How did you go about getting recognized by bands and get to do shoots for them? I’ve been emailing around and trying so hard, but I never seem to get anywhere with it. Also, would you recommend majoring in photography at university?+Do you think the fact that you live in LA makes a difference in your opportunities? You are such an inspiration to me, I hope to someday do what you do.
First of all, thanks! Means a lot to me that you look up to me!
Getting recognition is 2 parts talent, 2 parts putting yourself out there, and two parts dumb luck.
I went to school, learned everything I could and worked my butt off shooting bands that no one had ever heard of, and no one ever will because it was Montana. But that didn’t matter, because it gave me a starter portfolio for when I moved to LA. A few of those connections I made in Montana toured through LA and introduced me to a few bands in LA who I shot, and they in turn recommended me to their friends. It’s 150% word of mouth. I was lucky to get my start when Myspace was huge, and bands all thought they needed promos to flesh out their myspace layouts. That doesn’t really exist anymore. Facebook is okay, but it doesn’t push bands to customize their layouts to stand out the way myspace did. I was lucky once again to already be established before myspace died out.
Around the same time this happened Canon released the 5D mkII, and the Rebel got way better, and a lot less expensive. Suddenly hundreds more kids had cameras, and they all wanted to shoot bands for a living. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be trying to get a foothold shooting bands right now! I wish I had been able to come out to LA about three years earlier than I did. I had a head start on the trend but not much of one.
Moving to LA helped me in the way that living next to the sea would help a fisherman. In Montana there were no bands to shoot, no magazines wanted to hire a photographer in Montana, and therefore I moved to the market I wanted to work in. If I wanted to be a fashion photographer I would have moved to New York, food it would have been San Francisco. It always helps to live within your biggest market. But then you have to deal with being a small fish in a big pond, which is a difficult jump to make.
Now, the thing about wanting to be a “rock photographer”, is that no one really makes a living at that anymore. Shooting bands might be what I’m best known for, but I shoot everything from weddings to clothing lines, to senior portraits, to music videos, and set photography. I’m no where near as successful as people seem to think I am. I’m paycheck to paycheck, and if my camera broke I’d be screwed. LA is expensive as hell, but I know that it’s where I need to be.
If you want to be a photographer look at what you do, and make a list of goals. Then every day do something to push yourself closer to one of those goals. Last summer I made the goal of, “Don’t say no to anything photography related.” I ended up shooting a lot of things on the cheap, but made a ton of connections that 6 months later have come to be lucrative clients. Look at how hard you’re working now. Add up the hours you spend editing, shooting, and emailing clients. I bet it’s a lot less than you think. Then take that number and double it. Work twice as hard as you are now. That’s the only way to get ahead in this horribly cut throat market.
Good luck out there!
The Tumblr page of Megan Thompson, a commercial photographer and director living in Los Angeles, California. I create content for Hopeless Records, photograph comedians, and like nice people.
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