For the Best Band and Musician Photos : Stay Away From the Train Tracks!

September 22, 2009{ 78 Comments }

traintracks small3 For the Best Band and Musician Photos : Stay Away From the Train Tracks!Why your press photo bores me to tears!

No offense to anyone guilty of the following crimes (I’m guilty myself), but if I had a dollar for every press photo I’ve seen of a band loitering down by the railroad tracks, I’d be a very rich man indeed. Sure, if you’re a folksy bluegrass band called The Freight Hoppers then that particular setting might be a good idea. But if you’re a chamber pop group or some space-age, post-rock act then it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that railroad tracks have much to do with your musical or personal aesthetic.

Why, then, do we continue to see so many cliché railroad track press photo (or photos of bands in front of brick walls, or cruising in an old Chevy, etc.)? It certainly isn’t on account of laziness. After all, it took some planning and initiative to get the shoot scheduled, line up a photographer and location, assemble the group, and pick the wardrobe. No, it’s not laziness. It is a lack of creative self-analysis. That’s right, my friends. Sit yourself down on the couch. The good doctor is in.

First, you’ve got to dig down deep and figure out exactly what your music is all about. But here’s the catch, you’re not going to be able to convey the breadth, genius, and diversity of your entire musical catalog with one image. You’re going to have to pick one or two of the most important, crucial things about your music that you would like to convey visually, whether thematically, aesthetically, emotionally, or otherwise. “But people should listen to the music. I don’t want to reduce our sound to a single concept,” I hear some of you say. If that is your attitude then get used to the fact that no one will ever get around to listening to your music. There is simply too much music being made nowadays to wade through the muddied waters. You’ve got to hit people with an impression first, something simple, clear, and impactful that makes them want to investigate further.

Having trouble figuring out the appropriate visual elements to compliment your sound? Ask your fans, friends, or bandmates for suggestions (twitter contests, anyone?). Have a brainstorming session. Don’t be afraid to throw out any old idea and be open to other people’s suggestions even if it seems silly at first. Mull them over. This is your big chance to convey to the world your image of idealized musical self…. (Maybe you’re wearing a costume? Make-up? Go naked? Driving a tractor? On stilts? Looking mysterious? Generous? Sad? Happy?) When you finally choose which approach suits you best, be willing to go outside of your comfort zone, so long as it still feels like YOU (though a slightly more dramatized version of YOU, at that).

If you’ve gotten this far, then the hard part is over. You’ve got a great idea. Everything else is mere logistics and execution. And there are no right or wrong methods. Don’t buy into the normal music biz dogma. It is that kinda thinking that produced so many cliché band photos in the first place. Some press photos may benefit from an informal atmosphere. Sometimes a more formal and poised approach is the best way to go. Weigh the pros and cons of paying a professional photographer, too. They’ll probably have better gear and more experience directing a photo shoot. But will your band be comfortable acting natural in front of a stranger? Sometimes working with a friend (for free or cheap) can yield the same results if you’re all willing to put in a little extra time for trial and error. And here is a strange thought: sometimes “quality” shouldn’t be the goal at all.  A blown-out Polaroid or a tattered sepia-toned snapshot might better convey your vibe than a hi-gloss, fancy-pants Photoshop masterpiece.

As you can see, there is no single way to produce a great press photo. As long as you’ve left an impression and piqued the curiosity of a potential fan then you’ve succeeded. Hopefully this essay leaves you more inspired than confused. But don’t fret. You can keep trying different ideas until you see that one magic photo that just hits you in the right way, the one where you say, “Oh yeah! That is how I want the world to see me!” Just do me a favor and stay away from the railroad tracks. It isn’t safe down there anyways

  • http://www.Lthrboots.com Jerry

    Thank you for posting this. I can't even count how many times I have seen band photos with the train tracks…..YAWN….

    I like your suggestion on the Twitter Contest for photo shoot ideas from fans. I might take you up on that one and try it.

    Thanks for the insight on the old train tracks photo shoot…..

