Interview with Gig Photographer Patrick Murphy

Bio photoPatrick Murphy is a professional music photographer who shoots concerts, theatre, entertainment events and also photographs head shots for actors. Patrick lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and two daughters.

So Patrick, How did you get started into gig photography? Well, back in 2011, one of my favourite artists Brian McKnight was on tour. His brother Claude, who is in the group Take 6 (another favourite), was also on tour with him. I reached out to him on Facebook about shooting one of their upcoming shows. I was persistent, and he finally said that I could come to Buffalo to shoot the concert. I had no idea what was going to happen, as I had never shot a concert before. I had full access and was able to shoot the entire sound check, dressing room before the show, and the entire concert. I even had dinner with them. It was a great experience and they are a big reason why I started doing concert photography. After that, I didn’t shoot another concert until March 2012, because I didn’t really know you could have a career shooting concerts. I was a little naive and thought every concert would be all access and that I would be able to shoot the entire thing; boy was I wrong!

Who do you shoot for? I am a contributing entertainment photographer for Getty Images.

Where have you had your work published? I have had my work published in Rolling Stone Magazine, “Katie” (Katie Couric’s TV show), Fuse TV, and websites such as Rolling Stone, People, Huffington Post, MTV, USA Today, Yahoo, ABC News, and NBC News.

Impressive! Do you have a signature style? What do you always try to capture when you’re in the pit? I wouldn’t really say I have a signature style but I love to capture the emotion of the performers, and I want the viewers to feel that they were at the concert.

Are you a full-time professional photographer? Yes and no. While I am not usually shooting full-time, I am editing photos, working on my website and social media accounts, and emailing a lot. So it really is a full-time job. I am also a stay at home dad, and that is the hardest job, haha.

How do you see the music photography industry in the short period of time you have worked in it? Was it what you expected? I see it as a great way to combine music and photography. There are some things that can be frustrating at times, like shooting conditions, but I love being a part of it, and I am truly blessed. Well, I thought every concert would be like my first concert that was all-access, so I was a little surprised at some of the rules and regulations.

There is a lot of talk throughout our community in regard to photo-releases and the restrictions imposed on gig photographers. What’s your opinion on photo releases and publicists? Ahh, the photo release debate! It’s funny—for my first 40+ concerts I maybe only had one or two times when I didn’t have to sign one, but the last 7 concerts I shot, I didn’t have to. I don’t agree with a lot of the releases out there, but I understand that the artist’s management and publicists don’t want photographers selling the images by the thousands or printing t-shirts. I think there should just be a “standard” release that states you won’t do those two things, but when they “grab” the rights of the images, I think it is wrong and against the photographer’s rights.

Have you ever walked away from a gig after seeing the photo release contract? No, I have not. While I don’t always agree with photo releases, you never know what opportunities might arise in the future. Who knows, the publicists or management may see your images from that show and really like your work, and they might have an opportunity for you down the road.

It seems some artists are now banning the use of camera phones at their gigs. Really? I didn’t hear that, but I think it’s a great thing for many reasons! It amazes me how some people can spend hundreds on a concert just to stand there with their phones in the air the entire time! Enjoy the concert and take it all in! Also, some of these phones take good pictures and they are allowed to shoot the entire concert, but credentialed photographers can only shoot the first 3 songs.

What’s your advice to gig photographers when presented a photo release? Do whatever you feel is necessary and don’t let others influence your decisions.

What’s your opinion on hobbyists who shoot for free in the pit? If they are respectful to the other photographers and are there to get good shots, then that’s great. If they just want to be in the pit for their favourite band and affect other photographers getting the shots they want, then I don’t think they should be there. As cool as it is to be in the pit and take photos of concerts, it’s still a job and a lot of hard work goes into it.

What’s in the bag?
Canon 7D w/battery grip
Canon 24-70 f/2.8
Tamron 70-200 f/2.8
Tamron 1.4X Telephoto Extender for soundboard shoots

Which gig photographers do you admire? The two that I admire are Kevin Mazur and Jeff Kravitz. Those two are heavy hitters in entertainment photography. Jeff Kravitz founded FilmMagic and Kevin Mazur co-founded WireImage, which are now a part of Getty Images. They are very well respected and are shooting every big concert, award show, and red carpet event.

What would be your top 3 tips for an amateur music photographer just starting out?

  1. Shoot as much as you can to get a feel for what it’s like to shoot concerts.
  2. Be polite and courteous to everyone you deal with.
  3. Don’t let other photographers intimidate you during a shoot.

And what would be your top 3 tips for a music photographer who is doing well and on the verge of going pro?

  1. Be persistent. I cannot stress this enough as this is the main reason I have had some success. You have to get noticed somehow, and because there are so many good concert photographers out there, you want people to remember you; being persistent will do that.
  2. Be confident in your work and try your best to block out the negative things that might get in the way of your goals or dreams.
  3. Stay sharp and keep learning.

What’s your favourite music photography photo you’ve taken? I would have to say the piano shot of Brian McKnight. While it’s not my favorite technical shot, it’s my favorite because it reminds me of my first concert photography experience, and how blessed I was to get that opportunity.

How can we find out more about you and see more of your work? 


Photo details:

  • Brian McKnight 7/13/11 Riviera Theatre, North Tonawanda, NY
  • Canon 24-105 f/4
  • Shutter speed: 1/60
  • Aperture: f/4
  • ISO 2500
  • Aerosmith 6/19/12 Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
  • Canon 24-70 f/2.8
  • Shutter speed: 1/200
  • Aperture: f/9
  • ISO 640
  • Taylor Swift 4/25/13 Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
  • Canon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6
  • Shutter speed: 1/200
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • ISO 1000
  • Imagine Dragons 7/30/13 Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland, OH
  • Canon 24-70 f/2.8
  • Shutter speed: 1/250
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO 640
  • John Mayer 8/6/13 Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
  • Canon 24-70 f/2.8
  • Shutter speed: 1/250
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO 1000

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Hi Patrick
    Just wondering would you recommend a flash or just bump up your ISO and use a 2.8 or faster lens when shooting in a Venue or Bar.Wouldn’t you have Blurry photos if you don’t use a tripod in this type of settings?

  • Hey Rick,
    Very good question! If you are shooting a major artist almost 100% of the time you are not allowed to use flash. As you can see for the Imagine Dragons and John Mayer shots I shot them at 1/250 and f/2.8. Luckily I didn’t have to bump up my ISO too high because there was enough light. I love to shoot at faster shutter speeds and “freeze” the action and I am able to achieve that using an f/2.8 lens. Now at a a bar when the light isn’t as good as it is at a big arena having a lens that’s f/2.8 is very beneficial. However at a bar you can usually use flash as long it’s ok with the band.

    If you are in the pit there is no room to use a tripod and you really don’t want to because it limits your ability to move around. If allowed you can use a tripod for soundboard shoots and that’ll help your stabilization tremendously.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.