How did you get started? I started to take photos very early, I think at the age of ten. My grandpa was also very interested in photography and he was the reason for my passion. I always knew that taking pictures would become a huge part of my life. When I started, I combined different objects, drew inspiration from everyday life situations, and turned it into an inspirational memory. Later, I worked for a hockey-team, called the Bietigheim Steelers, which I also played for at that time.
Then everything took a turn for the better, and I am very grateful. Photography fills me with emotion and I love to share those emotions with the world. How I have become part of the the music photography world is easy to explain. Early on I frequently took photos at small youth centre concerts, some of which I had played with my own band. Music was always a part of my life and so I can connect both. When I had the opportunity to try out both, I took it, and I slowly got in contact with the concert photography.
Do you have any formal photography training? I have an education as a photographer and I was taught a lot about angles, filters, and perspectives before completing my education. Therefore, I am well educated and I have the experience necessary to grow in this field of art. Everywhere I go, and every opportunity that comes my way, helps me to flourish as a photographer. I am always interested in learning more to help better myself. Everywhere I go I consider a work of art that must be captured to preserve its beauty, design, and the story behind it. I am still young, so I never learned analogue photography as the photographers at this time, but in my education it was still a component. Nevertheless, I still learned to take pictures with a passion and not to just “press the trigger” to take a picture. In my opinion, you can only take good pictures when you understand what the story is behind the picture and you learn this best with analogue photography.
Was there a specific break where you went from amateur to pro? As I said, I started relatively early with photography. When I was 10 years old, I started taking pictures for a hockey team. They were the 2nd Federal League in Germany so I gained years of experience. In the course of the years you can notice a difference in my pictures. I learned that, first off, if you always work on yourself and your abilities your photography will grow as you do. Eventually, I decided to challenge myself with concerts and photographing musicians. Each opportunity has increased my experience and set me apart from other photographers. I started out taking photos of smaller bands and musicians and now I take photos of bands such as KISS, Bon Jovi, U2 and Motley Crue. The organisers had faith in me, some major bands have heard about me and then everything fell into place. The most important thing is, you must always keep growing with your photography, ask people for advice, look for your own twist on photos so you can stand out and get recognised, and always go after your dreams. Now I have a lot of the big name musicians in the music business that I photograph. I even get to do covers or promotion shoots for bands. So I can say, every opportunity has truly been a blessing and I would like to continue this as my passion.
You shoot fashion, sport and other genres. How important is it to diversify? When I started with sports I was taught, when taking action shots or group photos of players and teams, to show the determination of the players and the intensifying passion that rises in the each of them. Fashion photography shows the world change in a simple way, with boldness and creativity, allowing each person to be their individual self. Photographers like Richard Avedon inspire me because they are so creative and have set a different scene to the art in fashion photography. You can also connect fashion and sport photography to inspire people to become healthier, which is the point of photography at the end of the day: inspiration.
How much of your work is concert/music related? I live and love music, therefore the biggest part of my work is in the music area. If these are live concerts, studio admissions for promotion, or shootings on location I am there! I believe that music photography creates emotion and passionate memories of legends. With photography in the music industry, people such as Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, KISS, Bon Jovi and many others would not be remembered the way they are today. Although, I love photographing everything and anything in life, music always gives me that spark and fire to keep growing in this industry.
Would you say you have in identifiable style, and if so, how would you describe it? Every photographer has his own style of being creative. I think if anyone viewed my portfolio they could connect to any of my photos and see the stories of each picture and the style. Most of my pictures contain the “golden ratio” and most of them are black and white. I am a huge fan of the rule of thirds and you will see this in many pictures. However, I must also say that I am not the typical photojournalist who creates pictures that are limited to newspapers or articles, rather I am an artistic and creative photographer. I try to take a picture of the musicians in such a way as they are real. I shoot from different positions, angles and perspectives so everyone has their own point of view. The key to my pictures is to just be natural and limitless; see it from all views of life. I like my photos in black and white because it shows more depth. Why black-and-white photographs? Some think it’s because of the bad lighting situation, but its simple and elegant. It can dress up any picture. I choose black and white for pictures with very good light or pictures of openness because I simply love how they radiate more than a coloured picture. Colour pictures usually do not intensify enough during certain points in life, so black and white is the way to go. Colour pictures are beautiful when the picture is more simple or vibrant.
Do you think it is important to have a “style”? Each photographer develops his own style over the years. No picture is the same, even if you take it in the same place at the same time. Your own touch is important when taking pictures because it is a very competitive field. However, one should not exaggerate photos too much. Details and contrast are important but with my style I try to keep it as natural as possible.
