The self taught photographer who is taking over the world of music photography in Australia. Jared Leibowitz hails from New York, USA but is based in Sydney, Australia.
Q. Where were you born and raised?
A. Well, I was born in New York and lived there until I was 11 and then I’ve lived around Sydney for now 9 years.
Q. When did you decide you wanted to be a photographer?
A. Honestly, I’ve always been taking photos… But I guess the point when I decided I wanted to become a photographer was at the start of Year 12 (2013) and then I just watched a bunch of Youtube videos learning about different cameras, lenses and everything and started to take photography really seriously at the end of Year 12.
Q. Did you study photography at university or are you self taught? Do you think it's important that aspiring photographer attend university to perfect their craft?
A. I went to CATC Design school for a trimester, but it wasn’t for me, I hated sitting in a class and learning things, I guess I should have known from my whole schooling career! So because the first trimester was all stuff I already knew I guess you could say I’m all self taught. I think it’s important for people to learn at their own pace, instead of being put into a class with people who may want to learn things at difference paces. If someone finds it easier to learn in a classroom then yeah I’d say go to a college or university, but most creatives I’ve met can’t stand that, but it’s all subjective.
Q. Why did you choose to specialise in music photography?
A. Well, I had just made my first Facebook page and uploaded photos from this party and a friend of mine posted on the wall asking if I do music, and I had never thought of it, and I thought it could be cool so I said sure. He invited me to his bands show at the Lewisham Hotel and I took some photos and loved it.
Q. How did you get started shooting music? How exactly did you get to where you are now?
A. After I shot that first show I got a message from a promoter asking if I wanted to take photos at some shows, and of course I said yes , and then that’s when my passion started to grow. The only advice I have to someone who wants to become a music photographer is; shoot. Don’t stop, just go to every local show you can, contact the promoter and ask if you can get a door spot to shoot the show, or sometimes you even need to pay to get in, but in the end it will be worth spending an extra $10 if it’s a decent band.
Q. Is your artist portrait pre-conceptualised or is it on the spot?
A. This photo of Dylan from The Sticky Fingers was backstage at 170 Russell in Melbourne and we entered into the venue and walked around a bit and I saw these blue lights and I thought it would be sick to get photos of all of them here. After their set I asked each one of them to come down and take a few photos, Dylan had a cigarette and was about to light it and I thought the colours would be amazing if he waited so I asked him to wait and he did and then I asked him to light it when I had framed my shot.
The Jason Derulo photo was after his show in Sydney that I was lucky enough to shoot for him and that was just on the spot waiting for the bus to come pick us up.
Q. If you do pre-conceptualise an image, what's your process on doing this?
A. I need some sort of inspiration to pre-conceptualise, like the blue lights in the hallway or a cool colour palette in the scenery, or a cool location or something along those lines, I find it difficult to come up with a cool idea before I’m with the subject or before I find a cool location.
Q. What's been your favourite concert/festival to photograph? Why?
A. That’s a difficult one, I’d probably say Splendour In The Grass or Soundwave, I loved shooting Splendour because of the whole vibe of the festival, it’s a really great environment and great people, not too hot either which is a really good thing when you’re running around stage to stage you’re not dying of exhaustion.
Q. What's your go-to-gear?
A. It depends on the situation so for live music given it’s a decent sized show I’ll grab my Nikon D800 and my 50mm 1.4. If it is any other situation for the most part I’ll grab my new Sony A7ii and 35mm 2.8. I absolutely love the new sony system, it’s small, light, full frame and just about everything I need.
Q. What are your camera setting that you usually shoot on for a concert?
A. Always in manual! That’s a big thing because in order to get cool looking shots you need to learn how to manipulate light in certain ways and the best way to do that is by knowing how exposure works and how to use it. I shoot on continuous focusing when I’m shooting live, and I like to stay as wide open as I can on my 50mm. I’ll range from 1.4 to 2.2 and on my 2.8 lenses I’ll stay wide open unless I’m shooting sport I’ll be shooting at f4 most of the time.
Q. Do you shoot on digital or film mainly?
A. I mostly shoot digital, but I’ve recently gotten into a bit of film, I’m still learning what each film looks like and what I prefer but hopefully I’ll be able to do some cool portrait work with it soon enough!
