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Hey Photographers! Have You ever Wanted to Be Awesome at Band Photography? Keep Reading to Find out How!

Ever wanted to be the go-to photographer for band photos? Have you ever wanted to really stand out by taking great and press worthy shots of one of your favorite musical acts? Well great news! You are one step closer to being the top choice for band photography in your town.

Band Photography, is one of those niche areas of photography where your creativity and carefully thought out process before, during, and after your shoot, work together to create some really stunning images if you learn to take control of the session, and execute what you’ve learned, with consistency.

Being well acquainted with your camera and how to achieve proper exposure are key elements with any kind of photography we may involved with. While that is super important, it’s only a small part of the puzzle when it comes to getting the shots that you want in band photography. Here are some things you need to know to bring your A-Game in band photography.

Get Some Facetime with The Band

You have to get on the same page with the band. Do you know what they sound like? What genre do they play in? A great opportunity to do this is by offering to shoot one of their live performances, and share the shots with them. You open up the discussion for a promotional shoot this way, and can get a feel for what sort of style and feel you want to go for. Each band will have a unique taste, and you will want to be prepared to adapt on a case by case basis. Here’s a couple examples for you to understand what I am getting at:

Band Photography
Artist: Potato Rocket / Photo: Caption Photography

Band Photography
Artist: The Foul English / Photo: Caption Photography

With the band in the first photo, we decided on a location that had lots of color, fun and vibrant. The band fits into what is referred to as, ‘pop-punk’ which is a very light hearted, upbeat and fun sound, so this setting in a local candy store was the perfect fit for these guys.

The second photo, called for a bit more of a darker, vintage feel for The Foul English. Part of the band persona is a blend of their past life experiences and currently raising a family, all the while maintaining that ‘punk rock rebel’ drive to them. We decided on a venue that they were playing that night in a town just east of the rocky mountains. The building was a little older, and rich with character. This setting worked really well for their shoot.

Location, Location, Location!

Scouting for location can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned photographer, and you need to be ready to adapt to client expectations, while still maintaining that crisp quality in your images that you are looking for. It is no different with band photography. Not to worry though, you can still pull off some pretty stunning images with what could seem like the worst location to shoot in, as long as it represents the band and their music well. If you are stuck in location ideas, always ALWAYS involve the band. The photos are, after all, of them, and I can bet you that they have already thought of a few spots that they liked and wouldn’t mind taking some photos at.

Why is location important when it comes to band photography? Well, yes this is an opportunity for the band to visually showcase what they are about, and what sort of feeling you may get by listening to their music.The other thing about this, is that these images that you are being entrusted to take could end up being used in press locally, online, digital press kits sent out to labels and promoters/talent agents for future gigs. A hard rock group with a vibrant and a lush green valley background just wouldn’t gel the right way, and could contradict what the band strives to represent with their music. That setting would be more fitting with perhaps a solo folk artist or roots inspired musicians to name a couple of genres.

On Shooting Inside an Established Business

If you do happen to find a location that is a running business, such as a pub/bar or perhaps a retail store, it is crucial that you HAVE PERMISSION to shoot within this location. It is best to get this permission before the shoot, and have a contact name on hand so you do not run into any issues when you are on site. Keep in mind, that some of these establishments, while a great idea on paper, may have strict rules as to what you can and cannot do within the premises. This will also allow you to plan ahead in case you need to find an alternative location to shoot. This is what set’s you apart from the pack in your professionalism, by really taking control, and directing the shoot the way you want it to go. The last thing you want, is for the full band to be with you when you have that embarrassing conversation with management about how you cannot actually shoot inside their business, whatever that may be. Whoops.

Obey the Law

Ok, I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that we are all straight-A citizens here, and nobody is looking to get themselves fined. But it can, and does happen every once in a while, where we have “lens brain” on and we get into a jam where we could be trespassing, or breaking a by-law. It’s never anything intentional of course, but we would do well to make sure we are keeping up to date with local regulations and restrictions when it comes to shooting professionally. This applies to both indoor and outdoor locals. Keep your shoot classy, from start to finish.

Band Photography
Artist: Cale Michael / Photo: Caption Photography

The photo above was taken inside an older hotel building with living quarters in a small town east from where I live. Where the artist is standing, is just one of several rooms on the upstairs floor that had suffered a fire years ago. The ownership began teardown, and didn’t move forward with renovations. Again, permission to shoot on site was absolutely critical, as this is sealed off to the general public, and the establishment is considered to be of heritage value. Once more, the rustic town feel, the vintage spirit in the brick made for a fantastic spot for this shoot.

