7 Reasons Why You Should Take Pictures When You DJ

DJ photos

Taking pictures of your crowd when you're out DJing, especially when combined with using social media to connect people up, is a powerful way of filling events and building your 'tribe'.

We all know that to hustle your way as a DJ you need to be multi-skilled. At the same time as choosing and spinning the best tunes, today's smart DJs may find themselves networking, gathering people's details for social media, scribbling down song titles and mix ideas, tweeting and so on.

But one often overlooked secret weapon is you camera. Taking pictures while you DJ can directly and indirectly benefit your DJing success in loads of ways. Here's seven of them:

7 Reasons Why You Should Take Pictures When You DJ

  1. Pictures attract more people to your gigs - Posting event pics on Facebook has regularly attracted more people to my nights. Noticing their friends having fun has for sure inspired others to show up next time. Also, tagging people in your photos advertises your event to their Facebook friends, something which has benefited me time and time again
  2. They give you content for your blog - When it comes to blogs, the more pictures, the better. Many people (like me) own short attention spans. I do not like reading blogs containing words and words and more words. I prefer photos. Pictures illustrate your events a whole lot better for blog readers. My blog receives more traffic for picture posts than my beautiful words do
  3. They keep patrons loyal - The more people see themselves in your photos, the more likely they’ll come back to your nights, as they feel more "part" of the event, almost duty bound to be there...
  4. Photography can become a source of income - You've got to think outside the (DJ) box at this game. Let’s say you get real good at photography. Your talent may lead you to photographing other events. Some may pay more than your DJ gig. Yes, that happened to me too. If it helps to support your DJing, why not?
  5. You get free material for your publicity - Often, I'll use event photos that I took for my flyers. It saves copyright issues or having to buy stock photography, and it's more authentic, too
  6. It can led to more press coverage - When a newspaper friend wrote about one of my events, she needed a photo. I gave her an event photo. When printed in the paper, that photo attracted lots more people to my night. (After that successful night brought in a lot of money, my crew and I got ripped off. Maybe I'll tell that story another time...)
  7. It's another hobby to enjoy - I found myself enjoying photography more than I thought I would. I even sold a pic at an art show. Let's face it, we're DJing because we enjoy it. But I find photography a welcome change, and something equally enjoyable but in a different way

Getting started

It's not that hard to get started. Trust me, learning basic photography is not rocket science, nor does it take a long time to grasp it. You may get away with your smartphone camera, or you may take a better camera (especially for low light, this is preferable). But whatever you use, learn a bit about photo composition online. Or do what I did and read the books Digital Photography For Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Photography Essentials. It's worth it - the more professional your photos look, the more respect you're likely to get for your events.

And actually doing it can be a challenge at first - it feels weird asking people to post for pics, and many DJs are naturally shy. But like flyering, hustling for gigs, or even DJing itself, the nerves are just something to cope with - and it may actually benefit your DJing to be speaking more closely with your crowd.

To shoot attractive people or not?

Nightclub girls

Sure, rounding up all the girls may make for pretty pictures - but beware, you don't want to neglect everyone else whose money is equally supporting your wage packet.

Now, I must bring up the subject of "attractive people" photos. On my blog, someone criticised me for not having attractive women in my photos. Personally, I don’t agree, and here's why:

Such photos may attract more patrons to your nights. Yet, be forewarned: If you spend your time photographing attractive people, you may offend the not-so-attractive people, people who may be spending good money at your nights. Plus your nights may come off as more flash (pardon the pun) than substance. In other words, folks may see your nights as another douche bag haven. The last thing you want to do is piss off paying patrons. If paying patrons stop attending your nights, you may soon receive the boot from your residency.

Is it worth the effort?

Sure, you can have someone else photograph your events. Sometimes, that may be required. Still, I think that often, you will be better off doing the photography yourself. Your fans may prefer seeing your vision versus someone else’s.

Also, because you’re doing it, that’s one less person you have to hire or buy drinks for. In other words, it’s cheaper when you’re the photographer of your nights!

For over a decade, I’ve been a nightlife photographer. When I brought my skills to my DJ nights, I saw huge benefits from it. Hopefully, this may work for you too.

• DJ Stone Crazy is a DJ from Central Florida, USA. Here's his blog.

