Rhona Murphy is no stranger to the world of music photography, having shot consistently since 2016. By combining a strong love for music, a good eye and her own unique/identifying editing style - Rhona captures the spirit and pure excitement of live performances.
We caught up with Rhona to find out more...
Foals - "this photos was from Truck Festival 2019 when Yannis jumped into the crowd. There were loads of pyrotechnics which meant that photographers were confined to a small space and kicked out of the photopit as quickly as possible. Amazing live band."
What made you want to be a photographer?
I love music. Can’t actually imagine life without it. Around 4 years ago I was going to a lot of gigs, mostly on my own as none of my friends shared my passion for music. At the same time I’d been given a second hand DSLR for my birthday and I had a light bulb moment when I thought I could combine music and photography and therefore not feel as self-conscious at a gig on my own. I could pretend I had a purpose there! The only problem was that it was my first camera and I had no idea how to use it! That was the start of a major learning-curve to learn enough about low-light photography to get decent photos. I’m still learning. Any photographer who says they know everything is lying!
What equipment could you not live without?
I use 2 NIKON D810 cameras and I’ve gradually acquired the lenses needed for small stages and festival stages. My very first lens was a f1.8 50mm and to this day it’s still my go-to lens. I also rely heavily on my f2.8 24-70mm lens. It’s nice to have a range of lenses but I do believe it’s not what you have but how you use it that makes the difference between average and super-cool images.
Apart from the cameras/lenses a high specification laptop is a must. Depending on which publication you shoot for it’s not unusual to have to send edited images before the band/artist has come off the stage.
The Sherlocks - "I'm the band photographer for The Sherlocks and this photo is from the recent tour a few weeks ago. This was at Nottingham Rock City and this is the photo that they have used on a poster for their Manchester show (Albert Hall) in November."
What has been your most memorable shoot to date and why?
In 2019 I had set myself the ambition of shooting for a band playing on one of the main festival main stages. The chance came at Isle Of Wight Festival when DMA’S asked me to shoot for them. I was at IOW for the whole festival shooting for various bands but that main stage experience kept me on cloud nine. DMA’s are one of my favourite bands and I’ve shot for them many times before and since IOW but this was extra special. I also had an amazing weekend in August 2019 shooting for The Sherlocks. They played Reading Festival the first day, Leeds Festival the second day and then onto Victorious Festival on the final day. Loved every second of it!
If you could shoot with anyone, who would it be?
I’m going to lose any street cred here but 5 Seconds Of Summer is high up on my dream list. There’s a lot of action on stage which leads to great photo chances. I’d also like a crack at Bring Me The Horizon and one of my very favourite bands Catfish and the Bottlemen just in case anyone reading this has any influence….!
Catfish & The Bottlemen at Citadel Festival - "one of my favourite bands who I've seen countless times. Last year I had the chance to finally photograph them when they headlined Citadel festival in London."
What has been your most difficult challenge so far within the photography industry?
The music industry itself chews you up and spits you out if you’re not careful. You need to be resilient and to trust your instincts. There are major highs and major lows. But there are a lot of amazing, supportive photographers to work with and I’ve made some great friends.
Procuring photo passes is my nemesis, dealing with media/PR companies and not finding out until the last minute if you’re in or out is a major headache for all music photographers.
Who is/are your favourite photographer/s?
I think it’s important to find your own style and I admire these photographers for having done that. The American Adam Elmakias was one of the first music photographers I followed and he also posts blogs/tutorials which are worth checking out. In the UK Jenny McCord is a favourite photographer. I first saw Jenny shooting for Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes and started to follow her work. Then I bumped into her in the photo pit at a Barns Courtney gig and started chatting and I’ve known her since then. Finally the very famous American photographer Annie Leibovitz whose portrait photos are inspirational. I don’t always agree with all her views but she’s hugely talented. If I ever get anywhere near to her level of skill I’ll be very happy.
DMA'S at IOW - "this was a snatch shot. The rest of the band had just left the stage at IOW when Johnny Took turned round and saw me. It's moments like this that remind me why I do this."
What are your top three bits of advice for aspiring photographers?
The best way to learn music photography where you have no control over lighting is to get out to as many gigs as possible and practice. The smaller venues don’t usually require photo passes. When you start to shoot at big venues or as a band photographer you have to know what you’re doing and how to adapt to different situations so all that time spent in small, dark venues will pay off!
Live music photography is different to landscape/portrait/wedding photography. It is more important to capture a moment on stage than it is to have a technically perfect photo.
I sometimes get asked how do you get bands to use your photos and take you on tour etc. I think the critical thing is to take good photos, if you do that bands will want to use them. And sometimes you have to be patient. Bands are used to people always wanting something from them so they can be a bit suspicious. And only shoot for bands you like. That keeps it fun!
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes - "another favourite live band. I had interviewed Frank about an hour before the set and he said he'd try and give me a good photo. I wasn't actually expecting him to remember!"
Kaiser Chiefs - "Ricky Wilson's leap of faith when they played a hometown gig at Elland Road Leeds 2019. My first football arena gig!"