January 26, 2023

Marty and Andrew Son see the world differently. As freelance photographers, photography directors and cinematographers, they have an eye for bringing together light, shadows and shapes into one cohesive shot that brings out the beauty in everything (and everyone) they point their cameras at.

However, growing up, this career path didn’t seem to exist. Despite having an interest in music from an early age, the Manila-raised creatives grew up believing that the only way to have a legitimate career in music was to become a musician. It wasn’t until they started seeing photos of their favorite local bands on then-emerging social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook that they realized they could pursue visual arts in music full-time. As adolescents, the pair made their way around the capital, gear at the ready, finding their place on cramped venue floors and taking photos at local shows. “Being a music photographer wasn’t really on my mind yet [in those days]Marty recalls. “I don’t think I ever heard of anyone having that job at the time.”

At the same time, Andrew, the tech nerd that he is, started tinkering with the video settings of his sister’s old camera, kickstarting his undying love of cinematography. “I started learning and studying random video lessons on YouTube almost every day to improve the technical side of it. I also just shot anything and everything at home, learning the shapes of light and how it changes the look of a subject, all that,” he explains. “I literally wake up every morning super excited to hold my camera again and just shoot something. That’s how much it means to me.”

Due to the collaborative nature of this job, it is important to remember that you are part of a team working together towards one goal.

Things moved fast for the Sons – faster than they could have ever imagined. “A few years later we were asked by media and production companies to cover concerts and music festivals,” says Marty.

The Sons still like to take time out of their hectic schedules to shoot smaller shows, but these days they focus more on client work and professional projects. They fondly look back on the countless hours spent on sticky hall floors or studying the core of the craft, little knowing it would lead them to visual collaborations with great musical artists and the likes of San Miguel Beer and National Geographic . “Being involved in the local music scene at such a young age was a big plus,” notes Marty, and Andrew adds, “I was always a frustrated artist. When I discovered photography and videography, I realized this was a way was to channel that artistic side of me. There are many different ways to see the world.”

How would you describe your work in three words to someone unfamiliar with the music industry?

Marty: Immortalize live music.

Andrew: Composition, mood, vision.

Can you walk us through a day in your work life?

The night before a shoot, all our gear is packed and loaded into the car. On shooting day, we (try to) wake up at least two hours before call time, enjoy an espresso or two, and head to set.

When we get there, we set up our lights and cameras and go over the shot list with the entire crew. Video recording usually takes all day, or about six to ten hours, depending on the content. That means moving around the lights a lot, getting the camera angle just right, and making sure we get all the content we need for the final product.

When we get home from the shoot, we usually have a few beers to celebrate!

Can you tell us the story of your first big jobs?

Marty: I was first hired by a major national news station as a music writer and researcher, but was eventually asked to report on events as a media partner. The company allowed me to shoot everything from small shows to international musicians and red carpet events.

However, as a freelancer, I think one of my first big assignments was for San Miguel Beer. I think I jokingly tweeted to them a few times to hire me as a photographer, but they did end up in my DMs! I’ve worked with them a few times over the past few years on some of their social media campaigns.

Andrew: I usually post a lot of random landscape and wildlife video work on my social media, but one day I was contacted by National Geographic Explorer and Nikon Asia Ambassador Gab Mejia to join him on a 14-day National Geographic expedition. It was the wildest adventure.

What is the key to finding clients or artists to work with?

Marty: I ended up meeting a lot of artists and people involved in behind the scenes work like media and production at a young age. Social media also helps, but we’ve found it’s better to meet people in person, especially at events where you know you’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals.

Andrew: Maintaining a social media presence has helped a lot. They are clients who contact me after seeing videos and projects I post online.

Get to know the artist you’re photographing. Music is a very personal art form and knowing the artist in advance allows you to capture its essence.

How do you build up that repertoire with your employees?

Marty: When working on a project, pre-production meetings are essential to make sure both of our visions are aligned. Aside from that, I find meeting outside of work and just talking about random ideas, dream projects, and goals helps us understand where we’re all coming from as we build that relationship.

Andrew: From pre-production to shooting day, I make sure to always communicate my vision and really listen to their creative input and ideas. Due to the collaborative nature of this job, it is important to remember that you are part of a team working together towards one goal.

What are the first steps a young person should take to start a career in music as a photographer and videographer?

Marty: Go to shows and make friends!

Andrew: Start with what you’ve got and shoot anything and everything.

What lessons and/or work ethic did you pick up after working in the music industry?

Get to know the artist you’re photographing. Music is a very personal art form and knowing the artist in advance allows you to capture its essence.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome it?

Marty: Definitely the pandemic! There were no live events for almost a year and we had to find other ways to pay the bills. Money aside, going to shows (even when I wasn’t working on them) always helped me feel that sense of belonging and belonging, and suddenly it was just gone. It was during this time that I started shifting and working on videos with Andrew. Even without the live events in the beginning, we could at least work on music videos, recorded performances or even commercials.

Andrew: Self-doubt is my worst enemy. It took me a while to get over it and it still affects me, but what helps is looking back at how I started and seeing the progress I’ve made so far.

What is one thing about your job that most people would find surprising?

Marty: It’s not exactly glamorous. Covering a festival means walking around for hours, regardless of the weather, all the while lugging heavy camera equipment. Sometimes clients also require you to turn in the final photos the next day, which means editing all night and sleeping around 7am.

Andrew: It’s ridiculously hard. There is a lot of hard work involved – hours and hours of studying and experimenting. This kind of work requires you to be prepared for anything. During a shooting day, something always goes wrong and you have to come up with solutions on the spot. Studying pays off there.

Is there a secret to a long career in this industry?

Marty: Be authentic to yourself and always be kind to those around you.

Andrew: One, don’t be an asshole. Two, there will always be someone better than you, so focus on yourself and the work will follow.

There is a lot of hard work involved – hours and hours of studying and experimenting. This kind of work requires you to be prepared for anything.

What are some habits you follow regularly to always maintain a good workspace?

Marty: Get at least seven hours of sleep and exercise regularly.

Andrew: I think I’ve mastered the art of spacing. It helps me to let my thoughts fly free.

What does a day off look like for you?

Marty: Wake up a little later than usual, do a short workout, and binge on a new TV show or movie.

Andrew: I really enjoy studying, so I end up watching videos from my favorite cinematographers online even on my days off. But I can also spend a lot of time on my favorite PS5 game.

How do you see your job evolving with the music industry over the next five years?

Hopefully bigger projects! We’d love to go on an international tour or even work on a full-length documentary by one of our favorite artists.

If there was no music, what would you do?

Marty: Working for NGOs with causes that are important to me.

Andrew: I would open a coffee shop.

Stay tuned for more features with music industry professionals – from managers to sound engineers, stagehands and others; the people who make the music world go round without standing behind a microphone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *