In Focus: music photography with Joupin Ghamsari

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 Joupin Ghamsari who discusses his working life as a music photographer and offers his top tips for capturing the better artist photos.

What are your 5 best tips when shooting artists or bands?

1. Making them feel comfortable

This is probably the most important to me as it will show in the images if the artist is uncomfortable and when the artist feels comfortable and confident then this will shine through in the images.

Having good music and a good vibe on set amongst the whole team will help relax the artist and make them feel good and just remembering to have fun on set as that positive energy will be contagious and rub off on everyone.

Also talking to the artist before actually shooting whilst they are getting ready really helps to break the ice and build up a relationship with them which will help the shoot flow once you start shooting. I think also including the artist in creative conversations whether it be with the stylist or hair and makeup really helps too as everyone's opinion matters on set. 

2. Direction

Sometimes you're working with completely new artists who have no experience at all so it always helps to give some direction on poses, mood etc to help them find their feet and even with experienced artists who are going in a new direction visually. It’s a collaborative process and it always helps to show the artist how the images are looking as you go along and also helps them to see what works and what doesn’t. 

3. Research, Research, Research!

Listen to the artist beforehand to get a feel for their music and vibe, find out their interests and what they do and don’t like and check out previous shoots to see how yours can be different whilst still being true to the artist. 

4. Prep

This probably sounds like an obvious one but never be in a situation where you don’t have what you need on the day. I always make sure I have whatever props, film etc way in advance so that there’s no added stress to the shoot on the day and also a recce of the location and a shot list beforehand. Always charge and pack your equipment the night before and take more than you need as you never know what will happen on the day. 

5. Expect the unexpected 

You can plan a shoot perfectly and things can still go wrong so always have a backup plan and be reactive if the unexpected does happen.

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

I was always creative growing up and would always draw and create but always loved how photography was able to capture the essence of a person in a way that painting and drawing couldn’t. It wasn’t until much later on in life that I picked up a camera again thanks to a tax rebate from HMRC (thank you HMRC says no one ever) and used the money to buy my first digital camera and fell in love all over again.

I had studied Art and Design initially at University and went onto specialise in Graphic Design but dropped out as the passion wasn’t there. I felt kind of stuck for a period of time but once I picked up a camera again everything started to click and I went on to study Photojournalism, which was a real turning point for me and led me to where I am today. 

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

It would have to be Snoop Dogg, growing up his music was constantly playing in my house thanks to my older brothers who would play him so much that even my mum knows some of his songs!

He has such a big personality and I think it would be the funnest shoot ever full of energy and a lot of laughter.

What was your first photography job or commission in music?

My first photography job within music was shooting some portraits of a French band for a magazine before their gig. I didn’t have much time to shoot them and had to think fast on my feet. It was my first taste of shooting that quickly and also directing that many people, but it was a great introduction and reconfirmed that I loved what I was doing. 

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

Know your worth and always trust the process. 

What advice would you give to budding photographers just starting out?

First and foremost shoot, shoot and shoot, consistently shooting and not being afraid to experiment will help you find your voice as a photographer but also show you what you like and don’t like to take photos of. 

Network and meet as many people as you can and don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. There’s so many ways now to reach out to people, so use all of those avenues to your advantage and don’t get discouraged if sometimes you don’t get a response as 9/10 times they haven’t seen your email/message so stay persistent and keep on trying!