Press Shots: How To Take Good Band Photos
Professional looking band photos will help you get press for your new music releases, so here’s our step-by-step guide to taking great press shots.
Press shots are the professional photos used to promote a band or music act. These will be the images you send to magazines, websites and blogs when you're looking for press coverage, or if you apply to play at festivals.
Even if you’ve never played a gig before, it’s worth getting into the habit of taking press photos and keeping them up-to-date. Your first press shots may not grace the pages of Pitchfork, but they might help your quest for your first gig. At the very least, they’ll make your social media accounts look more professional and engaging.
You need band photos to use in your press kit, website and promotional campaigns, but taking high-quality band photos is challenging, and you can't just leave it all up to your photographer.
Below are 10 things you need to consider when taking press pictures for your electronic press kit. If you don't have a press kit yet, check out our guide on how to make an EPK for artists next.
10 Steps For Better Press Shots
- Create a lookbook & nail your concept
- Find a location
- Buy or rent props
- Don't skip costume, hair & makeup
- Find a photographer
- Take close-ups
- Always take press photos in colour
- Provide press shots in various aspect ratios
- Clearly label press photos & send them as links
- Send press photos in high resolution
1. Create A Lookbook & Nail Your Concept
Looking for inspiration for press shots is similar to looking for inspiration for music. Do your research and take influence from what's already out there.
Create a lookbook or mood board of press shots you think are cool and want yours to look similar to. Obviously keep your sound in mind – if you're a metal band, you shouldn't have Bruce Springsteen's old press pics in your lookbook, no matter how cool they are. Your press photos should have a similar tone and evoke a similar feeling to your music.
You'll find good examples of band press shots by looking through streaming services, Instagram or your favourite music magazine.
Once you've done your research and you know what you like when it comes to press photos, you need to come up with your own concept or theme. This can be as simple as having everyone wear black clothes or as complex as having your band members levitating. Be realistic and work within the budget you have – note that stunts and elaborate backdrops will cost a bomb.
2. Find A Location
Your press shots are a visual representation of your band, meaning it's important to find a venue that complements your music.
Depending on your sound, you may want to look for an old abandoned building or field in the countryside. Or maybe a city park or coffee shop is better suited for your image. Once you've created a lookbook or mood board, you should have a good idea of what your music looks like, which will make choosing a location easier.
Don't pose in front of a brick wall or something that looks like it's been used for every band photo ever taken. Try to find an interesting but affordable background.
If you're stuck, Tutti is a great resource for amazing local spaces. Have a browse through their website to find somewhere to shoot, or just for inspiration.
When considering locations for your band photo shoot, remember that natural light is your best friend. Make sure there's enough light coming from windows or doorways for interior shots. Otherwise, you're going to have to invest in renting some studio lights which take skill to control.
3. Buy Or Rent Props
The decorative props you need for your band photos will depend on your vision for the shoot. However, even if your act is extremely exuberant, treat props with caution; they can easily end up looking silly if they're very out there or cheap.
On the other side of the scale, it's also important to consider functional props. Is someone going to be kneeling in your band picture? Get them something discreet to kneel on.
4. Don't Skip Costume, Hair & Makeup
Don't rely on yours or anyone else's editing skills to make your press shots look professional. Make sure what's in front of the camera is as perfect as possible – meaning pay close attention to each band member's costume, makeup and hair.
- Makeup: Even if you're going for a natural look, use a clear powder to avoid shine.
- Hair: Again, even natural hair should be carefully positioned, get it exactly how you want it and use a bit of fixing spray.
- Costume: When choosing what clothes and accessories each member should wear for band photos, think about how they'll coordinate with each other. As a general rule, bandmates should wear clothes that don't match exactly (unless you're going for an ironic or cheesy vibe), but could be from the same collection or designer.
Again, if you decide to create a lookbook, this will help inform how you and your bandmates decide what to wear and how to style your makeup and hair.
5. Find A Photographer
This might sound obvious, but find a photographer who has experience taking photos of bands. Your mate might do cracking landscapes but that doesn't mean they'll be good at shooting a group of musicians.
If you don't have any budget for a professional photographer and you have to use an untrained friend, keep the concept simple and give them the clearest instructions that you can.
Do not, under any circumstances, try to take your own band photos. You need to be in the picture. Your camera timer isn't the gamechanger that you think it is.
Ideally look for someone who has done this before and is willing to work with you on pricing as well as style and location.
6. Take Close-Ups
Don't be afraid of getting close. Give the media options between close-up details and full-length shots. Close-up shots, where face details can be seen, tend to perform better on social media, whereas wider shots are better for editorial use. Make sure that you have all bases covered.
7. Always Take Press Photos In Colour
Always take colour press shots. If black and white is your thing, feel free to express that on your own social media profile page or website. However, the internet is full of colour and so are most of the blogs and magazines you want to be featured in.
At the end of the day, remember that you're creating promotional photos that should stand out in social feeds.
If you insist on sending black and white images when pitching to music industry figues, include colour photos as well – 9 times out of 10 it's what they want.
8. Provide Press Shots In Different Aspect Ratios
You probably already know to create landscape and portrait options for your band press photos, but you also need to consider the various aspect ratios your images need to work in – without cutting out your bassist's arm or drummer's leg.
The most common aspect ratios for artist photos are:
Wondering how to take band photos in different aspect ratios? The answer is simple: just crop the landscape and portrait images that you already have. You can use any photo editing software for this (the most popular photo editing softwares are Lightroom and Photoshop).
As usual, success here lies in the prep – make sure that during the shoot, your photographer is framing photos in such a way that they can be cropped to your desired specifications.
9. Clearly Label Press Photos & Send Them As Links
It's important that media know they have permission to use your images, so helpfully label them as 'PRESS SHOTS' (labelling files is one area where you shouldn't get creative).
The best file formats for press shots when you're sending them out are JPG/JPEG and PNG.
You can either choose to send your press shots as JPG or PNG, or even better, create two folders inside your 'PRESS SHOTS' file, helpfully labelled 'JPG' and 'PNG'.
When you're sending your press shots out, it's always best to send them as links rather than hefty attachments which have to be downloaded.
10. Send Press Photos In High Resolution
Media wanting to use your press photos will never have a problem reducing the resolution of your images. They will, however, have issues trying to increase the resolution of your images.
The ideal size for your press photos are:
- JPG/JPEG: around 500KB
- PNG: around 200KB
Finally, it's important that the entire band is involved in the creative process outlined above, right up until the day of the band photo shoot. You don't want some band members turning up unprepared, or worse, turning up and not liking the location, costumes or photographer that you've picked.
You're a band, so approach shooting your press photos in the same way you would approach a performance. Someone has to take the lead, but this should be a collaborative process.
The bottom line is that taking good photos will help get your work out there and appreciated. All that's left to do now, is to hit your local recording studios so that you have something new to promote.