A picture is worth ----- ?

Well, here's my first blog post. And as I'm preparing for a photo shoot today, my mind is on the subject of promo photos for musicians, or for small businesses in general who usually share with us the desire to stick to a tight budget.

So, how important is it to have great promotional photos for your music project or small business? And what if you're on a REALLY tight budget? As an artist or musician it's a constant battle to save the pennies to have any kind of a hope of making some of them back, and short-cuts can be very tempting. We'll get a buddy, or our partner, or friend of a friend with a DSLR to take a few snaps of us in our living room or a nearby park. Pop them up on the website and hey presto: we can tick the 'promo photos' box. 

This can be fine...possibly. Like, if you're just starting out and want to just get some pics of you up on your website or FB so people know you actually exist (and are a band named Black Zed, not a fake entity named after a pet cat by some kid in a suburban bedroom who's spitting out loops and samples). And if you jag the right conditions and the right person, you may end up with half-decent photos, instead of ones which look like you've had your limbs cut off and are imprisoned in the stow of a rocking ship in international waters off the coast, churning out music for some psychotic, nautical Simon Cowell wannabe.

You might jag it...if your buddy or your partner has a good working knowledge of their camera. And an understanding of composition for portraits or products, as the case may be, and how to handle a variety of light conditions ranging from too dark to too bright, to too many shadows, to too much of your drummer's face. Just joking - drummers are the best-looking ones! ;) And hopefully they have the equipment on hand that will help solve any problems with the above, like reflectors, light meters, tripods and so on. With any luck they'll also have an assistant who knows what they're doing to help juggle the gear and get the process over with much more quickly so you can get back to playing the music you're promoting. Or so you can head down to the pub to celebrate before it's shut.

Chances are you won't be quite that lucky, though. Chances are you're going to be seen to be shackled to a below-decks cabin somewhere in the Pacific...

For my part, I'm very lucky that my photographer buddy Craig Carson does have these ducks in his row. When I had my first photo shoot for my solo project, Craig brought all the above gear, and more, and had given a lot of thought to the shoot. The shots were amazing (despite the fact I'd chucked a diva-like tanty with tears only an hour before the shoot over something that I'm sure was very important at the time...), and I am always getting glowing comments about them. While this does appeal to me on a personal level (who doesn't like being told they look great almost every time your business card is handed over?!), I know the professional image those photos give my music and my business as an artist is where the rubber really hits the road. 

So while it may be fine to use a buddy to take your photos, I can highly recommend that you put in some ground work before getting those shots done:
  • think about what you expect from the shoot - what you want your overall image to be (casual, relaxed, polished, grungy, hard-edged)
  • come up with a few ideas to give your photos an edge and help them stand out - eg. a different or unusual theme (such as being shackled inside a boat ;))
  • decide and discuss with your band mates what you're going to wear - you don't want some of you thinking it's black t-shirts, and others lacy dresses and pumps
  • bring a few changes of clothing in 2-3 chosen styles (eg. 1. polished cocktail, 2. casual preppy, 3. S&M) so you can try different looks out and get a range of photos
  • do a little study on the basics of what makes a good photo - check out articles from online photography magazines or blogs
  • check out the photos produced in the past by your chosen photographer - preferably ones that showcase photos in music or your chosen industry, or that are at least of a similar type and style eg. group outdoor portraits
  • eat and sleep well in the days before the shoot so you look relatively healthy (even if 'death emo grunge' is your genre, 'tis better to add dark circles around your eyes with make-up, than look like someone people would be afraid to attend a gig to see, for fear of catching some disease from your front-row spittle projections)
  • be ready early and turn up to the shoot on time
Having put in a little preparation, you'll find the results will be great and long-lasting as you'll be giving your band or business an edge in your an competitve market. And every time you hand over your business card or show someone your site and they say, "Hey, wow! You look great!"...you'll smile and feel awesome. :)


Addendum: My photo shoot today is for a new part-time project: an 'all-girl' duo with talented local Perth keyboardist and lead and harmony vocalist Dorothy Helfgott. I'm very lucky to have two other top-class elements for my shoot: the use of a superb location, the Western Australian State Reception Centre (thanks to my mates at Frasers function centre), and thanks to very talented Perth photographer Craig Carson. Craig did an incredible job on my solo project photos (see my Promo gallery), and he was ably assisted by my wonderful photographer partner Ken. Can't wait to see what today's shoot brings...

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