Photo shoots, taking pictures, mug shots whatever you want to call it we have to do them at some stage or another. Like it or not, you will have to have your picture taken and used in promoting yourself or your group or both.
The importance of adding photos to your promotional material, press kits, websites, job advertisements etc cannot be overstated. Many musicians hate the idea of having their picture taken or having to dress up for a photo shoot. It is something that has to be done and to just get on with it, try to see the benefits of it, and enjoy it.
Here is how to save some time, money, and stress when preparing, executing, and subsequently, publishing your Mona Lisa’s’ in the quest for a gig.
First things first, ask yourself this question:
1. What are the client’s requirements? If you don’t know the answer, ask the client directly, ask your agent, ask people that have performed there before or those musicians that have done that kind of gig before. Become the Sherlock Holmes of discovering clients’ wants and needs.
All of these clients require musician(s) to look a particular way. If you can tailor your look to the client’s conceptions of how they want you or expect you to look then you will have won a large part of the battle to securing a gig. As many of us know, clients in a lot of clubs and hotels listen with their eyes!
Determining what a client wants from you or how they expect you to look can prevent you from wasting precious time and resources.
2. Use available resources. If you have chances to participate in photo shoots that have large budgets try the best you can to get some of the professional picture of yourself and hold on to it.
If you are shooting with a meager budget try to use resources that are around you. Borrow a camera, use a location that is free, ask a friend that is good with makeup to do your makeup.
So many people are complaining that they need this and that and it’s often not the case. Hollywood blockbuster movies with multi-million dollar promotional budgets have deluded them into thinking that they need special effects, dynamic lighting, and pyrotechnic displays to land a gig. This is not true.
Bottom Line: Get yourself dressed up and go to any Studio Shop. (The same kind that will take picture for Visa or Passport) Ask for full-length picture (head to feet) on a plain white background.
Here we go! For about 15$ you have a professional studio picture that you can use to promote yourself.
3. KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Most clients do not need photos that have you skydiving off the Empire State building holding your guitar or pictures of you drumming on Mt. Everest.
They need simple shots that display the style of clothing and the ‘look’ or image that you would usually have on the stage. Unless you think you have a wonderful location that will enhance your appeal, keep the background simple too.
4. Group shots vs. Individual shots. If you are in a band and you need to do a photo shoot you have to consider whether or not to shoot as a group or as individuals, use Photoshop or similar software to piece all of the individual pictures of each member together.
Let’s discuss this in a little more detail addressing the pros and cons of each:
Pros: everyone is in one place and you can experiment with lots of different configurations, probably cheaper, less-time consuming, editing should be much easier.
Cons: it can be hard to get everyone together at the same time, could be expensive to find the right location for a big group, if one person looks like a dork in all of the pictures it could be very difficult to fix.
The single biggest con is probably having a group shot is this: A band member leaves of need to be replaced!
When or if this happens it can render all of your pictures useless. You may be able to photo shop someone else’s head onto the leaving member’s shoulders but this could be unethical if you haven’t received the leaving member’s permission to do so, it usually (but not always) ends up looking weird, and just isn’t cool if you are trying to portray professionalism.
Pros: Infinite ‘juggle-ability’ i.e. you can move members around, change colors, adjust and edit with much greater ease and effectiveness, you can use a generic background as a template should members decide to leave or if new members enter, members can do their photo shoot when they have time*.
***Tips: If you organize the photo shoot when you normally have a rehearsal you can kill two birds with one stone. Rehearse and do the photo shoot, or at the very least you can ensure that everyone will be there for it.
Cons: more time-consuming, more costly, lots of editing involved
5. Don’t rush out and spend $ on a fancy hi-tech camera or video camera. Why? Because you probably can’t use all of the features, there may be a long learning curve to master to fully utilize the hardware properly, or you may only use it once or twice a year. Those of us that have studied finance and accounting call this phenomenon ‘over capitalization’.
And probably the most important thing to realize is that the best camera in the world can’t perform miracles if the shots are at terrible angles, or if someone hasn’t done their hair, or if the room is too dark. You may be well-served paying a professional for a few hours or getting a friend that has a decent camera to help you.
1. Don’t get too arty unless the client specifically wants something out of the ordinary
2. Try to set a budget and keep to it
3. Try to ‘future-proof’ your pictures
4. Get as many ‘looks’ done as your budget and time frame allows