Updated: Nov 10
Ever wanted to drop your current job and live the life you want as a photographer? We interviewed Matt Higgs, a London based but internationally published photographer, videographer and music journalist, to get his advice on how amateur photographers can kickstart their careers.
Matt Higgs began his photography journey in University, ten years ago, where he started shooting live music for fun, which he used to build up his first portfolio. During his time at University, Higgs studied Media and Communications, specialising in the music industry and moving into music PR upon leaving. When he left this position, Higgs got a job as a writer in a photography magazine, shooting live music in his free time, taking the plunge to become a full-time freelance photographer in 2018.
When asked about how others should try to pursue the career he has now, he said that although there is no easy answer, you must work consistently and constantly push yourself to keep shooting and improving. One method that Higgs uses to progress his career, is setting short term goals, “shooting my favourite band, my favourite festival, to go on tour etc”. This way it’s a clear route to success, making your plans become reality.
As prepared as you may be to take the plunge, like Matt did, he said it is an extremely competitive industry, adding that it’s sometimes difficult to get opportunities in and one that is always difficult to make money in. Committing to it takes a lot of time and energy with what is often very little return, he also said “The fact I’ve managed to make a living out of it for me is a bonus, was my dream goal, but never my expectation.”
“I’m still not where I want to be and am still pushing towards my next goals”
A breakdown of Higgs’ steps to success:
Build a portfolio of images that you are proud of and represent your skills at local shows
Try to network with smaller artists and publications, these are often independent music websites to begin with
These are the people who will be able to help you access bigger events in return for images
These images go into your portfolio and as that builds, and your networking improves, you will be able to gain access to larger events to cover
At this point, you will be able to approach larger clients, such as management companies, who may have the budget to commission you if they like your work
At this point, you can find that people will reach out to you directly because they like your work
As for his photographic advice, Matt said that a successful live image in primarily about the atmosphere and energy the photo encapsulates, rather than technicalities like blur and noise. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t aim for the photo to be technically right, but it isn’t something to stress about, adding that “while self criticism is a great force for encouraging you to improve your skills, self belief is important too”
“If it’s a choice between getting a shot or missing it because you were worried about bumping up your ISO or slowing your shutter speed, don’t get hung up on the details.”
MATTS LIVE EVENT EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST
Spare memory cards
Camera cleaning gear
Multi-tool and tape for fixing things on the go
Some money- after the work is done its nice if you get a chance to enjoy the event yourself if you want a drink or to get a t shirt or something.
It’s taken time for Matt to get to the point he is at now in his career, and although he says that art is subjective, so his images may not appeal to everyone, he is only able to create the work he does now with shooting lots, as well as spending a considerable amount of time learning how to edit, and gaining inspiration from other creatives on social media. Some of his biggest influences include Todd Owoyoung, who can be found at @toddowyoung on Instagram, he finds Owohoung inspiring not only for his work, but also for his willingness to share his knowledge with others. When it came to initially getting into photography, his influences included photographers such as Paul Harries and Chris Casey, for their work in the rock magazines he enjoyed. Nowadays, he finds inspiration in the friends he is able to shoot with, such as Sarah Louise Bennett (@slb_photo), Matt Eachus (@matteachus), James Bridle (@jamesbridlephoto) and Katja Ogrin (@katja_ogrin).
It is without question that photography isn’t a career you can pursue without a natural love for it. Matt finds that his love for music photography was a fairly obvious route- finding himself with a passion for live music and a great imagination, but frustration when it came to creating things on paper. When picking up a DSLR camera for the first time, he was able to enjoy the entire creative process, as he would love the shows and capturing the action then editing the photos at home while listening to the music of the artist he photographed and reliving the experience.
“The buzz I get from photographing an act I love has never gone, and I don’t think it ever will”
When he gets home from the shows he attends, Matt backs up his files onto a hard drive, and often backs that up again. He then imports his files into Adobe Lightroom, going through his photos- deleting ones he doesn’t like and flagging the good ones, then goes on to make adjustments to the colours and exposure of the photos. However, he uses Adobe Photoshop for more intensive edits, removing any distractions from the images, before exporting them at their desired size. He stresses that this needs to be smaller for web and larger for print. At the end of the process, he reimports the images and continues with skin editing and bigger image manipulations.