Profession – Music Photographer. Interview With Nick Pickles

WWith the increasing availability of higher quality cameras more and more enthusiastic snappers are taking the opportunity to capture the world around them. For those music fans who pick up the camera of course this may mean seizing the opportunity to take some pictures at the next gig in the calendar. Some are lucky enough to be able to create a living for themselves by taking pictures of bands and artists. But how do you bridge the gap between the hobbyist snapper and having your shots in the glossy print publications?

Nick Pickles currently works as the house music photographer at Wembley arena in London, and has previously been the house photographer at the 02 Academy Leeds. Having also worked for the likes of Red Bull, the BBC, and EMI, Nick has firmly found his way into the industry of specialising in music photography. We thought it would be great to hear some of his tips from lenses to editing software for getting into the business.

Nick Pickles

Nick Pickles

  • How you started out in music photography?

When I was a teenager I worked in the photo lab at Boots in Wakefield, which was my first exposure to photography. I didn’t do anything about it in terms of me taking photos until my final year at university, when I met a photographer called Barney Britton who was taking shots of bands I still find inspiring to this day. I got a camera for my 21st birthday, followed him around until he showed me how to work it, and then threw myself into the world of covering any and every gig going until I had a portfolio and a reputation that started winning me paid work.

  • Do you have any formal qualifications?

A law degree, but I’m not sure that helps with the photography much… otherwise I’m entirely self-taught, apart from all the ideas I have gratuitously liberated from other photographers over the years.

  • In such a competitive business, how is it that you set yourself apart?

I’ve always said I’ve had a good gig when I can look at a photo and get a feel for the atmosphere of the show – not just capture how it looked. That and I abide by the David Hockney rule of changing perspective frequently – I always try to find a shot that would make other people wonder if you were at the same gig as them.

  • Do you have any advice for those looking to get into music and events photography?

Work very hard, then keep working. Don’t miss opportunities. Measure yourself against the photographers that inspire you and never stop thinking about what other angles there are. Oh, and someone once said to me “nail your tight and brights before the arty shite” and that still seems as good advice as ever! And don’t worry about who you’re shooting, worry about how good your pictures are.

  • What are the key pieces of equipment that a budding music photographer needs? Could you recommend any editing software?

Gear wise, the most important thing is fast glass. There’s no point spending all your money on an expensive body if you can only afford rubbish lenses as a result. My two main lenses are a 24-70 2.8 and a 70-200 2.8, with a 50 1.4 and 85 1.8 if I need something to rescue a very dark gig. You don’t get to use flash at most shows, so buy yourself a good lens!

In terms of software, I live in Lightroom these days – I very rarely use Photoshop. It’s as much an aid organising work as it is for processing. But I still try get as much right in-camera as I can, if for no other reason it saves you spending hours at your laptop when you could be doing something more fun!

Matt Foster is a recent graduate of a Music Technology course at Leeds Met Uni and is now working in digital marketing and PR, running and writing for the Atlas Audio blog.