Do you take your camera with you when DJing? How have pictures you've taken benefited your career? Would you consider doing this? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. Awesome post, I live and breathe Dj’n/producing, but if the music was taken away from me I would go for photography, yes its super fun!

  2. I am also gaining proficiency in DJing and photography as well and I find that these two work extremely well together, something like a closed circle symbiosis.

  3. I love the idea. I’ve been trying to do this at my gigs for a while but i just never seem to get the final product i want. I’m not a pro but i am pretty savvy with a camera and no matter what i do all of the pics from a live night seem to come out very amature. They all look like some poor schlub’s cell camera pics of a drunken night out. I always want pics i can use for my own gratuitous self promotion, web, blogs, etc, but none of them seem good enough. on top of that, the nights i try to make a real effort to get a lot of pics, i feel like i am taking my undivided attention away from DJing a solid set. It seems too daunting a task to accomplish on my own without having someone else doing photography for me. At least to get good quality imagery.

    • “I’m not a pro but i am pretty savvy with a camera and no matter what i do all of the pics from a live night seem to come out very amature.”

      That’s a bit of a contradictory statement!

    • Have you ever grabbed anybody else’s opinion on your pics? If not, do so! Reason I say this is that I personally self-criticise my mixes (only to myself or those close tho lol), there have been times I have felt my set was below par yet others are still loving it. On occasion I am told it could have been a touch better and I embrace this feedback.

      As with any art, the day we stop striving to improve is the day to give up ;)

  4. steve Daniels says:

    A very dangerous president here,taking pictures of people you don’t know and who’s permission to publish you haven’t got. You could open a big can of worms if for example you capture two people who are being unfaithful with their partners. People will sue for anything these days.

    • Good point, but you can’t hide from social media these days, and I’ve been doing this since the late 90s at our nights, often with great success. I think it’s the norm to see event photos appear online, and inded there are companies in bigger cities who do this for a living, posting whole sets on social media sites the next morning.

    • Sometimes, if people don’t like the pic I put on Facebook, they ask me to take it off. And I honor that request.

    • This isn’t really an issue in places like the UK where consent isn’t necessary unless the photo is being used commercially. Also often when you purchase a ticket for an event you are giving your consent to be photographed away in the terms and conditions. People in the states are far more sue happy though.

  5. Curious about DJ Stone Crazy’s photography after reading the above article, I checked out his blog. The first post is about really badly designed flyers which he produced with images he admits to stealing. Not a good start.
    It didn’t get any better as his photos are the usual snapshots taken by someone who is clearly not a photographer. So why has he been asked to write an article on something he obviously knows nothing about?
    This piece is not up to the usual interesting articles on DDJ Tips and tellingly the far better photographs illustrating article are not his either as both can be found on Shutterstock credited to other photographers.

    I’m a professional photographer, yet I wouldn’t dream of doing photos whilst DJing as both activities require commitment and time that you cannot give whilst doing the other at same time – if you want to do a good job that is.
    Multitasking in my view, usually means doing several tasks poorly. ;-)

    • There are still other reasons to photograph even if the pics don’t turn out pro.
      And as a , try using a tripod or a stand so the cam doesn’t shake coz everything else is moving around. and adjust the shutter speed to faster , it will take in less ambient light and by opening the camera aperture you can allow more light to come in. ( tips I overheard from my bro who’s studying photography- I may not have understood tho)

    • Thanks for your reply.

      You know, I’ve gotten better at writing by doing it, my DJing became good through years of playing out in public when I really wasn’t so good, and my current area (hopefully) of slow improvement is video, as at the moment, the videos accompanying the Digital DJ Tips site are technically very basic (no decent lighting, sound, editing etc..).

      My point is that it’s OK to do the best you can do at the time, and if you get results (this blog is massively read, my DJing career paid for my house, my DJ video courses makes me a comfortable living), then you can build on those and try and get better. But if you’re scared to have a go because someone might call you out for not being a pro, well you may never find out if you were going to be any good at it in the first place. Passion and commitment can get you a long way.

