Whether it’s the photos on classic album covers or fans taking pictures at shows, photography and music are inextricably linked. Even though the two industries often overlap, rarely do you find musicians who are also photographers or photographers who are also musicians. So, I was really surprised to discover that my friend Tony Gambino, former vocalist of metalcore/glam-revival band Blessed By A Broken Heart has a second career as a successful wedding photographer. I sat him down to learn more about his move from the stage to behind the camera.
How do you go from the singer of a metal band, playing shows all over the world with bands like Megadeth and As I Lay Dying, to building a successful wedding photography business?
There wasn’t really much of a transition. When I stopped touring with my band and traveling the world, I basically stopped because it was really hard for me to do that and have a family at the same time. I was gone about 8 months out of the year on the road, and it was taking a toll on us, so I decided that it was time to just become a family man. The band might have lasted another 5 or 6 years, but my family needs to last forever. I miss music, but I love where my life’s at now. I missed the traveling that comes with being in a band, but doing weddings is great because I’m able to still do a lot of travel— only it’s even better because my family can come with me now.
Tony’s old band Blessed By A Broken Heart playing to 20,000 people at a Japanese festival in 2009
When did you first get into photography, and how exactly did you end up in the wedding photography game?
I first picked up a camera about 15 years ago, probably before I was even into music. Someone gave me an old Minolta SRT-201 that they had displayed on a shelf somewhere because I thought it looked cool. I probably shot 100 rolls of film with that thing over the next few months and just fell head over heels in love with taking pictures.
Wedding photography was never the end goal for me. I had some friends who did wedding photography, and initially I didn’t want to do it because it sounded kind of cheesy. My friend invited me to second shoot for her, and I reluctantly agreed, and it turns out that I fell in love with it! I loved shooting that wedding, and immediately started to advertise that I wanted to do more. It kept going and now it’s the only thing I even want to shoot!
What did you learn from being the frontman of a band that helped you get a jumpstart on your photography career?
As the singer of an internationally-touring band, I had to quickly realize that I was, for better or worse, the face of the band. I was naturally the guy who interacted with fans and press the most, I was the lead when it came to record contracts and booking tours and things like that. As the singer, you’re kind of the CEO of the band, and that really helped me a lot in the photography business. The whole process really taught me how to take the reigns and become a leader.
Along those same lines, I know that you’re a big believer in the importance of relationships when it comes to building your business. How has that played a role in your success as a wedding photographer?
A lot of creative people are introverts, and I’m not. There’s nothing wrong with introverts at all, it’s just not who I am. I love having conversations and building relationships with people. A lot of people book their clients digitally and only communicate by email, but I make sure to sit down and have coffee with my clients before they ever book me so they can get a feel for me and see my passion. 99% of my business comes through word-of-mouth, and if I make an excellent impression on my client, then they’ll tell their engaged friends about me and I’ll book them too. And when I work with them, I’m gonna go into the project having their complete confidence, which makes everything better on both sides.
Last but certainly not least, how do you stay motivated, energized and inspired?
When you make your living off of your passion, like you do when you’re a photographer, it’s easy to get jaded or burned out. The best way for me personally to stay inspired is workshops, and the ones I’ve watched on CreativeLive have been real high points for me. Brett Florens inspired me tremendously; High Fashion Wedding Photography was probably one of my biggest sources of inspiration ever. I invested in a $5000 website immediately after, and I started pushing more into fashion-style posing and lighting, and I immediately changed my pricing structure to almost triple what I was charging before. He really helped me realize my value as someone who is leveraging their creativity to provide for their family.
For even more top-notch ideas on how to improve your wedding photography, watch Rocco Ancora and Ryan Schembri’s class Wedding Photography: Capturing the Story.