Photographer Charlotte Patmore shares her top insights
Charlotte Patmore is an inimitable photographer, artist and filmmaker. With over ten years of experience, she has developed her vision through the live music scene, touring the world and providing a bright and vibrant insight into backstage life.
Shooting primarily on film, her intimate portraiture can be found across album artworks, magazine covers and billboards, as well as collaborations with fashion brands.
In July, Charlotte was part of our #Amplify x Music Photography Awards event where she joined the ‘Art of Music Photography’ panel alongside esteemed photographers DeShaun Craddock, Vicky Grout, Ashley Verse and Andy Cotterill.
Following the discussion, we caught up with Charlotte to ask her a few of her top tips. From building a portfolio to how emerging photographers can get noticed – read below.
How do you build a portfolio?
For me because my background was in fashion once I decided I wanted to be a music photographer I needed to restart my portfolio from scratch. The way I did it was I used one summer where I went to a festival every weekend to have access to a wide variety of musicians and create as many opportunities as possible to build contacts. Being seen at every event was actually really helpful, the more visibility you have the more people think of you to be hired. I had no contacts at this point but I did volunteer at Leeds Festival for a free ticket in collage so I knew you could get in through volunteering. I volunteered at as many festivals as possible and for smaller ones reached out to their PR teams to offer my services as a photographer for free in exchange for a ticket and press pass.
Lots of festivals said yes and the big ones I volunteered with Oxfam so I’d have better access (I did have to pay a deposit but they give it back after the festival season). When I told the Oxfam teams that I was building a music portfolio they put me on Artist Liaison for my shifts so I would meet artists and their teams and get to chat with them. On the night shifts especially lots of bands let me take their portrait. As the summer went on, I’d built relationships with Artist’s so they then would take me to the festivals with them or give me backstage access for portraits. I was still at university at that point and was able to work for free because I was supported by my maintenance grant. None of those jobs I got paid for but by the end of the summer I had a full music portfolio and then started getting hired as a music photographer.
How do emerging photographers get noticed?
I can tell a story from my experience and maybe that will be helpful or inspiring about being in the right place at the right time and making the most of opportunities that present themselves to you. In that summer (2013) when I was building my portfolio, I was also starting research for my dissertation. I was planning on writing it about subcultures and contemplating if Odd Future was the modern version of a subculture. They were performing under ‘Earl Wolf’ at Reading and Leeds. So, my plan was to interview their crowd at both sites and compare the southern and northern UK fan base. They did a pop-up shop in London the day before the festival that I spontaneously went down to interview the people there, I got so swept up in the excitement of the crowds that I ended up abandoning interviewing people and befriended the security guard to go into the pop up where I met everyone and ended up talking with their videographer. He said to come meet them at the festival. I was shooting a band who were opening and closing a stage so I was specifically free in the day to go interview the Earl Wolf crowd but instead I went to meet Lance Bangs who was filming them at the time, I had no idea what would happen but he handed me a pass and a video camera a put me on the main stage to film them. After their set they let me photograph them and Tyler made it so I was the only person allowed to take their portrait at the festival. When I went back to shoot the other bands headline set, a writer from NME magazine was there saying they couldn’t get any photos of Earl Wolf and they were very keen to buy my photos.
The next day we did the same thing again and after the show I asked Tyler what he thought, He said I could use the images however I liked but they were really valuable so I should make sure I was benefiting from the exchange. NME only offered 40 pounds as the standard fee for one of the images to be printed in the magazine and refused to offer any more money despite the exclusivity. So, I negotiated a month's internship on the Picture desk (as I really wanted experience at a music magazine) as well as the fee and they accepted. After the internship they hired me and I worked there on the Picture Desk and as Photographer for the magazine for years. I got to shoot the first photographs of Stormzy for the magazine, and had access to the physical and digital photography archive which held the negatives / slides / prints and scans spanning over the years of some of the most incredible music photography.
How do you market your photography?
I made my own merchandise! When I was starting out the smaller bands didn’t have budget for a photographer but they did have budget for a merch person. I would go on tours and sell their merch before and after the set, Then during the show I’d get to go photograph it and capture behind the scenes while traveling. At the merch stand, I would get to meet and talk with all the fans and they would often recognise me as the photographer too and referred to me as my Instagram handle. I started making my own T-shirts and hoodies to sell on the stands and gave out badges instead of business cards. They were mainly inspired by pop culture or other musicians' merch, the original ‘Vote for Patmore’ came from Napoleon Dynamite, a film I loved growing up.
Social media wasn’t as overrun with algorithms and advertising then so I managed to grow a following through the popularity of the merch as well as the exposure from the bands I was shooting. The landscape has shifted a lot now but the growth for me was really organic. Right now, TikTok is probably a better place to grow a following and create an audience for marketing yourself organically as the platform is more personable. I do think Instagram I still a good place to be discovered by commissioners, it's still visually a great space to display and showcase your portfolio but now that the app champions video over stills its harder to grow there without prioritising video content.
What are some common legal issues that arise in the photography industry, and how can they be avoided?
The best thing to do is to get them to send the contract before the shoot and confirm the final deliverables, deadline & fee before shooting. Deliverables should be how many final edited images they will receive/ can use. How many rounds of retouching and edits they can have and what the usage is for the images. (is the image an artwork image is it being used for merch or press or socials? Each usage has a different fee. You can negotiate usage terms by time so they only have the copyright for a specific amount of time ie 6 months/12 months then they would have to pay again to continue using the image, this is more common in advertising than with labels.) Otherwise, they can do a full buy out which should be more money than a basic fee. This can feel complicated and overwhelming when you start out but it's good to understand the basics that your fee for your labour on the day and the fee for the usage of the images are separate, so both aspects should be reflected in what you're being paid.