SAE Industry Insight: Freelance Music Photographer, Lewis Evans

20 Jan 2020

Lewis Evans is a freelance music photographer who has worked with a number of prominent artists such as Blossoms and Inhaler, and clients such as Festival Republic, one of the UK’s largest festival promoters (Reading & Leeds, Wireless, Download, Latitude etc.) in his first year alone. 

What does a freelance music photographer do? 

Lewis’ work involves shadowing/following artists and capturing candid aspects of their day-to-day activities, before shooting live shows and any other accompanying moments that might follow. He said: “I adopt something of a fly on the wall approach, it’s important that you stay low key! A tour manager once told me the best compliment he could give me was that he hardly noticed I was there, which made his life easier!” 

He enjoys the complete creative freedom that accompanies being self-employed and likes knowing that every day is going to be different. The role has added perks, such as allowing Lewis to explore new countries/places.  

How did Lewis get his start as a photographer? 

Lewis said that most of his current photography roles have been the product of building relationships and making the most of opportunities when given them. He said: “Carrying out your job efficiently and going above and beyond what’s expected can go a long way. If someone wants photos by 9am the day after the show, get them over by midnight - it really doesn’t go unnoticed. The importance of a good work ethic is sometimes ignored.” 

If he was to go back in time and give himself advice for when he was first starting out, he would tell himself to be a bit more tech-savvy with editing software such as Lightroom/Premiere Pro/After Effects etc. He said: “If you can work across disciplines such as photography and videography it makes you a very attractive proposition to prospective clients!” 

He says that some of the difficulties he has faced so far in his career have included trying to find a way around creative blocks. He said: “It’s very easy to get caught up in a lull or feel like you’ve hit a wall. My general approach is just to keep going and I assure myself that if I put myself out there and work hard enough for things, the opportunities will come - which fortunately they have so far.”  

What’s next for Lewis? 

Lewis generally tries to avoid setting career goals or targets too much, as he feels it can be hard to track personal levels of success in the photography industry and it’s easy to get disheartened during a quiet period where you can feel like you should be doing more. He said: “Ideally I’d love to work with some more artists that I can really connect with on a personal level and just keep building lasting relationships that help produce some amazing content. Essentially I want to create photos that are timeless.” 

How can you forge a successful career as a freelance photographer? 

Lewis said that you shouldn’t be afraid to do opportunities for free, despite a lot of industry talk against doing so. He said: “The sad reality is that some opportunities may be unpaid, but if you think it will be beneficial for you in the long run, then do it! A lot of my early access to big artists was unpaid but it helped put together a portfolio that meant I was then in a position to get paid work.” 

Lewis added that finding a niche can be useful and help you stand out from the crowd: “Whether it’s a style of photography/animation/videography, back yourself and others will too. If you’ve got something that unique and people are buying into it, then you’re onto a winner!” 

Like many areas of the creative industries, a lot of opportunities come down to who you know. Lewis recommends trying to establish as many professional links and possible, and making friends. He said: “Nothing can replace practical experience and real-life lessons that you learn from being on jobs, so try and sort shadowing roles/free shoots etc.!” 

SAE offers a range of networking opportunities to students such as SAE Extra masterclasses, an ‘Industry Engagement’ elective, and the Alumni Mentoring Scheme, where we connect second-year students with an SAE graduate working in a relevant field. 

Find out more about the Alumni Mentoring Scheme here.

Check out Lewis' photography here.

Note: SAE Industry Insight is an interview feature where we talk to people working within the creative industries about their roles and how they got there, with the intention of providing SAE students with career advice. The people we interview are not necessarily affiliated with SAE in any way.