Ryan Johnston’s path to freelancing as a live music photographer

We caught up with freelance photographer and With Jack customer, Ryan Johnston, to talk about his path to freelancing. Ryan’s new to freelancing, having made the jump to full-time a few months ago. He can name Biffy Clyro, Red Bull and Travis as some of his clients.

Ryan is new to freelancing, having went full-time in July 2018. Within 2 weeks he had left his job as a graphic designer, got married and was doing his first freelance job for TRNSMT Festival. That would have been an intense fortnight!

You can watch our full interview on YouTube.

Ryan Johnston

How Did Ryan Build His Experience?

The agency Ryan worked for as a graphic designer helped him build experience as a photographer. They hired him out to clients so he got practice shooting products, activities, business portraits etc. On the side he was photographing weddings and live music. This gave him a broad range of skills.

How Did Ryan Get Into Music Photography?

Ryan got started with live music photography through building his network by going to gigs and meeting people. The first gig he photographed was The LaFontaines. The band later introduced him to the people at DF Concerts—the biggest music promoter in Scotland. It was through DF Concerts he started getting work for bigger bands and events. The takeaway? Your network is everything so invest time into building and nurturing it.

How Does Ryan Get Work?

Ryan will ask for opportunities instead of waiting for work to come to him. He posted on LinkedIn about wanting to try sports photography and—through a contact on LinkedIn—started working with Motherwell FC. Alongside a small team, he helps shoot their Story of the Match videos.

Ryan’s Advice For Getting Started With Live Music Photography

Ryan says you can’t expect to just turn up and get into the big gigs. Begin by building your portfolio with smaller gigs. You can find contact information for bands on Facebook or their website, so reach out and ask if you can photograph their gig. Ryan has photographed some high profile artists with this tactic, including Example.

Ryan’s Equipment

  • Nikon D750
  • Nikon 50mm ƒ1.4
  • 24-70mm ƒ2.8
  • 70-200mm ƒ2.8

Find Ryan Online

Ryan’s Insurance Package

  • Professional indemnity insurance. Any freelancer providing a service to a client should consider this type of cover. It’s very meaty, but you can think of it as insurance for problem clients or careless mistakes
  • Contents insurance. Ryan depends on his kit to do his work, so it’s important he has his cameras and lenses insured should they get damaged or stolen
  • Public liability insurance. Ryan regularly shoots in public places, so he has cover in case he causes damage to third-party property or injures a member of the public due to his work activities

We asked ourselves one important question…

What do we want out of an insurance provider?

With Jack is the answer