Rachael Emily - Band Photography

Rachael Emily creates stunning photography with a natural/clean approach. Her work has been featured in the like of: The Guardian, Music Week, Classic Rock and Bluff & Bizarre. Not only that, her skills have taken her all over to work with clients such as: Universal Music, Island Records, Emirate Airlines, M+C Saatchi & LinkedIn, to name a few. Music photography makes up a large part of her profile and an as absolute lover of music, she knows how to capture the right shot for the right artist. Her experience in the world of music photography is vast and varied and we were privileged enough to find out how she works, some of the techniques she uses & what advice she can give to those in preparation of their next band shoot. 

Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Rachael. Firstly I guess, 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.  Occassionally, 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?
Natural, clean.

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 tourbus post-gig.  

Some of the Techniques Rachael Uses:


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.  

Graeme Clark

Over Exposure

I don’t tend to aim for this, but sometimes when shooting on location, a whited out sky can work.



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!

Hugh Reilly

Natural Vs Artificial Light

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!

hugh reilly natural.jpg

Open Composition

Bryan Ferry


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 members, what they’re wearing.  And this seems to result in much more natural shots, and a quicker shooting process.