Three keys to a great band photo
To be successful in music, you need exceptional material. Write good songs, put on compelling performances, and music lovers and critics might take notice.
If your music is good enough – mixed with the right amount of exposure and hard work – you can carve out a successful career.
While songwriting is your main ingredient, visuals really do matter, so press photos and all your visual material cannot be an afterthought. Enticing photos, videos, album art, and graphic design will attract the right kind of attention, establish your brand, and get people to listen to your music.
Your headshot or promo picture might be the first impression the press and potential fans will get of you. If the headshot: a) is a cliché (e.g. on a rooftop, along a train track, in front of a brick wall), b) doesn’t successfully convey your brand, or c) looks unprofessional, you might lose out on opportunities right off the bat. When you’re trying to make your way in the music industry, you can’t afford to miss out on opportunities.
On the other hand, when your music photos convey your message as an artist and your artist brand; support your lyrical message and music style; and drive the content of your website, tweets, and emails, they are doing their job.
Find a photographer
The most important element to a great photograph is finding a qualified photographer you can trust. That means finding someone who has experience photographing music artists, not an acquaintance with a smart phone and time on her hands.
Hire a pro if you can afford it, someone who knows how to use the camera and lighting, and who can coach you to take your best shot. Do everything you can to help the photographer succeed.
Have a vision
Have a vision for what you’re trying to accomplish and communicate that to the photographer. If she is not already familiar with your music, send her a few tracks so she can get an idea of what your music sounds like and what you’re all about.
Some of the biggest prep work for a photo shoot is helping the photographer pre-visualize, which starts with you sharing what you think are good band/artist photos. Find 5-10 photos that you really love, even if you can’t articulate exactly why you love them, and get them to the photographer. The creative visualization process should also include scouting and determining locations and finding the right props and wardrobe ahead of the shoot.
Another key to taking good photographs is to relax and not put a lot of pressure on yourself to be a good subject. That is a large part of the photographer’s job, and a big reason why having someone with experience and with whom you are comfortable is of major importance. Keeping yourself open to the photographer’s suggestions will help both of you get the most of the experience, and sometimes the best shots are the spontaneous moments in between the planned shots. A good photographer will be ready for that.
But, as a general rule, plan out the shoot. Don’t leave it up to the heavens to have a great day of shooting. You have to brainstorm and conceptualize how you want to come across and how that translates to your background, clothing details, hair, makeup, and location.
Learn how to create a killer press kit with Disc Makers' free guide, The Definitive Press Kit Guide For Musicians.
Andre Calilhanna is a writer, editor, musician, marketer, massage therapist, and music lover (not necessarily in that order). He's been editing and writing for the Disc Makers, BookBaby, and Merch.ly blogs since 2011.