Creating stunning photography that visually represents an artist/bands unique sound, is a fine art. Getting those shots that fit the feel of your music, boast what you represent and catch the attention of industry professionals, isn't easy. We got in touch with a few professional photographers to find out how they capture the distinction of each artist. To do this, we've asked them to break down what different techniques they use, what scenarios these worked well for and visual examples of how they achieved this. This will give you an insight into different approaches you may not have thought of, so you have more of a creative eye when it comes to your next shoot.
Artificial vs Natural Lighting
I always bring artificial lighting on a shoot, but I prefer to use natural light when I can. Often I end up balancing both. Picking the right time of day is important, but often, with band shoots, we’re limited to short shoots at specific times, so there’s a good amount of improvisation!
I often shoot wide open to get a blurred background and maintain focus on the band/artist. Also, shooting in very low light situations, f/2.8 is really useful!
Black & White
I love black and white photography but I always shoot in colour, and later convert if the shot works well in monochrome.
I used to love really black shadows but I tend towards more flat blacks now. I realise not everyone is a fan of this, but I like it!
R - No
Glass & Reflections
I don’t tend to use with band photography, but do quite a bit with weddings!
R - no
Stretch & Distortion
R - no
Using Hand Held Lenses
R - no
R - Did this once for a project but it’s not really my style.
R - Yes, see Ephemerals picture. I don’t tend to aim for this, but sometimes when shooting on location, a whited out sky can work.
R - no
R - I used to try to plan specific shots before starting a shoot. I’d do a lot of preparation and have folders of inspiration images and each location or set up planned out. Sometimes this would work great. Other times, it’d cause problems if there were things I’d forgotten to consider – the height of band members, for instance. Now, I’m a lot more improvisatory. I wait until the day when I can see what the lighting is like, what the location is like, the mood of the band
Can you give us a brief step-by-step guide on the workings of a successful shoot?
1. Enthuse everyone about the shoot. Often, people don’t enjoy being photographed, and it’s up to me to make it work.
2. Plan ahead a little - know what types of shots to aim for, what the brief is, how the photographs will be used – this can save a lot of time.
3. Good rapport
4. Be on time
5. Deliver files, contracts and licences on time.
Once you know a bit more about the artists, what techniques do you use to bring out an identity that represents their music?
I tend to go for more natural shots, so picking up on the energy of the artist and what they are comfortable with is crucial. My shoots tend to be quite chatty, between me and the musicians, and this can lead to natural photos. I pay a lot of attention to body language and facial expressions, and adapt my shooting style throughout a session, to get natural imagery.
Can you give us any examples of information bands have given you prior to a shoot, that has really helped to get the desired outcome?
A clear idea about what they like/dislike is useful. Often bands contact me with very few ideas, and it can take a bit of working out to get on the same page. Occasionally, bands contact me with such specific ideas it gives little room to be creative or try a variety of ideas. Ideally, prior to a shoot, a band will have some idea:
- how many photos they think they need (just one great one for a promo image, or 20 for artwork?)
- if they need specific orientation (portrait, landscape, square, FB banner)
- if they prefer something black and white or colour; close up or full body.
Other than that, I find it’s best to improvise and work with whatever you have on the day!
Are there any things you do, that you find make a band feel more at ease during a shoot?
Beers, conversation, explaining what I’m doing as I go, giving feedback and showing the back of the camera as we progress.
How would you describe your style of photography?
Are there any genres of music that you find easier to capture the essence of? Or does that not have an effect on the shoot?
I guess specific genres can lead you towards stereotypes in shooting, e.g. the metal band standing in a line, with a flash in the background. This can be good or bad. But it’s less the genre and solely the people which makes a shoot easy or difficult.
Hiring a photographer for live and promo shots is pretty standard practice for bands, but can you tell us about some of the more unique scenarios that you’ve done band shots? Such as behind the scenes, interviews, in the studio etc. Does this allow you to capture more intimate moments?
All of the above. Tour photography is the best for more intimate moments, as the band is more relaxed and gotten used to you being around. I’ve done BTS on bands whilst they’re shooting videos, rehearsals and sound checks, after parties, candid shots during interviews for various media, festivals, on the tour bus post-gig.