I started shooting on film because I like the organic nature of it, and it’s exciting not knowing exactly what you got until you get it processed!
Q. Who's been your favourite artist/band to work with and why?
A. Honestly I love working with all the bands I’ve toured with, I’ve done tours with Stray From The Path, Make Them Suffer and Sticky Fingers both Stray and MTS in the first day we all pretty much clicked with meeting Stray over a year ago when they came to play with Amity and getting to do a quick shoot with them to then a year later doing a tour with them was really awesome. The Sticky Fingers boys are a great bunch of guys and from the first moment I met them they were so open and welcoming, and they were actually the first band to take me interstate on their tour last year in March! And the MTS guys are the first band to take me overseas and I absolutely love those guys, very kind and open to any suggestions I have with shoots very much like Sticky and Stray.
Q. You photograph The Sticky Fingers a lot, how did this collaboration come about? And how did you maintain that friendship with them after shooting them the first time?
A. Well, I wanted to work with Sticky for a while and then they had a tour coming up so I asked they would be looking for someone to document it, and they said they couldn’t take someone along because of budget reasons, so they said I could come to the Sydney shows (4 sold out Metro shows) and I did and when I walked into the room, I had never met them before and Paddy was standing next to the door and blurts out “Aye boys this is Jared he was the one who took that mad photo of Dizza”… It was a black and white photo I had taken earlier in the year of Dylan smoking on stage with his guitar in hand, and then it all kicked off from there. I see them more as mates than on a business level, and that’s one thing photographers get caught up in, they forget the artists are just people, and the best way to get to know them and get the best photos are if you’re friends with them.
Q. A lot of bands prefer not to have a photographer travel with them (could be due to budget and/or preference). What do you think is the importance of an artist having a personal photographer?
A. Getting content out there is the main thing for bands and what better way than to have a photographer on the road who can get the band photos at the end of every night and also it’s great to have someone there to document all the stupid stuff that happens on tour to look back at long after their music career is done and reminisce. It’s really tough for bands to afford it, it’s not a necessity like a sound guy but if the band can afford it then they should 100% take someone on the road.
Q. When you're shooting at concerts, do you shoot a lot or try to keep it quite minimal?
A. There have been two times when I’ve shot a lot in the time I was allowed in the pit and that was Marilyn Manson. We got one song so I had to shoot a lot to make sure I got what I needed and then the other was Kendrick Lamar, we got to shoot one song and it was really tough so I had to really shoot to make sure I got something for that one as well. Most of the time I’ll end up shooting 50-100 shots in the three songs, and if I’m shooting the whole show I’ll probably shoot 300-400 (including backstage photos).
Q. What's your process on editing your images? How fast are you at editing? How fast are you at delivering your images to a client? What do you think is the importance of fast delivery?
A. The night of I am at my computer editing, and I’m done before I go to sleep and I make sure they’re uploading before I head to bed and then in the morning I send the band a link or the media publication a link to the photos. It’s more for my sake so I don’t then have to spend the next day editing, and its really important on tour because the next day new stuff is happening that I need to capture and I can’t be there editing while stuff is happening. It just makes my work flow a lot easier and a lot neater.
Q. What would your #1 tip be for networking in the music industry?
A. Don’t be afraid to talk to people.
Q. You have shot for some music magazines, how did you get the chance to do that?
A. When I finished high school the first thing I did was I sent out about 50 emails to different publications with my portfolio and hoped that one would get back to me, and I was lucky enough that I heard back from TheMusic.com.au and then I’ve been shooting for them ever since!
Q. What's the best advice that you have ever received? And what's the best advice you can give to aspiring music photographers?
A. The best piece of advice I got was keep grounded… This is a quote from a photographer who I asked for advice in June of 2013 when I started to learn a bit more about photography and wanted to start taking it seriously… “Photographers seem to be a bunch of weirdo, protective people to me … the world needs more skilled people, not less, and certainly not an industry where no one helps anyone else or is willing to share any of their insight. Just pass stuff along in a few years when someone asks you”. That piece of advice is what I’d pass onto other photographers coming up in the ranks, as well as just keep shooting and experiment, don’t let people tell you how to shoot, you need to find your own way, find inspiration and go from there.