A challenge for musicians is that there are so many musicians. Millions of them. And they all want some precious audience attention. The challenge for the audience is that they have limited time to listen to music.

Detail from a great photo by Bob Seidemann - Neil Young's On The Beach album cover
Detail from a great photo by Bob Seidemann – Neil Young’s On The Beach album cover

The challenges

For the musician’s potential audience on the web, it’s often a split second decision whether new music gets listened to.

Photos are often the audience’s first and only clue as to whether music is worth listening to. That’s why it’s important that they’re engaging.

Image is important… but what does make a good band photo?

Tips for bands and photographers

Be aware of what the photos are to be used for, and where you want them to appear. E.g. Press release photos, for publication, that introduce a new band will usually have to show the faces of each band member.

Lighting is important. Use light. Cast shadows.

If the band are standing in a group, make sure composition is dynamic. You’ll know it when you see it.

Close up photos work best with beautiful / arresting faces.

Photographing the band playing  ‘live’ can work.

Use props and locations.

Great photo by Ethan A. Russell of Keith Richards
Great photo by Ethan A. Russell of Keith Richards

Distract the band by photographing them while they’re engaged in a non-musical activity.

Bring a concept, add layers of meaning. This is my favourite, most important tip. This is what professional photographers get paid for. You could interpret the band’s lyrics or attitude or create your own story around the music. Play with ideas.

For example: People engage with stories because they are full of people doing one thing and saying the other.

By using photos that send an opposite message to their music they create a “disconnect”. With the disconnect comes ambiguity, and confusion and interest. Your audience fills in the gaps, it makes your image more engaging.

“… when any communication is contributed to, and completed by, its audience, it’s infinitely stronger. That’s what Arthur Koestler meant when he wrote: ‘The artist rules his subjects by turning them into accomplices.'” Jeremy Bullmore

The disconnect between photo image and music is usually a good sign that a band can afford a professional photographer to add another layer. The audience recognise these layers (even though they may not be able to articulate them) and use them to figure out which music to listen to. The point is… ideas are required to create interesting photographs.

Good photos are rarely taken. Good photos are made.

One Comment

  1. […] See also Memories of Trish from Broadcast Blur at Hyde Park review What makes a good band photo? […]

Leave A Comment