    Jerry (Lthrboots)

    Jerry@Lthrboots.com
    http://www.Lthrboots.com http://www.MySpace.com/Lthrboots

  • http://www.tomhampton.com tom hampton

    for some great…no, GREAT…examples of shots to avoid, go to http://www.rockandrollconfidential.com and click on the Hall of Douchebags. try to avoid ingesting any food or drink as you click through, or you'll ruin your keyboard and/or monitor.

  • http://mikeechlin.com Mike

    Guilty.

  • http://www.dereksandstrom.com Derek Sandstrom

    And while we're avoiding train tracks, let's steer clear of the standard brick wall. Brick walls cannot possibly represent THAT many of our music identities!

  • Trance Fury

    Done it, tried it. I understand your point and you do clarify but I have some good track photos for my latest CD. I think it conveys my point rather well but I am a progressive electronic artist so most people don't get me anyway. ;)

    I've tried asking for fan input on Twitter. Despite 120+ followers I get no input.

    -TF |/_

  • http://www.bgrocks.com Chris

    Don't forget the cliched Diner photo shoot.. or living room/couch shoot with vintage furniture & decor.

  • http://www.howardpavane.com Howard Pavane

    Great advice! My band is only me – an award winning singer/songwriter. I play guitar, piano and keyboards. So, naturally it seems all my photos are of myself either performing or posing alone or with an instrument. There is however one thing missing not from just my photos but websites as well. One thing that makes me unique, one thing that is a part of my life (and more than likely my music too), one thing that people always remember me by – my wheelchair and crutches! For some reason I have removed all references to my being disabled from my websites and promo materials, even though it without fail gets me remembered every time I appear and perform in public.

    Within 5 minutes of reading your article it hit me like a ton of bricks! Why am hiding the one thing that sets me apart? Why don’t I use my disability as a positive, as a marketing tool? As artists we are all searching for that one thing that people will remember, that makes us unique and makes our story indelible. I didn’t choose to be disabled by Post-Polio but it is the hand I was dealt. Proudly I haven’t given up, I have used the time I was given to write songs and win 4 major industry awards. So, from now on I am going to “come out of the closet” and use my disability as a positive. I cannot wait to redo my websites and promo materials, including photos, to let the world know the real me, my real story.

    Thanks so much for the article and raising my awareness through something so simple as band photos.

    Howard Pavane,
    http://www.howardpavane.com http://www.myspace.com/howardthesongduck http://www.twitter.com/songduck

  • http://www.souloftheriver.com Brock

    We usually send two unusual promo photos that we love and one cliche photo that looks like every press photo you've ever seen. They always pick the cliche'd photo.

  • http://usmetal.com matt mccourt

    while youre at it please refrain form the"sensitive guy" or"artisitic girl with an aocustic guitar or if in portland take off som eof that face jewelry if we are truly talking cliche and trender….. a good shot of an artist in outter space or under the sea may work well but really if a band or artist has any impact at all you dont notice the brick wall, train tracks or any other thing besides the artist.. but those are far and few these days…

    i likelive shots myself and ive dont soem interesting photo shoots for album covers one with a couple vicious and trained attack dogs actually attacking the trainer(mans best friend wild odgs) and another with 30 ventriliquist dolls hangin around me (cr mastermind) best yet to steer way clear of the 'painting or drawing like so many metal bands of fantasy dragons and knights or monsters psinal tap and ac/dc and the beatles did it best with black and white covers…with so many other colors available why not purple or orange?

  • http://www.robertleeking.com Robert Lee King

    Sorry but the author has no clue what he's talking about.

    Millions of albums have been sold based on the lowly train

    track photo alone.

    It's still used because it looks good. Magazines and newspapers

    use the photos. It may have nothing to do with the music but then

    neither does any photo shoot ever done. It's about creating a vibe

    a moment outside of the music where the band itself is seen as they

    are not as the music they create.

  • http://twitter.com/ryanve ryanve

    I think the best band photos are live photos. Bands need not to try to create an image that they are not. The photos need to be honest.

  • Sam_K

    There is a simple antidote to bad band photos.

    Before organising the shoot, have the entire band view every photo from the Hall of Douchebags at rockandrollconfidential.com.

    http://www.rockandrollconfidential.com/hall/index

  • http://www.myspace.com/soulsanctuarymusic Luke

    Surely it matters more if it's a good photo or not? I don't care what the background is, if the lighting is cool it will make the photo interesting. If it's not then it doesn't matter what's in the background.

