Rock Photography Redux

Rock Photography Redux-sq

Last year Photoville gave me a shot at presenting a workshop. We called it “A DIY Guide to Rock Photography”. I presented alongside Emily Jane. We talked about the fundamentals of photography, learning how to use your camera for different concert venues and what to do with your pictures.

This year Krystal Grow (Photoville) suggested I do a part two. We called it the “Rock Photography Redux”. Polly Watson (editor + writer, High Times, Elle, Art Forum, etc) and I discussed how to kick off your portfolio, having an online presence, talking to people at shows, getting paid work and how to keep getting paid.

When it came to the Q&A’s, most concerns were (and I’m paraphrasing), “How do I avoid getting ripped off?”

This lead to discussing: watermarks, take down notices, using the rip off to your advantage, preventing confusion about the use of your photos. For me, this is what it comes down to, if something doesn’t feel right, use your best judgement. If you want to share some pictures you took of a band with that band or their management, be up front about the usage you will allow (just on facebook and instagram, with a credit and/or link to my site, please).

I stopped using watermarks years ago when a band ripped off one of my photos, with the watermark in like bold 24pt font. The photo was printed big and in multiple magazines. At that point I realized, I guess it doesn’t really matter whether I have my name big or small on it. People will find a way to crop it out. What does matter: metadata. Put your name, contact information and a copyright notice in the metadata. This has just been my personal experience. Your situation might be different and a watermark might save your butt one day, but it didn’t work for me. And it’s nice to share my photos without putting text on the corner because I tend to get as much in a frame as possible. But if it’s in the metadata, editors of legitimate publications will contact you and ask you about usage.

Thankfully I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to send someone a take down notice. Plenty of friends of mine have. It sucks for both parties. I don’t want to have to have that discussion with a publication or publicist. My advice is to always try to keep your cool. Find a way to get your work taken down, or get paid for usage without ruining a potential client relationship. Some people are totally new to the game. Other people have been in the game too long and don’t see the value in your work yet (but they should if they already are finding ways to use it).

After years of taking pictures and staying out way too late, its very easy to get bitter. You can’t go into this business being bitter. You won’t last. And believe me, there will be plenty of things that will wear you out. You have to be stronger than whatever those things will be. Maybe that sounds too meta. What I’m trying to say is, you will get ripped off, and if you’re really good at what you do, you will have it happen often. Learn to defend yourself but in a diplomatic way that will benefit all parties.

If a band is already using your photo in all their press materials, that means they like your work enough that they want your image to represent them. Just find a way to convince them to fairly compensate you for it.

The next step after getting your work in a bunch of places and getting a bunch of checks: growing as a photographer and a person. There is so much information out there about getting to the next step. But if you don’t have an idea what is it that you want for the next step, you’ll have a harder time. Be open to the universe. Be ready for critiquing and criticism; know the difference.

And I’ll leave you off with some links and quotes that I used to prep me for the workshop. Thanks to everyone who came out and supported us. Plus an extra special thanks to Polly, Krystal and Lisa for guiding me and letting me talk too much.

I was raised by Hot97 and BET. Missy was always inspiring and a breath of fresh air, especially when hip-hop was taking an incredibly cookie-cutter and corporate route. In an essay on individuality, Missy talks about her breakthrough and first solo album.

Missy Elliot

Then it was time to shoot the first video from my album, “The Rain”. Here I was a chubby chick with finger waves at a time when everyone else was skinny with long hair. (Actually everyone is still skinny with long hair LOL!)

So what did I do? I didn’t try to dress small. I went the other way. I dressed big. Real big. I wore this plastic hefty bag looking bubble suit, and literally blew myself up with air pumps. That video was so much fun to shoot! I got nominated for 3 MTV music video awards for that video. That was just icing on the cake, but it also confirmed for me what I already knew: it’s not about what the other people are doing. That might work for them. It’s about what works for you, and what YOU think is hot.”

Missy Elliot / Individuals by GAP

Jello Biafra at Europa in Brooklyn, NY. 2010.
Jello Biafra at Europa in Brooklyn, NY. 2010.

Never be afraid of your own brain, or being creative, no matter how weird of uncool you may seem among your conformist peers. Deep down inside, you’re the only one of you there is, and don’t let anybody fuck with that.

Jello Biafra / My Rules by Glen E Friedman


Ice T on the importance of artistic expression
In his essay, Ice T talks about going from a professional hustler to a broke rapper. Even though he didn’t have as many glamorous possessions as he did as a hustler, as a musician he gained an identity. Ice talks more about this transition in a podcast on the Combat Jack show. I think its so relatable for people looking to get out of their current careers or situations.

Prior to rap, I didn’t give a fuck about anything. Because I didn’t think I had anything of real value. But after I started rapping, I could feel that I had something.

Ice T / My Rules by Glen E Friedman


Just don’t be a dick.

As both a kid at venues and a photographer, I’ve always hated photographers’ reckless sense of entitlement at shows. Few things are more frustrating for an audience than an ass with a camera blocking the show just to get his shot.

Glen E Friedman / Keep Your Eyes Open
(Fugazi photobook) by Glen E Friedman

Dana Distortion’s ‘How to Become a Music Photographer’

Todd Owyoung’s ‘Music Photography Quick Start Guide’

Zack Arias’ Ask Me Anything tumblr. Get the book here.

Make a Photo Editor Fall in Love with You

How You Can Screw Up Email

How to Approach Photo Editors The Right Way