Jump to content




Photo

What Makes a Music Photographer Good?

- - - - - Scott K Fish Life Beyond the Cymbals

  • Please log in to reply
8 replies to this topic

#1
Scott K Fish

Scott K Fish

    Forum Guru

  • Members
  • 1,217 posts
  • LocationMaine, USA

What Makes a Music Photographer Good?

 

malkin_rick.jpg?w=195&h=195
Rick Malkin

 

SKF NOTE: I wrote in an earlier post about, from my perspective as Modern Drummer's managing editor, what makes a music journalist good. I said I would write as well about what makes a music photographer good.

 

A picture is worth 1,000 words. As much as I love writing, I have always admired photographers and cartoonists with the gift, the skill of capturing a whole story -- or endless stories -- in one image. When I first arrived at MD, and making sure we had photos on hand for each issue was one of my responsibilities, improving the magazine's photos was a prime goal.

 

This was pre-digital photography. We worked mostly with 8x10 or 5x7 prints for 35mm black-and-white photos, and slides or prints for 35mm color photos.

 

Finding existing photos of drummers was not easy. That surprised me, but it should not have. Prior to MD the market for drummer photos was small or nonexistent. For example, professional photographers could sell photos of Mick Jagger or John Lennon. But, photos of Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr? Not so much. Plus, drummers were often hidden behind their drumsets and cymbals, sitting under terrible lighting way up and/or back on stage risers, making it extremely tough for photographers to take drummers' pictures.

 

It was the same story, only worse, for jazz drummers and photographers.

 

MD created a new market for photogaphers, a new place where photographers could sell drummer photos. Even with MD's 12 issues a year limitation -- it was still a new market, new opportunities.

 

The photographer qualities I sought and found were the same as those I sought in music journalists -- and then some. If an interviewer needed to clarify a question or otherwise add to a MD interview, he or she could often just pick up the telephone and do so. 

 

That was not true of pre-digital photographers. If something went wrong during a photo shoot, photographer's really wouldn't know until they developed their film. So a photographer's knowledge of light, shutter speed -- everything! -- was vital. A photographer on assignment taking photos for a MD feature interview probably has one time only to be with the drummer/subject. Experience, plus shooting as many rolls of 35mm as possible, was the photographer's insurance against failure.

 

I never met an uninteresting photographer. Rick Malkin, Tom Copi, Jim Marshall, Chuck Stewart, John Lee -- consummate professionals who I am so grateful to have met and worked with, and in some cases, to have as lifelong friends.  And MD‘s Features Editor, Rick Mattingly, also did some fine photography.

 

One final point: I learned fast that the best photo in the world can be reduced in quality -- sometimes absolutely -- at the magazine printer. Many times my delight at receiving great photos would turn to disappointment and frustration when those photos were reproduced in the magazine.

 

Digital photography has opened up limitless possibilities for photographers. Still, technological advances do not, cannot, replace the gift of the photographer's eye. Their sense of composition, of knowing what makes a good picture, and their sixth sense of spotting opportunities and being prepared when opportunities arrive.

 
Scott K Fish Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals

Edited by Scott K Fish, 16 February 2016 - 04:02 PM.

  • 0



#2
drumgadget

drumgadget

    Advanced Snr. Member

  • Members
  • 511 posts
  • LocationHealdsburg, Corte Madera CA
Well said, Scott ......

give the photographer some!

M.
  • 0

#3
Tilter

Tilter

    Forum Guru

  • Gold
  • 1,257 posts
  • LocationNew Hampshire

There are a great many incredible photographers out there, but we cannot discuss this topic without mentioning and thanking long time Modern Drummer photographer, Alex Solca.  I can't begin to tell you how many hours I spent as a young drummer (hell, even now) poring over the pages of MD, looking at the superb images that he captured; analyzing every last piece of a set up, what was in a players stick bag and even their technique as it was caught in mid-stroke.  His photos provided me with an insight into the world of my favorite players and also exposed me to those that would later become my favorites.  

 

Thanks for all the snaps, Alex! 

 

 


  • 0

#4
Scott K Fish

Scott K Fish

    Forum Guru

  • Members
  • 1,217 posts
  • LocationMaine, USA

Tilter - Thank you for adding Alex Solca's name. He is not someone I worked with at MD.

 

Best,

skf


  • 0

#5
Tilter

Tilter

    Forum Guru

  • Gold
  • 1,257 posts
  • LocationNew Hampshire

Absolutely, Scott and thank you for sharing all that you do with us. Your stories and insights are both enjoyable and educational. 


  • 0

#6
bbunks

bbunks

    Drum Czar

  • Platinum
  • 2,682 posts
  • LocationChicago

Whoa - Jim Marshall! You got to work with the king of music photographers!


  • 0

#7
Scott K Fish

Scott K Fish

    Forum Guru

  • Members
  • 1,217 posts
  • LocationMaine, USA

Tilter - Thank you.

 

bbunks - Someday I'll write about, The Day the King of Music Photographers Screamed at Me.

 

Best,

skf


  • 0

#8
drumgadget

drumgadget

    Advanced Snr. Member

  • Members
  • 511 posts
  • LocationHealdsburg, Corte Madera CA
Hey Scott ...... make it soon, eh?
  • 0

#9
bbunks

bbunks

    Drum Czar

  • Platinum
  • 2,682 posts
  • LocationChicago

Tilter - Thank you.

bbunks - Someday I'll write about, The Day the King of Music Photographers Screamed at Me.

Best,
skf



Would love to hear that story. I have a buddy who befriended Jim in his later years before he started getting top dollar for his work. Has great stories about hanging with him in SF and bought a half dozen of his photos for a fraction of what they're selling for.

Edited by bbunks, 16 February 2016 - 11:19 PM.

  • 0





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Scott K Fish, Life Beyond the Cymbals

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users