How to stop marketing people ruining your photos

Thursday 19 July, 2018

Owen Ralph

Arts marketer and musician

Photos are a tricky business.

As a musician, there are a lot of factors to balance in order to create a set of photos which are both useful practically and show you off to be the rock god you know you are.

This post takes on the practical side of things from a promoter’s perspective. This side of things can be the hardest for which to plan, as how your photos will turn out in context depends so much on the style and quality of a given promoter or venue’s print and digital materials. With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to get the best chance of your photos looking good when placed into context:

  1. Make a plan
  2. Your photographer will know what they’re doing in terms of crafting a good photo (unless it’s your ten year old nephew with his Fisher Price digital camera. Don’t ask him). However, it is still worth outlining to them what it is you need in practical terms. If this is a shoot for album artwork as well as general press photos, you need to be considering the different requirements of those two things. It’s always worth getting some general-purpose headshots done while you’re at it.

  3. Space, space and more space
  4. Like it or not, when your photos are included on promoters’ websites or print, they will be cropped. Pretty much every time. This is really difficult to do sensitively and effectively if you don’t leave space in your photos! I’ve spent hours of my life trying to fit perfectly good artist photos into a slot on a website the dimensions of a 15cm ruler (which admittedly is the website’s problem, but you are going to end up on problematically-designed websites). Very often I have ended up having to manufacture space at each side of the image in Photoshop, sometimes even redrawing cropped-out shoulders to make the photo fit the required context. Get some nice wide photos with plenty of space, and this makes everyone’s life easier. They don’t all need to be composed like that, two or three shots should be enough.

  5. Mix up the orientation
  6. A healthy mix of portrait and landscape photos further reduces the risk of a terribly cropped photo making it into print. Provide as many options as you can, and you’re more likely to get a good fit.

  7. Communicate
  8. Do you really want to be photographed in a forest? Really? If you play roots music, you may well be tempted to be photographed by some actual roots. Thing is, once you’ve waded past all of the other musicians in the forest clutching acoustic guitars having their own photographs taken, and finally found the perfect photogenic tree in which to perch yourself, you end up with a set of photos saying “I have nothing new to offer”. And as we covered a couple of weeks ago, you need to prove you have a unique selling point.

    Okay I’ll stop being facetious, if you want to be photographed in a forest I’m sure you can come up with an original way to do it. But, if I can risk using a very corporate and unsexy word, your visual brand is going to have a huge impact on people’s first impression of you. Forest photos in particular do come with a lot of baggage and assumptions.

    Make sure your photos communicate some small glimpse of the experience of listening to your music. Think about the colours (rootsy autumn shades? industrial greys and dark blues? dazzling white?), think about the connotations of the location, think about your clothes. Ultimately, make sure you can justify to yourself why you’ve picked the options you’ve picked.

  9. Try a smile?
  10. Doesn’t have to be all the time. Maybe in just a couple of photos. It’s okay. We’ll still think you’re cool. Promise.

Finally, and hopefully needless to say (sadly from experience, it definitely does need saying)—make sure you are always providing photos at a high-res print quality 300dpi. You are doing yourself no favours by sending out low-res photos. Your photographer will always provide these, but ask them if you are not sure (see last week's post for more on this).

Photoshoots can be nerve-wracking experiences, but also can (and should be) fun. However you’re feeling, just make sure you go in there knowing what you need to get the best possible outcomes in any context.