Episode 2 has three of your questions answered and covers topics including bullying in the photo pit, how to make money in today’s photography environment, and how to find what you’re good at. If you missed last week’s episode, it’s available here.
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Episode 2 – Bullying, money and variety in photography
I’ve been shooting a few concerts lately. How, in your experience, did you make the move from hobbies to being able to make a living from it? – Sent from Nathan Goldsworthy
Its really hard to make a living at the moment. My goal is always to contribute positively within the industry. Whether that’s to bands or emerging photographers. When I started it was just to bands. When I was bullied, I knew I could make a positive change. That takes up time and effort to create content to help. Whether it’s a photo of a band or resource for emerging photographers. So I have a day job too – digital marketing. Fortunately, it’s flexible and allows me to tour and helps keep my rent paid. I only shoot for certain bands because of my commitment to contribute to the industry. So I might not be the best example. Many of the bands I work with are far too hard working for me to take money from in good faith. We all do it hard. I have the mentality that we win as a team and we lose as a team. But the band always gets paid first because people come to see them, not me the photographer. But how I do cover travel costs is through sponsorship, print sales or venue or record label budgets. Basically, I break even. I actively resist profit until the band gets paid. I dont want to be a haemorrhaging cost to them when I know its hard enough as it is. They work 8 hours a day to put on a show, not 30 minutes they’re on stage for. If I didn’t have the day job working in marketing I would be able to make a profit because I’d have more time. Maybe its the marketer in me. But the key is to think creatively.
The money you need isn’t in the pockets of the musicians. There’s so much money out there, and you need to think creatively to get it. I can’t tell you exactly what that creative outlet is because I don’t know your specific circumstance. But I think you’re going to hit a brick wall thinking the only option is from the band’s budget. I get a fair bit of hate for that viewpoint of not wanting to take money from my friends or bands I work with. But I don’t feel right about it when I can think of other ways and am happy to put in the work to get it. There’s a small group of photographers who unfortunately cyberbully me pretty hardcore because I make it hard for them to charge bands money. But Im not aware of one instance where I was chosen because I was being paid from a budget other than the bands. Sometimes my travel is paid for by sponsorship, venue or print revenue. It all comes down to demand at the time for whatever you’re offering. Create the demand! Sure, I could take money from sponsorship, venue or print revenue and then turn around and ask the band for money too. But I just don’t feel right about it. They’re my friends and for some of them its hard for some of them to make money in the industry too. And for the others who are fortunate enough to make money, they show their appreciation at the end of the tour in whatever financial volume they can. But Im not going to make my friends go without a few meals so I can have some meals when I am getting money from sponsorship or somewhere else. That’s just double dipping and unethical in my opinion. Until things change, budgets are tight because there are so many photographers out there that they don’t have to pay them because someone else is willing to do it for free. But that’s also because the band never asked for the photography, so why would they pay for something they don’t actively need to fill a hole?
Unless the band are unreasonable, if its them that want the service, they will pay. They’ll pay because they want your work bad enough to pay you. As in they want YOUR work. I’d love to photograph for Kanye West. But he hasn’t seen my work or doesn’t like it enough to want me bad enough to pay me to travel with him. Thats what it comes down to. If my work was good enough he probably would see it so its definitely because its not good enough. But anyway I know this is the case. That bands ask photographers they specifically want to go on tour because they want their specific style of photography enough. I’ll be super clear – I’ve been on tours I didn’t plan being on. As in I never asked them to be on it. Because I didn’t know the band as friends, not because they were jerks. They were super nice! But I charged them my day rate for each date and was fair but inflexible. I didn’t have any sponsorship arrangements in place and didn’t have any signed prints to cover travel. So they had to pay my day rate, and they did. So anyone saying that others are the reason they’re finding it hard to get paid needs to refocus on themselves. Its each of our responsibilities for our personal businesses. But there is enough money out there for everyone to win. We just need to have our business think creatively enough to get it. And stop targeting bands who never actively asked for the photos because they would play regardless. I gave an interview to ABC the other day about official photographers. Landscape needs to change and allow emerging photographers to come up with emerging bands. Then the traditional ‘payment for services rendered’ can be a reality. I think its possible and until then, creative thinking is the way to get ahead and make a living from music photography. Its what sets you apart I think. I hope that line of thinking helps! Hit me up in DM or email if you want to chat through your creative idea privately
How to handle derogatory remarks about your age/gender in the photo pit? It tends to be more comments from old guys suggesting you’re only doing it to be a groupie etc, but I had an experience the other day where I had an AAA pass and another girl had a photo pass yet we were both told we weren’t allowed to be in the pit at all? Yet the other person in the pit who happened to be a guy was allowed wherever he wanted and we found out after the show he had gotten in trouble because we were apparently following him into the pit. Like no we were just there to do our job. – Sent in by Lucy Burton
This kind of thing is disappointing. Bullying is a big problem in the industry. Sexism is a big problem within the community. Unfortunately, it’s not just specific to our industry. But it does impact our industry all the same. If someone speaks to you like that about you being a groupie or anything, tell them to fuck off. That kind of behaviour is never tolerated. Then get back to shooting because while they’re talking trash. They’re not shooting. So stay one step ahead and let their negatively wash over you and become their downfall. Bitter people always lose. I forget that sometimes too. But remember they are targeting you because they are jealous of something. I know its hard to remember but this is schoolyard politics. And unfortunately some people just never grow up. Or they do and they become sexist pigs like you’re speaking about. But its bullying all the same. The best way to win is to tell them to fuck off. Then focus on what you’re there to do and show them that their negative energy will not hold you down. It won’t stop you from creating something great with their discriminatory views. As for the photographer walking around, there could be a few reasons. They could be a house photographer. They could be well known to staff that they are the photographer for the band. Just could be, I’m playing devils advocate. I could see how someone would say that about me at Crowbar. Because people know me there, but I couldn’t do it at another venue. Someone would stop me thinking I’m some kind of overbearing photographer who doesnt know proper etiquette. So that’s a possibility and another perspective. Dont know if it was the specific reason because I dont know the venue youre speaking about specifically. But hope it helps. And dont forget, bullies can fuck off. They’re jealous of something you have and want to make you doubt yourself. Think positively and keep shooting, and if you need to vent – hit me up and I can remind you of your worth to the industry
If you want to dip your toe in, how do you start? – Sent in by Kelly Ann Stoo
It depends on the circumstance. What do you want to shoot? I think a mistake people make is just trying to shoot what they want to shoot. But how do you know you aren’t good or enjoy something else. I would do a google of genres of photography and then try each. Find out what you like and then practice really hard at your shortlist. I had no idea I would love food photography or macro photography. But after I tried so many different genres. I found I loved them! So you have to stay open minded. Then its all trial and error. I never spent a dollar on my photography education. Its my personal preference to not. I learn best through YouTube, podcasts, Vimeo, articles. Things that I can control the pace of. But some people prefer a classroom or training session environment. Just dont discount how much information there is out there. All part of keeping an open mind I guess!
Thanks for the questions, everyone! I know I didnt get through them all. But theres always next episode!
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