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Ruby Boland: How to Make It In The Music Photography Industry

“Bold, bright and colourful” – that’s how music photographer Ruby Boland describes her photography style. A mainstay of the Sydney music scene, Ruby has been able to use her distinctive eye for hue and tone to capture an array of local and international artists.

For Ruby, photography began as a way to remember the feeling of seeing some of her favourite bands live. Hailing from the sleepy coastal town of Ulladulla, Ruby started experimenting with photography at 11-years-old. A musician herself, she managed to find a way to combine her dual passions, and by age 16 was shooting bands such as Cub Sport and Jinja Safari in some of Sydney’s hottest venues. These days you can find her at countless gigs or festivals, always ready to brave the endless crowds to get that perfect shot.

We sat down with her to get the lowdown on working as a young photographer in the music industry.

Gang of Youths

Gang of Youths
Shot on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
ISO 1600 | f/2.8 | 1/1000s

What’s your favourite thing about working in the music industry?
I love that I get the chance to be there for these moments that will never happen again and document them for the artist. It is so rewarding. I love seeing the pure joy and excitement on people’s faces in the photo pit right before they shoot their favourite artist. I love the incredible music photography community that we have here in Australia. Everyone is super encouraging to each other and always helps each other out which is cool. I love music so much and being able to work in music is just a dream come true.

Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots
Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 24-70mm f2.8L II USM
ISO 12800 | f/2.8 | 1/200s

If you could photograph any gig in the world which would it be and why?
I would absolutely love to shoot a Coldplay show. Their current aesthetic is so colourful, fun and full of confetti, and I think my style would fit perfectly with their shows. I’ve been to two of their concerts and there’s just nothing like it.

Nikki Brumen from Pagan

Nikki Brumen of Pagan
Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
ISO 160 | f/2.8 | 1/1250s

What’s in your kit and why do you rate it so highly?
In my kit I currently own a EOS 5D Mark III and a 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II but I will occasionally hire a 70-200mm f/2.8 Mark III and Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 Mark III for festivals. Those three lenses are the holy trinity in my eyes and I can get everything I need with them. It’s great having two bodies at festivals instead of switching lenses all the time on one body.

Matty Healy from The 1975

Matt Healy of The 1975
Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III USM
ISO 2000 | f2.8 | 1/3200s

What’s your favourite image you’ve ever taken and what’s the story behind it?
This is always impossible to answer because it changes a lot but I think this photo of Florence Welch is probably one of my favourites ever. I almost didn’t make it to this show, my car broke down due to the heat that day on the way up to Sydney. I was stressed out trying to see if anyone I knew was heading to Sydney at that time and thankfully my friend was kind enough to drop me at Sutherland train station. I rushed to the domain from there and when I arrived I was so nervous and stressed from the situation. I was supposed to borrow a 70-200mm off my friend for that show because the stage was so high but I didn’t have time to get it, so I just had to make do with a 24-70mm and thank God it paid off. That show is still one of my favourite shoots.

Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine

Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine
Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
ISO 4000 | f/2.8 | 1/500s

What’s your advice to any up and coming photographers who want to work in the music industry?
Be kind to everyone. Start shooting small local shows and shoot as many as you can. If you learn how to shoot in really bad lighting in small venues, you will be able to shoot any kind of show. Learn how to use the gear you have inside and out, the best gear is the gear you already have. Build up a portfolio from the local stuff you shoot, start emailing it to music publications that may be able to start getting you access to bigger shows.

Jason Aalon Butler from Fever 333

Jason Aalon Butler of Fever 333
Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
ISO 1600 | f/2.8 | 1/1600s

What are your photography goals over the next year?
My main goals for 2020 are to tour more this year, around Australia and Internationally. Be a part of more official festival photo teams. Shoot more portraits and press photos. Learn how to shoot in a studio setting. Step out of my comfort zone more, and just improve more.

Ruby’s Photography Kit:
• Canon EOS 5D Mark III
• Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM II
• Canon Speedlite 430EX III
• Canon PowerShot G16

Ruby Boland

Ruby Boland is an Australian photographer based in New South Wales. You can see more of her work on her Instagram here.