The importance of good band photos

Before writing this blog, I was looking at a few band websites. Just about every band these days has a website and most have some sort of pictures of the band on them. What never ceases to amaze me is that a band will spend months rehearsing a set, weeks putting together a recording, endles hours building a website and then they stick a load of blurred and out of focus pictures up. Running a studio, it seems to me that about 50% of bands spend longer designing their logo than they do getting some good photos of the band.

For many artists, their image and look is as important, if not moreso than their actual music. As musicians who have spend years perfecting our musical technique, this may be an unwelcome fact, but it is true. Think of any of your music icons and you doubtless have an image of them in your mind. That image was a strong, clear image that says who they are and what their music is about.

For many bands that are just starting out, defining a look and an image is perhaps the hardest thing. How do you get across what your band is all about?  Well their are a few simple rules of thumb when you are getting your pictures together. First of all ask yourself this. Do you want your band to stand out rom the crowd? If the answer is “NO”, then that’s fine, but make sure you have a day job. If the answer is “YES”, then you have to give your publicity photo’s some thought.  Do you want a “look”. If you consider bands such as the Beatles and The Jam, they started by all wearing suits. The Jam went for the Mod look. By tying yourself into a musical genre, it cuts out some of the brain work. If you are Mod band, you wear suits and get a few scooters in the picture. You play Rickenbacker guitars and VOX amps. If you are a Metal band, you get Leather jackets, Tats and piercings and buy BC Rich Guitars. Yes, I know both are horrible stero types, but if you were a nu metal band, you wouldn’t really want to look like the Jam or Lady GaGa woud you?

What about if you are one of those bands who don’t want to pigeonhole yourself? Well thats fine but you will still need some pictures. There are three items to consider

2. Clothes
3. Props (eg guitars, cars, bikes, bottles of Jack Daniels)
4. The relationships within the band

What tends to happen is someone says “My mate is coming down to rehearsals with his camera, so all wear green shirts”. The mate arrives, takes a few pictures of a bunch of blokes looking a bit embarrassed against a   nondescript brown carpet background and they end up on the website.

Ask yourself “Is there a location nearby which fits the band image?” Think about what sort of songs you do? If you have an urban image, is there some cool looking graffiti for a backdrop? If you are doing chill out music, maybe a pond or lake? If you are doing rock and roll a 50’s style building? Or maybe you just want a completely white background – most professional shoots use this. This is neutral and lets the band stand out.

The next thing is clothes. You may all want to look the same or you may all want to look individual, whatever you still need a degree of coordination. If therr of you dress in a similar way, say wear suits with a smart look and the fourth member simply wears jeans and an old t-shirt, they will look semi detached from the band. If you have a particularly stand out singer, you may want to deliberately have a uniform look so they stand out. In a blog like this we can’t tell you what to wear, but we guarantee that a band that doesn’t put any effort into their look won’t look too much like a serious band.

The last thing are the props. If you have a location and some clothes, do you want the instruments in the picture? This tells the casual observer who plays what. You may want other things as well. Cars, Bikes bottles of Whisky? These are all well and good, but give some thought to how you will stage a picture. Try and work out a few good angles.

You should also give some thought to the relationships in the band when you set up a photo. These are not only the personal relationships, but the physical ones as well. If one member of the band is exceptionally tall or short, then you have to place them accordingly. A very tall person at the back, a very short one at the front. By lining people up, you can compensate to some degree for this and give a look of uniformity. If you simply stand everyone in a straight line, with the tallest member next to the shortest, you may get a few unwanted comments.

And finally, make an effort. Unless the image of the band rules it out, do the basics. Clean you shoes, wash your hair, get a haircut. If you have a big spot on the end of your nose, do something about it! I have a friend who was an A&R boss at a mega label. He had a simple rule that if a band sent in an info pack and the band “looked like a bunch of plumbers” he’d throw it in the bin without listening. He took the view taht if they couldn’t be bothered to make the effort, they probably didn’t have what it took.

I hope some of this has been of use. At Mill Hill Music Complex, we have a photography studio with a hard white infinity wall and black drapes.  Simply using such a set up will give any band a professional looking set of photos at a pretty low cost, assuming one of you has a decent camera. The studio also has black drapes and a green screen, so you can get just about whatever effects you want. If you’ve spent six months working on your set and you are ready to gig, you really should consider usinga  facility such as this to get some quality pictures. Click here for full details – it may make all the difference to how seriously people take your band.

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