Some common misconceptions about music photography

'You need to study photography to be a photographer'

Studying is awesome and very beneficial for many reasons, and I highly recommend it. I know for sure that if I'd studied photography my learning curves with certain things wouldn't have been nearly so steep, and I probably would have saved myself many, many hours of frustration having to figure things out for myself in the beginning. There have even been occasions since becoming a professional photographer where I've considered taking up proper courses, but money/time etc.  I have never studied photography or taken lessons from anyone. I've taught myself. And I think I've done okay.  And if I can do it so can anyone else. So do you absolutely HAVE to study photography to become a photographer...?

'You need a really expensive camera to take good photos'

I'd say not particularly true, but the more money you invest in camera equipment the better the capabilities of that equipment and the better that equipment will perform for you. Spend as much as you can afford at the time on a decent DSLR and accessories. My first camera I actually liked and used for the first 5 years of shooting music was a Canon 30D...more a mid-entry level camera than a professional one, and I had quite a few photos taken on it published in magazines, in CD artwork and on merchandise etc. Weirdly my most expensive camera (£3k worth of Canon 5D mark II and lenses) has been sitting gathering dust for nearly 2 years while I shoot everything on the much cheaper 80D I now have, which I love.

'Easy, it's just clicking a button'

While you could probably argue that taking a photo IS just clicking a button, photography, as an art and a career, is rather more in-depth than this on so many levels, so it is a little ridiculous, and can be quite frustrating, when someone says this to you with any amount of conviction and belief. It's happened a few times to me. We know though don't we, we know.

'Music photography is so glamorous!'

Public perception of it being 'a glamorous job' has aided in making it ever popular amongst creatives, but I'm not sure how glamorous it actually is spending hours in hot, sweaty venues dressed in jeans and a band tee, constantly pushing your damp hair out of your eyes, rivers of sweat dripping down your back, with your entire focus (while you wade in warm bodies) being on waiting for and hopefully getting that one golden shot of someone in the band doing something utterly amazing. It's exciting though for sure. Photo and video shoots are perhaps a little more glamorous but I'm not sure any female photographer ever has rocked up to a shoot wearing full makeup, evening wear and heels. Maybe I'm wrong. That would be HELLA glamorous.

'Bet you get to hang out with rock stars all the time'


I'd be fibbing if I said I haven't, and don't, get to meet and have made friends with some awesome talented musicians I admire a lot, and who no doubt many would regard as 'rock stars'. It really isn't a regular, every day thing at all though. Honestly, once you've met people, brushed the fan girl aside and had a conversation about politics or the weather, or spent 5 hours drinking cups of tea in a kitchen whilst engaging in every day chit chat with a band you just met that day, you realise just how normal the majority of your favourite musicians actually are. For reference though, just in case someone reading this can hook it up, the 'rock star' I'd most love to meet and have cups of tea with is Dave Grohl.

'You must make loadssss of money, yeah?'

Yep, I've bought a house and a couple new cars, been on holiday in the Caribbean for most of this year, partied with the Queen...

But seriously, if you're looking to jump into a job that's guaranteed to be well paid from the off, music photography is perhaps not the one. The rewards are bloody awesome don't get me wrong, but it can be a bit of a slow burner getting established and turning your passion into a full time career. Don't let this sway you if you're passionate about it though. Do what makes you happy always, and keep striving for that day it can become your job :)


'If you put your photos online it's totally fine for me to use them'

As a fan please don't assume that photos (or anything creative - art, music, drawings, digital art etc) on the internet is free reign. As a photographer know that putting your work online doesn't make it fair game or that in putting it online you lose the right of ownership. It depends where you're from, as the law changes from country to country, but in the UK copyright is automatically assigned to you for anything you create as original material. And that copyright still applies no matter whether you're paid or unpaid, and whatever anyone does with your photo - whether that's copying it, editing it, printing it up, turning it into something else and/or selling it. All technically illegal without your permission. You can register your works officially with the UK Copyright Service, but while doing so or not doesn't change your ownership of the works it does aid with proving it's yours should you ever need to do so in a legal dispute. The only time in the UK you don't automatically have that copyright is if you are on the regular payroll of and therefore are an employee of a company as a photographer, in which case that company owns the copyright to any photos you take working for them, otherwise you only lose that copyright if you physically sign it over in writing to someone else.

In a digital age where EVERYTHING is online it can be quite difficult to keep track of any photography work you upload, and making the decision to post work online can be a tough one. Personally I don't mind so much that my live music images are shared about...it's always in the hope that my watermark at least hasn't been chopped off, or in the cases where there isn't one, that I'm credited. TBF it's usually my portrait shots that don't have watermarking, as I send high res copies to the client, and inevitably these end up appearing on websites and in editorial online, and therefore become very accessible to an online audience who likely don't know who took the photo, or understand copyright. Or just don't care. Misuse of images is viewed quite differently by everyone, and can be very frustrating for photographers, as well as damaging to their livelihood.

If you like sharing images online as a fan and know where a photo has come from, perhaps give the photographer a credit, and really think about it before you print them up or put them on a homemade t-shirt etc, and if you're a photographer worried about the use of images you put online, watermarking them somewhere (doesn't have to be in your face) is something to consider. No, it doesn't stop them being used and shared about, and they can be fairly simple to chop  off or remove (depending on where you put it), but at least if it's there to start with it's a discouragement.

Copyright law is quite in-depth, and can be fairly complicated in places. You can read more about copyright of photographic works in the UK HERE 

'If you were a good enough photographer you wouldn't need to edit your photos'

This is one I've read plenty of times online. It's a well debated subject, with many a heated discussion ensuing. Personally I prefer, like MUCH prefer, my photos once they've been edited, and shudder at the thought of handing over totally unedited images to a client. People book me because they like my attention to detail and style, and that style is achieved as much through post production as it is through composition, location and use of lighting. I also, as a consumer, tend to prefer enhanced images over 'off camera' shots that others have taken, as to me, those are often much more interesting. Art is subjective though. You should decide for yourself which you prefer and don't let anyone bully you into thinking either way is wrong. :)

Have a suggestion for what my next blog should be about? Send me an email marianne@marianneharris.co.uk