11 Tips for Band Promotional Photography

11 Tips for Band Promotional Photography


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.

See more of Tom Di Maggio’s work at Tom Di Maggio Photography, InFocus Photography and on his Flickr Account.

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Some Older Comments

  • Connie August 28, 2013 09:24 am

    I think some of those photos have been spoilt with the effects, and the last shot is not great. I really don't think anyone should over-do the post-processing, it can ruin the image and poses can also catch you out - they could end up looking awkward or uncomfortable.

    I'm a semi-pro photographer and I believe that even bands do not need 10 images, unless they have purchased all copyright (which is another reason why shoots are expensive). Its insane the amount of misuse that happens to them and giving them just a couple of images (with different backdrops/angles) should be enough for them to use for sometime being several months.

  • Serge August 8, 2013 01:16 am

    Good advice. I found it helps if the band and the photographer get together for a brainstorming session - that way its a colloboration. Bouncing of ideas back and fourth to come up with the concept for the shoot - is what works best for me. Also, be prepared to work fast; depending on the band, some are more famous than others and the photographer may not have all day to do a shoot. On the other hand - I had a DJ once who wanted to shoot all day, which we did at 4 different locations, and it was a tiring day for all involved.

  • Juliana Brown June 1, 2013 10:57 pm

    If a band is completely overwhelmed by more then 10 pictures, I'd say they lack initiative or strong leadership and should probably also back out of what they're doing.

  • Juliana Brown June 1, 2013 10:54 pm

    Number 11 is stupid. If I paid a photographer to take pics and they only gave me 10 pictures I'd be like.... "ok... and where's the rest of em? A whole hour and that's all you have to show us?" And then when they gave me the rest later... and we would probably end up liking one of those better... we'd be extremely annoyed that we were not made aware of these before we printed up thousands of copies of a CD with the picture YOU decided was best.

    You can't plan out every shot without the band there. That's stupid and egotistical. You don't know how peoples demenor will be at that moment in time. Have ideas... but don't think you're gonna plan every shot and angle out.. That's assinine. The ultimate decision about the end result is either the bands.. or the labels... not yours. If you can't improvise angles... you really DON'T know what you're doing lol...

    Meet the band.... duuuuuuuuuuuh... Get to KNOW your subjects? That's CRAZY! lol

    And clothes are not a small detail.... maybe for a buncha generic bland guys like whoever these people are in this shot... but if you actually have subjects who are photogenic and/or have a personality, it makes a huge difference.. but that's not your department so who cares right?

    My overall point here I think is... you're not the boss.. You're being paid to give what the client wants. Be prepared... know what you're doing.... have ideas... but it's not really up to you to decide everything. You're the photographer, not the artist.

    Here's how you photograph a band. Find a band... get to know them and what they want... make suggestions... make THEIR ideas a reality in the smartest way you can... Take lots of pictures, show em to the band... omit the blurry or just plain horrible ones that make you look incompetent (hopefully there aren't a lot of them... if you can only come up with 10 you might wanna consider a change of profession)... they will pick their favorites and be thrilled. Then listen to what they want for post production.. and make their ideas a reality in the smartest, most practical way you can.

  • PaulB May 20, 2012 08:24 pm

    Interesting set of photos, I'd be interested in taking on a band shoot so any takers in Devon, give me a shout?

  • Sean Rayford May 18, 2012 02:49 am

    I've been shooting bands in Columbia, SC for 15 years. My advice to newcomers is to make good use of overcast days and then work hard for SIMPLE visuals on location.

    Eliminate clutter (unless that's what you're going for) and pay uber attention to your framing.

    If you are using a wall in the shot - experiment and change the distance between the band and the wall. Pull them away from the wall (with it still as a background) and closer to the photographer.

    Sean Rayford
    Rock and Roll Photojournalist
    Columbia, SC

  • Jenni Wheeler May 18, 2012 12:59 am

    Thanks for this article! I shoot recording sessions and live events for a syndicated jazz radio show out of NH. dreamfarmcaferadio.com Always looking for ideas to improve my work!

  • Tom May 17, 2012 07:08 pm

    Thank you for the nice comments :)
    If you like the pictures I invite you to have a look at my site www.tomdimaggio.com for more band shoots.

    @Aperture Ray: Indeed you are right. The same as I did not mention camera settings, flash settings or positions ;) Maybe you could write a guest post relating to these subjects ?

  • Aperture Ray May 17, 2012 03:47 am

    Yikes, yet another guest contributor article (sorry guests!) that fails to address the most important and most critical issue: In this case- Posing! Band photography is all about the pose and what what you want to express to people through it, be it their attitude or their style of music

    Boo :(

  • Leonie Kuizenga May 16, 2012 08:24 pm

    I always find it more difficult to shoot a group of people and these are great tips! Also like the process of photoshop. For me it is sometimes also part of the plan when I do a shoot with a band, for example the link below...


  • Xipha May 15, 2012 12:59 am

    I am brand new to photography, but my husband is in a band and some of my first photo shoots were pictures of them rehearsing, playing and most recently some promotional pictures for them. It was my first ever staged photo shoot. We live in a very small town and I spent the day before combing the area for locations and found two that I liked, but the only time I could get all the band members together was 4:00 in the afternoon so I think the shadows are a bit harsh. The other thing I found is it is really hard to get a group of 5 guys to stop goofing off long enough to get a shot where all of them look ok and none of them have a goofy look on their face. I had some shots that I liked more than the ones I eventually chose but someone had to go and look the wrong way or make a funny face haha. Here is the Facebook link to my two favorites.



  • Leo Gozbekian May 14, 2012 06:59 pm

    Good tips and great photos.

  • Jen M. May 14, 2012 02:31 am

    Jeff, those are fantastic!

    I went to a big show yesterday here in DC. Unfortunately, the venue had a rule that stated you could not bring cameras with detachable lenses (i.e, professional rigs.) I was very disappointed, because this is a really fun event, and the mix of bands is usually amazing! There were some great photo ops there. Oh, well!

  • Jeff E Jensen May 14, 2012 01:34 am

    Great tips. I especially like the suggestion that someone made to make sure that you listen to to some of the band's work ahead of time. It will help you relate to the band and plan your shoot. I shot video of a studio session a couple of months ago and the music was nothing like I had assumed before the shoot. It threw me for a bit of a loop, had I listened ahead of time, I would have been better prepared.

    Here's some recent shots from a performance by a local band:


  • Marek Dolinowski August 15, 2010 06:52 am

    Great post! Thank you!! You really helped me a bunch!! Keep up the amazing work!!!

  • Tom May 19, 2010 11:11 pm

    Thank you Jennifer

  • Jennifer Moore May 19, 2010 01:51 am

    These are really good tips for someone just starting out. This is the kind of photography I'm interested in doing.

    BTW, I love the photos you've shared here!

    Jennifer Moore
    JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

  • Tom May 13, 2010 05:34 pm

    Thanks :)

  • Anderson Godoy May 9, 2010 05:44 pm

    Thanks for the tips, I did my first photoshot with a Rebel XS and 50mm f 1.8 lens. I liked the results, so I share this picture.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/31057026@N06/4590766485/' title='Danny Botello' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4043/4590766485_9b3b62beb0_o.jpg']

  • Elaine May 3, 2010 07:17 pm

    Very helpful, thanks :)

  • Tom May 3, 2010 05:34 pm

    @Arun: Thanks a lot ;)

    @Michael: For me the approach is the same. Although (depending on the kind of music ) you can create a lot more intimate atmospheric pictures with the solo artist. But as stated in the article I would try to fit the picture to the style of the music.

  • J. Michael Bryan May 3, 2010 11:51 am

    I enjoyed and appreciated this article very much! I am a pro musician in two different bands and I do solo gigs too. I also am an amateur photographer with my first DSLR, a Canon T1i with external flash and a telephoto lens. Our band is about to develop our first promo packet and I am about to create one for myself as well, so your tips are very timely for me. I would also like to know any recommendations you might have for photographing a solo musician if you note any particular differences. Thank you very much!

  • Arun May 1, 2010 02:11 am

    Great post! Lovely presentation. I liked the way how you've cited the examples, and explained it subsequently.. I don't find any void in your whole article that may need work on! Well done! And thanks for your tips!

  • Tom April 30, 2010 11:35 pm

    @David: Nice work.

    @Karen: Tank you, .. :) and you're right ;)

    @JJ: Thanks. It's not HDR that I've used. It's a combination of blended layers and some LR settings.

  • JJ April 30, 2010 10:55 pm

    I'm not feeling the HDR you used. It just does not look like it fit them, but great tips!

  • Phillippe Photography April 30, 2010 10:20 pm

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/russell07/4443122305/' title='Remembering Everything' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4058/4443122305_4bf3c5732c.jpg']

  • Phillippe Photography April 30, 2010 10:19 pm

    For me there are two key things for shooting bands:

    One is to have a vision for what you want way before meeting the band, - bear in mind you will need to talk to the band to get their input as to what sort of style and location they want. You need to know exactly what you're aiming for and how you're gonna achieve it before you arrive.

    Two is to really consider the lighting you need to create your end result. All of the photos in this article are heavily styled by lighting effects - and this is very typical of the edgy style bands tend to want. Getting the light right at the start will make your photos look much more natural and professional looking.

    I am also just starting in band photography and articles like this are good to show you're on the right sort of track. Here's an example from a recent band shoot:

  • Karen Stuebing April 30, 2010 08:58 pm

    This is something I have never done, unless you count photographing Robert Earl Keen in concert several years ago, and is probably something I won't ever do. Of course, never say never because you just don't know. :)

    I just wanted to say these photos are AWESOME. I love the edginess.

  • David Canto April 30, 2010 07:13 pm

    Thanks for the tips, I as invited by a band of friends of mine to take some promotional shots of them since I have taken a lot of there concerts that they really like, but I don’t now the best environment to use

    Here are some pic http://olhares.aeiou.pt/davidcanto

  • Tom April 30, 2010 04:24 pm

    wow, ... thanks everybody :))

    @matt: good job, I love the backlight one at the window. The light on the girls and the guy on the left is wonderful.

    @Tyler: sorry to hear that. I don't understand why some people are that way....

    @ Jason: It really depends on the picture, I use Photoshop and Lightroom. Techniques vary a lot from picture to picture and the effect I want to achieve. Mostly I use photoshop and play with layers and blending modes but I found that sometimes using presets in LR and tweaking them saves me some time.

  • mark April 30, 2010 04:07 pm

    great article i could use this...

  • Linas Justice April 30, 2010 03:54 pm

    Well, as I see it - these are far away from great pictures. As 'cathode' said (not directly, but..) your pictures look all alike, over processed and well you are using cheap "text" tricks. Plus it seems that you promotionaly had shot only two bands - that doesn't make you the right one to spill out the tips. As you look deeper - your tips are just universal for group shoot. That's IMHO :)

  • Allen Ross Thomas April 30, 2010 02:47 pm

    Nice list Tom.

    Additionally - I always listen to the bands music before a shoot and note a few questions about a song arrangement or lyric. Musicians are oddly sometimes shy - particularly offstage, but they will talk about their music.


  • Jason Collin Photography April 30, 2010 01:40 pm


    Thanks for the article. What processing techniques/filters/apps did you use to create the effects in some of your shots?

    I have not done a specific band shoot yet, but have had the chance to photograph the commodores live on New Year's Eve at an intimate show:


  • Prowpatareeya April 30, 2010 12:32 pm

    Nice photo set, look strong and interesting

  • Tyler April 30, 2010 11:40 am

    my one and only thing i learned from working with a band. cash up front. i hate to say it, but that's how i feel after one bad experience.

  • Steve Alder April 30, 2010 10:36 am

    This is great! I'm doing my first band promo photo session this week!

  • Pamela Hubbard April 30, 2010 09:19 am

    Oh yeah! This is a great subject... I love taking band photos and love the tips! [eimg url='http://ih3.redbubble.net/work.4949466.1.lp,375x360,b,s,SmFt.jpg' title='work.4949466.1.lp,375x360,b,s,SmFt.jpg']

  • cathode April 30, 2010 08:50 am

    Tip 12: crank the 'detail' slider in Lightroom up to 100 for every single shot.

  • matt April 30, 2010 08:31 am

    thanks for great tips! i did my first promo-band-shooting few weeks ago so i´ll be happy if you write my what do you think about it:) thanks http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/4523319217/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/4518741355/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/4518388999/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/4519022318/

  • Rachel April 30, 2010 07:18 am

    Excellent tips of photography..thanks for sharing.....

  • Ole M April 30, 2010 05:22 am

    Not the best of articles Ive read here, and it doesnt really seem like the poster has a lot of experience, and the only points here worth remebering is common sense things that applies to every shoot. Things you should already know.

  • Tom April 30, 2010 04:56 am

    Thanks everybody for the nice comments :)

    @ronnipaige: I don't want to start a phylosophical discussion but I don't believe in coincidence anymore ;)
    @tonifotograf: Have a look at my blog for more pictures, the link is in the article.

  • Roman April 30, 2010 04:11 am

    @ ronnipaige, it always seems to turn out that way for me as well, I love DPS!!!

    PS sorry about posting my comment multiple times guys...


  • ronnipaige April 30, 2010 04:06 am

    nice...this came right on time for me. when i checked my inbox today i had a msg from a band asking me to do pictures for them. and then i get my email from dps a link to this....coincidence??

  • www.tonifotograf.com April 30, 2010 03:54 am

    nice, but I would personally like more pictures and ideas..cheers!!!

  • Tom Roelofs April 30, 2010 03:54 am

    @Daniel can be nice, but more for your archive of a band or a specific publication. I would suggest that you ask the band to join them a festival-day, that's better for your pictures: you can shoot documentary, live, portraits... more options & if you do it the right way you have a lot more useable pictures than from a rehearsal

  • Roman April 30, 2010 03:43 am

    I like you photos, great tips. I shot a rock band recently and it was a very low lit venue, I would have had nothing without post processing. I had a blast doing it!
    Here are some of the shots.


  • Greg Taylor April 30, 2010 03:30 am

    Great post. These photos are great examples. Like stated above building rapport with your subjects is so important. With rapport comes trust and when the people you are photographing trust you - that's when great photos are made.

  • Roman April 30, 2010 03:17 am

    I like your shots, great tips. I shot a band at one of their shows recently, and it was very low light it was just me and my nikon raw files...I would have nothing without post processing.


    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/romanmestas/4563643498/' title='Rock and Roll' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3633/4563643498_f286bd3870.jpg']

  • Roman April 30, 2010 03:07 am

    I like your pictures, and great tips. I did one shoot with a band and I loved it! I did not do a set up shoot, I just shot them live at one of their shows. It was extremely dark and I did not set up lights, just me and my nikon photos in raw...I would have nothing without post processing.


    Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter.
    Ansel Adams

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/romanmestas/4563643498/' title='Rock and Roll' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3633/4563643498_f286bd3870.jpg']

  • Con April 30, 2010 02:40 am

    PS itll take a while to load. lots of nice props used in some of them

  • Con April 30, 2010 02:38 am

    my boss does a lot of band photography


    theres a music section i think youll love

  • Tom April 30, 2010 02:32 am

    @Ann Marie: Thank you :)
    @Daniel: If that's what the band wants, sure why not. Personally I've made some shots during rehearsals that I like a lot. But they didn't fit the idea the band had for the shoot.

  • Daniel April 30, 2010 02:13 am

    Thanks for the tips.
    I just have an issue, how about taking pictures of them rehearsing?

  • Tom Roelofs April 30, 2010 02:09 am

    Nice tips for a starter btw, I work differently most of the times. My shots are better when there is almost no preparation. I arrive at the scene (sometimes I do research for a good location before) and work with the creativity I get from a location :)

  • Tom Roelofs April 30, 2010 02:06 am

    @david: photos from bands with their gear in it look kinda cheap imo

  • patrick allen April 30, 2010 01:52 am

    excellent advice - especially the importance of preparation (you never get enough time) and being selective in the number of shots you show the client

  • Ann Marie April 30, 2010 01:42 am

    These are so cool! Love the last one especially!

  • Tom April 30, 2010 01:38 am

    @susie: Thank you :) make sure you show us the results :)
    @david: I thought about including the instruments before. It really depends on who you're shooting and for what. Sometimes there's just not enough space to install the whole gear (drummer). And in most cases (for me at least) I wanted to put the focus on the members of the band. I feel the instruments would have shifted that focus slightly away from them. I guess one can argue about whether or not to include the instruments.

  • Colett April 30, 2010 12:58 am

    Although I will most likely never shoot a band, this tips are valuable and I have to say you took some great pictures. I especially like tip 10 and 11, photoshop is a great tool, but one needs to be careful not to take away the character of person/band which is being shot. Making a selection will be the hardest thing to do for the person concerned so not to overload one with too many pictures is a very thoughtful tip. Thanks for your great work and helpful tips.

  • David G April 30, 2010 12:38 am

    Were their instruments intentionally left out? If so, why?

  • Susie April 30, 2010 12:32 am

    This is excellent, thanks for the tips. It came at the perfect time, i am soon about to shoot my first band!