10 essential tips for live music photographers

Categories: Art
Photo by Erik Hess
This is probably too close. Taken at SXSW, where photographer etiquette is a foreign concept.
Live music photography is hard work, and it's even harder to thrive while doing it. Lining up a quality shot is part of the equation, but a good concert photographer must also have a clue.

We recently profiled 20 of the best Twin Cities music photographers, and asked each for "dos and don'ts" for attaining success and respect in their field. Their answers are illuminating, and provide a helpful guide for anyone considering starting a life in the pit. Here are their words distilled into 10 essential tips.

10. Be Passionate, Not Greedy

Dan Corrigan: Do it because you love it. There are so many photogs willing to give away their work for free that making a living at it is next to impossible.

David McCrindle: Do it because it's your passion. Don't do it for the money. A decent body and a good fast lens is a major investment and it's tough to recoup those costs exclusively through music photography.

Kasey Jean Noll: Don't give up. People will try to say you're not as good as so and so, and hey you don't have x amount of "likes." The value of your work can only be decided by you. At the end of the day, if you don't love your work, do the research, practice, and try again.

Emily Utne: Be prepared to work for free or very little money. You have to love what you do and be willing to work really hard. If you let your passion shine through you will stand out.

Erik Hess: Don't expect anything, earn it.

9. Invest in High-Quality Gear

Stacy Schwartz: Buy prime lenses. Learn how to shoot with primes before investing in zoom lenses. I'd recommend a 50mm f/1.4 lens. That's what I started with and learned on and almost every music photographer has one in their bag.

Erik Hess: Insure your gear. Rent to test before you buy. Buy only when you can pay cash. Your gear is assured to die a valiant death: budget for repairs (it's always more expensive than you think).

8. Create an Identity

David McCrindle: Start a blog and challenge yourself to post daily. I'm self-taught and used my blog to gain exposure but more importantly to learn. Opening myself up to a daily critique put me on the fast track to becoming a better photographer.

Nate Ryan: Find people you trust to give critical feedback on your photos, and use that to evolve your work.

Emily Utne: Think about what you are putting out there with your name on it. Google your name and see what comes up in an image search. Control what you want your image to be. I am still learning this. There is always a separation between the work you are doing, and the work you WANT to be doing. Stay focused and organized, and you can get there.

Adam DeGross: Do your own thing, don't compromise your vision. Stick with it, because eventually it will pay off.

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