In Focus: music photography with Amie Santavicca


One great photo can tell an artist's life story, a raw visual accompaniment to the music complete with originality and authenticity.

In this series, we speak to Creative Commission member and photographer Amie Santavicca who discusses her working life as a music photographer and offers her top tips for capturing the better artist photos.

WHAT ARE YOUR 5 BEST TIPS WHEN SHOOTING ARTISTS OR BANDS?

1. If you don't already, listen to their music.

Get a feel for who they are and what they make.

2. Find out where the images and/or video will be used.

Understanding the scale of the project gives you a good idea of what kind of variety to shoot. Is it cover artwork, single artwork, social media, EPK images, etc. or is it a full campaign for all of the above? This lets you have an idea of how cohesive images need to be, how many different set ups you'll need.

3. Be open to suggestions and opinions.

Of course, you always want to go in with a plan, but you have to keep in mind that you're working with other creatives. The more collaboration, the more enjoyment and fulfilment that everyone gets from the project.

4. This fourth piece of advice is basically the same as the fifth, but don't stress!

Go in the shoot with as much of a plan as you can. Be confident in your ideas. Don't let stress and anxiety take over!

 5. Have fun!

You have the coolest job in the world. Let yourself enjoy it.

How did you get into photography, and did you always know that was what you wanted to do?

Like most people in this profession, I've had a fascination with photography and film since I was a kid. Anytime my parents were using a video camera, if I wasn't hamming it up in front of the lens, then I was begging them to let me be the one filming.

In high school is where I started taking photography more seriously. Videography is what started the obsession and then photography took over. I had my camera with me at all times, photographing everything and anything. I was initially going to pursue psychology, but at the last moment, I decided to switch to making art for a living. Over a decade later and I still have no regrets at all about the decision.

Which artist(s) would you most love to photograph, and why?

There are a lot of people on my "I will do almost anything to photograph" list, but we'll stick to the top 3:

1. Metric 

I've been a massive fan of this band since I was a teenager. They've been a giant inspiration for me musically, artistically, and I'd even say spiritually in a way.

2. Fall Out Boy

I had an entire wall dedicated to Fall Out Boy in my room growing up, so I think the obsession speaks for itself.

3. Billie Eilish

I like her music. I like her style. I think we'd vibe really well working together and make some really cool artwork.

What was your first photography job or commission in music?

My first commission in music is still to this date my favourite shoot I've ever worked on. I photographed some press images for my favorite band, mewithoutYou.

I was a nervous, little college student who couldn't believe that her favorite band was interested in letting her take photos of them. We shot in a back room of Mr. Small's Theatre in Pittsburgh before their show that night. We had a little over an hour to shoot a few different set ups.

One of my good friends assisted me and let me borrow his camera and equipment as I didn't have adequate enough equipment at the time. For being my first time working with a group of musicians, it went really well! The photos still hold up for the most part and I definitely look back on them fondly. I've gotten to work with them two other times since then (nbd!), but the first holds a massive place in my heart.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

The best piece of career advice I've ever received has to be about showing the work you want to shoot. My career took a massive turn once I stopped showing everything I shoot (client or not) and only showing the work I want to make more of.

People aren't looking at your portfolio to see just anything, they're looking at your portfolio to see what you bring to the table and why you are the right person for the job. Finding your style is hard enough, let your portfolio guide you rather than showing off things you don't enjoy shooting.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BUDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS JUST STARTING OUT?

Your voice and your vision are what matter. You are chosen as the photographer for a reason.

Go into every shoot having that confidence. Imposter syndrome is real and it plagues a large chunk of creatives. It's also the reason many creatives are held back from marketing themselves and furthering themselves in their career. (I speak this from experience. It's something I work through daily.) Find your voice in photography and make it be heard.