Want Decent Band Photos? Don’t Do This

Photography has nothing to do with music, but the pictures that represent you or your band are hugely important. Imagery, along with the written narrative you use to describe the story behind your music (your bio) is an integral part of getting people interested in your project. But while solid and engaging band photos can help draw in the attention of potential listeners, poorly executed pictures can do just the opposite. Here are some things you’ll want to avoid while taking band photos:

Taking pictures on railroad tracks

In addition to making for boring, cliched photos, taking pictures on live railroad tracks is incredibly dangerous. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, deaths from walking on railroad tracks are up nearly 10 percent in recent years, with 483 fatalities reported in 2014 alone. But even without the massive risks you’ll take should you decide to do the whole train track photo thing, the pictures you’ll end up with will look dated and uninteresting because it’s been done so many times before.

Brick-walling it

Taking a few pictures in front of a brick wall is fine, but not if that’s the only setting for your photos. Brick walls are predictable and boring, and you’ll run the risk of people associating your music with those ideas if all of your pictures are in front of them. It doesn’t take that much time and effort to find a wall with some sort of color to pose in front of, so taking the extra step of shooting at a setting more interesting than a brick wall will definitely pay off.

Looking disingenuous or unnatural

Most musicians aren’t models, so the skill of posing in a natural and engaging way isn’t something that comes naturally to most bands. But rather than trying hard to look cool or tough, you’ll be much better off by trying to appear as natural as possible. Unless you’re working with a highly experienced photographer, the sorts of photos that will work the best are the ones where fans and press outlets are able to catch a glimpse of who you really are.

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Things like having your lead singer stand at the front of a picture or forming your band in a “V” are examples of over-posing that runs the risk of ruining your photos. Again, unless you’re being posed by a professional photographer, it’s typically better to try to look as natural as possible while being photographed.

Shooting photos without a concept or plan

Here’s the thing. Most of the things I just said to avoid in pictures can be done as long as there’s some sort of plan or concept in place. Rather than just going out on the street and winging it, you’ll probably get the best photographic results if some sort of planning is involved. The only rule here is that the feel of the photos should match the music you’re making. This means you’ll need to have a conversation about what your music means and how to best visually represent it.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

RebeccaWant Decent Band Photos? Don’t Do This


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  • Mel Strait - May 31, 2018 reply

    This is certainly good advice. I’ve shot a number of pics over the years that have been used on album and CD covers as well as simply for band flyers. I’m frequently amazed at the lack of creative thought that goes into a band’s photo request. Many of the requests I get are along the lines of recreating iconic pictures (such as Pink Floyd’s the Wall, or one of the Beatles’ albums). Unless they are a serious cover band, I always try to discourage that approach, but it’s usually a waste of time. I once spent several days working on a CD cover picture for a bluegrass band (bluegrass bands are not known for creative pictures) and presented them with a unique, partly drawn picture, morphing into a photo of their instruments only. However, in the end, they went with a simple picture of the band looking toward the camera. Shortly afterward one member left the band before the CD release. One final note, no matter how creative the picture might seem, it has most likely been done somewhere.

    Rach - June 2, 2018 reply

    Well said 👍

  • Keith Godwin - June 1, 2018 reply

    My band recently had a photo shoot for promotional ads and much of what you said is dead on. The backdrop was the first place we started with a 200 year old stable, since we are a country band, before moving to the lodge. The photographer asked us to “pose” on certain shots all of which were unnatural and we didn’t use. Out of dozens of shots we only used a few, which is fine. Bottom line, the backdrop turned out to be the saving grace of the day.

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