It seems as though I was just reading Anna Lee’s FAQ (a much better read than this old thing), blinked, and now I have a need to write my own. I’m so honored so many people feel as though they can come to me with questions.
If you’ve asked me a question or you’re just browsing my website, you’ve probably landed here. I’m definitely not writing this because I think everyone is just dying to know everything about me, but rather because I get a lot of questions from budding photographers, and I unfortunately don’t have time these days to individually explain these complex topics to each wonderful human, although I wish I could. So hopefully these answers will give you some more information and help you along your journey! If you have other questions, feel free to use the contact form on my website or get ahold of me through my social media.
Can you get me into XYZ show for free?
This answer is always no pls stop asking me.
What’s your favorite concert you’ve ever shot?
This answer changes all the time! Any time I get to shoot my favorite artists like Smallpools, Misterwives, Walk the Moon, Young the Giant, Doll Skin, Don Broco, etc. is really memorable, but even tiny bar shows can be really fun.
What’s touring like?
It’s always the coolest whirlwind I’ve ever experienced. Touring is 100% my favorite thing to do, and I’m ecstatic every time I get to go out on the road. It isn’t always sunshine and roses, but even the lows are pretty high if you’re with the right people. Think of it like a group project where you live with your coworkers. I will say that it isn’t for everyone—I know plenty of gifted professionals who either won’t set foot in a bus or tried it and ran for the hills. Luckily, I’m not one of those people, but touring takes a special kind of person, and I’m not too big to admit that I’m still trying to become that person. I encourage you to look at the tour blog section of my website if you want an in-depth look at what touring feels like!
How did you meet The New Schematics?
I had some industry friends (hi, Tori & Brandon!) who worked with an Indianapolis band called Shiny Penny. When I shot one of their shows, I also shot TNS, so we followed each other on social media and such. They announced a 10 day tour that happened to be the same exact 10 days as my spring break, so going with them seemed a little like fate. I literally shot them a Twitter DM to set up the tour—so when I say you never know how you’ll score an amazing opportunity, I mean it!
How did you meet Doll Skin?
Years ago, I transcribed an interview for my editor, and the artist mentioned Doll Skin. I looked them up and liked their music a lot, so they were on my radar for a long time. I shot their set at Mesa Music Festival, and I guess they liked the photos! Over the next year and a half, I pestered their drummer, Meghan, every single time they announced a tour, offering to go with them. When they found out they were going on Warped, they asked me to do their promo photos, and I brought up the possibility of going with them to Europe. I’d say my persistence paid off!
What do you shoot with?
I’m a Canon gal! My bag at shows usually includes my Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 5D MIII, a 16-35mm 2.8 lens, 70-200mm 2.8 lens, and a 50mm 1.4 lens, all Canon brand. I sometimes use a 15mm 2.8 Sigma fisheye when I’m feeling artsy. When I do portraits, I primarily use my 5D MIII and my 1.4 lens—they’re a beautiful pair!
What kind of camera should I buy?
This question is really difficult for me to answer because every situation is so unique! It depends on what you want to shoot, as well as your budget. My general cop-out answer is to look at Canon rebels because most people with this question have a relatively low budget, but remember: you get what you pay for. To me, it makes sense to save up and get gear you won’t have to replace for 5-7 years, rather than something cheap that will only serve you for two years. I will tell you what to prioritize when looking for a camera and lens for shooting shows:
In a body, you want something that can handle a high ISO (if your camera doesn’t go up past 3200, you’re going to run into serious problems), and high frames per second. Contrary to popular perception, your shutter speed has very little to do with your frames per second—FPS has to do with how quickly your camera can write images to a memory card. If your camera is giving you the “busy” graphic every 5 seconds, you’ll end up very frustrated in the pit. I recommend having at least 3 or 4 FPS (side note: for this same reason, it’s a great idea to invest in a memory card with a fast write speed, which will be more expensive but ultimately worth it). In a lens, you want as wide of an aperture as you can afford, meaning the lowest number f-stop. You also want wicked fast autofocus—I don’t need to explain that one! A 2.8 lens that can zoom in and out is best, but if you can only afford to buy one lens, a 1.4 50mm or 1.4 30mm is a great pick for bar shows and small venues, which is what most people shoot in the beginning. I do recommend buying used gear when you’re just starting out. You’ll save a ton of money and it’s better for the environment! Nearly all of my gear was bought used, so don’t feel like you’re getting a mediocre product.
