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The Dos And Don'ts Of A Music Photo Shoot
(Alexander Dummer)

The Dos And Don’ts Of A Music Photo Shoot

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(Hypebot) — A photoshoot can make or break a band’s image, and getting it right and authentically portraying a band or artist requires careful planning. Carla Malrowe shares some critical tips from professional industry photographer Jacques Schutte.

Guest post by Carla Malrowe from the Bandzoogle Blog

Band photos should tell the true story of the music.” – Jacques Schutte, Photographer

A brilliant band photo is one that captures the style and story of the music, expresses the characters of the musicians, and bears elements akin to the genre. It is impressionable, professional, unique and authentic. Brilliant photos sell the total sonic experience that awaits the listener.

A failed photoshoot would be one that produces visual misrepresentations of the music, or worse, visual misrepresentations completely void of originality or authenticity. These mistakes are made too often by too many.

I had a conversation with music industry photographer, Jacques Schutte, to gather more ideas around what a successful band photoshoot entails, and how to ensure that the photographs will “work” for the band.

Here are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to putting together your band photoshoot project.

Grow your own idea, don’t just copy it

A great musician is one that can project and burn an image into the listener’s mind with their performance.  What image do you wish to burn into your listener’s memory? The listener must have the right preconceived idea of what the music will sound like based on the photos they see.

Listen to your music and visualize. What do you see? Ask others the same question and bounce ideas around. Do some research on the band photography of other musicians in your genre and start compiling a collection of references. Use your references as inspiration, but don’t ever just copy them. Stealing is lazy. I implore you to merge and metamorphosize the ideas that resonate with you in order to develop your own unique shoot idea.

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Dive into the details, don’t float in the kiddies pool

Give your new ideas depth by defining the mood, style, and eventually the concept. What mood do you wish to create? Bright and cheerful, dark and mysterious, beautiful and simplistic, aggressive and intimidating?

The concept is the story. Do you aspire to tell the story of an impending doom, enlightening freedom, chaos and confusion, calmness and serenity, loss and loneliness? It is your job to balance originality with authenticity here. You want to think outside the box without straying too far away from what signifies your authenticity.

Bandzoogle Blog - Band Photoshoot Checklist - 1
Carla Malrowe by Jacques Schutte

With your details decided, create a concept board using your references and add notes to effectively communicate your vision for the shoot. You could create a Pinterest board, chuck it all in a Google Drive folder, or you could do a presentation in – there are many tools out there – find one that works for you.

Work with a photographer, don’t get Susan from next-door to do it

Your photos are assets that you’ll use everywhere, including on your music website. They will bear a return on investment if the project is executed properly and produces high-quality photos, therefore, hire a professional photographer.

Even better than getting a pro photographer would be to get a pro that “gets” you. A successful photoshoot is very much dependent on the creative exchange between subject and camera, so hire an experienced photographer that can appreciate your music.

“Prior to the shoot, find out exactly what the musicians have in mind, and WHY!” – Jacques Schutte, Photographer

To make sure you and the photographer really understand each other, send your concept board to the photographer well prior to the shoot date and have a discussion around why you chose your references.

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Carla Malrowe by Jacques Schutte

Do the homework, don’t wing it

With your concept settled and shared, start working on the important contributing factors such as setting, props, lighting, etc. always referring back to the concept before coming to final decisions. Your concept should always be top of mind – everything else should work to support the story.

Choose the best setting

Choose a space that is interesting without being overpowering. A studio space would be preferable as you’ll have more control over lighting and avoid weather issues. However, you might find settings like decaying historical buildings or vast open deserts more suited to your concept. Make sure you have permission to use the space before you start shooting.

Choose the relevant props

Think about interesting props that bring captivating visual elements to your setting such as interesting textures or strong colours. Props loaded with symbolic meaning can be very powerful. Remember that props can also be abstract.

Bandzoogle Blog - Band Photography Checklist - 3 Carla Malrowe by Jacques Schutte

Think about the lighting

Although this is normally the photographer’s area of expertise, it will be wise for you to consider your own lighting preferences. You might like natural daylight, bright clinical white light, subdued yellow light, soft or hard shadows. You might have to bring additional lights in to achieve what you want to achieve, so run this by your photographer.

Plan your hair, makeup, wardrobe

You and the members of your band remain the dominant subjects of the photographs. You are the ones that give the image life. Your appearance should be flattering as well as striking.

Assistance from hairdressers, makeup artists and stylists will be preferable if possible – welcome the talents of your fellow local creatives. Should you use stylists, clearly communicate your concept to them as well.

I’d advise you not to stray too far away from your stage look. You’ll want to maintain a specific image yet push that image to the extreme for photographs.

Bandzoogle Blog - Band Photography Checklist - 4 Carla Malrowe by Jacques Schutte

Finally, do a trial. Something that looks amazing in your mind’s eye might be in disagreement with the camera.

Make a shot list

Get all the shots you’ll need for various distribution purposes. You’ll need different types of photos for social media posts, your band EPK, album covers, profiles, banners etc.

Different shots to consider are:

  • Full length shots
  • Close-ups and headshots
  • The entire group together
  • Individual photos of band members
  • With instruments and without
  • With props and without
  • Landscape and portrait
  • Shots where you are off to one side
  • Shots that can be cropped to squares
  • Shots that can be reduced to a thumbnails

Make your official checklist, don’t miss a thing

Your checklist looks like this:

  • Develop your unique idea
  • Define the details of your idea
  • Establish a solid concept
  • Make a concept board with notes and references
  • Choose a photographer that “gets your vibe”
  • Communicate your vision effectively
  • Find the right setting
  • Arrange your props
  • Choose your lighting setup
  • Do a hair, makeup, and wardrobe trial
  • Get stylists in to assist if possible
  • Make a shot list and be sure it’s on hand
  • Remember to check your checklist

Your photographs should turn out better than what you envisioned, not the opposite of what you had in mind – that’s why you need a stellar plan in place. A well orchestrated photoshoot will always ensure the most favourable photos.

Do it properly, don’t cut corners, and thank me later when you’re swimming in Likes.

Carla Malrowe is an avid alternative songwriter and vocalist from South Africa. Her electro-industrial project, Psycoco, just released their new single “Stay Awake.” Malrowe’s music is a haunting juxtaposition of electronic and analogue sounds with lyrics that explore a post-apocalyptic conflict between love and loss. Her solo album, Missing Circus Freak, will be released in May 2021.

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