Brent Goldman is a prolific Boston area music photographer with dozens of shows under his belt. In addition to touring with Magic City Hippies and working with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Brent also recently flew out to Barcelona to photograph Tame Impala and Pond. Which all the more impressive when you consider he photographed his first concert exactly one year ago. We sat down with Brent to learn more about how he got started with concert photography, how he manages such a high volume of shows, and how other photographers can build their careers.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get started with concert photography?
I’d been into landscape and cityscape photography a lot – especially during peak pandemic days and had always spent far too much money on concerts. Once shows started coming back I found a local band (shoutout Los Elk) that had sold out The Sinclair and DMed them. It was one of the most fun nights I’ve had and I’ve stayed close with those guys since. I’m really lucky they were my first gig.
After that, I started working with a local publication that was expanding more into covering music and it just felt like what I was supposed to be doing. A band would hire me here and there, some would recommend me to friends coming through town. A year later now, and I’m still learning a lot and trying to grow.
Is concert photography your full time job? If not, what else are you up to?
I run a small textile company with my dad during the day. It’s just the two of us, but it gives me the flexibility to go on some tour runs and take long weekends for festivals. I used to work as a copywriter at ad agencies, so occasionally I’ll still take a freelance gig. But I’m happy to say my photo business is growing a lot.
You’re a very active photographer within the Boston area. How do you keep up with documenting so many concerts? Are there any workflow hacks that have been useful for you?
I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, so if there’s an artist I want to see, chances are I’ll try to shoot the show. We’re really lucky that post-pandemic pretty much every artist is hitting the road. The fall schedule in Boston is insane. I’m also always trying to improve and try new things, so the only way to do that is to get out there and shoot. I start to feel restless when I go more than a few days without a gig.
The biggest timesaver was adding PhotoMechanic to my workflow. It makes it super easy to cull images and make selects plus add metadata. I’ve also developed probably 25-30 of my own presets. Some are for fixing strong red, blue or magenta light and others are just overall aesthetics that I like. None are perfect with one click, but they save me a huge amount of time and let me focus more on the details now.
Where do you find inspiration?
There are a ton of photographers I love. I’ll list a few, but I’m sure I’m forgetting people. In music, Rory Barnes is one who really stands out to me, but I love Pooneh Ghana, Deanie Chen, Adam Gerhold, Lauren Scornavacca, Adam Parshall, Greg Noire, Connor Gaskey, Sophie Harris, Phill McDonald, Charles Reagan, Alex Lyon. I’m really lucky to call some of those people friends, and some of them don’t know who I am. There’s dozens more though.
A few months ago I started a Boston Music Photo Discord server that has become a great resource. It’s kind of crazy how it’s grown. There are a ton of talented photographers sharing work, insights, PR contacts and supporting each other, so I'm always inspired by people in there. I’ve also started to look more outside of music photography lately – especially at people who really excel at cinematography or film photography. Movies have always been a big thing for me.
Ultimately, I always draw inspiration from the music and the performer I’m seeing. I think one of the reasons we all get into this is because these people are able to move us so much. I feel like my job is just to capture and convey what they gave me in a single frame and share it with someone else.
What advice would you share with people just getting started with concert photography?
I have two main things I typically tell people. The first, and most important, is to be fearless. If you want something, the only way is to ask. Networking in music is the best. You get to hang with other photographers, amazing artists and their teams. People are still too hesitant to send blind emails and messages in my opinion. The worst thing is you get told “no.” A lot of the best moments of my journey so far have been from blind emails.
The second thing is having a strong aesthetic or a great edit doesn’t make a great photo or a great photographer. I think capturing a moment and a feeling accurately is far more important than “look at this crazy edit.” Trendy styles come and go, but the iconic shot you get that nobody else did stays forever.
Plus, be nice, stay positive and have good pit etiquette.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t wait until you’re 33 to start. It felt very out of reach for a long time. I feel like I’m making up for lost time now.
What’s the best or most memorable advice you’ve ever received?
Again, two because I’m indecisive. I don’t remember where I heard it, but basically if everyone is getting the same shot, I don’t want it. I try to let that permeate through everything I do from the angle I shoot at to the selects I make and how I edit.
Also, every time you walk into a pit, turn around for a second and take it in. We are so damn lucky.
What gear do you currently use?
I have a Sony a7iv and a7iii. I usually have my Tamron 28-75 2.8 on the a7iii and either a wide angle or 70-200 2.8 GM on the a7iv. That all goes in my Peak Design 30L bag to every gig. Sometimes I’ll toss in a prime lens if I really want to give myself some back pain.
My old laptop just stopped running Lightroom, so I had to get the new 14” Macbook Pro and it kicks so much ass.
In addition to PhotoMechanic, I also have DeNoise AI and Sharpen AI which are helpful if you’re in really low light or have a soft focus from a board shoot.
For film, I have been going heavy on my Contax G1 lately for something smaller. I have a Mamiya 645 for portraits and BTS stuff. I love 120 film, but I can’t bring that into the pit. Usually they’re loaded with Cinestill 800t, although I have been using more Fujifilm and Ektar lately though.
I try to avoid using filters and prisms too much. I have a ton of external HDs (recently filled one up with just every raw image from the past year) and SD cards.
Lightroom, Photoshop, or something else?
Lightroom. Well, both, but Lightroom. I’ve started taking more edits into Photoshop to see what I can do. I’m learning a ton and I think I’ll start sharing more from it in the next few months.
Do you have any projects, recently completed or upcoming, that you’re particularly excited for?
Anytime I work directly with an artist, I get extra excited. I shot for both Tame Impala and Pond at Primavera Sound in Barcelona which was a life highlight. Both those artists are very close to my heart. I recently started working with the Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra which is a fun challenge and it’s the first gig that really impressed my mom.
July has been a slow month for shows, so I’ve been reediting a lot and looking back on what I've done in year sinceI started doing this. I’ve created a lot of new presets for myself and named them poorly, so that’s been great. I may rename a handful of them and package them up and sell them if people are interested.
Then I’m touring with Magic City Hippies again for two weeks in September and will also be at Beach Road Weekend as well as Firefly. I have so much love for the MCH guys, so that will be really special. Working on a potentially really cool studio shoot as well right now. That’s something I want to do a lot more of this next year.
Where can people see more of your work?
My website is full of my favorite shots, but I’m always sharing more on Instagram (@brentgoldmanphoto) and twitter (@bgoldmanphoto). Also, feel free to shoot me an email any time (email@example.com)
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Try new shit all the time and find what feels right for you. All of my favorite photographers have pretty different styles, but I can recognize each of their photos in a lineup. Don’t try to be the next X, Y or Z, be the first you.