Band Photography: The Importance of Good Photography on Your Website

wylie_panic_division
The Panic Division, photographed by Wylie Maercklein.

Let’s get one thing straight here right away – good photography can make or break whether or not people will hire you, feature your music in their magazine, or even just stay on your website for more than 10 seconds.

Is the image you are projecting about your music accurate and compelling? Does it communicate your sound?

The following are tips and ideas about how to translate your music into photography that captures the imagination of your potential  fans.

 

 

 

 

BeforeTHE BASICS 

Let’s check out an example of the way, sadly, that many musicians handle their images.

1. It’s a dark snapshot taken with a point-and-shoot camera.
2. It doesn’t pack a visual punch equal to his amazing ukelele skills.
3. He kinda looks like he’s being sent to time-out.
4. The image is too dim to be picked up and published by an interested writer, or envisioned on a poster by someone booking acts for a festival.

In the end, grandma and friends may love it… but that’s not gonna do much for his career.

 

pro_2A better way to go about it.

1. This pic has great contrast because it was taken with a DSLR camera, and then edited with a free online editing tool.
2. It reflects the idea of crisp, professional playing.
3. He took more time to relax and have fun during the shoot, which brought more confidence into the photo.
4. The image is something a promoter or fan would be happy to print out and use.

 

 

 

 

CAPTURING YOUR SPECIFIC STYLE

Show Your Audience What You’re All About
Just as it’s important to be able to describe your musical style in a few words, it’s also a good idea to repeat that with your visuals. So what is your style? Gloomy goth? Lighthearted powerpop? Comedic rock? Be sure to evoke the personality of your music in your photographs. Interact with your band members in the photo, set up a scene.  Remember even a subtle facial expression can speak volumes about the personality of your music. You only half to glance at this black and white picture of Willie Nelson to know he’s a wise-old-hippie-song-writer with a gravely voice.

People won’t be able to hear you on a flyer or in a magazine, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to imagine your sound.

Take Lots of Pictures and Relax
If you are relaxed, you’ll get better pictures. Jump around, loosen up, be silly a bit, breathe. It’s often good to have the camera on rapid-shot setting to capture the more casual look people have on their faces right after looking at the camera.

Avoid the Cliches, Unless You Want to Break Them Out of the Mold!
The two most tired out themes of musician photos are:
1. Person walking down train tracks.
2. Band in front of a brick wall.

Those two setups are so ubiquitous that they have become an old joke in the music industry. However, the only reason those don’t work is because people think they can just stand in front of a wall and it will have meaning. Sorry, but it doesn’t. If you do go with a brick wall or train tracks, you just have to make sure your telling a story that is more compelling then some steel and bricks.  Act out the name of your latest album. Tell a story. Have a herd of cattle running at you up the tracks. Or people in cow suits. Be pounding on the brick wall.  Ask yourself what kinds of emotions your music evokes. How can you represent that visually?

Use Good Equipment if You Can – and Edit Your Photos After Taking Them.
Professional photos are great if you can hire someone, but if you are low on cash, a friend with a decent camera will be fine, or you can find a student photographer who wants to add more to their portfolio. Just be sure to credit them for their work if it gets published. Try to use natural light where possible. If you want to go low-fi and use a polaroid for that retro indoor flash vibe, that’s fine, just be sure to give the photo a lot of contrast using a photo editing program to heighten the look! Editing can be crucial, especially if you don’t have access to a good camera. You can use free tools online, or offer up your image to the Fix My Pic group on flickr.com to see what other folks can do to spice up your images.

Make Sure You Have High Resolution Images
Most publications will want high resolution (usually 300 dpi) images, so keep those versions handy. Often musicians will zip their high Res photos in a folder that can be easily downloaded from their website (Make sure to keep back ups on disc).

Take Color Photos
It’s easy to convert color images to black and white if necessary, but obviously if someone needs color shots of your band, you’ll be out of luck if all you have are black and white. The easier you make it for folks to use your images, the more likely they will!

AND IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO… FOCUS!

In the end, it’s about capturing your sound, distilling your spirit, and translating that into an image that folks can take away to better remember who you really are… which is probably what you have been doing with your music, right? Enjoy!

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