Katrina Barber is a live music and portrait photographer based in Austin, Texas.
She works full time as a graphic designer for C3 Presents, and travels the U.S. taking photos for festivals like ACL Fest, Lollapalooza, Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, Music Midtown, and more. Sentimentality and unobtrusive story telling is the driving force behind her, spurring her to create photographs that can be used, kept, and looked back on. This year, she was awarded Best Live Music Photographer by the Austin Music Industry Awards.
What sparked your initial interest in photography?
My dad! We first spent hours in Precision when I was very little and it was still on 38th and Lamar, and then he gave me my first camera (a Nikon F2) when I was 12 or so. He taught me how to use it and I'd spend rolls and rolls of film out in the field behind our house, exploring the tall grass, trees, and animal bones. I got really into music in high school, and started to interview and photograph bands for my school's paper—that's where I really started to learn my love was shooting live music. The passion and spontaneity of it all was just so much fun to try and capture.
What are some of your biggest inspirations for your work?
I really love to keep up with my friends and fellow live music photographers whose work I look up to— Charles Reagan, Roger Ho, Chad Wadsworth, and Greg Noire are a few. Seeing how they attack difficult shoot situations always pushes me to try new things at a venue or festival. I'm also a very sentimental person, and I use that as it's own inspiration—thinking about how the photos I create will be looked back on in 5, 10, or 50 years informs a lot of my shooting habits. I'll take more backstage snapshots, ask more of my artists during portrait sessions, and create with more intention because of that sentimentality.
What was one of your weirdest moments as a photographer?
I was asked to take a portrait of Andrew McMahon during ACL Festival, but I needed to take the photo with a phone per a sponsor agreement. Definitely a fun challenge, but very weird!
And the coolest?
At my first Lollapalooza, I got to go up in one of the lifts to shoot aerials during the Red Hot Chili Peppers set on the main stage. Being ~60ft in the air above one of the biggest crowds I'd ever seen was truly surreal. I spent quite a few minutes just taking it all in—the massive crowd, Chicago's skyline, the light show—it was all just so beautiful. Definitely a moment I'm going to remember.
What have you learned about photography that came as a surprise the more you became invested in it?
I learned that you don't have to be the absolute best to do great work that you're proud of. Comparison is a killer, and I've definitely found myself stuck in a comparison loop with some of my peers—I'd look at their work and look at mine, then feel totally inept and unable to create. When I first started shooting, I didn't really care about how others were capturing the moments I was also trying to capture, I just wanted to create. Learning to let go and stop comparing your work to others is essential to not only your sanity, but also your personal creativity.
If you could give one important piece of advice to a novice - what would that be?
If you're interested in music photography, you don't always need a photo pass to get experience under your belt and images in your portfolio. Depending on the venue and band's photo policies, you can go to local music spots and just throw yourself into it. I found my passion starting out in small venues shooting local bands who became friends. Through that, I learned how to deal with tough light, get creative with shots, and how to interact with bands and business owners on a more professional level. Becoming a part of that local community definitely helped me advance my friendships, eventually my career, and led me to where I am now.
What is your favorite thing you have purchased from Precision Camera?
I've fallen absolutely in love with my Westcott Ice Light 2. I take it everywhere with me just in case—the light you get from it while shooting portraits in a small club is insane.
Okay - desert island lens: what is it?
Nikkor 50mm 1.8! There's just something about it that can't be beat, I use it to shoot almost everything.
What is your dream piece of equipment that doesn't exist?
If I'm daydreaming out lout here, I'd love a full spectrum zoom lens going all the way from say, 8mm–300mm, and stay at a constant f/2.0. Having that at a festival would be a dang DREAM.
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