If you are seeking a career in music, you should undoubtedly have professional photos. If you want to get heard, they happen to be almost as important as the music itself.
Your promotional photos could be the first encounter a potential new fan has with you. You want to be certain that these images will draw them in to listen / investigate further. Catching eyes while they mindlessly scrolling Instagram is the goal.
We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words — but it could also be worth a thousand streams.
Ideally, you should consider hiring a professional photographer to take these photographs. Set aside at least a day for the actual shoot so nothing is rushed. Get in touch with the photographer well in advance, and have a plan / be open to discussing the concept with the photographer. Treat it like you would pre-production on a record; the more time you put in up front, the easier things will be when photo day rolls around.
If you absolutely cannot afford a professional photographer, don’t worry. Instead, seek out a friend or a fan who likes to take photos. They’re everywhere. But if you don’t have any friends or fans, brush up on your own skills here.
Don’t hesitate to seek inspiration from other musicians’ photos. Figure out what emotions you want your music to make people feel. Absolutely, make sure your photos evoke these.
In the same vein, if you see the same photo credit appearing multiple times under images you LOVE, don’t hesitate to contact that photographer. Photographers want to work, and generally make themselves easy to find with your old friend “social media.” Don’t be afraid to aim for the fences. Annie Leibovitz might be really into your project and offer you an indie rate. The worst that can happen is they say “no.”
And always remember, when it comes time to take photos, just relax and be yourself.
Here’s what you should discuss with your photographer (or keep in mind yourself if going DIY) long before the photo shoot
We could discuss concepts for photos ad infinitum – but at the end of the day, that’s between you and your photographer. Now, for some nuts-and-bolts tips to make sure you get the most out of your shoot:
Landscape vs. Portrait Orientation
Depending on the layout of the article on the page or screen, a music editor might prefer a wide shot or a vertical photo. Ensure that your online press kit includes at least one of each so that the publication covering your music has access to the necessary images. Most publications will want landscape – exceptions do happen – so it doesn’t hurt to have options.
Again, depending on their formatting needs, an editor may want to crop one of your photos. Make sure you have at least one image where you can sacrifice portions of the picture without compromising the overall composition.
Close-ups of Each Member
You’ll want to get good close-up shots of each member of the band for a few reasons: a profile piece that covers each person individually; an ABOUT page on your website that has separate member bios; etc. You COULD get these individual shots by cropping each person from a band photo, by why not make it easier on everyone and take the portraits during the photo shoot?
Smaller is the trend on the web. And now, when most people access the Internet via smartphone, pictures keep getting even smaller. So be prepared. Make sure your band photos either look great as thumbnails or snap a few new shots that WILL.
Web Banners or Other Advertisements
When you use an image of your band in a banner advertisement, you’ll need a lot of space for text. That means, most likely, that the band members are off to one side and the writing ends up on the other side. If one of your standard press photos can’t be cropped to suit this purpose you’ll want to take some shots with this goal specifically in mind.
A Website Background
If your website design or template uses a large background image, it can be really cool to use a picture taken during the same photo shoot. But again, you’ll want to make sure you leave some space for your web content, widgets, etc. Otherwise your music player might be sitting right on top of the lead singer’s face.
Header Images for Social Media Profiles
Think of the space at the top of your band’s Facebook page. It’s kinda like a landscape-oriented photo, but stretched. It’s usually difficult to crop or resize existing band photos into those dimensions, so it’s a good idea to plan accordingly before your next photo shoot.
Elements of Album Art or Web Design
If you’re looking to use some aspect of your band photos in your album art or web design, make sure the photographer knows upfront. This often alters how they approach certain shots.
Black & White
Print media often favors black and white (B&W) photos for obvious reasons. If you’ve got a stunning color photo that works well on the web or in a glossy magazine — but loses its power when it goes to gray — well, use that one for the web and glossy magazines! Then make sure you’ve got some shots equally captivating without color.
Clean, Clutter-free Images
Sometimes it can be charming to have a busy photograph. A messy studio, a crowded stage, etc. But if one of those kinds of shots becomes your go-to press photo, make sure to give the media some clutter-free options too. They’re easier to lay text over and they’re easier for the viewer to make sense of when shown in B&W.
Things to Avoid
Theoretically, anything is possible and can work depending on mood/setting, however, these are tried-and-true no-no’s when it comes to band photos:
- Please Don’t Get Your Photo Taken Against a Brick Wall
- Skip Getting Your Photo Taken on Train Tracks
- Don’t Make “Cool Rock Guy/Girl” Faces (just relax, you’re already better than Nickelback!)
- No flip-flops (again, this could maybe work, but 99% of the time…no)
- Try Concepts, But Don’t Ignore Common Sense (if you have to think twice…probably scrap it)
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