What is Music Photography?
Music Photography is a style of photojournalism that consists of the documentation of music and performance. There are a variety of music photographs to acknowledge before you know what is music photography is. This can be live with concert photography taking place in an arena, club or stadium. Music gigs tend to be in a local, smaller bar or club where you can get some amazing atmospheric photographs. Music festival photography often consists of multiple artists performing at one location over a few days. It is the photographer’s duty to capture key moments within these events and document memories throughout. The photographs are used in commercial and marketing use; providing content for artists, bands, fans and for the press to to look back.
Music Photography is an art form that tends to go unnoticed and even underappreciated. To be able to photograph energetic and moving subjects with changing light can prove extremely technically challenging. It takes a lot of practice to be able to master the technical necessities needed to become a music photographer. Consistently tracking multiple subjects so that you do not miss that ‘perfect shot’; frequently changing camera settings along with the strobe lights and feature lights throughout the performance is part of the job. This is to make sure your shots are not underexposed or overexposed. This can prove difficult and even take years to master; oh and don’t forget about focusing, only photographs that are sharp and in focus will be usable.
There are many skills needed to become a successful photographer besides technical ability. You need to understand additional skills such as composition and lighting. But most of all a level of artistic creativity and intuition is needed. To be able to turn a basic and mundane situation into something new and eye-catching is difficult. But you also must represent the aesthetic and emotion of the musician. This is something that all professional music photographers aim to produce in every shoot.
Why is Music Photography Important?
Hopefully, you now know what is music photography and understand the roles of a music photographer. However, you may ask. Why is music photography important? Why do we need music photographers? What is the purpose of becoming a music photographer?
Many skills are needed to be able to become a professional photographer; but why is music photography important? Why do we need music photography? Well the answer to that is simple, it is so that musicians can continue to make money.
Marketing is an extremely important role in any business. Without the correct marketing, you can’t expect anyone to find you or your work. For example; a band is putting together a small gig in a bar in Nottingham, UK. They have the venue, they have the instruments and the equipment, they have the songs. However, they need the audience to make any kind of profit from the event.
This is where marketing comes into play. All musicians market their performance and work in order for people to know about it. If work is kept quiet and not promoted well, then who will turn up? Successful marketing usually results in a successful turnout. The more people know about your music performance the more people will turn up; and what better way to promote your performance than with photographs. Photographs can showcase what to expect at a performance and catch the eye of the targeted audience.
Photography and marketing go hand in hand. Here are just a few examples to help you understand what is music photography and why is music photography important?
Commercial Music Photography
Photographs captured throughout music events or photoshoots with artists can be used in a large variety of platforms. One of these platforms that is arguably the most important is for commercial and marketing use. Professional photographers create content that is used by bands and artists to promote their future events and music.
By having professional photographs, artists can strongly promote their future tours with photography. Event photographs visually show their fans what to expect and experience. A music photographer is expected to document key moments within a performance to show a time that fans can expect to experience. Photographers will visually represent the style of music within their photography. The concept of the music can be portrayed through visual communication; this is done from the likes of an editorial photoshoot shot in a studio or on location. These photographs can be used on likes of posters, flyers, merchandise, ad boards and many more.
The billboard shown above is a marketing strategy from Spotify. The marketing strategy is for Kendrick Lamar’s song, promoting his newest music album at the time, ‘DAMN.’.
Within this marketing strategy, you see the photograph of famous rapper Kendrick Lamar. This photography was also used on the cover of his music album photography. A billboard is viewed by many people passing by. Some may decide to turn this music on after seeing the ad or some may simply acknowledge it. Either way, their marketing strategy works. Acknowledging the advert for Kendrick Lamar the viewer becomes familiar with the rapper, inviting one to listen to his music.
Music Photography on Album Covers
Music album photography plays an extremely large role in the music photography industry. When listening to music either digitally or physically, we see the use of photography. Yet many of us don’t acknowledge the photographer or even appreciate the photography on the music album. This is something that I have also done myself. The importance of music photography on album covers is essential. The cover of the album is what catches the viewer’s eye and encourages one to pick up this album. A photography cover should provide an insight into the style and concept of the music through visual communication.
‘DAMN. is an album rooted in God. The book of Deuteronomy, and trying to break the curse of damnation’ as stated in Yoh Phillips article. The concept of damnation within the album is also portrayed through photography. Reading the photograph we acknowledge that Kendrick Lamar is portrayed damned himself; his body posture and facial expressions all representation this meaningful concept. The cover created by Vlad Sepetov generated a lot of negative reactions towards the album cover. Sepetov then went to Twitter to express his thoughts on the album cover…
This expresses not only the technical knowledge of a photographer but also the conceptual and creative approach needed.
Most bands take a photographer on tour with them. Having tour photography for the band or artists provides fans with exclusive behind the scenes content. This helps to express the emotion, humanity and lifestyle of the artists to help fans connect with the artists. The majority of the time celebrities such as musicians are not always seen or even occasionally treated as humans; however, having a tour photographer allows fans to dive into the personal life; showing that these artists are down to earth and relatable. Psychologically people build a connection to those that they can relate to. By exploring the personal life of an artist represents them as human, allowing fans to relate to their idols.
It is a music photographer’s role to document the touring lifestyle; yet capturing the humanity of the artist. This will help fans to relate to them but also show that they are only humans who make music.
Music Photography and Social Media
Another platform that music photography is needed for is Social Media. Producing professional photographs for social media provides bands/artists with the opportunity to share their experience across the world.
Bands will normally tend to share a couple of shots for their tour photography or performance at a venue. An example of this would be a band performing in Nottingham, UK. Bands will share photographs of their performance in the region of Nottingham. The purpose of this is to reach their target audience in Nottingham. This will expand on their following and reach. This can be done by posting and promoting themselves in a specific location; resulting in them to be found by many more music fans expanding their fan base. If successful they may have the aims of performing at a larger venue the next time they perform in Nottingham. This use of social media is another method of marketing and expanding their fanbase through the medium of photography.
Fans have the opportunity to use this platform to share and look back on their time at a music event. By searching for and posting photographs were taken on the night fans can re-live the moment; This exposes the artist/band to more people. This follows the process of building a brand for the musician and allowing them to stand out online.
Music Photography within the Press
A large majority of music photography is used within the press. The press can consist of magazines and newspapers; these tend to include articles about new music releases, gig reviews, interviews with artists, the artist’s lifestyle and many more. I am sure you can guess what is included within these articles… yep, photographs. Photographs can help to visualise the moment. When reading along to an interview, it does help to be able to see the artist while reading; it is also refreshing and less tedious to be able to pause and look at a photograph when reading.
Here is an example of my work being used within the Press. This helped the reader visualise the concert while reading:
Music Photography Prints
Perhaps you have or had a printed photograph of a musician on your wall. These music photography prints can be used at home, in shops and cafes; and with modern technology, photographs are also used as social media banners, lock screens; I am sure there are many other ways to digitally present a photograph of an artist or band. An example would be one of my music photography prints that I have on my wall shown below:
I am sure that you are starting to understand the importance of a music photographer and their role. If you are to take anything from this blog it would be to acknowledge music photography and where it is used. You may begin to see the importance of music photography in your everyday life.
Conclusively a music photographer’s role is extremely important. They represent and help contribute towards a bands or musicians marketing strategy through the medium of photography. A photograph gives a musician the opportunity to express the style and concept of the music. At a glance, a photograph gives the artist or band the content needed to promote their tours, music, albums, interviews.