How to Take a Great Band Photo or Artist Press Shot
For new and emerging artists in particular, press shots translate an important first impression about you and your music to many of the people you’ll meet in the industry. So needless to say, it’s worth putting in some extra time and thought to get the best possible photos to go to press with - either as a solo artist, or with your band.
10 tips for a quality music press shot
1. Showcase your identity & be YOU!
For musicians, press shots are valuable snapshots that instantly translate information to audiences about who you are, what you’re all about and the vibe of your music.
Your press shots should tell the narrative of you and your music. And visual imagery and artwork is one of the best ways to convey these types of subjective narratives.
So from the outset, before you can even think about taking a single photo, start by identifying the traits and imagery that characterise your brand or image as an artist or band. You might look to your visual 'feel' or music logo for an initial idea.
Identify an aesthetic that shows fans your personality!
Whether that’s b&w introspective solidarity…
Or a mixture of 5 different personas!
2. Do your research
When it comes to getting a great press shot, the internet really is your best friend.
It’s got a wealth of knowledge and material on tips for the best lighting, styling choices, location scouting, best photography practices - everything and anything that’ll set you up for a successful press photoshoot.
And when it comes to manifesting your music visually, carrying out online research can really help get those creative juices flowing.
For example, you could look up artists with a similar vibe to your own and analyse their approach. You could then borrow one of their concepts and alter it in some way to make it more authentic to you. Or even go a step further and check out artists beyond your usual frame of reference. You never know what you might find!
The point is - seeking inspiration, seeing what’s already been done, and injecting your own unique perspective.
3. Decide whether to hire a photographer or shoot your own
There’s no doubt about it, hiring a good photographer could take your promo photoshoot to the next level.
Whilst making great music is your expertise, capturing amazing photos is theirs - so they’ll definitely be able to offer some useful guidance when it comes to reflecting your artistic direction in front of the camera.
Not to mention, hiring a photographer is also a great way to get an outsider’s perspective - because while you may recognise the vibe you’re trying to recreate, a photographer can tell you whether or not that’s the vibe which is necessarily coming across, as a non-biased third party.
However - don’t feel pressured to hire a photographer. Although there are definite pros, if you’re on a budget or don’t feel comfortable with a random person shooting your content, then don’t feel pushed!
As long as you’ve done your research, are well-organised and have access to a decent quality camera, you can still take awesome photos for you or your band all by yourself.
4. Set the scene
The setting you choose for your photoshoot is central to effectively reflecting the desired aesthetic and/or tone of your artist brand or music release.
Setting the scene can be considered in terms of;
- The location - I.e if you’re releasing a hippy, folk album, a flower field may be apt. If it’s a sinister, death metal track, an abandoned warehouse may be more in keeping. Think about the overall mood or concept of the track or album when selecting your location.
- Clothing and styling choices - Make sure you’re choosing outfits that mirror either your brand, or the overall concept for the music. You can use different types of clothing to convey individuality and multiple personalities in bands (like the earlier Spice Girls example!).
- Use of props - Items that may add an extra dimension to your photos, such as handhelds, instruments or background objects.
Remember - while concepts can be cool, don’t ignore your common sense.
(Yes, set the pirate hat back down)
Pictured in a big flannel coat with a backdrop of barren trees, the seasonal setting of Taylor Swift’s ‘Evermore’ shoot is very much in tune with the album’s moody vibe and lyrical themes of love and loss.
5. Maintain consistency
One of the most important things to consider when taking your press photos, is the power of consistency.
Be it between your music video and your press shots, or your album cover and your press shots - the branding should be seamless across all image touchpoints.
Maybe it makes sense for you or your band to use a consistent filter, or stylish grain help gel all your content together? Or maybe not. Sometimes it can be as simple as using the same colours or imagery across all your press shots.
The 1975 did this really well in their press shots for their 2016 album (*enhale) “I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.”
As you can see, the pinky hues that feature in their album cover art, plays off in the background colour of their promo photos.
