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Home > Magazine > Article Archive > News

Music Business: Tips for Getting a Professional Band Photo
Posted on Saturday, September 09, 2006 @ 13:54:19 UTC
Topic: Promotions

Most bands address this issue at some point in their career -- and it is important to have a band photo that looks really good. Whether it is for a CD cover or a press packet, consider hiring a professional. I know, I know -- it can cost money! It is, however worth the investment, and it doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive either.

By Catherine L. Tully

Professional photography can make the difference between your band looking smooth and polished and looking like total amateurs. First impressions do matter in this business, and a pro can help make you look your best. It pays to know a little bit about who to hire and what to do to make it a good experience for everyone involved. Here are some basic tips to help get you started and know what to look for:

Do:

  • Ask them for samples and see if their style is a match with yours. Basically, it comes down to -- do you like their stuff? Their "eye" will be reflected in the photos you see, so look closely.
  • Ask for references -- and check them! Don't skip this step. Many people don't ask or follow-up. You can really learn about the photographer from double-checking with those who have already used him/her.
  • Check to see if they have experience shooting musicians for promotional photos. If they do, it is a plus -- ask to see samples to judge their work. If they don't, develop your own ideas for how the photos should look before the session, and work with the photographer to execute them. Just because someone is a photographer doesn't necessarily mean that they can take a cool looking band shot!
  • Ask them for a price -- don't be afraid to at least try bartering for photos (perhaps they may need a band for some occasion!) or ask about ways to get the cost down if it is too high. Most photography has a lot of "wiggle-room" in terms of prices and packages that are offered. If they won't budge and the price seems too high; keep looking.
  • Pay them something -- even if it is a small amount. When people are working for free, they may not treat you as seriously as their paying customers. (Although they really should!)
  • Offer them a credit line on the photo when you run it as a bargaining chip. This is a good plus for the photographer and gives them visibility and advertisement. It also might make a difference in your cost.
  • Ask them how they run a shoot -- and see how flexible they are to incorporating your ideas. You should be comfortable with what they suggest and they should seek to give you what you are looking for.
  • Ask how the photos will be delivered -- prints or CD. It can be helpful to have both.
  • Ask how long it will take for you to get the images. Sometimes photographers can take a while to get you the goods -- it often depends on how busy their schedule is, but it pays to know up front. If you need the pictures in a week and they are backed up for two months, it isn't a good match from the start.
  • Give them a band bio and any information on you that they might find helpful as to staging the shoot.

Don't:

  • Overdo hair/makeup and costuming for the shoot.
  • Choose cliché backgrounds or poses.
  • Wait until the day of the shoot to talk about what everyone thinks the photo should be like. Discussing this ahead of time can save time/money and make things less stressful.
  • Be afraid to voice your thoughts to the photographer -- sometimes it can help to have one person as the "spokesperson" for the group to avoid things getting too chaotic.
  • Hesitate to ask for a break if things are feeling stiff or if you want to talk to band members to see how they feel it is going.
  • Pay the photographer all costs up front. Although they may charge a "sitting fee" which is for their time, prints and/or a CD of photos should be paid for upon delivery.
  • Give up if the prices you are getting back are too high for your budget. Local colleges or universities are a good source for up and coming photographers who may share their talents for a smaller fee. They get the experience and some cash and you get the photos at a lower cost -- everybody wins! (Just remember that you should go in with a more detailed plan, as they are still learning their craft and may have more difficulty posing you and directing you than a seasoned pro.)
  • Assume you will be buying all rights to the photos taken -- be sure to ask! Many photographers will charge a different price for giving up all their rights to use a photo -- but then you will own it. It is an important issue and should be addressed before the shoot to avoid problems down the line.

Use a few modeling tips for the shoot:

  • If you have problems keeping everyone's eyes open at the same time, have everyone close their eyes, count to 2 and open on 3. It helps.
  • Sounds weird, but if the shot requires a smile, take a little bit of petroleum jelly and smear across your upper teeth. It keeps you smiling easy through a ton of shots.
  • In the same spirit, keep some water close by for combating that dry mouth and weird smile that can result.
  • Bring touch up supplies. Hairspray, brush, face powder and whatever else you need to make you look and feel your best.
  • Try to make sure everyone gets a good night's rest so you can look your best.

And a few band-specific tips:

  • If using any instruments in the shoot, make sure they are clean and polished up to look their best.
  • Schedule the shoot for a time you are most awake if possible. Many bands aren't at their best at 9 am.
  • If the photographer doesn't object, music in the background can help relax you and make the shoot feel more natural. Especially if it's your music!

Hiring a professional photographer can be a great way to make sure your band looks their best. Knowing what to ask and what to expect can help you start your search for the right one. Remember, there are plenty of them out there, so just make sure that whoever you choose, they are the best match for you and your band.


Catherine L. Tully is a freelance writer and photographer. You can see her work at www.moonbeamdigital.com. She is on-staff at Indie-Music and you can reach her at ctully@freelance-zone.com.












 
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