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How To Become a Concert Photographer (Step-by-Step Guide)

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photographers taking picture on concert

Regardless of the type of music being played, concerts are unanimously loved by almost everyone. Those who attend music events enjoy the feeling of the bass rumbling through their bodies, singing along to their favorite tunes, watching incredible light shows, and belonging to a community of people with similar interests. For many, concerts are an oasis of uninterrupted inspiration and a way to refresh the soul with music. 

Music events can even trigger emotions in audiences that aren’t experienced often, making for profound spiritual experiences that can be captured on camera. However, these events can be challenging to capture due to their nature, which includes low lighting, glare, distracting lasers, and pushy crowds.

Nevertheless, being a concert photographer is rewarding and a great way to capture unforgettable moments. Capturing the energy of a crowd in a high-quality format is a unique and acquired skill, but anyone can learn to be an excellent concert photographer. Let’s take a look at the steps necessary to succeed as a concert photographer so that you can start capturing the transformative moments that concertgoers all over the world experience.

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Before You Start

Concert photography is all about timing, technique, and unparalleled creativity. Concert photographers are in high demand, and entering the field can be highly competitive, albeit rewarding. One of the major hurdles people face is finding events to shoot.

Without a portfolio or dedicated client list, gaining access to a concert for photography reasons alone can be challenging. As a result, you should start by photographing events you’re interested in going to and upload your best shots to a tangible log. Eventually, you’ll be able to secure photo and media passes that give you unescorted access through the crowd and stage for the best shots.

How To Become a Concert Photographer (Step-by-Step Guide)

1. Start Shooting at Small Local Shows

woman using camera
Image By: Piqsels

An easy way to get your name out there is to start by shooting small, local shows. Generally, these events tend to be less competitive, and some bands may not have photographers at all. Not only does this help you practice and build your portfolio, but it can also lead to a mutually beneficial relationship where the band gets some exposure.

Start by checking your local listings to see what shows are available. In some cases, you can contact the band directly, but likely, you’ll have to go through the venue or booker. However, it is important to note that these gigs may be unpaid or pay very little. Nevertheless, small events make way for more opportunities by allowing you to build your profile and eventually get better gigs.

2.  Acquire Photo Passes to Larger Shows

photographer taking picture on fasion show
Image Credit: sirtravelalot, Shutterstock

As a concert photographer, unrestricted access to the stage and venue is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to face. Access is paramount for letting your creativity soar, and acquiring a photo pass is your ticket to getting up close and personal with your favorite band. Generally, photo passes are printed credentials that identify you to security and venue staff as a media photographer.

It may be a laminated card on a lanyard, a wristband, sticker, or t-shirt and is usually delivered in the days prior to the event. As a photographer, you will have to deal with the artist’s publicist or media head, which provides you valuable access to their client in exchange for press coverage.

Photo passes are essential because most large venues have restrictions on what photography equipment can be brought into the crowd. With a photo pass, however, you have an all-access pass that lets you drag as much of your fancy equipment as you want. Usually, you will have to go through the artist’s promoter or publicist to acquire a photo pass.

It is in the promoter’s best interest to hire photographers that will provide positive coverage of the artist in order to promote their tour or album better. As such, it may be difficult to obtain a pass without a portfolio of impressive work. The best way to obtain a photo pass is to show the promoter what value you provide to them.

3. Network With Various Publishers

photographer infront of computer
Image By: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

One of the most foolproof ways to acquire a photo pass is by shooting for a reliable publication. Usually, your publisher is in charge of getting gigs for you and has a network of contacts. Larger venues usually hire publishing companies to source concert photographers, and associating yourself with one early is critical.

Big publications will have the most resources, but small publications such as blogs and music magazines can also provide you with great opportunities. Connecting with a publisher is important, and developing a portfolio early and networking with promoters, publicists, artists, and other photographers is a great way to get your foot in the door.

4. Start a Photography Blog

photographer taking pictures
Image By: sergey causelove, Shutterstock

Starting a photography blog is a great way to stay relevant and provide opportunities for publishers and artists to connect with you. Photography blogs allow you to cover events, talk about photos you admire, review your favorite equipment, post personal work, share outtakes, discuss challenges, and link to the content in your portfolio.

Thankfully, building a blog is easy, and you can find free programs that help you build your own. Just be sure to update your content regularly, share it with people you meet, and promote your pages on social media for the most exposure.

5. License Your Photos

photographer holding camera
Image By: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

Licensing your photos is an excellent way to ensure your work is protected. Incredible photos are hard to come by and valuable for promoting an artist. Generally, licensing your photos comes as part of an agreement with a publication and should always be a topic of discussion with any clients. This step is necessary for becoming an established concert photographer and one of the keystones to setting up a fruitful career.

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Concert photography may seem intimidating, but if you have a passion for photography and music, it can lead to a satisfying and rewarding career. Getting started as a professional concert photographer is the hardest part, with plenty of networking, portfolio-building, and dedication to your craft standing in the way. However, once you get your name out there and start building an impressive portfolio, it will become easier to land better gigs at huge stadiums, amphitheaters, arenas, and music festivals.

Everyone has to start somewhere, with most in-demand photographers beginning their careers in small nightclubs and local events. If you’re dedicated to photography, love the energy of concert environments, and aren’t afraid to reach out and network with others, concert photography can be a lucrative and fulfilling side gig or full-time job.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.