In this post Tom Di Maggio Photography shares 11 tips for taking band promotional photography.
Knowing your gear and how to achieve a correct exposure is the basis for every picture you take, no matter what kind of photography we are talking about. When it comes to band promotional photography, it is but a small part of the equation.
There’s a lot of factors that you need to take into consideration in order to get the pictures that you want. 80% of the work is done during the preparation of the shoot. The better the preparation the smoother everything will work out on the day of the shoot. The following tips are not about what gear to use, or what settings are better suited, but rather about organization and how to use the available time in a most effective way as to get the best possible pictures and still have fun during the process.
1. Meet the band and get a feeling for their music. Ideally get them to let you shoot one of their performances and meet them after they’ve seen your pictures. Use this meeting to identify the style of pictures they want to go for and what they will be using the pictures for. You’ll have to consider space in the composition for text or other things if the pictures are being used on the web or as a cd cover.
2. Location scouting is very important, but very time consuming as well. Don’t be afraid to ask the band if they have a location in mind, ask your friends and family as well. You never know. I often use bars, restaurants or even concert venues for the photo sessions. Just make sure you always ask for permission.
3. Once you found the location take some snapshots, preferably at the same time of the day as the shoot will take place and from as many angles as you can. You will have to use these in order to prepare the lighting setup for the shoot. It is very important that you know which pictures that you want to take and thus where you are going to put your strobes before you arrive at the location on the day of the shoot. There probably won’t be enough time to improvise and it will look as though you’re not really sure about what you’re doing, the band will become insecure and it will have an impact on the end result.
4. Small but important details are the clothes worn by the band members. Try to get them to match the location and the style of the shoot. In some situation you might want to go the absolute opposite way, but it has to fit the purpose.
5. Make a list of pictures that you’d like to have at the end of the session. Be realistic here, there’s no point in trying to fit 10 different sets into 60 minutes. You’d rather have a few sets that are well executed and some time left for improvisation than hurrying through your sets and missing some important issues with the lighting or positioning of the band.
6. Once everything is sorted out in terms of photo sets meet the band again and explain in detail what will happen on the day of the shoot. The more they know what they’ll have to do the less explanation you’ll have to do on site, which will leave you more time for the actual picture taking.
7. If you are on a strict time schedule (because of the location or the band) make sure you meet a bit before the starting time. You can use the time to make last minute adjustments, but try to avoid big changes at that time, it could get out of hands very quickly. You have to find the right balance between being flexible and being strict enough to follow the list of pictures you want to take.
8. When you are shooting, always be on the lookout for nice opportunities between the sets, if the group is small enough you might get some keepers from these shots. A second shooter would come in handy here.
9. It’s not a must but usually having some people there to help you with the coordination for the shoot. If you only have an hour you’ll need every minute to make the most out of it. Again if you’re tight on budget ask friends and family. Don’t forget to thank them in an appropriate way 😉
10. The next two are not really about the photo session itself, but I feel it’s important that I share my point of view on these topics. It’s about the never ending argument: to photoshop or not. For me the post processing is a part of the creative aspect of photography, usually I know precisely how the finished product should look like and more often than not this includes post processing. That doesn’t mean that every picture should be heavily post processed. It should be used in a creative way and not to correct mistakes that could have been prevented in-camera.
11. Make sure that you only show a very strict selection to the band. Select your best 10 pictures and show them. There’s no point in showing 60 pictures, they will be surprised by the amount of pictures and this will affect their perception of your work. That being said there’s no harm in sending them a DVD or CD with the other 60 pictures at a later point in time.