How Even a Teenager Can Earn from Photography




Okay, maybe not just any old teenager. Canadian photographer, Joey Lawrence, might still be shy of his eighteenth birthday but he has the eye and attitude of a grizzled old pro, and the skills to match. He has awards from Microsoft, Bogen and the United Way but more importantly, he already has regular checks from clients and a calendar bursting with bookings.

Most of Joey’s work is band photography: “cinematic and stylized shots of regular dudes made to look extra cool,” as he puts it. He began by shooting a local band for $50 and free concert tickets, and watched his career take off from there.

A smaller band that liked my work got a little bigger and showed their manager my work. After the shoot, he was very impressed and worked with me as a sort of agent getting me many, many more bands to photograph from record labels and also for magazines because he had the contacts.

It also gave me some time and a lot of practice to develop myself because half the time I didn’t know what I was doing, (and probably still don’t) but it’s important just to act confident and everything will work out in the end.

Pick your Band and Build your Career
That’s clearly a way into commercial photography that anyone could take. Lots of bands need images, have a spare 50 bucks and can lay their hands on concert tickets. Some of those bands will grow, giving you connections to larger bands and more lucrative projects in the music industry. When they get big, you can get big with them.

Of course, it helps to shoot the sort of photos that win both respect and return bookings. Joey makes a point of avoiding the usual band clichés and instead suggests an original look that might take more work but which creates a deeper impression:

I hate photos of dudes from bands all in a alleyway looking extra tough. It’s been done over and over again, so my way of shooting would be to pitch a concept to the band (or work with one of their ideas) to do something unique. It can be a pain in the ass but it keeps things fresh and keeps me sane.

You must also keep certain people happy, and be careful with your concepts. For example, if you have a shoot for eight hours and you only have a few variations of a huge mass setup, you’ll get some good shots, yes, but not the amount of shots and situations a record label might want. Then they’ll probably not use you again.

Niches Make it Easy For Clients to Hire
Those concepts have included posing bands in swords and suits of armor, and splashing them in fake blood to shoot them beating each other up. The result isn’t just unique, eye-catching images, but a niche that helps buyers understand what they’re getting when they lay out the cash for a major shoot.

If you want to get paid in the commercial field, [creating a niche] is probably one of the most important things you can do. People who [try] to cover a wide range of styles and niches will not be remembered.

Say a company wants a new advertisement for a magazine. They will know exactly what they are looking for, and go to the photographer they know can deliver what they are after. They are putting a lot of money down and have to be confident he/she can pull it off. This does not mean all your work should be the same if you want to go this route, but it means that your work should scream “Oh, ________ must have done this!”

Focus on one thing that you are good at, and develop it. Make sure you like it too because it may end up what you do for a living.

Or it could take you into all sorts of other fields too. Joey now has photography agents in London and New York, and spends much of his time traveling. He wrote to us by email while touring India, Nepal and Bangladesh, where he’s mixing work with pleasure. But he’s also shot a couple of music videos and has his sights set on becoming a film director (although he says he’ll always be shooting stills.)

In the meantime, he just has to cope with one little weakness in his marketing strategy: his age. But he has a solution to that too:

[U]sually I keep the age thing secret until they agree to the job.

The bottom line is that while Joey’s photography is clearly unique, the road he took to achieve the success he’s already had doesn’t have to be. Anyone can start by shooting bands… and anyone with talent can use that start to build a career in photography.

Joey on the Ganges River with Aghori Baba, a Sadhu whose rituals include drinking from a human skull. Luckily for Joey, he had a spare.

Check out Joey’s work at his website and his tutorial dvd and tell us about your experiences with band photography.

[tags] teenage photographer, joeyl, joey lawrence, band photography [/tags]


5 comments for this post.

  1. Wes Said:

    Very interesting article. Full of great info. While I am not a teen(25), I have been interested in shooting bands and getting a start in commercial photography. Thanks!

  2. PhotographyVoter.com Said:

    Excellent article - obviously a hugely talented guy but even he needed a bit of luck to help him on his way..

  3. Azhar Said:

    I am so jealous. =|

  4. Di Said:

    As an adult who thinks of Joey as a friend... I've watched him for a few years now and admire his work, and the way he handles himself. Joey's talent and energy has gotten him where he is now.

  5. Rafi Said:

    As a teen this is my dream.(well close)

    I do want to begin a photography
    career before I turn 18 (I'm 17 now).

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