How to become a hip-hop photographer

It can be difficult to become a hip-hop photographer, but networking, staying on top of the industry, and taking every opportunity you get is a good start.

Overview

Hip-hop photographers are often responsible for documenting the history and future of this music genre.

However, it can be quite difficult to break into this industry, which is why it is important to consider the advice of established photographers.

The evolution of hip-hop photography

Photographers in the music industry have long been credited with documenting the rise and fall of some of the most well-known artists.

Hip-hop photographers, specifically, have been able to establish artists as the people behind the music and have helped many artists to become pop culture icons instead of just underground unknowns over the years.

Even with the advent of digital photography and the rise in “selfie”-photography, hip-hop photographers have not been pushed to the background.

Hip-hop artists in the modern age have credited both well-known and lesser-known photographers with taking photographs used for album covers, billboards, and even merchandise.

How to become a hip-hop photographer

The chance to take a potentially infamous picture of a well-known or up-and-coming hip-hop artist is what draws many beginner photographers to the hip-hop photography industry.

However, the music industry is notoriously difficult to break into, which is why it is important to consider the advice of hip-hop photographers who have made a name for themselves in the industry over the years.

There is no set path or way to becoming a hip-hop photographer and it is largely up to you to keep working hard to make a name for yourself.

There are, however, some tips that beginner photographers can use for breaking into the industry and becoming successful, tips that seem to be repeated by well-known hip-hop photographers and that seem to work for them, namely:

  • Networking is key
  • Know as much as possible about your subject matter
  • Grasp every opportunity you get

Networking is key

Much like in any other industry, success in the hip-hop photography industry is very much about who you know.

Building connections with event organisers, media outlets, management, artists, and venue managers helps you to get media passes to get into events and into the pit, so that you can take photographs.

Many venues or events have regular shows and building relationships with the people that work for and in these companies can help you gain exclusive insights into new artists or shows that you may want to attend in the future.

It is also important to get your name out into the public when you are starting out, so that people get an idea of your style and approach.

This is why it is also important to network with people in media, news and blogs, so that you have somewhere to send your photographs once you have edited and refined them. Additionally, so that they can be distributed for people to see and enjoy.

Know as much as possible about your subject matter

It may be tricky, but it is also important to try to get to know the artists you are photographing personally.

Having a one-on-one conversation with an artist before you start taking pictures of them can help them to see you as an authentic person, instead of just a flashing lens. This can help you to capture more genuine and natural photographs.

You also need to be clued-up about the latest happenings in the industry.

It might be easier to get access to a new, unknown opening act than to an event of a big name but being one of the first photographers to have photographed this artist can turn into a significant accolade at a later stage in your career.

This can also help you get your camera setup honed-in and get a feel for the space before you photograph the well-known artists.

Take every opportunity

This point corroborates the previous point of photographing even the opening acts as a way of slowly working your way up in the industry.

It is important to take every opportunity that you can get when you are a beginner hip-hop photographer. However, the same applies to taking photos whenever you find inspiration.

Many well-known photographers have captured some of their best photos when they snuck into a show, event, or in a behind-the-scenes moment when the artist was not on stage yet.

Final thoughts

The hip-hop photography industry has evolved alongside the music industry, and it continues to grow and change.

In order to get your start in this industry, you need to network, get to know artists, and take every opportunity that comes your way.