Where do you get your inspiration from? The outdoors? The city? Or maybe human beauty? Wherever it comes from, it drives us as creatives. As visual artists, we translate this inspiration into images or videos but the process of getting there isn't always easy. Long hours, little sleep, and the added stress of paying the bills can leave us losing focus. Maybe your original passion isn’t as strong as it use to be or all the family photo sessions you have taken on leave you feeling like all the fun is gone? So what do you do when you feeling like you're loosing your creative edge? Crank up the tunes and start jammin' out because here are three ways music can transform your photography.
Music for Editing
It’s no joke that if you are serious about being a creative professional, you are going to spend some time in front of a computer. The sooner you embrace this, the sooner you will learn to enjoy the time you spend editing. More time editing equals better postproduction and overall higher quality images. How do you make the best of your time in front of a computer? It is a well know fact that there is nothing like some tunes to help pass the time. For most people, jamming out while you edit is essential. While I also love listening to podcasts, tutorials, and lectures while I work, sometimes you need to focus on your work. The best way I get in that zone is to put my headphones on, tune out the rest of the world, and listen to some good music.
While cranking up the tunes is a great way to enjoy your time in front of the computer, finding the right music to help you focus is essential to being as productive as possible. For each person, it differs and also depends on what kind of mood you're in. Don’t be afraid to spend some time listening to different genres of music. Figure out what works best for you or the specific project you are working on. You can find something upbeat to get you started and transition into instrumentals as your focus needs to intensify. I like to find a playlist and stick to it as changing stations or albums takes time and focus away from the project at hand. I like to listen to music that is more like background noise rather than an artist that I really like. Sometimes I find I will get to caught up in changing songs or albums and that takes away from my work. It's all about finding a balance and listening to what works best for you and helps you stay focused and enjoy your time.
Music for Shooting
Listening to music while I shoot takes several different forms. If I am shooting in the studio by myself, working on products or inanimate objects, I listen in a similar manner as if I were editing. Finding a playlist or artist that will help me stay focused and be able to work. If I am shooting with models or even portrait sessions with clients, music becomes a very useful tool. It is rare that you will walk into a large scale shoot and not find music playing. It is a great tool to loosen the mood and get everybody comfortable. Ask the people you are working with what their favorite kind of music is. Nothing seems to get a subject relaxed in front of the camera like their favorite tune. Chances are, they will be dancing around in-between shots. Don’t let them get too crazy and tear down your seamless backdrop, but a little bit of movement can be a great thing in a shoot. Obviously it depends on what type of mood you are going for, but if you want a happy subject, play upbeat music, and if you are shooting something darker, try finding a song that you think evokes the mood you are trying to portray.
I encourage photographers to put together playlists for their shoots. Think about the mood that you are trying to convey. Don’t be afraid to ask your model/client what kind of music they enjoy listening to beforehand, especially if it is someone you have never worked with before. Depending on where I am shooting, I usually connect my computer to a TV or monitor using an Apple TV. I will set up Spotify or iTunes and give my subject the option to choose music. Music can also be a great discussion piece while you are getting to know your new client or model. Lighten up the mood, ask them if they like the music you are playing, what they want to listen to, or if they have been to any shows lately. Music is a great way to get your clients feeling comfortable and on the same page as you.
Music for Inspiration
Being a photographer/videographer plays an interesting role in my music selection. I find myself listening constantly and always striving to listen to new tracks and albums. Music can be a great source of inspiration for artists. As a videographer, almost every edit we use has music in it. Music plays a vital role in video and can make or break an edit. Having a wide range of musical interests and listenings is a great way to keep your edits fresh and interesting. Pay attention to what you are listening to, would the lyrics be too much or overwhelming in the edit you are creating? I spend a lot of time listening to instrumental tracks as well as nature sounds and am constantly coming across tracks that I would love to use in my videography work.
As a photographer, music can be used for inspiration in many ways. Obviously it can be used while editing and during shoots as I mentioned above, but also it can be a great source for themes. Pay attention to lyrics, maybe a certain line or chorus hits you deep. Think about how you can translate that inspiration into a photo. Listen while you are driving, working out, or editing and if a lyric strikes you, jot it down in a notebook or on your phone. It is also a great exercise in creativity to turn words into an image.
Music as a Subject
Personally, my main body of work as an artist is not filming or photographing concerts or musicians, but I have had the opportunity to photograph some musician friends who opened up for larger acts. If I hadn't taken the opportunity to help out a friend, I wouldn't have had a chance to get a front-row seat to some of my favorite acts. While it may not be your area of expertise or even interest, it is a great way to switch things up and have fun. Shooting concerts is an absolute blast. There is nothing like being in-between a great artist and thousands of fans. Oftentimes you get a first-row seat to an amazing performance and you get paid for it, or at least get to see a show for free. If you are starting to get burnt out with your work, I highly recommend finding a concert to photograph. Everyone has their opinions on working for free but in my opinion this one can be a no brainer. Most musicians are very active on social media and having them post your photos can be a great source of exposure. It is also a great opportunity to network, shoot under different and often difficult conditions, and who knows who you will meet or what opportunities will present themselves. Even if you aren’t getting paid, getting into a good show for free is a great deal.
No matter what your roll is in the creative process, we are always striving to become better artists. While something like listening to music may seem simple and obvious, becoming a master of your craft takes an enormous amount of attention to detail in every aspect. It is vital that we make the most out of every aspect of the creative process. So whether you are jamming out while you edit, pumping some tunes during a shoot, looking for the next track for your latest motion edit, or shooting a concert, don’t overlook music as a creative driving force in your work.
Just read the article, which resonates like you would not believe. There's always music going on in my head during a shoot which then gets cranked up to actual eleven when I start the editing process. It helps to get back to the central ideas I had during the shoot which in some cases are years apart. I remember these images through music.
Also, you're article ties in with the ideas of exploring other creative realms aside the one you're currently involved in. I fully agree with this:
Guys, whether you start painting, playing guitar or woodworking, you ARE going to be better at your creative profession.
I love listening to music while I edit photography. If I am editing a music artist I usually listen to their music.
-Chris "AoxoA" Hooper of Austin TX