kits, posters, and the like. Please feel free to check out my website/blog using the link below, and give me a shout if I can be of service to you!

Search My Blog