Your drummer’s girlfriend is not going to do your band photography anymore
Let me just be honest with you. Excellent, professional band photography and artist branding is important for your band or your solo project. But musicians have their priorities and money is usually tight. I mean, you totally have enough to buy a guitar with the right brand on the headstock and run it through the right pedals into the correctly branded tube amp because, tone. But everything else after gear is a distant (usually far distant) extravagance. Certainly any photo the drummers girlfriend takes on her cell phone is going to be good enough right? I mean, she’s got a good eye. But mainly she’s free bro.
Let me ask you though, if someone handed you a free off-brand guitar, would you trust it to stay in tune and sound good for a full set? Well, of course not. So why do you think your visual aesthetic is any less important to branding your music than the tools you use to make it? Your band promo photos are going to say something about you, and generally, you do get what you pay for.
The good news is don’t need to go broke chasing professional photography and video production, AND you don’t have to settle for amateur hour “pics” that make you look like you aren’t serious about what you do.
What you need is value – the right balance between cost and quality. Just like with guitars, at some point you stop paying for quality, and start paying for brand value. Unless you are made of money, the goal is to find the point at which you are spending the optimum amount for quality before you get into paying for the headstock logo or the custom shop tag. Something that looks professional, plays great, sounds like a more expensive guitar and stays in tune all night. That’s us. We love the drummer’s girlfriend, but let her move to the merch table and let us work on your image.
Travis Bond, of Travis Bond & the Rebel Souls
Band Photography & Promo
This is where it starts. You need a band photo for cover images on social media, gig posters, event promotion on social media and so on. The opportunities for good band photography usage are endless. Heck, give the drummer’s girlfriend a stack of them for the merch table with your autographs on them. Good band photography needs to be eye catching and cool, without being over cooked or cliche. It needs to reflect your on-stage aesthetic. Serious artist, or Steel Panther self satire? That is where we start – discussing your brand, your music, your vibe and getting you to find some existing band photos (ours or someone else’s) that have something you are drawn to. Or maybe you’ve already got an idea so cool that nobody’s ever done it before. Either way, we work with you and build a shoot plan that reflects your look, your sound and your personalities.
There are a few ways to do this. One is shooting in studio. When we do this, we really like shooting each band member in a variety of individual poses and then choosing from those to create cool band photos. Did I mention, we are really good at photoshop here. Creating cool digital backgrounds for bands is kind of baked in to the studio projects. It can have a simple studio vibe on a plain white background or it can be a full digital replacement putting the band backstage, on stage, downtown etc. Pretty cool and endlessly customizable.
One other aspect of this is if you add members or lose members, we can always just shoot the new person or delete files of people that leave without having to redo the whole shoot. Not that you want to think in terms of replacing people, but it’s nice to know it doesn’t have mean a whole new shoot unless you want it to.
Another option is shooting on location of course. If you want to interact with an environment, there really is no substitute for just going into that environment and building the right shot through careful posing and lighting. There’s still some photoshop work to be done (removing light stands, blending layers etc) to get the finished look, but when it’s done it’s polished and professional.
Here are the recent band photography promo images we shot, edited and licensed for promotional use to our friend Josey Scott of Saliva for his current “Josey Scott’s Saliva” tour.
So these are all on location, but only the stairwell shot was actually just a simple in camera shot. The rest were stacked layers where we shot on a tripod, individually lighting each band member and then blending several files together. Point is, there is a lot more to creating a branding shot, than having a good eye and taking a picture, but it’s supposed to look like that’s all you had to do. There is a coolness and authenticity in an image that looks like it was organic and shot editorially but that’s rarely the reality.
headshots & artist branding photography
As a commercial photographer, I do headshots every week if not most days. Usually, it’s for attorneys, real estate agents and other 9-5 professionals, but we get a lot of artists too. Sometimes when people talk about headshots, they really mean personal branding, which is cooler. Really you need both, but they are two different things. Headshots are what they are, but we don’t shoot creative people the same way we shoot suit wearing people. Different lighting, different setting, different vibes. It’s really good for solo singers and artists to have a couple of solid headshots for various bios, promos, interviews, icons and yes, merch tables.
Headshots can be cool, but at the end of the day – they are pretty much just a chance to see the artist’s face. That’s got it’s place but when you think of a cool Rolling Stone article kind of magazine editorial style image that you want for your press kit and bio pages, you want something with more context as to who the artist is and what they are about. You want a picture to tell a thousand words about you, and to do that you have to give it a little more space.