  • http://kennyholloway.com Kenny

    Thumbs up to shedding light on this overlooked photo misfortune. Thumbs down to the idea that any old friend with a crappy camera might be a better choice. Musicians of all people should know and appreciate artist quality expressed through a media whether it's sound or light. That's like saying you should hire any old friend with a boom box and a CD collection to DJ your party, or hire the 9 year old neighbor girl to play songs on her recorder instead of a live band… hey, she can play the melody without any mistakes.. P U L E E Z E

  • http://jasonsilver.com/ Jason Silver

    Guilty, and unabashed.

    It fits with my style, and I make no apologies. :)

    Especially since I make a point of putting a train song on every damn CD I release.

  • http://www.myspace.com/22ndcentury Duane Chaos

    haha – we're so guilty. At least we used a fence to shield the tracks from view.

    http://www.myspace.com/22ndcentury

  • http://www.myspace.com/roylinfordadams Roy

    Recently we had photos done and I personally spent a week photoshopping them into what closely resembled a mix of "300" and "God Of War". I posted the link to my own myspace profile and my pic is my main pic. These new photos were intended for our next album and they came out so awesome that I had a photolab print and frame them for each band member. The problem is we can't use them yet or we'll have nothing to use next year when the next album comes out. We're still pushing our current one and the pics we've been using, while very good, completely suck in comparison. So now I'm charged with the task of having to re-invent our look and image for the current album to halp it sell better.

  • http://SteveCounsel.com Steve

    You forgot shots underwater in someone's swimming pool of bands, babies or pussy cats, Nivarna weren't the first you know and I doubt they'll be the last, but seriously sometimes a cliché IS appropriate for instance if you're a Blues band then an old chevy will give people an instant visual image of what to expect thats why all Goth bands want a Hearse(c'mon admit it!) if you're playing old folk songs by Woody Guthrie train tracks would be just the ticket a shot in a neon sushi bar wouldn't make sense.. but then again hhhmmmm sushi sounds good..

  • http://villageidiot.tv joby saad

    Oh sure, if you glanced at our bands picture it might look like another typical shot of a group of guys loitering around some train tracks. first off, we were not loitering. Were waiting for the dang train to come. We had a gig in a rural town because we can't get booked in a major city. Thats why theres no train depot. Also you may notice in our pic that were all three looking in different directions to symbolize that our music reaches all regions of the country. north, south, east. We didn't have a band memeber to look west. we had a drummer but he moved west so thats why none of us were looking west. Of course you wouldn't know any of that because you've catorgorized all railroad photo pics as ALL THE SAME. Try looking deeper into band photos. Enjoy your short lived job at cdbaby.

  • http://www.myspace.com/acoustibluerock Gerry

    I think a better idea would be a band building a brick wall on the train tracks…

    http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandIhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krU4AWtVjUA http://cdbaby.com/cd/gerrygareau

  • http://www.myspace.com/groovybasschick Melissa

    Ouch! I'm guilty of the brick wall (see website) AND the train tracks (past band)–LOL! Great article. It makes perfect sense, and it has my creative juices flowing…

  • chevdont

    The reason the Hall of Douchebags works is because band photos don't. ALL STAGED PHOTOS OF BANDS SUCK. Or more accurately, all band with staged band photos suck. Which is good, for me anyway, because I like to go to my local thrift store which receives loads of deleted CDs every once in a while, and I often find some unknown gems. The main way I avoid crap is to not buy anything with a band photo on it. Because those CDs ALWAYS suck. Not having a band photo on a CD is not a guarantee of goodness, but having a band photo on a CD is a guarantee of lameness.

  • http://www.straytheoriesmusic.com m

    haha… guilty also :P… yeah i struggle for inspiration for photos…

  • http://walterthompson3.com Walter Thompson III

    Thanks for this insightful article. It expresses perfectly what I already suspected. Photo images can express many ideas especially in a press release. But the one thing they shouldn't express is a boring visual cliche. Well written!

