Okay, not everyone’s band photos suck. Most of the time when we feature a band on the website, it’s not a problem finding good photos of them to illustrate their interview / song release / concert review / whatever. Their Facebook is stocked, their Twitter profile photo isn’t total garbage, or even better, their press person has sent me a couple options! It’s a match made in heaven and it makes my job a lot easier.
But sometimes, they suck so, so bad. They suck to the point where I have to scour the Internet until I find a shitty quality JPG that no one’s proud of. I’m not proud of using it, you’re not proud of being in it, hell, the photographer who took it was probably hoping this fuck up would never see the light of day. Inevitably, after using this image on the website, I’ll get a snippy email from your PR person (who might be your mom, it’s the Internet after all) asking me to take it down and use something else. It’s a total waste of time and a process I wouldn’t like to repeat, so I’m coming to you, human in band, with a humble request. I’m saying this with all the love in my heart, but you need to take better band photos. They don’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to have a lot of them, but they have to be better.
And I’m going to show you how. This isn’t a call out post, this is a plea. I want you to get better and I want to give you the tools to do so! I promise it’s not going to be hard and it’s not going to hurt. And because I don’t want this to seem cruel or mean spirited, I’m not going to use any of the band photos that have personally given me trouble. I don’t want to pick on small independent bands, you folks are going out there and creating art and I respect the hell out of you (and it’s why I want you to be better! Marketing is important!). Nope, we’re going to make fun of the big boys instead.
First off, you only need two band photos. Just two! Keep it simple, keep it streamlined, keep it good. I don’t need a million photos of your lead signer pulling a dumb face while your bassist give the camera an angsty pout and neither does anyone else. Of these two photos, one of them needs to be a horizontal photo and one of them needs to be a vertical photo. If you ignore the rest of what I’m saying and you only follow this advice, you’re already killing it. It’s that vital.
Check out this photo of everyone’s favorite dad band U2! You’ve got a nice horizontal photo where all of the band members are standing close together (more on this later). There’s a crisp background, some lightly interesting posing, but nothing too crazy. It’s not the best band photo I’ve ever seen, but goddammit it works. I would be proud to resize (or crop) this and put it on my website.
Now check out this vertical photo! It’s a little artier (nothing wrong with that), but it still does everything you need it to do. The band is all accounted for and nobody is pushed off to the side like a red headed step child. This would be a dream to receive in an email.
The thing to note here, is that both of these photos are important if you’re going to court our editorial team’s favor. I don’t know how other websites do things (because I only work for this one) but we have a 243 x 270 listing image that shows up on the homepage and a 700 x 300 featured image at the top of the article. Your A+ vertical image is going to get cropped for the homepage and your A+ horizontal image is going to get cropped and popped into that featured image slot. When I only get a vertical image, I have to do some wonky Photoshop nonsense to make sure the 700 x 300 image doesn’t look like hot garbage. When I only get a horizontal image, that means I usually have to crop out your bassist Dave to fit the photo into the listing image. Dave’s PR person / mom is never too happy about this and I end up getting an angry email in response, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Let’s reach hands across America and make everyone’s lives a little bit easier.
Now, here’s part two. It isn’t quite as important as part one, but it’s not nothing. When you’re taking a band photo, stand together. Get close to each other. I don’t care if you’re all not really friends, act like it and press your bodies close. Like prom date close. The reason behind this, is if you’re too far apart (even if it’s one of those long horizontal photos) I still might have to crop out Dave. Or at least, Dave’s foot / arm / whatever. And again, I want to avoid all possible emails with Dave’s PR person / mom. Photos like the one of Franz Ferdinand above are fun, but more likely than not monochrome Matt on the left is going to lose his hand and bright red Fred on the right is going to have to say goodbye to his kneecap. None of this is life or death, but chopping off limbs is a bad look.
Or check out this photo of Three Days Grace. They’re not very far apart, but it does feel like they hate each other and that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Although, they do have a song called “I Hate Everything About You” so maybe that’s a feature. Either way, get close like the big old music family you are. It’ll look nicer.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering about the action shot. Those photos where you’re rocking out on stage, sweating like a dog and kicking some supreme ass. Don’t worry, those photos are invited to the party. If you’d like to add a third shot to your media kit, go for it. Live action photos are fun and I will 100% use them, but unless they follow the above rules, they’re nothing but extras. Always welcome, but never important.
So, I’ve armed you with all the knowledge you need to get out there and market the hell out of your band to music blogs. Get out there and grow that Bandcamp audience. I believe in you and damn do you look good in that new photo.