If you’ve recently been to a show in the Seattle area, it is very likely Sunny Martini was bopping around in the photo pit, taking shots of your favorite band. Since realizing her love for photography during her years in high school, Sunny has gone on to photograph acts such as Chance The Rapper, Brand New, and Third Eye Blind, and currently works with a number of companies including Showbox Presents who run the city’s Showbox at the Market and Showbox SODO venues. We recently caught up with Sunny and she talked all about some of her favorite moments in the photo pit, Seattle’s tight-knit community of photographers, and more.
When did you first start showing an interest in photography?
High school is when I started taking cameras out everywhere I went (mostly concerts) but college is where I took it seriously. My senior year consisted only of photo classes ranging from experimental film photography to digital.
Chance The Rapper
What was the first show you ever photographed and looking back, is there anything you would have wanted to change or wish you had done?
John Butler Trio at the Moore Theater in Seattle, WA. I wished I had more than a 50mm on me, could have had more varied shots with a wide angle angle lens. Also wished I was acquainted with my camera more. I had borrowed my boss’ Canon rebel with only a few hours practice on it.
Throughout the years, who has been your favorite act to photograph and why?
Third Eye Blind time and time again is my all time favorite. Great lighting, great energy, and full set! I know their music like the back of my hand so it was very fluid seeming knowing when and where to shoot. Stoked to be shooting their California dates!
Third Eye Blind
If we were to open up your camera bag right now, what gear and equipment would we find?
A Canon body, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, flash, a portable phone charger, eye-fi card, custom ear plugs, and a BlackRapid DR-2 Slim Double Strap.
Out of your portfolio, if you had to pick one photograph as being your favorite, which would it be and what is the story behind it?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll go with the picture of Jesse Lacey of Brand New. This picture was taken at Bumbershoot 2015, shooting Brand New at Bumbershoot pretty much was my entire reason for wanting to be at Bumbershoot. I had applied to photograph them one time before Bumbershoot and at that time they weren’t allowing press. At Bumbershoot, they had initially had a no press rule as well. I think after a bit of discussion with their camp, they changed their minds and did allow photographers and I was like a kid in a candy store. I knew walking into that pit, all I wanted was a solid photo of Jesse’s emo roar, a picture of Vinnie going wild on his guitar, and to hear “Sowing Season” being blasted out into Memorial Stadium. I got all three.
In your opinion, what elements make for a good live shot or portrait?
Composition is everything. Clarity, contrast, and color are great too, but if the composition is off or boring, that can kind of null and voids those elements.
Most of your work is done in the Seattle area. How do you feel the Seattle music and live event scene differ from other cities and what do you enjoy most about it?
I like the community that the Seattle photographers have. I have shot in other cities but by far, the community is almost family like here. Most photographers have been helpful, giving great advice, feedback on photos. I learned a lot from many of the seasoned photographers here on the do’s and don’ts. Forever grateful and always trying to pay it forward.
In addition to live music, you also do a great amount of portrait and lifestyle work. Is there a particular type of photography you enjoy most? Which is it and why?
I love and will always love photographing music because it’s so diverse – you could be shooting in the day or at night, never know what the stage will be like and each band/artist is different. The last few years I have also ventured out to lifestyle shoots. I love the challenge of it because each shoot is so different subject wise and I have to figure out what will make a great set to present my client with. I’ve dabbled in sports, lifestyle, food, and animals and have yet to find something I absolutely dislike photographing.
As an artist who is pretty active on her social media accounts, do you feel as though social media platforms have helped your career in any way? If so, how?
Social media has definitely helped my career! I have found that is how I’ve met a lot of the clients I currently have. It’s almost a more accurate capture of my skill set, creativity, and personality vs. my portfolio since I post daily on social media whereas my portfolio, I post a very select amount of my photography and you only see what I’m capable of. It’s also a great networking tool, I’ve chatted with photographers all over the world which is so wild to think about but so easy to do these days.
As 2017 continues on, are there any bands you are hoping to photograph this year or projects you are working on you can tell us about?
Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Green Day, and Deftones are four bands I have not photographed yet and hope to do so this year. My next life goal is to hopefully go on tour this year and experience that aspect of music photography. I’d like to not just document the music but the pre and post show aspects. Crossing fingers.
Is there any advice you could give to aspiring photographers out there who are looking to start building their portfolios?
Start small, go to local shows – shoot and network with the bands. I can not emphasize enough to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. Learn the settings of your camera in low lit venues and how to change the settings fast, even without looking. Find the lenses that make you comfortable. I do believe when you start shooting in smaller venues, it makes you that much more grateful for when you shoot at larger venues, there’s a big difference – most of the time… Be kind to fellow photographers you run into as well, you just never know who may help you in the future and learn from them, ask questions!
Interview by Rachael Dowd
Portrait of Sunny by Joshua Lewis