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Interview with Music Photographer Barrie Thompson

KT Tunstall.jpgMusic Photography is something that many of us dream of doing. Today Sime presents an interview that he recently did with professional Music Photographer Barrie Thompson. Barrie has also been generous enough to share some of his work with us – enjoy.

1. When did you start taking photos and at what point did you know that you wanted to make a career of it?

Quite late compared to some. I was about 21 I think and thats when I got my first camera. Had no master plan at that time, just took pictures of anything and everything but it wasn’t long before I took photography seriously and looked into how I could make a career out of it.

Basically since leaving school I was hopping from job to job, having fun at the weekends but not really going anywhere in life so when I knew I wanted to get into photography I gave up a decent job with decent pay (covered the bills anyway) for a lower paying job assisting at a company that shot stuff for catalogues. Did that for a few years, then did a few years as a family portrait photographer.

Whilst making families look perfect, I’d been blagging photo passes and going to the odd gig. I loved music and it just made sense to mix it with my photography. The more gigs I went to the more I knew this is what I wanted to do and when I licensed out a few photos, and had been commissioned a few times, I scarily quit my job went for it!


2. You’re a music photographer, what sent you in this direction and what is your favorite type of shoot in this area (Live / Portrait etc)

Hmmm, I’ve already gone into this a little in the last question, sorry. Well, like I said, I love music and photography. Makes sense to mix it. The more I got involved in music photography the more I branched out into portrait and reportage. Eventually most of my work became portrait and reportage – and I was totally happy about that.

Live photography comes with a lot of crap. Not much money in it (if you’re lucky), getting to the gig and not being allowed in because some one somewhere was slacking when it came to sorting out the passes and occasionally you’d be asked to sign all copyright away to the artist!!

Anyways, I was finding myself documenting a band called The Hours more and more. Working with them opened a few doors and alongside shooting them I had been out there shooting local bands for their promo. If I really had to choose my favourite now it would have to be portrait, followed closely with reportage.

3. Have there been times when you were ready to “chuck it all in” and become an accountant… (Not that there’s anything wrong with being an accountant!..ha)

Yes, to chucking it in! No to being an accountant (sorry accountants)!

Starting out is hard! Very hard! Still is as I feel I’m still at the beginning of my career. There is so much competition out there and record companies are changing models left right and centre to deal with this digital and download revolution, which in turn means smaller budgets from them, smaller fees for photographers….you see where I’m going with this.

Those feelings of chucking it all in will always come and go, although now, this very moment, all’s good.


4. What gear do you use when you’re working? Is it different than what you would take if you just went out to take a few photos for yourself?

I’ve been using a Canon 5D. It’s a great camera and yes I take it out when I’m not ‘working’. The only problem with the 5D is that it’s ISO rating isn’t high enough. Due to the nature of my work, I’ll find myself at a badly lit gig or a dark and dingy dressing room and sometimes I could have done with something like the Canon 5D MarkII (yes its on my shoppping list!!!!!). Oh and before anyone mentions flash, yes I use it only when absolutely necessary, I’m more a natural shoot-it-as-it-is guy. I’ll also hire for some shoots.


5. Do you have any pointers for people that are looking to become photographers, or more specifically, music photographers?

Yeah I guess you need to be very hard working, ambitious, lucky, charming, consistent, and good at what you do. I got lots of advice in the beginning but deep down I had to figure it out as I went along.

Experience is the best way to learn. Talk to other photographers though, shoot tons of stuff and build up your contacts. I started by blagging passes and licensing out a few photos. From doing that I had made a few contacts, and so on….I pushed myself into portraits (promos) and eventually someone gave me a break.

I also don’t feel qualified to offer advice, as I said before, I feel I’m still at the beginning of my career, but anyone else wanting to get into music photography – good luck, have fun!!!

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(aka #gtvone) is the customer support manager for dPS, and lead blogger in our Cameras and Gear Blog. He’s a Melbourne based photographer, www.gtvone.com and please feel free to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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