  • D Mann

    The ultimate message of the Hall of Douchebags is: don't take a band photo. If you dress up, we'll mock you. If you don't dress up, we'll mock you. If you stand in front of anything a band has stood in front of before, we'll mock you. If you stand in a "limbo" photo studio environment, we'll mock you. I know the purpose of rockandrollconfidential.com is to be funny, but how about some examples of GOOD band shots? From the perspective of that site…there's no such thing. How about it, folks? Any band photos that y'all don't think suck?

  • http://www.myrolmusic.com Joanne

    We'd have to go to the moon in order to find a background that hasn't been used at one time or another by somebody somewhere. The point is to create an atmosphere and an identity through the picture. This can be done but it takes some originality and thought. But really, is there such thing as an original thought anywhere?

  • http://www.Ronnierecords.com Ronnie

    Guilty LOL

  • http://www.stevencravis.com Steven Cravis

    This photography really impressed me, as did the artist's music:

    http://www.myspace.com/brettrandell

  • http://www.artichoketheband.com timothy sellers

    look out for those brick walls too!

  • http://www.daleleroyperry D. L. Perry

    I seen a lot of musicians with tracks. But it has nothin' to do with freight trains.

  • http://www.hardwirespeers.com Neil (Hardwire) Spee

    As a musician and a photographer, it was really funny when I posted a note on a forum about this very topic, had a lot of negative reaction from people – bringing up shots like the Allman Brothers, etc. I even have a shot of a musician in front of a brick wall – but it was shot from the side so the bricks (and alley) form leading lines that make for a more active picture. As pointed out above, if you're going to use bricks, or couches, or train tracks, or sushi – make sure they serve a purpose and aren't just lazy "filler" for the background.

  • http://www.dale-harris.co.uk Dale

    A friend did a press shoot doing the train track thing. I thought it looked bleak and boring. I thought (to myself) that it was a mistake, so I'm glad that you agree!

  • http://windstream.net daniel

    it's not the cover its whats inside. try something different. my advice is write music everyone can relate to something from your soul. if you beat the bush long enough you'll get there. it beatles took 5 years to make it, and does anyone remember their first album? it sucked. if they would have quit we would have lost out on alot of great music. use your head. a good recording enginner is the most important thing. it take time and patience to find your success. every one has something to say it just needs an audience. dan

  • http://www.caseyhenry.net Casey Henry

    The Freight Hoppers are actually a great old-time band–not at all folksy, or bluegrass.

  • http://www.specialblendz.com Carole Spiller

    Great article with spot on advice! I have 5 CDs sitting in my office right now with train track pictures! Hope you have inspired some new photos!

  • http://www.alexwallmusic.com/ Alex Wall

    THANKS! Great article!

    There are a lot of other cliche's out there too, not just photos. Most people have the "Too Cool" syndrome. We're all dorks (ok, I'll speak for myself)! And when we try not to be it looks disingenuous. I avoid posers like the plague.

    And how about resisting all the cliche MUSIC being created–sorry, re-created? Lordy, have some more re-hash to shove down people's throats.

    Music is an infinite pallet, choose some new colors! :)

  • http://www.stevencravis.com Steven Cravis

    Funny- soon after this came out, Hostbaby, which used to be a 'sister' site to cdbaby, announced this new Greasy Rustic Train Yard Feel template with their wizard templates for easy web design:

    http://content.mkt41.net/ra/2009/5426/10/34171161

    but seriously, I swear by hostbaby, which I've used for years and I love their service.

    -Steven

  • http://www.mofopartyband.com Jiohn Clifton

    I'm also guilty of the Brick wall…what about the Abbey Road shot?.. Ouch!!!

    never did the train tracks thank god.. I would have had a Tri-facta of Pretentious bio photos… This hits home I'm wanting to do some new band photos and I've been pondering all the things in this article, and thinking about Non Brick wall/ train track style photos..

  • http://www.peggyandbrad.com brad bolton

    A band in a '57 Chevy crossing tracks headed for a brick wall – that CD cover I want !

  • http://www.audiomoxie.com AudioMoxie

    I like train track photos if they are done well. I also like photos of bands sitting in diners, leaning against old chevys, lying on their backs in the grass in a circle, on the beach, scantilly clad and where the image of the band is over exposed. I like photos where the band is facing away from me so I can's see their faces and photos of bands riding dragons. I especially like photos of bands dressed up in old western clothes and made to look like outlaws. I like photos of bands wearing mascot-style animal costumes. I like photos of solo artists too. I like them all. I like them even more when the music is as good or better than the photo.

