Band photos – at their best – are a necessary nuisance. The situation involves standing (perhaps uncomfortably) in front of a camera and keeping a smile on your face long after you’ve passed the point where you actually want to be there. Add to that the fact that it’s hard to do something really unusual for your band photo. The alley, brick wall, and railroad tracks themes have all been done to death, leaving you with limited options for something unique. However, it is a necessary thing, so you just have to smile through all the unpleasantness and knock it out. That being said, there are some things you should consider when preparing for your band photo.
Invest in a good photographer
That seems obvious. Obviously, you want a quality photographer. However, the investment isn’t just money. It’s also time. Make sure you do your research to find what previous customers have said about the photographer. In addition, you should meet with the photographer before he or she ever lines up a shot of you or your band. Make sure that everyone involved feels comfortable with the photographer. If you’re in a band and even one band member won’t get along with the photographer, then you’ll end up choosing the best of a bunch of photos you don’t really like. Conversely, if everyone is comfortable with the photographer, you will end up with a wealth of good shots to potentially use in your press kit. Also, when you consult with the photographer, you will see what he or she can bring to the table as far as ideas for setting and theme. A really good photographer (as opposed to someone you hire because he or she is related to the drummer) will make everyone feel at ease and will bring out the best and help you come up with shots you really like.
If you show your band photos to people (and you probably should show them to people before you include them in a press kit) and their response is anything like “OMG! That’s adorable!” then you should go with another concept. Adorable is fine if you’re sending your band photos exclusively to high school music bloggers. However, you presumably will be sending your press kit to adults, so adorable is something to avoid. Think about it. If the first impression a writer has of your band is seeing you all on a park bench licking giant lollipops (or something equally adorable), is that writer going to take you seriously? Probably not. Maybe that is unfair, but it’s honest. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Be unique but not pointlessly weird
Weird of course is a subjective term, but here’s the thing. While “That’s adorable!” is an undesired response, so is “WTF?” Here’s an example. I once received a photo of a band (all of whom were at least implied nude) lying on the floor, draped with colorful material, and surrounded by brightly-colored mannequin arms. It certainly is unique and memorable. However, what kind of reaction are you trying to evoke with something that unusual? What would be your response if you saw a painting like that in a museum? That’s probably the same response writers have to seeing a photo like that.
OK, so this one focused mostly on things you shouldn’t do. Allow me to give you some advice for something to consider. If you truly want to look natural in your band photo, then hire a photographer to come to one of your shows and photograph the band during a set. That removes all the posing (which means more natural photos) and thinking about photography, which is generally unpleasant. In addition to getting some good band photos, you might also end up with a new fan.