How did you get started?
From what I’ve seen, there are essentially two ways to go about working your way up the ladder: personal and press. Anna Lee went the personal route, and you can read her FAQ to get an idea of how to best do that. I went the press route, so I can’t tell you much about starting off as friends with bands.
One spring, I met Anna Lee, and instantly decided I wanted to be her. She posted an FAQ that shed a ton of light on how she got to where she was, so I took a lot of guidance from that piece. I looked at the calendar of shows for a venue I frequented as a concert venue (Old National, for any Indy folks) and sent about 100 emails. I contacted headliners, openers, and local bands who were coming to the venue, explaining what I wanted to do and promising free photos in exchange for a photo pass. Most ignored me, but I did get a few to say yes! I read a ton about how to shoot and conduct myself in the pit, and slowly built something that looked like a portfolio. I then had a mentor who connected me with the editors of a few music publications around Indianapolis. I sent my portfolio to them, and explained who I was and what I wanted to do. Then a few of them said yes! The rest is ancient history, as I slowly became friends with bands/artists and made connections that got me on tour.
Do I need to go to college to do what you do?
It sounds strange that as a college student, I’m telling you that my dream job does not require formal education. HOWEVER. If you have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend that you do. Let me explain why.
Very few people are able to tour year-round. This creates the need for a day job, which you may be doing for half the year if you’re lucky. While you can likely find some kind of job in retail, food, etc., having a degree will open doors to a job that will allow you to leave periodically. For example, I work a job in music PR right now, and my supervisor is super chill about my touring schedule. If I were working at a grocery store, and said, “hey, in about a week, I’m going to leave for two months. See ya on the other side!” I would not expect to have a job when I came back. Additionally, finding work you can do from the road is extremely helpful as well, as this job often doesn’t pay all that well. Making an extra $50 or $100 here and there for some graphic design work or sending some emails can help out a ton.
Furthermore, even fewer people are able to get on the road consistently doing only the thing they specialize in. I’ve centered my degree around learning how to tour manage, and while photography is definitely my priority, I’m glad I’m able to put merch, photo, and tour managing on my resume as my potential roles. Doubling up is helpful and makes you more marketable—if a band can hire a TM who can also do photo, that means they don’t have to hire and pay for two people to do the work that you can do.
Do you have any advice for people just starting out?
I’m writing this at a kind of interim part of my career where I’m both still kind of starting out myself, but I have a resume that makes people want to ask me for advice about starting out. This means I have a lot of advice, and I’m just going to kind of word-vomit it at you right now. Hopefully some of this sticks.
- Don’t go into this career for the money. You will be spending a lot of your time working for free. I don’t think this is how it should be, but I find myself in that position frequently.
- Shoot whatever you can. Once you get past the initial bumps in the road, you’ll find yourself getting noticeably better with each show you shoot. Shoot as much as you can!
Don’t be afraid of small venues. They’re much more difficult to pull good work out of, but once you can get something you’re reasonably happy with, going to a mid-sized venue will be a breeze and your work will stand out
Don’t feel bad for saying no. As much as this job is a ton of fun and I’m friends with most of my clients, I still remain respectful of my own time and health. Sometimes I pass up shows and work so I can have a date night or because I need to get caught up in school.
Get lens leashes because as dorky as they are, you will spend so much money on lost lens caps without them.
Ask for what you want. You need work, bands need photos, and you can help each other. This industry is competitive, but I promise that there are more people trying to help you than step on your toes. Everyone in music started out exactly where you are, so when they see you, they see themselves—this is true of myself as well. I’ve accomplished a lot in my brief time in this occupation, but I’m still very much a newbie, and I frequently find myself asking for help (and receiving it).
My biggest piece of advice and personal mantra is: be kind and work hard. Be kind to everyone you meet in your career, from the security guard who was a dick to you, to the fan behind the barricade who dropped her bag, to the artists you will inevitably let crash on your couch, to artist PR reps, because that kindness will come back to you.
I sincerely hope my ramblings have given you a little bit of guidance—I remember vividly how scary this path is to start out on, and while following my exact footsteps may not be the right move for you, there are some basic principles that will serve you in any journey. Be kind. Work hard. Be quick. Learn. Grow. Listen. Speak up. Make good art. Be a good person.
And if you have any more questions—feel free to ask!