[Photo by: Brianna Stacy] 

Taking on a full-time load at school while chasing your dream can seem impossible. Countless rejections, deciding your major (maybe changing it multiple times), keeping up with your school and show schedules: It can all be overwhelming. To make it as a concert photographer, you have to make connections, do your research and keep shooting until you make it.

Read more: The 5 do’s and 5 don’ts of being a music photographer

Get comfortable with your gear
Understand the menu of your camera and all the features you have to work with. Learn to shoot manual and in RAW format; this gives you the most control over your final image and its quality.

Get familiar with editing software
Whatever you can afford, learn how to do some basic exposure changes and color correction. I personally love Lightroom and Photoshop, and you can get education pricing as a student. Use editing to build your style and stand out.

Learn the venues around you
Venues have different rules when it comes to photographers. Some allow you to bring a camera in, and some require you to be on assignment. Learn which venues allow what and make sure you’re not stepping on any toes. Venues and the people who run them are your friend, and you need them to be successful. 

Make friends with local bands
Local bands love working with local photographers. You can shoot their shows and often get to photograph bigger bands in the scene they’re opening for. It’s a great foot in the door to get into  the shows you want to shoot.

Build connections with other photographers
It’s always nice to get tips straight from the people who are doing what you want to do, and you can make some awesome friends in the process. Reach out, but remember photographers are usually very busy, so respect their time when messaging them or networking at a show.

Start building a portfolio
Make a Flickr account or host your favorite images somewhere that you can show to publications or bands.

Find a balance
As a commercial photo major, I take a variety of photo, video and business classes. Although there isn't a “concert photography” class, you can use the things you learn in school to apply to music photography. Going to school during the day and driving to shows at night has become a typical weekly routine for me, but make sure you're getting enough sleep and not taking on too much. Burning out is not fun.

Be professional
Your personality can be just as important as your portfolio, and if you can get people in the music industry to like you, they may be more willing to give you a chance to photograph the shows you want to shoot at. Getting a photo pass can be exciting, but remember: Band members are people, too, and you're representing yourself and whoever you're shooting for while you're there, so keep your cool. Not only will you come off professionally, but you'll also be more focused—and this will allow for better work.

Start wearing earplugs
If you’re not already, please start now. If you want to make a career out of this, take care of yourself and pick up a pair!

Set goals for yourself
Decide what your ultimate goals are in the near and distant future. Do you want to join a publication? Go on tour in the next few years? Get published in a magazine? Set a goal and work toward it. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish while in school.

Good luck!

Whitney Newell is a senior studying commercial photography at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. She has experience shooting for several magazines, including AP.