2014 was the most exciting year for me since I started as a music photographer. From touring the world with the German balkan band Shantel & Bucovina Club Orkestra to releasing my first ebook „Guide to Rockstar Concert Photography“, this year was a roller coaster ride par excellence. Read on to join me on my journey through 2014.
In this blog post, I would like to share with you some of my key happenings from 2014. I didn´t write this blog post to brag, I wrote it because I want to show you what’s possible if you follow your dreams and stick to your goals. It´ll take some work and, occasionally, you’ll have to overcome your fears. I was confronted with overwhelming situations, such as standing in front of 30,000 people on the main stage of the Jazz Festival Montreal or shooting The Rolling Stones for Rolling Stone Magazine with a 500mm f4 lens. It´s always scary doing these things the first time, but if you agree with the quote „Life happens outside your comfort zone“ as much as I do, you’re already on your way to making the best of your life.
How my life changed as music photographer in 2014 (the breakdown)
My year started in February with my first publication in The Image Story. This project is curated by my good friend and concert photographer Todd Owyoung and I had the pleasure of participating with my portrait of the digital hardcore band Atari Teenage Riot. Alec Empire, Nic Endo and CX KiDTRONiK are referred to as “… the only group that iTunes have censored on the grounds that their music could create riots!” and shooting their portraits was great fun. For this particular picture I had 5 minutes to execute the shot and I decided to go with my analog Hasselblad 503CX. Read the background story to this special shoot here.
February was also the month when it started getting crazy for me as a music photographer. I was invited to join Shantel for two Dj gigs in Mexico City and Oaxaca. I guess you can imagine that flying from Austria/Europe half the way around the world to take concert photos was quite an adventure for me! On 13th February, I flew from Vienna to Mexico City where I arrived 10 hours later at 5am in the morning. This whole story was like a dream come true for me. I met Shantel in the hotel lobby and we spent 2 awesome days in that crazy country. This was by far the best experience as a tour photographer so far!
On 15th February I flew directly to London to attend the „Film is Not Dead“ workshop by über-photographer, Jonathan Canlas. The workshop began on the same day of my arrival and lasted 3 days, shooting only with analog medium format cameras such as the Contax645, Yashica and Mamyia RZ67. In my opinion, medium format is still the best way to get awesome portraits.
In March, I flew for 1 day to Greece to celebrate Shantel’s birthday at a sold-out club in Athens. Compared to the Mexico trip, it was only a 2 hour flight, but no less adventurous. I flew from Vienna to Athens in an old prop airliner which made me feel like I was in an Indiana Jones movie! I arrived at 6.30pm in the club. Showtime was 8 pm and I flew back to Vienna the next day at 7am. Being on tour as a music photographer is not always relaxing, but probably the best thing that can happen to you as a music photographer.
This was the month I also started working hard on my new project „How to Become a Rockstar Photographer“ that was to be released in April.
On 29th April, I launched my project „How To become a Rockstar Photographer“. This was the first day that my homepage appeared publicly on the internet. At the same time, I launched my e-book „Guide to Rockstar Concert Photography“ which is a step-by-step guide, teaching people how to kick-start their concert photography career and becoming a music photographer. This was my first book (besides my Ph.D thesis in molecular biology) and I worked my butt off to make it the best book about concert photography around. (And when I mean I worked my butt off, I mean it! I was writing 1000 words/day for 1 month).
I am grateful to a bunch of people who helped me bring my vision to reality and for all their support, ideas and pushing in the same direction to make this happen. Kudos to my graphic designer Michael Paukner, my developers Alex Mangini and Erica Franz, and my editor and the most helpful guy I know of, William Richards. Without you, „How To Become A Rockstar Photographer“ wouldn´t have been possible and it would still only be an idea in my head.
June was one of my most productive months of 2014 as music photographer. I joined Shantel & Bucovina Club Orkestra for a festival tour in Switzerland and France. This time, I took the train to Zurich/Switzerland and hopped on the Nightliner bus with them for a couple of days.
In June, I also got the opportunity to shoot some of the most famous musicians in the music business at the moment.
The Miley Cyrus show is a dream for every music photographer to shoot. It´s big, it´s colorful and it reminded me of a Disney Show I once saw in Disneyworld a decade ago. For this show, I used a 70-200mm f2.8 with an 1,7x extender. I was able to shoot from 25 meters away and an effective focal length of 300mm came in handy. It was here that I got one of my favorite concert shots so far. May I present to you, „The Moneyshot“, as some of you referred to it on social media channels. The one thing that struck me about her merchandising: $120 for a sweater! Holy cow! But, I guess parents of 14 year old girls don’t have a hope of disagreeing with their daughters if they want one! See more photos from this concert here.
