Certain images have stood the test of time, representing a musician and his image and mystique. Two examples are John Lennon outside the Statue of Liberty giving a peace sign and Jim Morrison standing shirtless, staring into the camera. A photo shoot is important to the cultivation of an artist's career. Certain considerations should be made by a photographer to ensure natural, professional images.
People play music to express themselves. Forcing artists into strict, unnatural positions is counterintuitive to the idea of a musician, commercial or indie. Shoot the band or artist in a natural setting. This is helpful in avoiding musician photo-shoot cliches. How many musicians spend their time walking down train tracks, standing outside abandoned factories or sitting on the front steps? These are unnatural settings and result in forced, unnatural images. Try shooting the musician during a rehearsal or at a bar after a show. The grunge-era photographer Charles Peterson captured striking, personal images of Kurt Cobain while he sat in his pajamas in a hotel room. Allow the musician to be himself. If he feels like goofing around, let him. Fans can tell whether a picture is true to the artist.
Musicians are ambassadors of style and art. Their music carries a certain aesthetic appeal. Use the artist's image and style of music. For example, a photo of a death metal band in an unsettling setting might work well. Take advantage of the artist's current releases. The Beatles's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is regarded as one of the greatest album covers of all time. The band came up with the idea of taking on the role of a pretend band and the album cover colorfully fleshed out this idea. Ideas don't need to be as dramatic as "Sgt. Pepper's." For example, had Pat Benatar just released her single "Love Is a Battlefield," she could have had a photo taken of her dressed as a soldier or holding a gun.
Did the hair metal bands of the 1980s walk around in spandex and teased hair all day? Perhaps, but more likely they recognized the importance of photo shoots and got dolled up for pictures. Artists should act naturally and not betray their personal or stylistic image but they also should take a photo shoot seriously for what it is: a tool for representing and promoting material for the band. Although music should perhaps be the most important feature of an artist, the public is used to seeing musicians in unorthodox clothing or that fitting of a rock star. Don't let an artist stand in front of a camera in sweatpants and a T-shirt unless you're going for a grungy image. Artists should grin and bear it for the sake of their careers, without going to extremes.
- "The Greatest Album Covers of All Time"; Barry Miles, Grant Scott, Johnny Morgan; 2005.
James Gilmore has written professionally since 2005. Since then, he has written and proofread obituaries for "The Press & Sun-Bulletin" in Binghamton, N.Y., press releases for "Goals, Seminars and Consultants" and articles for Made Man and various other websites. He writes a good deal of music-related content and holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ithaca College.