Album Cover Art:
And for each song on the album, they featured a pink neon sign which was placed against various locations, to further the album’s themes of nostalgia and complex love.
Plus a similar colour palette for the images used on their social media around the time of the album’s release.
See? Same tones, same colours, same message. Remember it’s okay to change it up with every single campaign or album cycle, but for the duration of those things, it really should have the overall same feel.
6. Work out your ratios
Getting the optimal image ratios and sizes for your press shots make them way more worth the hassle. Because in today’s industry, press shots need to be fit for both print and digital use.
Think about it like this.
If you’re a 5-piece band, do you have a press shot that'll fit the whole band onto a 9:16 ratio Instagram story? Will a fan or third party be able to use your landscape images on their square social feed?
If possible, it’s a good idea to make a landscape, portrait and square photo for each individual shot. This not only covers you for the different image size requirements across each social media platform. But also, some website designs require photos to be a specific size or shape. So if you’ve provided a landscape image to a blog that’s used to posting portrait images, whoever’s on the end of the photo is likely to get cut off…(sorry drummer).
7. Consider usability
As well as ratios, you should work out your approach to your shoot in terms of how your images are going to be used.
Press shots have a wide range of uses, including for:
- Album artwork
- Tour posters
- Print stories and articles
- Social media profiles
- Blogs, podcasts and other digital media
Which means you should ideally have a wide range of shots, both conventional and unconventional, for more diverse usability across different mediums. These could include;
- Individual photos of band members
- Photos of the entire band or group
- B&W and colour options
- With instruments and without
For ‘Californication’, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers filled their boots - with more alternative-feeling duo and trio formatted pics in B&W;
As well as a more conventional-feeling entire group feature pic in colour;
8. Mix it up!
A photo shoot shouldn’t end in one single photo. You need to have enough content for all your promotional needs.
Every review site won’t want to post the same image and your social media feed is gonna get pretty boring pretty quickly with the same guitar power-stance image of you popping up multiple times.
Think about capturing the same shot, but in different perspectives - close-up, versus further away. Take advantage of different angles, or shake things up with a different outfit or scenery change.
Like Nirvana have, the vibe to channel here is, ‘same, but different.’
(*Cough* note the subtle position swap)
This not only gives you a steady stream of images to use in your campaign, but it also gives the media more flexibility in how they use your images as well.
9. Better quality, better results
Your selfies taken on a 10 year old Nokia simply won’t cut through the noise.
And when it comes to taking visually compelling press photos, don’t let the camera quality let you down! Especially when media and PR execs will be looking for high res photos.
Again, this does not require a professional photographer or expensive camera equipment. A smartphone camera should suffice. You can even download some good paid apps such as PS Express, or use free design tools like Canva to improve your images.
10. Don’t under-deliver
You’ve gone through all the steps and now you’ve got some really great press shots to send out into the world - don’t fall at the last hurdle!
The final delivery is key.
Although your output should have a good range of quality content (plus some extra), this isn’t to say you should be sending out a press shot folder with 150+ photos. 5 -10 good quality, usable press photos will suffice.
When it comes to saving your images, the following file formats are best suited to print and/or web photos;
And remember - no one wants to receive a 30MB TIFF file.
So size-wise, the ideal file size for each file format is:
If your images are too large in size, you can use digital compressor tools to minimise the file size, without compromising the overall quality of your image. Compress JPEG and TinyPNG are two free and easy to use options!
Once you’re satisfied with the format, size and quality of your shots, make sure they’re easily accessible for press-use by storing them somewhere online (such as a Dropbox or Google Drive) in a labelled folder e.g. ‘PRESS SHOTS.’ Or, alternatively as part of your EPK.
Just remember if you are storing them online, make sure to grant the correct access rights to your press shots folder i.e. making your Dropbox or Drive link shareable for others to use.
Finally - have fun with it! Photoshoots are definitely one of the more fun and enjoyable aspects of the music business, so make sure you get the most out of the experience.
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