  • http://cdbaby,com/cd/theresaloder Theresa Loder

    Thanks for that great article. I'm sure it's going to make us think about what we want to project on our photos.

  • http://www.myspace.com/luzoculta9 Juan Carrasco

    I took a picture of my band with cheap digital camera in the guitarist's ugly room, and I used Photoshop CS3 to remove the background and left it white (very simple) then I painted shadows and did some color correction and complex layered enhancement, played a lil'bit with the curves to make it look better, then I threw the logo in the middle. It worked for us, sometimes simple look is better. You can check it out and criticize if you want. myspace.com/luzoculta9

  • http://www.marcsupsic.com Marc

    Allright, everyone stop making excuses for YOUR crummy train-track shots, as though your shots are the exception to the rule. Train-track shots should be avoided for the next fifty years on principle alone. There are just too many of them. Like scrunchies and bad auto air fresheners, there are some things that just should cease to exist in our culture. And yes, I even have my own train-track shots (at least they're from twenty years ago).

    The other cliché shot you forgot to mention is the heavy metal band standing on a pile of rocks, or in an industrial yard/warehouse with the corrugated aluminum wall behind them. Graffiti is another cliché that has been worn out.

    Rap music has their clichés, too. Please, no more rab/R&B pics with dudes sitting around stacks of money with a big-butt hoochie in a bathing suit.

  • http://www.audiotemple.com P

    Let's be realistic here, yes no band is gonna get away with not having a band shot. That's like saying you're gonna date someone and don't care at all what they look like.

    Yes, the railroad and brick shots have been done to death, but there are a lot of interesting ways to capture the feeling the band is trying to emote (whether it be anger, sadness, or just being haughty) to a listener. All listeners are looking to either look up to an artist (in a You're So Cool kind of way, I wish I was like you, etc), or to be able to relate. Unfortunately, you can't just do away with staged shots all together, it's a neccesary evil.. as is getting into "rock" gear if you're in a band.

    My two cents.

  • http://www.dramasyde.ning.com DramaSydE

    I like the train tracks for my some of my pics,life is a journey,yet, everyone's journey is different, it fits my life perfectly!!!!

  • Cory

    I like the dinner photo, but everyone has to be chewing with their mouth open.

  • hank

    Awesome! I've been telling msuican friends this for years… but some of them don't listen! Why!?!

  • http://www.brickwallaudio.com Erik Ekholm

    Awesome topic!

    And, coincidentally, the very image of my production company!

    What is cooler, than taking the ultimate cliché, and actually using it right! ;);)

    You'll even find the text "the ultimate brick-waller" and a guy smashing his guitar, if you look closely ;)

    Thanks guys!

  • http://www.markbouchermusic.com Mark D. Boucher

    I think any photo tells a story, and if it's buy the tracks, so what. I'm sure ther's many more subjects that have been done than trains. I wrote a song about a train that went thru my grandparents farm, "The Huckleberry Railroad", I didn't put foto's of it on CD but I did on a local cable TV show. Everyone loves trains, old or new. The

  • http://www.markbouchermusic.com Mark D. Boucher

    The very reason you brought up not using trains, is a good reason to use pictures of trains! I'll have to put one on my next photo shoot!

  • http://daveavandyke.com Dave Van Dyke

    Suppose there is a few too many album covers with the tracks………. but I do love the trains.. Steamtown in Scranton, PA is the best …. Need to find a shot for the next album…………………. The Who must've saved a bundle on Who's Next, one of their best and just a grainy shot by a poured concrete support beam…………….. dv

  • http://www.bridgettekossor.com Bridgette

    Oh man!! We did the train trestle shot (with graffiti) under the train tracks in the early nineties… yes, sigh, it's pretty cliche at this point. Thanks for the memories.