Keep yourself, and your clients safe above all when on location

I mentioned with this last photo that this was done in a building that had suffered a fire some time ago. Before deciding on shooting, we had to make sure that structurally, there was no danger posed to us, and since it was just the walls that were gutted, the actual framing structure of the floor and support beams were sound. Had it not being, or the building was in any state of being condemned by local enforcement, it would have been a no go. As photographers, part of our task with our clients is to give them an amazing experience throughout, and having to worry about whether or not a ceiling could collapse on you is most definitely NOT the way to ensure that. Keep your eyes peeled, and always use good judgement.

Mind the Details: Make Sure the Band is Dressed for the Occasion

Here is another area where you can really pull away from the pack and stand out. Before the day of the shoot and after you have figured out your location, make sure that you are communicating with the band on the fine details. You may want to suggest a certain look of attire that would compliment location or perhaps remind the band that if any members have anything that speaks of them individually, to wear that, or to bring it along. Props, when appropriate, can add a little variety to the spread.

Band Photography
Artist: Cale Michael / Photo: Caption Photography

The above photo shows both wearing something specific to match the theme of the shoot but as well shows the appropriate use of props. A solo folk singer, strumming away on his guitar deep in thought, the sullen and darker tone of the room gives the impression of intensity and emotion. No guess work, and great imagery.

A Word About Props

Sometimes, during your planning process with the band, the idea to bring something along as a prop that is of value to one or all of the members could come up. While this on it’s own could seem pretty harmless, you do need to consider whether or not your location, scenario, or setting could present the risk of damage to whatever valuable could be brought along. Of course, you wouldn’t want to openly discourage the bringing of something like this along, or perhaps not wearing a garment that holds sentimental value. You simply want to keep your clients informed on the risks (if any) they could be encountering. Make yourself responsible to be informed, and to educate your clientele beforehand. Just another small way to stand out as a professional.

Know Which Shots and Poses you Want. Don’t Improvise

Being prepared should never be left to chance on the day of the shoot. I don’t care how experienced we may think we are, this is just another part of displaying professionalism and amazing customer service. Before you head out on the scheduled day, make yourself a list of what you are hoping to achieve, what poses you want, what shots you’ll take, decide on portraiture for the individual members and other technical details. It may mean that you have to take an added trip to your shoot location and take some ‘test’ shots to get a feel for your setting. This shouldn’t matter however, if you are serious about delivering amazing photos and giving your clients an experience you know they will share with other fellow musicians.

Approaching your shoot this way will take away the guess work, put you in control, and make you shine as the pro you know you can be. Improvised shots should be an added zest to your shoot, not the primary direction. Be well acquainted with your surroundings, and add intrigue with interesting angles and backdrops as you see fit.

Want to be ready for anything on your shoot? Click here to read up on how to be well prepared for any scenario.

Band Photography
Artist: MXPX / Photo: Caption Photography

Keep an eye on your time: Respect the Schedule Agreed On

Have you ever booked an appointment at the doctors office? You show up on time, yet you still have to sit in the waiting room for half an hour? Exactly. You aren’t the only one this has happened to, and if you are anything like me, and countless others, you don’t like wasting your time. As it is with other types of photography, band photography is also an area where you need to be very careful to not overstep your boundaries when it comes to your schedule. Confirm earlier in the day with the group that you are still good to go for the shoot. Do not rely on initial meeting agreements. Check in. Make sure that you arrive early on location, in case there may need be some minor adjustments to setting or scenario. Let’s say you only booked an hour time slot to get your shoot done. You will want to take full advantage of the time you have set for each other, and be efficient with your setup for poses and scene. Of course, keep yourself flexible, but if for example there is a member who needs to leave early for whatever reason, or perhaps there is some tardiness from the band’s side, you will need to adapt as much as possible to avoid disappointment or unmet expectations.

Don’t forget, Your Time is Precious Too

No need to mince words here: Your time to shoot, edit and turnover are valuable. If for whatever reason, you ever feel that you are not being taken seriously, people have shown up considerably later than originally agreed without any notice, or you just get a general sense of friction, you have every right to tactfully stand your ground with your client. Reschedule, discuss an idea, re evaluate poses, but under no circumstances should you ever feel that you are not in the drivers seat. Take yourself into consideration when scheduling a shoot with your clients, and do your best to meet expectations, including your own.

Have Fun!

Here’s your bonus Tip: Enjoy yourself! The more relaxed and at ease you are, the more confident you will feel on your shoot, as well as help the band relax and enjoy themselves as well. Keep in mind that musicians are entertainers who love what they do. Shouldn’t you also have a blast doing what you love?

Until next time Classmates.

Jay