Nine Inch Nails
The next day, I photographed one of my favorite bands ever, Nine Inch Nails. It was at the same venue where Miley Cyrus had played, but I was allowed to shoot from the photo pit. The only rule was to not shoot directly from the middle in front of the stage. They taped a square in the photopit and one of the Nine Inch Nails security guards made sure nobody took photos from this spot. Sometimes you wonder about the rules the big and famous bands make up…anyhow it was a blast of a show. The lighting was challenging, but manageable and I got some memorable concert photos.
The Rolling Stones
One of my biggest assignments as music photographer also took place in July – taking concert photos of The Rolling Stones for The Rolling Stone Magazine. The Stones were playing at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, in front of 50.000 people. Photographers were only allowed to shoot 30m away from the stage. To this end, I rented a Nikon 500mm f4.0 for the first time (and hopefully the last). This beast of a lens weighs 4kg and will set you back $8000! I was a bit over-motivated that day and thought I could handhold this baby with my Nikon D800 and didn´t take a monopod into the photo pit. (Mental side note for me: next time, don’t forget the monopod!) This lens meant I went through a challenging time during the 3 song slot, but somehow I managed to get great shots.
Portugal. The Man
Another band that I really love is Portugal. The Man. After working with them together on both portraits and concerts for years, it was great meeting them at the Posthof in Linz again. Zachary and I were talking about analog photography in the backstage area and he showed me all his cameras he had with him on tour. Zach also inspired me to get the Fuji Neo Classic, which, by the way is a great little instant film camera. I wrote an article about Polaroid/Instant film photography here.
I also got the opportunity to be a Tester for the new Petzval lens from the Lomographic Society for this shoot. It´s an 85mm, all-manual lens and it was great fun using it for my work as music photographer. Despite the fact that you´ll get a lot of looks from people because of it´s shiny golden exterior, when used correctly, it’s capable of capturing great images. Read my review of the Petzval lens here.
In July, I flew to New York and met my friend and music photographer Todd Owyoung in Brooklyn. It really didn´t surprise me that Todd and I share almost the same mindset when it comes down to how the music photography business works. We talked for about 3 hours, had a couple of drinks and drew some conclusions about how we see the concert photography culture developing in the future. I wrote an article about this special meeting here.
The next day, I joined Shantel and his manager for a 9 hour road trip from Brooklyn to Montreal, where we met the other 14 members of the Club Orkestra. I joined them as they played Montreal Jazz Festival in front of 30.000 people, Ottawa Blues Festival and Quebec before flying back to Berlin/Germany and then did a festival tour including France and Belgium. These were definitely the most exciting 14 days in my life as a concert photographer and I’m grateful that I was able to join them.
In August, I gave my most extensive interview yet about my concert photography career so far for gig-photographer.com. I am especially honored that Dave asked me to do it, because he interviews the best of the best in this business, photographers such as Adam Elmakias, Christie Goodwin or Danny North. So I took this once in a lifetime opportunity and wrote up the knowledge I’ve gained over the last few years in the music business. You can read my interview here.
I also started my Portfolio Thursday series on my homepage, where I review portfolios from concert photographers to help them get a kick-ass portfolio for themselves. So far, I’ve done 9 reviews and I guess I’ll stop this project at the end of this year. The reason is that I have other ideas which will hopefully provide even more knowledge to a broader audience.
Since I started my project „How to become a Rockstar Photographer“ a couple of month ago, I’ve realized that there are thousands of people who are passionate about concert photography out there. You guys mailed me hundreds of times asking for advice. So I had to come up with a solution that works on a global scale. Sure, it would have been great to have you all here sitting next to me in Vienna/Europe in a seminar room, but for obvious reasons this wasn’t going to work. Therefore, I chose a virtual medium and gave my first Webinar „Concert photography v2.0: Bring your concert photography to the next level.“ Together with Dave from gig-photographer.com as moderator, we gave a lecture for more than 100 participants from all over the world. The reactions afterwards were just mind-blowing. Over 100 twitter notifications and Facebook posts like the following:
@MatHombauer just made my day! Amazing #webinar about #concert #photography full of awesome info!! Thank you!! – Narvysh
Music photography webinar was a real success! Loved it, very interesting and helpful. I’m definitely going to use the advice in my music photography career.- Wouter
Just 10 minutes into this webinar with Matthias Hombauer I can personally relate to absolutely everything he has said. Amazing and inspiring stuff! – Flex the Frog
Thanks @MatHombauer for a very informative webinar. Looking forward to reading your book ASAP. Cheers. – Blair
For all of you who don´t know what a webinar is, or missed this one: a webinar is like a university lecture with the difference that you can watch it online, from the comfort of your home. I shared my computer screen and people were able to watch my presentation all over the world. At the end, we did a live Q&A session where people could ask questions and we answered them. This was the first successful webinar about concert photography on the internet and I’m a bit proud of it
In October, I got the opportunity to join Mr. Elvis Costello on his Austria tour for 2 shows. It was a great pleasure for me to work as music photographer with one of the best singer/songwriters alive. Both shows, at the Burgtheater in Vienna and Posthof Linz, were sold out and Mr. Costello played a best of solo program which wowed the audience. For me, as a concert photographer, it was quite challenging and I rented a 300mm f2.8 lens to capture the special moments of the show from the back of both concert halls. Even though the 300mm f2.8 lens is big and heavy, it`s still manageable and it delivers outstanding image quality. Being backstage with artists like Elvis Costello is always special for me and it´s important to behave like a professional photographer and not a groupie who wants to take photos with their idols.