  • http://www.myspace.com/nabilkhazzaka Nabil

    Hahaha! You forgot to mention band in front of a) old wallpaper and b)factory door. I hope I did a better job with my new single. ;-)

  • http://www.myspace.com/snipehuntaustin walt ehresman

    With my band Snipe Hunt back in '01, we were TIED to the tracks on our album cover (in black & white). That's got to count for somethin', huh? :-)

  • http://www.davidzink.ws David Zink

    Busted. Busted. Busted. My new web site (to debut April 1) has me on a chair on the trax holding a whirly pop. But "PopZinkle" actually has a song titled "Feel a Train" at a pivotal moment on the CD, so I thought the photo was justified. Reading this article, now I feel I needed to go further — and a better image just jumped to mind. Thanks!

  • http://www.myspace.com/defreewheelers bas freewheeler

    planning on a cover where someone actually jumps in front of a fast train…..

    (it won't be me!)

    that's what you got to do these days for half a second of publicity!

  • http://www.leighharrison.com Leigh Harrison

    It's tempting to call "musician train track photos" a cliche — and maybe it is — but since I have lived most of my life 50 feet away from train tracks, it is an ever-present part of my life, and the sound of trains rumbling, and the hoot of their horns is part and parcel of my everyday life.

    Back in the 1980's (before the RR put up big fences to keep stray kids out) I did a photo shoot with friends along the tracks, and the pix they took seemed to show the wistful feeling of roads once led (or untraveled, for some). In other photos, I'm on the tracks, like a train, tied to its destination — its destiny…but, of course, you're right — by now, all that's been way overdone.

  • http://www.ClarkPlaysGuitar.com Clark Plays Guitar

    It is tough getting a promo shot that hasn't been done before. There are only so many places to have your picture taken & at some point somebody has had the same idea. Unfortunately many of these ideas have been way over-used. Brick walls, train tracks, fences, the cemetery, & long sets of stairs all bug me now. One new trend seems to be all the band members milling around the urinals in a public mens' room. hmmm…

    A couple of my other pet peeves are these: the camera is on the ground pointing up at the band, who are standing in a circle around the camera; the inverse version where the band all lie on the ground with their heads in a circle & the shot is from above; and the classic shot of everyone jumping into the air at once.

    But the promo pics that bug me the most are the ones that look like they were taken with a junk camera-phone & the band looks half-drunk as they mill about a dingy looking bar. Jeez, guys – could you have put any LESS effort into your promo shot? Is it representative of how much effort you put into your music?

    I think I worry every bit as much about getting some kind of promo shot that is good, interesting, & unique as I worry about my music. So far, the music is faring much better for me! LOL!

  • Mr. Nobody

    "get used to the fact that no one will ever get around to listening to your music"

    Yeah, soundalike paint-by-numbers "music" is nothing but stupid marketing BS and ringtones, isn't it? If it were about the "music", or what passes for it, nobody would care. It's not worth listening to.

    Fortunately there are some people left out there who love real music, and don't care a thing about press photos or consuming merchandise. They even listen to the music, because what else are you going to do with it? Accessorize and brand it and make a reality TV show based on it? Oh, wait…

    What needs to happen is people who are in it to be famous or to make money need to get out of the way, because it's not going to happen. Music created for that purpose is inherently bad. Stop focusing on marketing and instead develop your art, if you're an artist. When you find yourself, your "image" will come naturally. No need to invent a fake one, unless your music is fake too.

  • http://www.fadedsympathy.com eboe

    here's a good question… has anyone ever considered or done something like pile the band members into a rollercoaster car and use the pic they shoot of you coming down over the edge? Hell, I thought one of the funniest promo shoots I saw was the one for Red Hot Chili Peppers One Hot Minute album, where they took a bunch of pictures at what seemed to be a K-Mart photo studio or something, replete with cheesy props. I mean, that sort of stuff still is not done often or to a great effect.

  • Reno

    Mr. Nobody hit the nail on the head.

  • http://nickedelstein.com Nick Edelstein

    CD Baby's notes against hiring a professional photog. are appalling – and hypocritical, since their article on album artwork recommends hiring a pro photog. Here's a few reasons why pros are better than "free or cheap" friends:

    *Techniques like Composition and Focus are extremely necessary for creating energy, making you jump off the page/screen, and driving the viewers' eyes to the key element(s) of your photo. These are the differences between Major Label (pro) and High School (friend).