      So what if our writer isn’t a pro photographer? It’s like me and my videos. I’d happily write an article about how to make how-to videos, for instance (find out how to charge for them, get an audience first, make sure you know a lot about your subject, etc), even though my technical skills are pretty much non-existent, simply because my article may help someone who wants to do what I’ve done. Our author has had his photos in his local paper, and seen them directly benefit his DJ career – and he’s been kind enough to take time to write about it, for free, to hopefully encourage others to have a go.

      So while I appreciate you may not approve as a professional photographer, the idea of this article was never to make out that DJs can replace professional photographers, just that if you do end up snapping a few pics of your party, you can put them to good use in all kinds of ways. I think it’s an interesting piece that makes some good points.

      Really, there was no intention to tread on your toes, so sorry if you feel we did.

      • I’m not bothered by the fact that the author isn’t a pro photographer, you don’t have to be a paid professional to be good at something. And no toes have been trodden on. :-)

        But would you run an article on how to DJ by someone who patently couldn’t DJ and openly admitted to stealing music? If someone gives advice on how to do something, I would expect them to actually be good at that subject, otherwise they have no credibility in my view. Likewise being good at something does not automatically make you good at teaching/writing about it like you are Phil, as they are all separate skills. The fact you use images not by the author only undermines my point.

        Passion and commitment are all well and good, but as things like auditions for TV talent show competitions invariably show, passion and belief do not always translate into actual ability/talent. And you are right in that you do not know if you have an aptitude until you try something, but realising what you are actually good at and what you cannot do is equally important.
        And although we all get better at stuff by doing it, when it comes to anything creative, in my view you either have it or you do not. I’m certainly not a subscriber to the 10,000 hours practice=genius nonsense that Malcolm Gladwell likes to promote, particularly as the research underpinning that ‘rule’ is very deeply flawed. But nature Vs nuture is a long way and a whole other topic from how to improve ones DJing. :-)

    • Our writer is not writing about how to take excellent photos, he’s writing about how doing what you can within your means can be used to forward your DJing, and what’s worked for him.

      The purpose of the article, like so many on here, is simply to encourage people to have a go.

  6. Other than shooting pics from the booth, when do you find time to get onto the floor when you are spinning? Do you run out there quick between songs? Do you put on a 10 minute track?

    I’m not discounting the authors article but I know some bar owners and patrons would find it odd that the DJ was away from the booth taking pictures.

  7. I don’t think this is about trying to get professional looking shots. His point is to get some shots of people having a hoot to your music. I always take a camera with me to gigs and try and get some shots of people having fun. I did a birthday last weekend and the next day I emailed some of my snaps of the dance floor to the guy who hired me and he was stoked that I did so – its just a nice thing to do as a follow up. And, as Stone Crazy says, it’s good to throw them up on Facebook and tag people.
    It only takes a few seconds, and I generally just hold my camera above my head, angle it down a bit, and snap away, for some overhead shots. And then jump out and snap mid dance. In my experience people get a kick seeing my do this, and pose for shots etc. it’s all part of the fun in my opinion.

  8. I always take pics at my gigs, and usually post them on FB. I email them to my clients and they are very appreciative.

  9. Hey guys,

    So i would like to put a few cents into this as coming from a DJ/Promoter perspective that i think there are some errors to this article.

    First off, I agree that photos can make or break your regular nights. It totally does involve the patrons and makes them come back.

    But I Have to disagree that the DJ is responsible for that. Seriously you as the DJ are there to play music…so do what you do best and play the damn music…there are many many talented up and coming photographers who LOVE to come and do my shows as they have such a good time as well I compensate them with a small fee and a bar tab.

    The last show we did was around 2 weeks ago and here is the link for the photos. All Photos property of RPP, All images may be used but no cropping or editing of the photos are allowed, as per wishes of the photographer.

    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152127632145596.909727.695940595&type=3

    Now I think that shooting the not so attractive people vs attractive people is a total misconception.
    It isnt about that, but shooting people that look like they are having an amazing time…weather it be goofy faces, waayyy too drunk for their own good or ear to ear happy faces. Showing these photos to the public is what will get you to attract a fan base that you don’t already have going to your shows. Its going to let people think…wow that looks like it was an amazing time! I totally should go check out one of their shows next!

