Music Photography Blog

by Adam Elmakias

Tyler, The Creator at Coachella 2018 - photographed with a Sony a7R III - Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art - Sigma MC‑11 Mount Converter

How To Get Started As A Music Photographer

I think the two most popular questions I get are…. “how to get started as a music photographer?” and “What are some tips or tricks you can give me to be a better photographer?” I don’t really have a problem with the questions. Well, I kind of do. I think they are great questions, but I don’t think the people the ask them really want the answer I have.

For example if I were to tell someone how I got started as a music photographer it would be a story of how I went to concerts and met a bunch of bands and was really inappropriately intrusive into their lives until they took me on tour cause I gave them no other option but to be my friend… haha. And what will they do with that info? Say okay? I just really don’t think its valuable to learn from, just fun to know info, if that is what you are into. I don’t think that is really what they want to know.

And tips and tricks? I usually just say keep shooting, cause its such a broad question so I have to give a broad answer otherwise I would just type for days on tips and tricks… Anyway back to my point.

When someone asks me “How did you get started as a music photographer?”. What they are actually saying to me is “I am not quite sure how to get my photography career moving, can you tell me about yours and maybe I can use the same, or a similar method to get mine going”. And  “What are some tips or tricks you can give me to be a better music photographer?” Translates into roughly I don’t even know enough about photography yet to be able to ask you a proper question about something specific.

First of all, these are both perfectly okay things to ask! I asked them a lot too. They are just so hard to answer on the fly, or maybe I think too much. So, I am going to take the time now to answer the first one, with exactly what I think people want to know, but they aren’t quite sure how to ask. Or maybe its on me, and I just need to do a better job understanding people. I’ll have to answer the second one some other time, cause that is a lot of typing haha. Then again, these are all kind of tips and tricks too, I suppose?

group picture from 2008
find me in a vest – back in 2008

Getting started in music photography is very similar to getting your career going in most areas of photography.  At least I think so? Or at least what my friends have told me about their career has shown me this. Then again, I could just be friends with all the people who this worked for… who knows. Moving on!

Create Luck

What the heck does that even mean? It means something like this. Let’s say I want to be… a music photographer. Haha. Cool, on paper it sounds sweet – when I tell people I want to be one – sounds cool. But how do you actually go about being one. I call it creating luck.

Figuring out situations, or events, or choices that move you in the direction of your goal, even just the slightest bit. These small choices will add up over time and eventually create some kind of *right place at the right time* career options.

So for me it was go to a lot of concerts, meet a lot of people, do photo shoots with them, befriend their managers, work other managers bands, shoot them, reach out to publications, talk with them, send them my photos. I didn’t know it at the time, but all these things helped, they all created opportunities, or what some people translate into luck.

And I am okay with people telling me I am lucky. I don’t think it is a reflection of a lack of effort, even though people often try to imply this. I take it as a compliment in one of the best ways possible. Its hard to be lucky on purpose! But I think with a little luck, anyone can do it.

Be Available

I always made every job offer work the best I could, especially when starting out. If someone wanted to take senior photos. I made time. Photos of your dog, I got you. Just be available, ready to work, and ready to meet new people.

Networking Is Key

It is great to become a better photographer, but I think you can learn about that on the way. The most important thing to master as soon as possible is networking. Which basically boils down to meet people, don’t be a dick, and have good intentions.

Its important you know people, but also important that they know you. You will get most of your jobs from people you know. When I started out it was my moms dance group photos, or my friends at school, or my buddies in bands.

Next it was the friends of friends, the bands managers other band, or people that had seen me at concerts. From there I became friends with those people, and the chain just continues and eventually you can’t stop it.

Cody and I
My friend Cody

Be Open Minded

A lot of things are going to come your way. A lot of new things. Be open to them, learn from them, go with the flow. I don’t really know where I am going with this.

Focus On The Positive

This is very important. When something bad happens, see what you can learn from it. No need to focus on what went bad, tweet about it, get stuck on it, just move on, forget about it. I honestly can’t even remember all the bad things, partly cause there is so many and also because I just forget them. I actually have been meaning to write them down cause they make great stories, but no need to dwell.

Don’t Think Too Much

It can get distracting. Just focus on being productive and moving forward.

Think Too Much

Then again, sometimes its nice to think stuff through.

Do you & Be You

If you are a good person, with good intentions, good values and a genuine kindness to everyone you meet – you will go far in any career based on networking. More importantly, in this world. People like real people and I throughly believe that if you are your best self when you are yourself.

Ryan Flemming and I
be youslef

I think that that is how I got started as a music photographer, and this can be how you got started too. These ideas are the same ones that I thought along the way and did, its my current me thinking back to how I operated and how people told me I operated that I feel determined my career. I didn’t decide I wanted to be a photographer and then make a bunch of conscious decisions that led me here, I just went with the flow. I do think its good to know where you want to end up.

So for example – a music photographer. However don’t decide the path ahead of time, just make the best of what you have and keep doing that over and over, eventually you will get there – and probably with your own badass story and path that I would love to hear about when we meet inevitably in a photo pit where we can barely hear each other scream.

Keep crushing it, we are all rooting for you.  Well, at least I am. But I know your friends are too.