    *Lighting in venues is designed to create ambiance not press photos. Luckily, high-end pro cameras have rediculously-fast shutter speeds which make dimly-lit stages seem bright and in-focus. Your bandmates will no longer be in the shadows! These cameras cost many thousands of dollars. I doubt your "free or cheap friends" will own one, let alone know how to use it correctly.

    *Friends with novice gear will be limited in their capabilities, while pros' fancy gear can create a wide variety of effects with remote flashes, special lighting, lenses, etc. Your amateur friends won't even know these things exist.

    *Since CD Baby attacked Photoshop ("hi-gloss, fancy-pants masterpiece") I'd like to point out that software is a tool like any other. When used properly it can open worlds of possibilties and creativity! For example, @Bas Freewheeler's idea of jumping "in front of a fast train" can easily be achieved with Photoshop. Shoot someone jumping onto the tracks, then shoot the train approaching, then combine the images. Nobody is hurt and you get your image. Of course, a PRO will know how to make this look real. Your amateur friend will not.

    *DO NOT confuse a friend who snaps pictures as a HOBBY with people who make their living (aka "professional") making photo art. How can we expect people to support our art form if we don't support other art forms (financially speaking). Would you hire a non-musician friend to play at your wedding ceremony? Probably not! So why ask a non-photographer friend to create your band's press photos, which are often the first – and sometimes only – representation of you to potential fans / booking agents? Just because they own a camera DOES NOT qualify them to shoot your press photos!

    *Avoid hiring friends for your projects. If you don't like their ideas, you can hurt their feelings or worse, your relationship! Somebody usually walks away feeling taken advantage of and it's usually the person who did the work, not the receiver.

  • Ginny

    Amen Nick.

  • Professional Photogr

    "Professional" is not an attribute that matters one way or another in a photographer for the application being considered in this article. A wedding photographer is a professional. Will he take better photos of your band than an art student who has actually seen your band live and digs what you're all about? I wouldn't bet on it.

    If a professional ends up taking your band photo, it should be a coincidence — that is, that particular pro photographer happens to get what you're all about, is excited about your band, has some great ideas for shots, and has taken photos in the past that you like. If a nonprofessional has those same attributes, there would be no reason not to give the nonprofessional a shot. "Pro" status should be low on the list of priorities if the desired goal is a photo that truly represents the character of your band.

    This is coming from someone who does photography and videography for a living. Professional photogs who warn that anyone but a pro is no better than a monkey are just trying to fool you to protect their turf. The principles of composition, exposure, etc. are not so complex that they can only be accessed by those who have dedicated their careers to the craft, and "pro" level equipment (along with knowledge in how to use it) is similarly accessible to amateurs today. There's no reason that an inspired and capable amateur with a "prosumer"-level camera could not take an excellent band promo shot.

  • http://stretcherbearer@reverbnation.com stretcher-Bearer

    Hair blowin in the wind, tore up blue jeans, Black and white, and THE BAND LOGO! I wanted to name a metal band Umlaut, with umlauts all over the wrong letters..My first album cover would most definitly be on the tracks down by Skid Row….LOL Train Tracks….

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-36822-LA-Rock-Music-Examiner Diana Diaz

    Let's face it, there's alot of bad photography out there. There appear to be as many struggling photographers as there are struggling bands. I'd almost be more wary of a manager who pushes a particular photographer. If you do go with a professional photographer, pick one whose shots are interesting to the point of being compelling and whose work you really admire. Friends with cameras can really mess things up–weddings are a prime example. The thing is if the wedding photographer messes up, you can hate them. If uncle frank messes up, it's a real emotional pain. I am an amateur photographer with an amateur camera. Sometimes I get a decent shot at a concert if the lighting is just right and the burst mode works at the right speed for the lighting and movement. It at least captures what happened.

  • http://www.launchyourmusic.com John Rock

    I agree with your point on digging deep to figure out what your music is all about. It almost seems that an artists rendition is aways better than a real pic. Just my humble opinion.