    Now this goes towards DJ Stone Crazy, and i mean this in the nicest way possible. I checked out your blog and really those Flyers are horrendous!!! The ones with the girls 3/4 naked really look trashy to me, it says to me Hey come check out my welfare party…Even though you may have an Amazing DJ with great music in an AWESOME club…the flyer speaks to me as being trashy. I myself do not do flyers, but i pay people to make them for me. You may think hey thats a waste of money…but you couldnt be farther from the truth.

    If you are wanting to get people to come to your shows…have everything look professional. INCLUDING the flyer…People especially people with deeper wallets dont want to goto a show that looks like its 1/2 assed with little to no effort into production…thats ALL aspects…music, visuals, flyer, promotion, skill of the DJs etc.

    Here is the Event page for the show of the photos above

    http://www.facebook.com/events/137543439722335/

    Now even though the “going” list was only @ 50, our word of mouth and doing proper foot work we had the place at Capacity…now for a venue of only 150 that’s not hard to do, but with Underground music it is, espicially in this city where EVERY bar, supper club and Club is going off every weekend.

    So just to share some numbers with you guys:

    Total Cost of throwing the night:

    3 Opening DJs – $150
    Headliner – $150
    Flyer – $40
    Door Girl – $40
    Camera Man – $40

    Total Cost – $420.00

    Total Revenue – 152 @ $8.00 total people that entered the venue for the evening 182 (Glist/Before Cover etc.)

    $1,216.00

    Net Profit – $796.00 before expenses

    So long story short…don’t 1/2 ass it…spend the money in the short term to make it in the long term, people are like sheep…and they like shiny things. :D

    • I’m very pleased you chose to share all your experience, figures and all. And I’m glad it worked for you. The pics look great!

      But please don’t call other people’s experiences “errors” – it’s a wide world out there, and what works in one circumstance maybe won’t work in every.

      Speaking as someone who’s promoted low budget events with 50 people in them and events with thousands, I do know the differences between low, mid, high (and indeed, no) budget promotion – and all approaches can in different circumstances work.

      • Fair enough Phil,

        IMO it doesnt really matter what the budget is…its about putting your best foot forward going into anything…and taking the time to see your demographic and utilitizing what they want the most.

        Having thrown shows for completely free to throwing events with thousands as well…the first impression is ALWAYS the most important imo.

        • And I respect your way, I understand completely where you’re coming from. But sometimes a photocopied flyer, a strobe light and 20 mates makes a party of a lifetime! :) We have such a wide variety of readers playing all kinds of shows, I’d like us to always consider that as we interact with each other :)

  10. When I wrote this article, I wanted to show how photography benefited me. As far as me being a pro? Well, as I sometimes do get paid for my skills, I would not fall under the pro category. Why? Because I’m not listed in the phone book as photographer or have a professional looking website dedicated to my photographs. I do know how to use a professional camera and fancy things up in Photoshop. I just don’t stretch my skills often. Most of the times, I use flash photography and photograph evening events. As for “art” photography (the kind where folks don’t use flash), I would not suggest attempting that as you DJ. You’ll spend more time trying to create visual art versus doing your DJ gig. Just use the camera that you can afford, learn basic composition and snap away. If you want “art” photographs, hire a “real” photographer and be willing to buy drinks and/or pony up some cash. (Same way with “real” graphic designers.) Then be willing to deal with constantly asking them and asking them where the heck is your product they promised. I speak from experience.

  11. I suppose this is a bad time to suggest taking an easel and oil paints and doing portraits of people?

  12. You’re in Central FL? Which means Orlando right? What night are you doing?

    • Between 6:30 to 6:30 on Fridays, I work the happy hour at Peacock Room with bands. Sometimes, I go on to 10 PM and even 11 PM. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I work in Sanford at a joint called Little Fish, Huge Pond.

  13. absolutely amazing idea

  14. sameoldsong says:

    Not trying to be the party pooper but what about legal issues? Is it legal to publish photos of other people without having their consent?

    • The legal ramifications are very minimal when it comes to these types of events.

      If any parties wish their photos to not be publish they have the right to ask and they will be removed.

      With most of my events where i have photography i have it written on the flyer and the event page so everyone who is coming will know that there will be photographers on site.

      I have never run into an issue in the past as everyone wants to be like HEY LOOK AT ME!!