I did another „Concert photography v2.0: Bring your concert photography to the next level“. The challenge was to provide information to as many people as possible on a global scale. For example, I did the first webinar at 7pm Central European Time. For concert photographers in the US or ASIA this was early in the morning or in the afternoon. So I decided to do my second webinar especially for US time zones (7 pm in Los Angeles). I had to wake up at 3am, but it was totally worth it and I received awesome feedback from you again.
In November, I joined Peter Gabriel on his Austrian “Back To Front” tour. This was by far the biggest production I have experienced as music photographer. With 7 x 45′ tractor/trailer, 3 x band people carrier vans, 3x crew buses and 50 people touring staff, it was an interesting experience for me. If you get this kind of opportunity make sure you talk to the tour manager before you start taking pictures. If you don’t act sensibly, you’ll get kicked out fast and won´t get the chance to take any photos at all. I met my friend David Rhodes (guitarist), talked to Tony Levin (one of the best bass players) about photography and said hello to Peter Gabriel. They played the complete „So“ album, the lighting for which was pretty amazing. There were the normal photo pit restrictions and I captured some great images.
I bought the Fuji X-T1 with a 23mm f1.4 lens as a travel camera in addition to my Nikon gear. The first tryout for my concert work with the Fuji at the Shantel concert in Vienna was quite positive. So I’m excited to test out this little camera more in the future.
And I did my third Webinar together with Gede TheBastard of the Indonesian stageID concert photography group.
The hard facts:
- Interviews: 12 including an 8 page spread in the print issue of Digital Photo Magazine, one big interview for gig-photographer.com and one for Melbourne based concert photographer Matt Allen’s blog.
- Guest Blog posts: 10 including Peta Pixel, The Phoblographer, digital Photography School, Manfrotto School of Excellence and gig-photographer.com
- Webinars: 3, targeted to different time zones for Europe, USA and Asia with more than 200 participants.
- Concerts: 51 including The Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Nine Inch Nails, Miley Cyrus, Iron Maiden, Fink, Shantel and Portugal. The Man
- On tour in Mexico, Greece, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and Austria,
- How to Become a Rockstar Photographer: since the beginning of May the site has had more than 130.000 page views.
- Sold copies of the „Guide to Rockstar Concert Photography“ ebook: 230+ books sold so far, (the fact that 95% of all written books get sold less than 100 times, means I guess I can be proud of my first book!).
All the stories above wouldn´t have been possible without the help of a lot of great people. There are too many to mention, but you know how you are.
I am grateful that I can help you become a music photographer and you’ve finally found your passion. Thanks a lot for all of the positive feedback I’ve received from you:
I’ve just found you to be SO helpful! My work has LITERALLY done a 180 since I started “working” with you. Like seriously. I’m heading out on a brief tour with Imagine Dragons on Thursday.- Leavitt, USA
In less than a few months I’ve gone from photographing people I barely know to people I have idolised since I was a child. This book has given me more than I could ever give back!!! It has changed my career for the better!! You have no idea how happy and thankful I am!! -Rachel, New Zealand
Thanks to your guide and FB group I am now brave enough to kick start my photographer career and get my name and pictures out there. Since I’ve bought your guide lots of things changed. I exchanged my crop sensor camera to a full frame one, became the house photographer for a couple of promoters, had lots of good bands in front of my lens, shot gigs at some of the most famous venues here in London and just recently started to work for a venue with a capacity of up to 3.500 people and all that within just 3 months. Thank you Matthias for sharing your knowledge and I can’t wait to learn more! (: – Nici, UK
Matthias Hombauer is a really busy photographer who has an amazing amount of respect for other (learning) photographers. He takes the time to talk to you personally, he is setting up webinars to teach people and he has an amazing Facebook page where there are a lot of amazing, enthusiastic and motivated photographers. I use his Facebook group if I need to learn something or want to know something from honest people. It’s amazing that you set this up man, really love it! – Nylo, Holland
Let me know what was your best experience in 2014 as music photographer. Comment in the comment section below