  • Roger
  • http://www.facebook.com/clawandantlers Rashad Nyulassy

    Antlers Up! These Rangers have it going! Elvis Andrus looked really good in that last game! For all you hardcore Texas Rangers fans join us with your Claws up on FacebookFacebook ht tp://www. facebook. com/clawandantlers

  • http://www.hanowellphotography.com P. Hanowell

    I couldn't help but laugh at this – yes, the photos tend to be, shall we say, tired.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/cariephoto/sets Carie

    Let me start by saying THANK YOU!!!

    I lived in Nashville for 4 years as a photographer and it was great and sometimes hair pulling. I have a unique approach to band/ musician photography and completely agree with you on most everything you said except for this: "Weigh the pros and cons of paying a professional photographer, too. They’ll probably have better gear and more experience directing a photo shoot. But will your band be comfortable acting natural in front of a stranger? Sometimes working with a friend (for free or cheap) can yield the same results if you’re all willing to put in a little extra time for trial and error. And here is a strange thought: sometimes “quality” shouldn’t be the goal at all. A blown-out Polaroid or a tattered sepia-toned snapshot might better convey your vibe than a hi-gloss, fancy-pants Photoshop masterpiece."

    I want to say, that a Pro knows when to make it a "High-Gloss" look with set design etc. and knows when it is good to not use all that stuff. We experienced photographers are artists as well and more than likely, a DIY musician's budget will determine what we will be able to do or not. The most frustrating thing is to have to get a second job to supplement my income because bands take the "Well my beginning in photography best friend can do it for… Can you not meet their price?" approach too many times. This work with an inexperienced friend thing is single-handedly creating all of those crappy ass photos you hate so much out there. Here's my motto: You get what you pay for. If you want cheap looking photos that have no substance and do not convey the artist you are, then you will pay cheap prices.

    If the same musician goes to make the album, they will pay thousands more on the recording and studio time to make it. THE PUBLIC HEARS WITH THEIR EYES FIRST. So if they see that album cover or promo pic somewhere, the initial investment was well worth every penny if that person investigates the music next.

    Thanks a bunch!

    Sincerely,

    Carie Thompson

  • http://www.jaimemillerphotography.com/ New York Wedding Pho

    Cracks me up!

  • http://TampaBandPhotos.com Tampa Band Photos

    I have to agree with Carie and Nick's comments above. To me, shooting a band's promo is both an honor and an immense responsibility that I take very seriously. After all, as Nick alluded to, you're essentially creating the "face" or the "brand" of a particular artist, and it's of paramount importance that everything be professional-looking and hopefully eye-catching. This generally requires a proficiency with lighting, camera technique, composition, and Photoshop.

    With that said, can an amateur produce a photo that meets the above criteria? Sure they can. Just like I could sink a basketball shot from half court, given a certain number of attempts. The question is, how valuable is the client's time, or perhaps more importantly, yours?

    Further, in order to get truly outstanding results that will maximize an artist's chances of making it through the 2 (or more) "screeners" who are responsible for weeding out the obvious rejects in a mile-high stack of demo submissions, even most "pro" photographers will come up short. Nowadays you really have to possess some serious technical chops to make images that people will notice. All of my work relies heavily on Photoshop and lighting techniques that have taken me years to master, and still I find myself pushing the envelope further and further to ensure that my images stay on the cutting edge. But my point is that amateur photographers who just happened to run down to their local Best Buy and pick up a shiny new DSLR generally aren't going to be able to deliver images that will get a band noticed. It's possible, but highly unlikely, because from the labels' perspective, hiring a professional photographer also conveys that a band is responsible enough and serious enough about their music to fork over their hard-earned cash to make sure they make a positive impression. So in a way, it kind of goes beyond the photos even.

    Anyway, I seriously didn't mean to go off on a rant here, but I guess I kinda took issue with some of the views conveyed in this article. As with all things in life, you generally get what you pay for. So the idea that a band who's truly serious about success in today's highly competitive market would entrust the production of a critical aspect of their brand and image to a flat-out amateur is just absurd to me.

  • FWC

    Roger: That link is awesome! The comments are hilarious!

    Thanks!

  • Karita Fleming

    Dont forget the crappy abandoned house band photos. Those are always awesome to make fun of.

  • http://members.cdbaby.com CD Baby Admin

    Totally. Try both, and see which ones work better!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah you have to stay off the train tracks as a photographer!

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