[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. It’s a follow-up to last month’s guide for independent artists getting ready for a photo shoot.]
When the phrase photo shoot is mentioned, many people begin to get nervous, as it seems like it’s going to cost a lot of money. The image that comes to mind is certainly one of glamour, well-known photographers, sets, and so on…but does it need to be?
Sure, if someone is posing for the cover of Vogue, it makes sense, but if you’re an indie rock band or a new hip hop artist and you simply need a shot for your new album and some pics for journalists to use, how much should you be spending?
It’s tough to put an actual dollar sign down, as it all depends on how far you want to go and if you’re going to do something truly creative that might require some funds (versus a completely basic shot which won’t cost a dime), but what I can help you out with is a list of things you can probably skimp on. As an underground musician, it’s all about how you can save money and what you don’t need, so if there’s ever an opportunity to do things on the cheap (but still well), you have to take it!
Here are three things you can skip when it comes to your next photo shoot that will save you (and your collaborators/bandmates) some much-needed cash.
1. Don’t Need: A Fancy Camera
Years ago, this would not have been on this list, but thankfully, these days, professional cameras simply aren’t necessary. A professional photographer might tell you otherwise, but if you’re looking for any opportunity to skip out on opening your wallet, this should come first.
These days, everyone’s smartphone is a professional-grade camera, and while they can’t necessarily do everything that high-end cameras can (you wouldn’t want to use one if you were photographing athletes in action or the like), they will serve you perfectly in this instance. If you and your bandmates are simply posing for a still shot, any of the relatively new iPhones or Androids will serve you fine.
You may want to do a bit of research online about how you can fiddle with the settings to ensure you’re getting the best shot possible (play with the resolution, to begin with), but the hardware is in your pocket already, so don’t feel the need to go out and rent, or god forbid even buy, an expensive camera.
2.Don’t Need: A Professional Photographer
Just as you don’t need a professional-grade camera, you probably also don’t need someone who takes pictures for a living. Just like the item before this, I would not have included this on a list made a decade ago, but things have changed dramatically in the photography space. That might not be beneficial to rising photographers, but as a cash-strapped musician, it is in your best interest.
There will likely be special times in your career when you will want to work with someone who really understands composition and who has a vision when it comes to taking pictures, and those things cannot be faked…but this is another arena in which you can usually save some money if you are a newer artist.
If you simply need some pictures for your website, your social media profiles, your merch, or maybe a CD insert, you can work with a friend instead of actually hiring someone who does this everyday as a pro.
You may want to ask someone who has proven themselves to be good with an Instagram shot, or perhaps someone who is good at taking instruction, as you can direct them and then jump into the shot. It might take some more time, and the pictures won’t be quite as visually stunning as if you were standing right in front of someone who made their living doing this, but we can’t have everything, especially if money is tight.
3. Don’t Need: A Studio
These days, you can take great photos anywhere, so please don’t feel the need to rent a photo studio for several hours or even a day. Again, this is something that many people think of when the phrase “photo shoot” comes to mind, and it’s a trope we’ve all seen in movies and such…but is it really necessary?
I have seen thousands of promo shots sent by bands, managers, and PR professionals, and the vast majority of them feature the musicians in ‘regular’ settings. They aren’t in an all-white room surrounded by special lights and assistants! They’re standing in a street, against a building, sitting on a stoop, in an interesting-looking room, or they’re in a pretty nature scene.
There are countless options when it comes to where you are, and you may want to spend some time scouting locations. Make sure that wherever you are, the look fits the kind of music you make, as that is simply music marketing 101.
Even if you do want something indoors, there are many options for visually-appealing locations that will cost you little to nothing, and you can find them by browsing Instagram, asking friends, or reaching out to photographers or other musicians to see what they’ve done in the past.
Getting resourceful and creative is something you’re going to need to do a lot as a rising star, and this is no exception!