I met Brian Friedman as we were both shooting various iHeartRadio festivals and concerts around the US a few years back. Brian is a machine. He's passionate, hard working, and one of the best modern concert photographers I've ever met. It's no surprise that he was named the official photographer for every iHeartRadio Jingleball concert in 2013. Brian shares his tips with you below on how became a full time rock star photographer.
I also started my early career as a tour photographer for top 40 rock bands, but that was over 10 years ago and the industry has drastically changed (i.e. less money) since then and the market is much different for music photographers. There is much less money, much more competition, and even fewer jobs that pay respectfully enough. Brian has put together a list of great tips for you below that will hopefully give you a bit of edge over your fellow music-shooting competition. Of course, if you want to add to this list with things you've learned from your own experience, please comment below!
Do you ever think back to where you started and what you’ve learned over a period of time? Do you evaluate the things you do right and things you can improve upon in your business; look at your portfolio from start to finish; think about where you want to take things?
It’s an anniversary for me. 7 years since I went full-time in my photography business. That’s about 18% of my entire life! Looking back I know that I’ve done some things really well, and others not so well. I know that there’s always room to improve, and in some instances things take a really long time. So here are 7 things I’ve learned, some of which are victories for me and some remain challenges. In no particular order:
1) Gotta keep your finances in order. The more organized you are in this department, the more control you have over your life because you aren’t guessing at things. Saving is not easy to do, but you have to do it no matter how little you think you can save. Thankfully several people made sure I got this together early on. Oh and you should learn a thing or two about Quickbooks. It’s good to understand Quickbooks and it will also save you a ton of money in the end by being organized yourself and not having to pay someone to outsource it. Eventually that may change but it’s good to know how to do it on your own.
2) Writing is a big part of this (now). That’s definitely changed in the last few years and it continues to. Even 7 years ago I didn’t need to blog like I do now. And all the other outlets you need to be seen in (case in point, this article)… Like many photographers I know, this is something that I can do but doesn’t necessarily come “easy” to me and has stressed me out over time. I wasn’t well aware of this when I started and it still trips me up today.
3) Dreams can and do come true. Probably the toughest to believe at times, but I’d not be writing this if it didn’t happen for me in some way or another. You have to believe in yourself. It’s crazy because so much rides on that belief. Like any actor, musician, writer, painter...your entire livelihood depends on it. So dream what you want and work toward achieving it. I remind myself “where attention goes, energy flows.”
4) Being your own boss is much harder than you think. Don’t get me wrong; it’s awesome being my own boss but with that came a zillion responsibilities I never knew existed - and the list keeps growing. Having the discipline to get up every day and get stuff done, make your shoots and deadlines, innovate, make personal time etc etc. Believe it or not, the longer I’ve done this the harder I’ve found it to be because life happens. And I don’t even have children!
5) Seek inspiration, always. For me, music has always been the biggest source of my inspiration. Music is like my oxygen; it’s a necessary part of life. Without question, my photography was born from a love and emotional understanding of music. Your emotional connection to some art form, photography, music, or otherwise, is essential to your commercial art form and tapping into it is monumentally important.
6) Watch what others in the industry are doing but don’t fixate because it’s not healthy. It’s good to see what everyone else is doing. It keeps you on your toes. You can learn from others too. But if you get caught up in doing this too much you’ll likely shoot yourself in the foot. You don’t want to envy what someone else has - you should be going after what YOU want and creating YOUR version of the ideal life.
7) Take the high road. This can often be a very challenging thing to do (or not do) given the circumstance and the people involved, but always do your best to take the high road. I’ve succeeded AND failed at this, and some of my biggest “regrets” happened as a result of responding too soon to an email, or not taking a deep breath before talking to someone. Take the high road as much as you can; you never know where you’ll bump into someone again down the line.
In conclusion, I know that I’m in a very very different place then when I first started, and I have a lot of room to grow. Many have said I’m hard on myself (and I know I am), but it’s served me well. Discipline is very important and often overlooked, especially in the “young” days of your business. I hope that these nuggets of information will resonate with everyone here.