Is your work primarily for print or online? I work for print media as well as for online media. My customers are distributed around the world. Bands such as Kiss, Bon Jovi, U2 , Metallica and The Scorpions are in newspapers, various music magazines and online, so I submit my work online for those types of projects. Also, I have my own websites with more pictures that I have shot. When I shoot groups and sports teams, those are published in newspapers and magazines as well.
What is the state of print media in Germany, and is it getting harder to get paid jobs? Unfortunately, newspapers don’t want to spend much money on pictures because magazines and the media are more popular. The newspapers take pictures from the archives if a big band comes to the city, or for any other major event. However, the magazines and newspapers that love music are also ready to pay for quality pictures, if they choose. Unfortunately, the media no longer have staff photographers, and they hire amateur photographers who offer everything for free or for very little money. Also, more people stay connected with magazines and the media, so jobs are fewer for the newspapers.
What makes a great music shot? For me, there are no bad pictures in music. Ansel Adam once said, “A good photo is a photo that one looks longer than one second”. Every picture tells a story or brings emotions, especially in music. It’s important that you find emotion and thoughts in the picture because it helps you to connect.
For me a good picture should be very expressive on its own right, and I must feel what’s happened in that moment, whether it’s in colour or in black and white, so you can feel the intensity in the photo. Naturally, it is also important to apply the correct exposure etc, so that it is technically correct. When it comes to music photography I believe the best way to shoot is by getting action shots of the band and artist. Again, this shows the intensity, the spark and excitement of the performance.
Do you use post processing? I am a little bit old-school. For the production of my pictures I use Lightroom and then process the pictures. Afterwards I will mark the IPTC informations. I’m not using Presets or Colour Lookups. Of course, if I find a picture and there is a microphone stand spoiling it, then I will edit it out of the picture, but actually, you should not alter the pictures too much. When you do a CD cover or similar project, then it’s okay.
What is in your kit for a gig shoot? I take photos exclusively with professional digital reflex cameras. All cameras and a majority of my equipment is Canon. I also happily take photos with old analogue reflex camera and develop the film myself. With concerts it is important to have wide-aperture lenses. I am no friend of fixed focal lengths, therefore, I have different lenses for the focal lengths from 24-400mm. I always adapt myself to the concerts, the bands, and the locations. If I’m shooting from FOH then I will need a longer focal length, when it’s is in the Pit then I need only lenses that go to 200 mm. Before each concert I find out information about the venue, show, lighting and position. On the road it’s kind of different and I pack everything so I am well prepared and I do research on my destination.
Here is a small list from my most important lenses and cameras:
Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Canon Extender EF 2X III
Who are your favourite photographers, music or otherwise? I have many favourite photographers from all genres that includes: Ansel Adams, Bob Gruen, Dennis O’Regan, Kristian Schuller, Martin Schoeller, Richard Avedon, Ross Halfin and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Each has inspired me in his or her own way and I look to their pieces when shooting and creating pictures.
Bob Gruen once gave me tip to always stick with it and not to give up if something didn’t work straight away. I’ve taken that to heart. He also said never to get on the nerves of the stars and musicians but to be relaxed and cool when dealing with them: that way they would also enjoy it, he said, and the time spent together would be more relaxed, and the results better.
Any tips for up and coming music photographers? Firstly, get to know other photographers because they are the best source of advice and experience. I would also say that the more pictures you take the better off you will be when it comes to your first professional shoot. Wherever you go, take your camera: take pictures of anything and everything; mess around with colours, angles and scenery. The more you can do the better off you’ll be and the faster you’ll gain experience. Getting help and support can fill gaps in your knowledge as well. I believe, you can never learn enough and there is always something to be practised.
Does the music photography industry need some sort of union or society to represent us to help deal with contracts, and lack of payments? In Germany, as in the US, there are lawyers who have specialised in this area. But I don’t think there’s any sense in having a sort of photographer’s association to represent us. The bands, or rather the management teams, who issue adhesion contracts will still continue to do this: an association won’t help with this. Photographers would be better off giving some thought to what it is they’re signing. There’ll always be someone who’s going to sign a contract like that, so the bands will continue to turn up with contracts like this. It could take years to get a law passed banning this type of contract, and it’s anyone’s guess whether it would be successful. I’m more in favour of groups where you can read up which band has submitted what sort of contract where, and where we can exchange information.
Find more of Dominic’s work at: