Facebook Pixel Behind the Scenes of an Album Cover Shoot [with Phrase]

Behind the Scenes of an Album Cover Shoot [with Phrase]

I recently had the opportunity to interview Australian photographer Nicole Reed from A Shot Away about a shoot she did with and Aussie musician by the name of Phrase.

The shots were for the cover and album art for his next album ‘Clockwork’. Nicole (and Phrase) have given me permission to share some the shots from the shoot.


The images in this set are certainly unique – what was the brief that you were given on what the client wanted from this shoot? How did it evolve to what we see in the final results?

I wasn’t actually given a brief, well I guess the brief was the album and the songs it contains. Phrase by chance had seen an exhibition I had shot, (done with director/stylist Sarah Hanisch) and then contacted me about doing the photography for the cover of his upcoming album.

His only directions where more about what he didn’t want, nothing typically hip hop, and it didn’t necessarily have to relate to the name of the album. (which in hindsight was smart as he has recently had to change the name from “Burn It Down” for obvious reasons.)

He gave me some selected songs from the album to see what I could come up with, (a photographers, or any creatives dream client really!!) and that was it!

After listening to the songs Phrase gave me, (over and over so many times I was able to recite the lyrics by heart after 3 days!) I picked up a recurring theme of the struggle of everyday life and the fight against a mundane existence. Nearly everything that is prominent in each photo is a reference to something literally, or metaphorically from Phrases lyrics.


In the end I choose to represent this by actually presenting the idea to Phrase to shoot a “story”, rather then just one cover shot. It’s like a “day in the life”.

I was lucky that Phrase was really into the idea, as the shoot was a hell of a lot of work on his part and it was a huge day of shooting. (I chose to shoot the morning shot’s in the morning, and the night shots at night for realism.) I was also lucky that he was able to pull the “acting” part of the shoot off as well, he’s a natural in front of the camera and is very insightful creatively and has great vision for not only his music, but for photography as well. Without this I don’t think the photos would have worked quite so well, I guess without this the photos wouldn’t have existed in the first place as he is definitely not one to settle for mediocrity!


Once I had presented my idea to Phrase and he had approved it the next step was to source locations/props/talent. I recruited Sarah Hanisch, (who art directed and styled the exhibition mentioned above) on the job who did the styling in all of the shots and helped with the location choice (a friends house in the burbs) and props.


I used my assistant, Milly as the “wife” in the bedroom shots.

What’s with the bandaged bloody hands?

The bloody hands were Sarah’s idea. They represent the metaphorically the “daily fight” of life. If you look you see he starts off with clean bandages, and they get bloodier and dirtier for no physical reason throughout the story. It also adds some mystery to the photos, and get’s people asking questions!


What gear did you use in the shoot?

I used a canon 5D for this shoot, as some of the framing is quite tight and I needed full frame. I also used a 24mm tilt/shift lens, and shot for the main tethered to my MacBook, using Capture One.

Lighting wise I used natural lighting mostly for the outside of the house, and elinchrome monos for the inside, and I did shoot through the windows (except the kitchen one as there wasn’t a window into this room). I wanted to give the lighting a harsh fake feel for the inside.

I used various light shapers like umbrellas, and a grid with a blue gel for the “TV” scene.


What was the biggest challenge/s in this project?

In the end, the biggest challenge was choosing the actual cover shot. In the end we didn’t think any of the shots were appropriate, as out of context they didn’t make much sence, and they didn’t leave a lot of room for a title etc. We did a new shoot in my studio of Phrase in character against a clean background.


What would you do differently if you were to do it again?

I would have liked to have split the day/night shots into two different days. Shooting 9 shots, with set changes, costume changes in one day is really hard work, and by the time we got to the last couple of shots everyone was quit drained and very tired. But in the end everything comes down to budget.


What has the feedback been like from the client?

The feedback from the client was very positive, like I said above, Phrase is a dream client, and as above the only issue was the cover, and that was easily resolved. I have also had great feedback from the record company as well. They said, and I quote “these are some of the best promo photos we’ve ever seen from an Australian artist on Universal”!!



Thanks to Nicole and Phrase for sharing their images and answering our questions.

If you’re interested in learning more about Phrase the artist you can listen to some of his music from his upcoming album “CLOCKWORK” by visiting his pages at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Phrase/37692453639 and http://www.myspace.com/bigphrase.

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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