Big Shots

Big Shots: Shirlaine Forrest…



Welcome to our newest Zone: “Big Shots.” The title refers not only to the extremely talented music photographers we feature each time, but also to the six photographs each photographer chooses to showcase their skills.

We invite amazing camera creatives from around the world – from veteran guys and gals whose images of iconic famous bands and artists have been seen globally for decades, to new and exciting young professionals who are star snappers of the future.

We also showcase the best of today’s most respected names in music photography – to choose half a dozen shots from their own archive, and tell us why they chose each picture.

The photographs they choose can be live concert and/or festival shots, portraits and/or candid backstage images. We also offer a brief bio of each photographer.

  • The latest photographer we are happy to feature in “Big Shots” is Shirlaine Forrest…




Shirlaine Forrest is a highly accomplished Manchester-based freelance photographer specialising in music, fashion and portrait photography.

Shirlaine is proud to be a ‘Nikon Creator’ and her library is sourced via her agencies Female Perspective and Getty Images. Her images have been published globally by such heavyweights as NME, The Guardian and The New York Times.

Shirlaine is ‘Official Photographer’ for BBC, HMV, O2 Apollo Manchester, GCCF [Governing Council Of The Cat Fancy], Manchester Roller Derby and she regularly donates shoots to Manchester Dog’s Home and Lifeshare, a homeless charity.

She is currently working alongside CAN [Community Arts Northwest] with refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester, shooting images for an exhibition to be staged sometime in 2024.

“I never wanted to become a photographer. I studied film production at Northumbria University (gaining a First), and it was assumed we all knew about film stock, f-stops, exposure etc.  I was clueless, so I bought an old 35mm Nikkormat camera with a 50mm lens and a broken light meter for my birthday. I taught myself by trial and error, and soon started photographing bands just as a fan, at venues like The Riverside in Newcastle.

“I was obsessed with music and I was surprised that by asking a roadie at the end of a show if I could go backstage for photos, just how many bands would accommodate. Catatonia were particularly lovely, and I was glad to be able to thank Cerys Mathews at BBC 6 Music Festival last year, for welcoming me and encouraging my budding career.

“Moving from Newcastle to Manchester to work on a TV show was a big game changer, and I continued to photograph bands outside of my day job on Bob the Builder and Pingu – dashing to venues like Night & Day or Dry Bar after a day in the TV studio. My holiday time was spent in a professional film lab where I picked up tips and experimented with darkroom techniques, all of which still inform my work today.”




Shirlaine has chosen six images of: Christine and the Queens, Rita Ora, Dua Lipa, Slash, Stormzy and Zara Larsson.



  • Christine and the Queens


This was shot as official coverage of BBC 6 Music Festival in 2023 at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.  I’d already photographed the usual first three songs [accredited pro’ music photographers are usually allowed to shoot photos at a concert or festival for the first three songs only, either from ‘the pit’, between the stage and audience, or FOH – front of house – at the sound desk].

I was outside having a ‘breath of fresh air’ when I was thankfully called back by a BBC higher-up to shoot this moment, which I wasn’t expecting to have access to. The band’s singer Redcar had already more than delivered during their set – I adore the theatricality of his performance, such strength.

This was a moment of pure bliss; the serenity exuding from the stage had the audience enraptured, and to be caught between those two energies was a rare and beautiful honour. As it was exclusive I had the opportunity to breathe, absorb the performance and reflect back within the image. BBC and the artist both used this shot as promotion, so I think we were all happy.



  • Rita Ora


An example of how trust from an artist can make for an unexpectedly good photo. Shot backstage at HMV Liverpool, Rita didn’t flinch at the sight of two shower curtains taped to the wall, bless her!  After a big grin and hug, it was lights on, hair and make up check, she rocked that shower curtain!  I’m always in awe of people with skills I don’t have, and knowing your own angles is a much underrated talent. She’s a bit magic.


  • Dua Lipa


Another exclusive and only my second time photographing this artist, both times at Manchester Arena.  I was so impressed with the show – beautifully lit, fantastic costume and another girl who knows her angles. She gave me so much to work with I completely overshot.  I was expecting Dua Lipa to request image approval as artists often do, but was delighted to know that wasn’t the case.

I double checked then triple checked my laptop was not needed onsite.  After leaving the pit with over 700 unseen images in my cameras, I was told, ‘The Sun are holding the front page, you have six minutes to get the photos filed’.  I’m twenty minutes from my laptop…I filed the images double quick and as the PR phoned me to chase for the third time in half an hour, I heard his colleague shout, ‘We’ve got them, they’re fucking gorgeous’, before he grunted and hung up!



  • Slash


Usually I like to work with the lighting and staging of a show, to represent what the artist is giving, particularly when shooting for your own venue [O2 Apollo, Manchester], you want to show off the whole shebang.  However sometimes, you just want a great big fat close up of an icon.

As Slash was wearing these smashing mirrored-shades, I was aiming to capture the raucous audience reflected back.  But this glance down gives us a Slash Eye View I wasn’t expecting.



  • Stormzy


Often when shooting backstage portraits, you’re given seconds to find a backdrop, light, establish a bond with the subject and shoot. This was a moment between poses backstage with Stormzy as he launched his debut album at HMV Liverpool.

The store was crammed with fans, the album long since sold out and the pressure was on. In the midst of this, Stormzy epitomised chill, he couldn’t have been more of a gent’ and has retained that calm, confident humour on subsequent shoots.



  • Zara Larsson


Shot during Manchester Pride. Zara is fantastic to photograph live, so much energy and pose-perfect, she’s a joy. The smoke and lighting during her set were not my friends; however, with attention to lighting pattern, a bit of leg work in the pit, and a little help in post production, we got there.




  • More “Big Shots” coming very soon…




Festival crowd from the ‘big wheel’ photo [top of page] credit: Katja Ogrin




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