10314458_658182247588949_7601465938658871259_n Its seems as though everyone thinks they are a photographer these days. If you ask anyone, they will tell you that they know a photographer. Every week, I get at least 1 invite on Facebook to like a friend of a friend’s photography page. So, how does one choose a photographer when it comes to capturing the vision you have for your band?

First of all, yes, you want a professional photographer. You just spent all this money and time in the studio perfecting your album. Now it’s time for CD art and massive amounts of promotion. Your potential fans want to see what you look like and not just head shots or you guys sitting around a table trying to look cool. You want your photos to help define your brand. Your band is a product. It should be treated in the same way you would promote the latest widget. Just like you want your album to flow together seamlessly, you want the image you portray to the public to be consistent and reflect the personality of the band and music. A great photographer will do this for you. The bass player’s girlfriend may have an awesome camera and charge you nothing, but you do get what you pay for. Don’t cheap out on your photos. Your fans will know, trust me.

So, now that we are on the same page, how do you choose your photographer out of the millions? Just like you would hire a new member for your band. If a drummer came in for an audition, you would want to hear him play, hear some of his past work, know some of the bands and gigs that he has had. Your photographer will essentially become a member of your band. So, look through his or her portfolio. Once you find a few that stand out to you and your band, send them a message. Get on the phone with them. Or best yet, set up a time to meet with them and get to know them face to face. Remember, you are interviewing them. They are the ones that will be working with you to create your vision. If you don’t hit if off personally, you will never be able to work together.

So you have found a few photographers that you really dig? You have done your research on them. You set up a time to talk with them. What do you talk about? Anything and everything. I recently had the pleasure to speak with a phenomenal photographer, Ryan Donnelly, about his work. Aside from being a surreal portrait, landscape and urban photographer, he also has photographed some great musicians along the way. In a recent interview he did with James Moore of Independent Music Promotions, he talks more about the importance of researching and hiring a professional photographer. I wanted to know more about the man behind the lens. These are the kind of questions I would ask if I were looking to hire him. The kind that could spark a good conversation and help you find out if you both are on the same page.

What was it that inspired you to become a photographer?

Boredom. Well, boredom and the inspiration that comes from wanting to move past that bland emotional space. I wanted to say something quickly, see something materialize faster than a page of writing, and I saw the camera as the solution to this problem. Of course that is the magic of the creative process, it is like emotional alchemy really, you start out separate from your work, but after a while you become inseparable from it.

What type of camera is your favorite to shoot with?

I personally shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III, but that doesn’t mean I look down on Nikon or any other brands, because they are all good in the right hands. I choose DSLR cameras to shoot with over both point-and-shoot cameras and phone cameras because of quality issues when it comes to printing, and also because having a choice in lens’s is paramount to taking a photo to me.

Are there any photographers that you look up to?

I look up to so many photographers because there is absolutely no shortage of awesome people creating awesome things. However, with that being said I would like to point out a few that are daily inspirations for me. The first is Rob Woodcox, this artist lives his passion, creates amazing surreal portraits, and is really offering photographers some great advice and exciting workshops to experience. Robby Cavanaugh is constantly putting out work that I wish I shot myself. Nikki Sixx is a master of the camera and editing in my opinion, his work is both dark and beautiful. Lastly, and keep an eye out for this amazing portrait photographer, Pedro Oliveira is killing it with his passion driven street portraits, every image tells a story, and an amazing one at that. I know I am skipping so many more, but this answer wouldn’t end if I kept naming people, haha.

What has been the greatest moment since you started shooting live shows?

Years back now I had the honor of shooting from the stage for one of my favorite bands The Tea Party, and I won’t ever forget how surreal it felt to have the lead singer Jeff Martin look at me and give me the thumbs up! I have to strongly advise that as a photographer you keep trying to get a chance to photograph your favorite bands, it is a rush.

What is the hardest part of being a photographer?

I cannot speak for every other photographer, but for me, the hardest part has been my lack of interest in shooting everything that I see. I don’t shoot every day because I don’t have a strong interest in random images with no story behind them. This makes it very difficult to flood your social media stream with fresh images daily to keep your fans interested. So in short I would say that the most difficult part of being a photographer is asking myself why I am shooting anything that I do, and why I choose not to.

When getting ready for a photo shoot with a musician or a band, what do you do to prepare yourself?

First off I listen to their music, and if I don’t like their sound I stop getting ready. The fact is, if you are going to capture a band honestly, I think you should share a general respect for your creations. After that is taken care of, the next step is writing down multiple ideas for the shoot and then bringing them to the band, discuss these ideas and go with the one they are most excited about. If you are shooting live, make sure you bring your high end camera, don’t be afraid to set your ISO high, and shoot as many photos as you can, because there will be a lot that end up slightly blurry due to drastic light changes.

What advice do you have for others who aspire to be a photographer?

Find out what type of photography truly excites you and shoot that, all the time. Become the next photographer that people talk about by shooting in a specific genre, with your specific style that you developed. Do not be a jack of all trades, because that never ends up leading to the palace we all seek. Show the world who you are, what you stand for, and I will no doubt see you at the top sooner or later. Oh, and keep shooting, keep posting, and keep learning about social media.

 

Not only is this man an extraordinary photographer, he is as genuine as you can get. If I was interviewing him to be my photographer, I would be honored to work with him, as long as he felt the same way about me. The one thing that I think a lot of musicians forget is that there is a whole world of people out there that truly want to help you create. Photographers are doing the same exact thing with their art. They take millions of pictures, share them everywhere they possible can and hope to get some killer gigs out of it. Just like you and your music.

You can check out Ryan’s work on his website and his Facebook.

Extended Plays is an ongoing music series written by myself and my partner James. We listen to music, go with our gut and spill our honest and sometimes brutal opinion all over this blog. We hope you take the time to check out the artists we review for yourselves. We tend to believe that we are always right about everything but the most beautiful thing about music is that our opinion doesn’t matter to anyone but ourselves.

 

 

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