What makes a good band photo?
Yes – I have picked a particularly cringe-worthy photo for this article. It’s so awful it’s actually rather memorable!
So what makes a good band photo? Well the worst reaction you can get is indifference. It’s ‘meh’. It’s a photo which merges in with countless other band photos and has nothing memorable about it. You may think you look nice, or cool, but if it doesn’t stand out from the crowd you have failed.
Youth and beauty
Where band members are young and exceptionally beautiful, you can get away with a lot. After all, we all like looking at natural beauty. Model style beauty shots can take you a long way. You can afford to keep it simple.
But most of us lesser mortals are not models and in an ageing industry, many of us are getting a bit long in the tooth – myself included. What you really don’t want is a picture of a bunch of old geezers looking like grandad trying to be cool. And you’d be amazed how many pictures like that are out there. Bunch of old geezers against a wall. Bunch of old geezers with their arms crossed. Bunch of old geezers holding guitars. Yawn.
So how do you Stand out?
If you’re not beautiful or young, you have to be interesting. It’s a question of style, of ideas and of identity. You have to plan a shoot and tie it in with your overall marketing, your logo, your album cover and your audience. You have to find some element which within 1 glance will make people realise it’s you and not someone else. The more extreme it is, the more memorable it becomes.
Think of artists who are immediately recognisable – Kiss or Slash for example – and you get the idea. If an entire band paints themselves green, they will be remembered. If each band member has a big rainbow painted on their face, ditto. Think of Jamiroquai and the big hats. Don’t be scared to make a statement and try something different. Too many metal bands for example are covered in tattoos or wear scary death make-up. It’s been done. To death. Be original.
If you’re really struggling, get yourself a stylist. You can google plenty and see what you like. The good thing about stylists is that they can usually source a load of clothes just for a photo shoot, most of which can be returned afterwards.
Finding Your Identity
Where a lot of people go wrong, is by not wanting to do anything out of their comfort zone. No amount of stylists will make a difference if you say ‘I’m not wearing that!’ to everything. No-one wants to see you like you’re just stepping out for a cheeky pint or popping to the shops. A band photo needs to make a statement! But it’s also important your look reflects your onstage persona and your musical style. Bring out whatever it is that makes you stand out on stage. You might be outrageous, or funny, or unpredictable, or a flirt. What you don’t want to be is boring or ordinary.
Planning your shoot
Personally I work on a very simple principle:- 1 day’s photo shoot = 5 (maybe 6) different image sets. Each image set has to have a theme and tell a story. So you will need a different location or back-drop for each; pick a prop (or set of props) for each set; and change clothes around to vary each set of photos. You may have a hat or a particular identifying clothing item you wear throughout, but there has to be some variety between each set of photos.
Location Location Location
You can of course green screen in a studio and photoshop some backgrounds in post-production. But this never looks as good as being shot in actual locations and can look pretty cheap. Look for really cool locations, depending on your style and genre. They can be murals, sculptures, market stalls, great views. Stay away from brick walls..
My theme being steam punk, we have found various antique stalls (old phones, suitcases etc); we went to an antique doll collectors house; bric-a-brac shops. Sometimes you find a location in which you can do several image sets. We found an antique clock warehouse in Wimbledon for Not Utopia which gave us some amazing shots.
An important factor is that you can travel to each one within a certain time frame. You won’t get good photos if you’re stuck in traffic all day, so good planning is vital. Google is your friend! You’d be amazed what you can find on there.
Remember that you have to contact everyone regarding locations beforehand and fix a fee and availabilities. Some venues charge more than others – some an eye-watering amount and others a bit of cash and a Lucozade. Never turn up and hope for the best.
Themes and Props
Having a theme and a prop for each set serves 2 purposes. Firstly it helps to tell a story, and secondly, it stops everyone standing around looking awkward. For example you might all be having a game of pool with apples instead of pool balls. Location: somewhere cool with a pool table. Props: pool cues and apples. Nothing expensive and not a clear story – but thought provoking and different! Or, the whole band could be on their phones. Or the band could be drawing a giant guitar on the pavement. Possibilities are endless.
Choosing your Photographer
Once you’ve done your planning and you’ve got your wardrobe sorted out, you need to book your photographer. Make sure to get a decent one and not your mate Dave who has a better camera than you.
A decent photographer is not cheap (£500-700 per day) – but they will have the necessary lights and experience to produce professional photos that will look good enough for any magazine. If you only have 1 person joining you, this is the most important one. Most photographers have portfolios online for you to look through which will help you decide if you haven’t already picked one. Stay away from wedding photographers. (Ours is here.)
Hair & Make-Up
Another very handy addition, especially if there are any ladies in the band, is a hair & make-up person. The difference it makes is huge! A good one usually goes out for £150-300 per day and is a second pair of eyes. Where the photographer concentrates on light and composition, the H&M will keep their eyes on you. They will spot those stray bits of hair and blemishes and make sure you look your best.
You may want someone to tag along to video the day. Can be very good for social media, especially if there’s a lot of band banter. Or a big argument.. This is where your mate Dave will come in handy after all. Give him a day out and buy him a sandwich.
Planning is the most important aspect of a successful photo shoot. Get an early start. Make sure everyone knows where to meet and when. Plan your route between locations. Assign shoot times to each image set. It’s very easy to run over, and one person has to be in charge of calling time and moving to the next shot. Pre-book all of the locations and agree fees. Have a handy sheet with everyone’s contact details. Have a pack list so you don’t forget a vital prop.
Good luck with your shoot and do let me know if this has been useful… x
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