One thing that people seldom consider is that most of their photos are not useable beyond their photo albums. The rules of copyright exclude so very many things from being shown or submitted for publication. Simple things such as private buildings, personal images and logos all require releases to be used for anything other than personal memories. One famous hotel in Miami charges $10,000 for usage licensing of their iconic likeness.
For instance, the preceding image of Sonny Rollins was taken at a concert in Toronto last month. I love being able to go to shows, sneak my camera in and take a few images (without flash) and have something to remember the show by. Seeing a jazz great like Sonny Rollins play was such a wonderful way to spend a night, and having some personal photos in my collection of him was worth dragging the equipment into the music hall. But that is where my dreams of being a music photographer end…to publish any of these in any way that makes money is prohibited without securing permissions, which inevitably negates any profit for the photographer. If I were able to secure press credentials in Toronto for a particular show, then I might be able to get up close with camera in hand openly…but then maybe not.
At the same time, does it really matter if I can ever share these image in a professional way? Not really. I can appreciate the fun of taking a few photos, while still enjoying the show, and nobody wants to sit next to a guy snapping four hundred images every few minutes. Sonny Rollins had a great set with lots of coloured gels, so it was fairly easy to get some basic shots. On the flip side, Branford Marsalis was in town the next week and I would have loved to get iconic shots of a man in his prime. Branford was dressed to kill and his band was dangerous that night. Instead of dragging the camera in though, I chose to just listen to the show and focus my attentions there. Did I miss brilliant photo opportunities? Yes. But when I can’t do much of anything with the shots, it made more sense to record his sounds to my memory in lieu of to my Canon sensor.
There will always be those other nights when I just want to take the camera to a show with me. When I went to hear Trevor Hogg‘s band at The Rex Jazz Bar, I knew that I would be able to get close enough to snap some solid shots. Getting close is critical for photographing musicians, and it is not easy in most venues. Trevor’s group was into the music and were great to shoot. I also didn’t care if I could do anything with the images beyond showing Trevor the next day. In the end, he liked some of the images enough to license, and I loved the above image enough to include it in my portfolio. Lesson learned: some nights you just gotta go with how you feel and not care about anything beyond taking pictures because you want to.