Project Description

Bird's Eye View

Interview with 

Live Music Photographer: Noah Witt

Interviewer: Jemma Bird

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Noah Witt

 

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In the past, AMNplify has spoken to an array of incredible artists that bring us our favourite music, play our favourite shows and headline our favourite festivals.  All of this wouldn’t be possible without the copious amounts of work that goes on behind the scenes.

Amnplify Interviewer Jemma Bird had the chance to speak to some of the hardest working individuals we know and gain a BIRD’S EYE VIEW of what their role in the industry is really like.

Music Photographer, Noah Witt has managed to balance studying at college during the day and shooting some of the world’s best up and coming acts of a night time including Camilla Cabello, Tyler The Creator, Imagine Dragons, The 1975, LANY and more. Check out our chat below with Noah where he the gives us the insight on how to get the perfect backstage portrait, equipment necessities for any aspiring music photographer, as well as his dream artists to tour with! If you would like to see more from Noah, you can follow his Instagram HERE

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When did you start taking photos and at what point did you realize that it was something you wanted to make a career out of?

I remember when I was about 5 years old, on my birthday!

My dad took me to the store and i got a disposable. fell in love with it…think i just documented pissing my brother off haha – I still have those photos too haha!

I realised I wanted to do this when I was in high school, my junior year I kind of realised this would be a focal point and help me get to where i want to be in life.

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What made you want to pursue a career within the music industry?

Music! Everyone that knows me might say I’m easy going but when it comes to music I’ve worked my ass off to be where I am so far.

My grandma took me to my first concert, florence + the machine, when I was about 10 and i’ve been hooked since… obsessed is the right word actually. (Florence and Arcade Fire are my roots so shout out to Grandma!)

I love music, and doing this thing doesn’t really feel like work to me since i enjoy doing it so much. I’m not completely consumed with much else, anyone that knows me well can attest to that. That’s what makes photography so great for me, I’m just a guy following his passion.

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Have you had any photography/editing training?

I haven’t had any training. I definitely owe it to all the people that have dealt with my millions of questions for the past six years. I  just learned on the go. I followed a lot of artists on instagram in high school that inspired me however, and surprisingly when I asked them a question here and there they answered.

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What gear do you use whilst shooting a show?

Some artists get so upset at people asking what equipment they use, I get it. But I’m sure they either wondered or asked themselves at one point in their life, so I’m glad you asked! When you start out you do wonder. One of the main reasons starting out is SO hard because it’s really hard to be confident in your own work with so many amazing creatives out there (I’m OCD when it comes to my work like most artists so I hope that shows in my work!)

The only way to combat this insecurity is to just work. The more you work at it the better your work becomes, and you’ll start to become more confident in your skills. Then comes the cool part where you start to gain a creative niche, and your work is easier to distinguish from others.

For a normal gig I just use my DSLR and maybe a film camera here and there. Behind the scenes i make sure to bring an external flash with me while shooting behind the scenes footage because venue lighting is usually a pain. I love shooting with film as well so some film + instant film cameras are in my bag at most times.

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Film photography is all the rage at the moment, is this something you’re interested in? If so what tips do you have for anyone shooting with film?

I’ve been stuck deep in the film hole for a while now. I’m very glad it’s getting more popular again. It sure is expensive but it’s very worth it. Experimenting is the best tip i have. Also, think of what it is that you are trying to capture before taking the shot. That’s actually what I love about it most, shooting film emphasises certain things a digital camera doesn’t.

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Do you use different equipment when you are doing a single show compared to when you are doing a tour, festival or multiple shows that you have to travel for?

I’ve actually never been on a full tour, (due to school)  so I feel a little disqualified doing this interview haha! thanks! It’s on my bucket list, and i know i need to experience one to see if i would enjoy doing it repetitively. However, i’ve been traveling and shooting a couple dates here and there for a while now. So, for a one time show / festival I usually like to travel really light, just a bag on my back and that’s it. Which is surprising because i’m great at overpacking in every other situation. During a tour I bring all of my equipment but don’t use everything every day. It all depends on wha the day consists of.

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Noah Witt LANY

LANY By Noah Witt

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Talk me through your editing process! What programs do you use?

I started off using whatever programs were free but in the end you have to invest in your work so I’ve been using the adobe suite.  Editing is probably the hardest part of the job in my opinion, which not everyone understands when hiring a creative. I try to get my editing done as soon as possible because I hate procrastinating on things and I usually have a decent idea on what I want the shoot to look like. Plus i’m usually high on adrenaline from the show. I edit them and upload them usually to google drive and shoot the client the link. Usually up till some real odd hours of the morning doing that.

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Who was the first artist you photographed for and how did that come about?

Oh man, the first artist I shot…. I think it was for my favourite band LANY in 2015 haha. I annoyed Paul (their frontman), probably a lot hahaha so he just cured it with a photo pass.

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What artists have you previously worked with?

Some of my favourite previous artists that i’ve worked with are Imagine Dragons, The 1975, LANY, and Portugal. The Man, Duckwrth, and Billie Eilish. I couldn’t choose a favourite in a million years if you asked me.

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Camilla Cabello Noah Witt

Camilla Cabello by Noah Witt

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Do you have any upcoming tours or shows that you are particularly excited about?

