Brad Heaton a professional photographer shares his story from amateur to professional photographer travelling the globe with some of the worlds most well known bands & DJs.
Find out how he made his career.
Hi Brad, tell us about yourselfMy name is Brad Heaton, and I've been a photographer in the music industry professionally for 8 years now. While I primarily focus on touring content, I have dabbled in providing editorial and promotional material for bands and artists throughout my career.
I began my photography journey almost 16 years ago when I would sit in the dugout of my baseball games, and local game day photographers would sit alongside me and photograph my teammates batting. I always managed to be more focused on the images on the camera than on my own team hitting. Eventually, I managed to convince my mother to purchase a point-and-shoot Sony DSC H5 I'd sneak into my own baseball games, and eventually into small local hardcore shows. Seeking more education and experience, I joined a photography program at the GlenOak High School in Canton, Ohio.
This program lead the path over the years and ultimately provided me with the perseverance and mindset to get me to where I am today. This course was 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years. It managed to teach me photo history, film development, and studio work at a young age. After that, I moved to a larger city to begin expanding my skills and hunt down larger and larger shows to photograph. Luckily, a few hours from home I found this in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been based in Columbus since 2009 and it continues to be my home base from touring to this day.
What's in your Camera Bag, Film, Digital or both?
I’ve been strictly Canon since the beginning of my career, with a few Sigma lenses sprinkled in there. Right now, my bag includes a Canon R6, Canon 70-200mm II f2.8L, Canon 24-70mm II f2.8L, Canon 11-24mm f4L, Sigma 14mm 1.8, and Sigma 50 1.4. I’ve always found consistency in Canon gear over the years, and it certainly helped that most of my peers in the music industry strictly used Canon as well. Made it very easy to borrow someone else’s lens day of show or at a festival we were both at.
I also recently purchased my first point and shoot film camera in a Klasse W to get back into the film world for the first time since 2009.
What’s your most memorable photo?
On my earlier days of this journey, I would convince myself to drive to check out upcoming schedules of all the bigger cities near me, and by any means necessary, find a way to photograph these shows. One of the bands I started eyeing every single day was this smaller band called Twenty One Pilots. For the most part, they were maybe selling out mid-sized venues, but had an incredible following in our home state of Ohio.
I drove to Cincinnati and managed to convince them to let me photograph the college show they had been booked to play and it was at that moment I knew I needed to impress some people. What was the best way to impress someone new? Do something that hasn’t been done before, and do it well.
That resulted in me taking initiative to climb through a back stairwell to the catwalk of this college gymnasium. I used my knowledge of this band to know when during the set the drummer, Josh Dun, sits on a platform on top of the crowd and plays drums. I positioned myself accordingly, got this photograph, and cemented myself in the minds of this band by capturing this moment. It’s still a favorite of mine to this day.
What does your next photography adventure look like?
I’ve been touring the world nonstop for the past 12 months with one of the most recognizable DJs in the world, Steve Aoki. In this time, I’ve been to countless shows in Vegas, Miami, NYC, LA, and the states a few times over. Not to mention getting to visit a Covid locked-down Japan, Australia weeks after their borders reopened, Dubai, and a few Mexico and Canada trips.
My future includes more of this travel, but also personal trips sprinkled in between. I made my first national park solo trip a few months ago to Yosemite, and I intend on using some time off this summer to check another off the list. Perhaps Zion, or Yellowstone. Maybe take my first trip to Hawaii. Who knows just yet?
How has photography evolved since you’ve started shooting?
When I started really finding myself deep into photography back in 2008, it felt like a very closed space. You managed to know the name of every photographer local to your space, via Flickr or Myspace. There seemed to be very little room in the music industry for a “professional” photographer since social media wasn’t exactly the powerhouse that it is today. Now, there’s a photographer and videographer for every single artist and every single Instagram page. Photography seems more reachable than ever in regards to the capability of gear and the ability to narrate your own talents and self-worth with social media.
There’s a large amount of talent in the space now that it feels like I'm meeting more and more unknown faces every single week, and that’s incredible. It’s not just a small pool of persistence and perseverance. It’s an entire ocean of talented photographers just waiting to be seen and the gear to back it up.
Where will we find you when you’re not taking photos?The way my current schedule is, I don’t have much time outside of photography. But the few days a month I am home I manage to spend either playing video games, going on hikes, or playing basketball. I like to keep my home life pretty simple.
What advice have you got for the younger you, just starting out on your photography adventures?
Persistence. There’s always a way to someone. To convince someone you’re worthy. To convince yourself you’re worthy. If an opportunity falls through, follow up a year later with an update in your portfolio and prove your ability to adapt. Being denied an opportunity isn’t the end of your career, but an alternate route to where you’re supposed to be.
We thank Brad for his time and for sharing his story for our Behind The Image interviews.