Thursday, March 26, 2009

Band Photography - A Survival Guide

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  1. I rejected yet another offer of a photo credit "payment" today.

    I cited paying bills; they offered me a CD.

    (The band is very bad.)

  2. Anonymous5:44 AM

    Great post! You lay it out there straight and take some of the mystique out of how one progresses from being an unpaid fan photographer to a professional who can buy food.

    The only bit I strongly disagree with is, "Professional digital camera - $2k-5k (needs replacing every couple years)". You can get a Canon EOS 50D for about $1100. Now maybe that's not professional enough for your standards, but I reckon you could take some seriously sellable and publishable shots with that camera. I'd even say you could do it with it's less expensive smaller cousin, the EOS 450D. You could also do it with either of their grandparents, the 20/30/40D and 300/350/400D models. A solid camera body not only can be had for less money these days, but I don't think it needs to be replaced as often as you suggest. Now that the 5D mkII is out, you can get the original 5D cheaper, too, at $2,000 - the low end of your range.

    With any of these cameras, I'd much sooner buy new lenses than upgrade the body. That said, of course, a body upgrade is necessary from time to time, but it should be the least frequent bit of kit to be replaced.

  3. Rachel - I don't think you lost out. This wasn't discussed in the piece but there is a lot of leeway where you draw the line.

    Sometimes a diplomatic solution that I try is to offer low res photos with a watermark for use on their gallery page or myspace. As of now, web usage is not valued. (I hope that as internet media develops and more and more content is exclusively on the web that this will change) If you can get a link to your site, then sometimes that's enough of a win-win. But I would still restrict any distribution of the image.

  4. Dave -

    I totally agree, great photos are made by great photographers, not by expensive cameras.

    However a couple points:
    A cell phone camera can take a 'sellable' and 'publishable' photo now. (See the photo of the plane landing in the Hudson that ran on every front page in the country)
    Where you set your technical standards should be a matter of personal vision. Sadly, the technical and creative quality of work seen on almost every major music blog is pretty awful. You've got to set your own standard.

    plus - There are very few cameras that handle low light well enough to be able to work in a wide range of situations:

    In the Nikon and Canon family for example -
    D3 - $4500
    D700 - $3000
    5D mark 2 - $2700
    (A friend just picked up a 5D for an even grand, excellent camera too)

    But, not to geek out here - the real problem is not which camera (I shot a ton on a D70 before climbing up the ladder) but the Photographer not understanding his/her overhead.

    If you are working a good day job, got a decent camera for xmas and are now running around the city shooting and giving everything away for 'free', then you are NEVER going to realize the fantasy of giving up your day job to be a rocknroll photographer - and in the meantime you will be undercutting the working photographer AND fanning the flame of the expectation of free work from the bands and the magazines.

    but again, the cost/size/prestige of your camera is largely irrelevant to the creative process of making great images.

  5. I just googled.
    "If I shoot a band and the band appear in a magazine whos pays the photographer?"

    Thank you, I think you have just answered a Q thats been bugging me for some time.

    Ive been a family portrait 'tog for a few years, but I'm looking to change direction and shoot music photography.

    As I'm just shooting up and coming bands at the moment, who if they are lucky will get an "Introducing" feature in a mag, I did wondered how I got paid for this. I am charging the band, but I did also wonder if I should invoice the mag' for a usage fee?

    Hmm, gets confusing?

    In a nutshell:

    If I shoot for the band, the band pays me, and I sort out usage rights with them.
    If I'm lucky enough to get comissioned by a magazine the mag' pays me.
    If I shoot, ad hoc, for example back stage at a gig, then maybe offer the images for sale to both/either the band or art editors?

    Thank you, great blog.