I just recently shot for Camila Cabello at a show. Imagine dragons are heading out on a massive tour and i’ll be crossing my fingers some of those dates work out. Really hope i can make it out to a few festivals this summer, that is in the works. Doccumenting how far the LANY boys have come is a lot of fun. 

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When an artist is touring, portrait shots are generally limited to the venue. What tips do you have for getting access to portrait shoots and how do you make them as interesting as possible?

Tips for portrait shoots umm…number one, if you’re in contact with an artist’s management or they directly contact you, make sure you’re professional but at the same time kind of their best friend. They need to be confident that they can trust you. BTS portraits are really tough, especially with poor lighting. I enjoy documenting what artists do before taking the stage, all their pre show habits, rituals, etc. Venue lighting is a pain taking along an external flash solves half of those problems, shooting with film makes things more candid and fun as well.

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Who is your dream artist to photograph/tour with?

There is probably a 15 band tie, but LANY/ Cage the Elephant / Florence + The Machine / Arcade Fire would only be right because without them I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, and they are some of the most amazing artists i’ve ever had the privilege of meeting or even existing during the same time span with. They also put on some of the best live shows i have ever seen. Lorde and Cage are near the top those would be a dream, however they have their own creative polygants already, my heroes Kane Wane and Jake Chamseddine.

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Tyler The Creator By Noah Witt

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What does a typical work day look like for you?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a normal day of work in my life, but getting up at 7 for school and then managing to drive 2+ hours and back for some type of work is normal, then editing till 5 AM and doing it all again. Definitely different for all artists but that is it for me at least, for now.

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For most photographers, getting into the pit (especially for smaller venues) isn’t the hard part, but if it’s something that you want to make a living out of, how do you get passed the three song rule?

Get to know the artists you’re shooting. Know who they are and what their vision is. Figuring out how they want to be represented helped me out tons, with that becoming inspired and getting more work usually comes at the same time.

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Top 5 essential items for any entertainment photographer?

Confidence, a backpack, a camera, a laptop and a hard drive.

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Imagine Dragons By Noah Witt

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Working in the industry not your typical 9-5 job and I know you are currently studying as well. How do you go about balancing your career and personal life?

Honestly, it’s really hard! Currently, with my situation. A part of growing means having to pay your own bills, so I am trying to pay for school and still be able to follow this path. Being a college student at the same time is the most difficult thing I hope I ever have to experience. not getting my hopes up. If you’re on good terms with your professors and keep your grades up you’ll be fine! A social life on the other hand…that’s a different story. You lose contact with lots of people you may wish you were good friends with still but the people who remain in your life are there for a reason. Put your trust in God and it will work itself out.

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What’s been your biggest career highlight or most memorable moment so far?

I have met some of my best friends doing what I’m doing and this journey just feels right. Also, watching live music and knowing all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes is inspiring.

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What has been your biggest career blunder and how did you deal with/ overcome that?

Not getting payment / credit for work. I overcame that with all the help of all of the support that came with it. Be sure you take all the necessary precautions and if something goes wrong just be sure to be respectful and communicate clearly!

A very intelligent man told me this; “Apply and learn the lesson!!! Nobody gives a fuck about you, except for yourself, there’s a lot of snakes in show biz. Get moving forward, people like that don’t last too long, they’re not the first or the last, just the latest!! You’ll be fine kid.”

Honestly, that was the most reassuring advice i’ve ever received to date.

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Noah with Jake Goss (LANY)

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What’s something that people would be surprised to know about your job?

It’s really stressful, and takes so much hard work. It doesn’t consist of just going to shows and hanging with artists.

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What’s your favourite part about your job?

Getting to know such creative, powerful people. The music is a good plus too.

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For upcoming photographers who would like to work with particular artists, what advice do you have? Any particular techniques?

Collaborate, these days I see a lot of creatives competing with one another but that solves nothing. To learn and move forward you should work together. You need to have each others backs!

Believe it or not there are nice people that are willing to help you. They were once in the same shoes and probably hoped they could reach out to someone for advice.

Also, in the beginning it’s really hard setting yourself apart from other creatives because there are so many. Find that niche and work hard at it.

If you’re serious about the work that you are putting out life will work itself it out.

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Portugal. The Man By Noah WITT

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LANY By Noah Witt

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BIRD’S EYE VIEW

My name is Jemma Bird. As a reviewer and interviewer, I want to place some light or focus on a different part of the music machine. Everyone focuses on the artist, and rightly so, but most of the time, nothing would happen unless the people behind the scenes get the job done. So my feature ‘Bird’s Eye View’ will be doing just that. I want to talk to the people who make the music industry tick. Experienced or just starting out, heavy hitters or even the people who get the coffee. Without publicists, artist and tour managers, booking agents, merchandise managers, personal assistants, sound technicians, stage managers and many others the music industry just simply wouldn’t exist. Our mission is to create honest, informative and entertaining pieces, revealing stories from people whose stories aren’t usually shared.

Want to be featured here on Bird’s Eye View? You can be. All you have to do is contact me here, at Amnplify – [email protected]. I want to break new ground, something Amnplify has been doing for years now. Let’s break it together.