New Artist Imaging: The Photo Session
It’s time to spring clean some common misconceptions about hiring a professional photographer vs. an amateur or ”friend of the band” for your artist’s image branding goals.
I’ve worked as the Creative Director on hundreds of artist photo shoots, but even so, I still occasionally run into the dreaded scenario where time and/or budget forces us to: Pick Two—Fast. Good. Cheap. Here are some tips on how to manage these situations, secure the right photographer for your artist’s needs and make a still shoot the very best it can be.
Fast is the most evil of the variables in this triumvirate equation. Yep, I know, it’s the music industry and almost everything is fast paced, but quality can greatly suffer when a photo shoot is thrown together too quickly.
Fast Tips: Plan Ahead
(1) Early in the process set up one or two low expectation “test” shoots to get the act used to being in front of a camera, to explore a person’s best angles and to identify future areas to “work on.”
(2) Know your “choice” professional photographers in advance. Start searching now for artist imaging you like and then do a web search to review the photographer’s on-line portfolio.
(3) Have your artist maintain an active “digital tear sheet” folder with photo shoot ideas that best express their individuality. Folder topics should include: Lighting, Framing, Color, Sets, Textures, Props, Locations, Hair, Make-Up, Wardrobe and my favorite- Overall Vibe. When an important shoot comes up fast a prepared artist will be more comfortable with the process if they have familiarity with photographers they admire and have creative ideas already on hand.
I love working with the pros, but I also like to champion the hiring of new photographers. But trust me, it’s a risk! However, you can still secure a good shoot.
Good Tips: Know the basics
(1) A professional music photographer makes a concentrated effort to research the genre marketplace on an ongoing basis. This avoids duplication of imaging and locations other artists may have recently used.
(2) On the flip side, a rookie close to the act may be the best person to bring out an artist’s most natural, candid, and intimate self.
(3) An informed shooter should know that multiple framing of set ups are essential. Be sure to capture: wide, medium, close up, square, horizontal and vertical shots so all of your future design needs will be met in full.
(4) Negotiate a written contract in advance with the photographer of your choice.
Money does not buy taste, but money can help to better ensure that “taste” is properly captured in a photograph.
Cheap Tip: You Never Know!
(1) Don’t be afraid to ask a professional photographer if they would be interested in shooting your project. You may be surprised at how many of them would love to help by reducing their rates, especially for an indy act.
(2) Don’t be wishy washy about telling them your actual budget. Be up front and honest. Leave it in their hands to accept or decline the offer. I prefer this straightforward approach vs. the awkward dance of you-ask-them-how-much-and-they-ask-you-how-much-and-you-ask-them-how-much because before you know it the prom is over and you’ve never even held hands.
(3) Explore tying in a brand sponsor to help cover some of the shoot expenses, but not all. You will still need non-sponsor photos for mainstream use.
(4) Reaching out to brand sponsors and experienced photographers to ask if they are interested in being part of your brand imaging team is wise, not cheap.
Whether you end up working with a well-known photographer, an unseasoned enthusiast or that “friend of the band” that just wants to shoot them out of passion, the most important imaging goal will always be to capture the authentic “self” of the musician in a way that properly reflects their musical point of view. That is taste, and it cannot be bought.