      • I have had hundreds of people ask me…heck even nag at me about when the photos are going to be posted….but i have yet to have 1 person ask me to ever remove a picture :D

  15. Ryan Dejaegher says:

    Hey DJ Stone Crazy, awesome timing for this article. I’ve moved into more mobile events and I have been kicking myself missing all the opportunities for free advertising with event photos. Do you think you could go into more detail with how you manage to fit time for photos while you’re DJing and also any gear that you can recommend to make photos easier. I know I’ve tried snapping pics in the past but low lighting and no tripod made for shaky messy photos.

    • Find a camera where you can fix the speed. You’ll see something like 200, 400, 800 and up. You want to set the speed on 800 for your events. They call this the ISO. Your best option (if you can afford it) is to get an SLR camera. Those are the ones where you can take the lens off and put a different lens on. The next thing no longer matters as much, but nonetheless I would recommend a camera with at least 6 megapixels if you plan on printing 8×10 prints. Most cameras are more than that now. As for when to photograph? At the beginning of your next song. Plus you might want to do this the last two hours of your set. Folks are usually partying then. When people are drunk, you might get one of those risque photos you can laugh with your friends. I don’t put those on Facebook. Hope this helps.

  16. DJ MusicalHost says:

    A Good idea to take some photos of your Dj Gigs to help promote your business and skills. I use some of the pics in my online ads and website. I don,t use personal pics of people say kissing and hugging but people having fun on the dance floor and the Dj enjoying himself behind the desk. I tell clients that I will be taking someics for promotional purposes if they not happy then respect that but other ways to get around that.

  17. sammsousa says:

    man!!! i really hate fotos in the clubs!! xD mainly coz you are in a club, at 4 am, completly drunk, completly freakin out… i dont wanna sober the next day, looking at how drunk i was the night before! there are some clubs, where the entire night ends up on facebook! personally, i try not to go to those clubs! i know that here where i live, is a club where after 2 am you are not allowed to take fotos!!! and only killer djs go there.. like josh wink for example! so yeah… thats more my tipe of club!! disco is suposed to be, you go there to have fun! and the next day just remember it! nowadays people just like having fotos in general of everything… wich i think is so wrong!

  18. Everyone check kirillwashere.com, it really shows how photography works well when mixed with DJ gigs.

  19. What if your venue isn’t full, do you still take pics? I have a new night and its yet to be full so I don’t take pics. I think if people see the spot isn’t full they wont want to come.

    • There’s definitely an art in rounding people up to be in photos… there’s nothing wrong with your venue not being full, but there’s also nothing wrong in taking loads of pictures and then only using those where your venue looks good/busy! :)

  20. In all honesty, you’ll get better photos if you hire a professional 90%+ of the time. It also means you can focus on what you do best… mixing music and helping to create a great experience for your clients and guests.

  21. WoW!! great article, and something that I’ve been doing since the moment I made the transition from mobile DJ to EDM Dj. I carry my camera with me to all of my gigs, and I have persuaded a good friend of mine to be my photographer, and in return I pay for her entrance to the club or buy her a drink or two, don’t want to get her drunk to the point where she can’t take pictures. After my set is done, and she has taken about a thousand pictures, I take control of the camera and span photos of the Dj’s and the crowd. Once I get home I select the best pictures to be uploaded. It’s fun not only being the Dj but also the photographer, because in many cases, some of the other DJ’s have gotten great exposure by some of the pictures I’ve taken of them while on stage.

  22. DJ Rated G says:

    Thanks to Phil’s, “Digital Dj Tips” website, I jumped both feet into mobile DJ-ing every other weekend! … I’ve made business cards, CD/mp3 demo’s and a photo/video promotional … but the only REAL response I ever get is the gig someone (or their trusted friend) went to! so I keep in mind the person asking to hear Cha-Cha Slide or Mc Hammer might be my next employer!… I make sure I treat them with the respect that I want … I’ll put a link of my youtube promo video here, and remember, music choice is everything ! . . .. I find that after people have had a few drinks, the most loudmouth irritating people soften up when they relive their school dances, when I put on George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”…. Who Knew?! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdrMxORjXLs

    .. thanks again Phil!

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