Like with band photography and promo, artist branding can be done on location or in studio. The advantage of studio of course is perfect lighting and customized digital composite backgrounds. But there’s always an authenticity to the on-location interaction with a wall or ambient lighting of a cool place. Either way, branding images need to move your story further down the line than just showing your face. Here’s some samples of that.
Compositionally, branding images are more of a portrait than a headshot, but they are part of the same mission – to brand an artist and provide cool, attractive, interesting images that tell you what this person and the art they create are about.
But what about their live show? What’s cooler than a great concert photo of an artist doing his or her thing on a well lit venue stage with a great high energy crowd? Nothing gives a better sense of authenticity than seeing the raw blood, sweat and tears that an artist is pouring out on stage. And believe it or not, good concert photography is hard to capture.
The closest thing to concert photography is sports photography, and I’ve done a lot of both. When shooting live music, as in sports photography, you are usually shooting a moving target in a poorly lit environment. It takes good timing and situational awareness to anticipate and frame the cool shots, and knowing the right way to use the ambient light (which always looks better than a flash) and set your gear up to work in it. There’s a very fine line between pics that are too dark, too grainy, or have too much motion blur. And don’t get me started on the awful, overcooked post-production “photoshop” that your drummer’s girlfriend does to try to maker her crappy, blurry, underexposed pictures look cool. We all know there are people who shoot live music because they love it and they like hanging out with musicians. That’s cool, but you can’t count on that for intentional branding. They may get a usable shot of you now and then but you aren’t going to get a consistent catalog of promotional content from that. We shoot live music – usually as a value added feature of branding and band photography packages that we put together for musician clients. And yeah, that’s snoop. Also, my band opened for REO Speedwagon, just before I shot that picture below…
Occasionally there is a need when shooting branding photos for an artist, to create in studio an on stage look via photoshop composite. This is especially helpful for the gigging musician who has played for crowds but just didn’t wind up with any good usable live concert images from the gig! Fortunately we can recreate the atmosphere, ambiance and vibe of a live performance with a studio composite. Here are some samples from a recent shoot with a very talented young songwriter/singer from Tulsa named Ty Smith. Be sure to check him out at @TySmithMusic on Facebook.
music videos, full service production
A big part of our commercial photography gig is video production. We’ve shot multiple events and promo videos for clients like Hard Rock Tulsa among many others. The most satisfying video production we do though is music videos for original recording and performing artists. Our video services cover everything; Pre-production planning, location scouting, talent acquisition, script writing, set design, sound design, animation, videographers, sound engineers, drone pilots, final editing and anything else your song needs for us to help you tell it’s story. Some videos have a lot of moving parts, and some are simple performance videos. Either way, a professionally produced music video can give a huge boost to a single or album.
Our first music video production “PBR” for the Gypsy Store Troubadours won Music Video of the Year at the 2019 Tulsa Music Awards. A short song, but with a lot going on. The artist had several specific characters and interactions in mind and the end result is that you see something new going on every time you watch it. True story – I even wrote and recorded a demo song myself specifically to be playing on the jukebox in the opening scene of this video. This video is a great example of serving the story and we are very proud of it.
“pbr” – gypsy store troubadours
Our second video is a much simpler concept, a performance video – shot entirely on location and exclusively constructed from clips of the band (my band) Riverside Rebellion, playing our first single, “Blood Moon.” For this video, all we needed was one videographer, an assistant for lighting, and the video editor (me). No extras, no extra scenes, just the band playing the song. We shot each member of the band through multiple takes of each song, which in the end gave us multiple clips to choose from for just the right moments – cutting to the guitar on a solo. Cutting to the vocalists on a particularly moving lyric. Cutting to drum fills and bass turnarounds and so on.
The result takes a basic performance video concept but makes it look like it was shot live with 6 different cameras, and gives it a very professional upscale vibe, given the relatively scaled back production budget. And it must have been effective, because with otherwise minimal marketing efforts, the video has been viewed nearly 45,000 times.
“Blood Moon” – riverside rebellion
Another example of a music video style we can produce even cheaper than shooting it ourselves, is through available video clips from a stock service like MotionArray.com which you can sign up for yourself at the link. Or we can simply discuss your vision for the song and shop for the clips ourselves while building the video and setting it’s key transitions to musical cues and rhythms.
For what we think is a really cool example of this, here’s another video released by my band Riverside Rebellion, called Broken Lines. The entire video is made from stock – all licensed and legal for use, but none of it is original video or animation – strictly an editing project, which can be an inexpensive yet creative way to tell a more abstract story in a really visually captivating way. Check it out.
“Broken lines” – riverside rebellion
So those are the dedicated music videos we’ve done, but for a better idea of our full video production capabilities, check out our video services page and our YouTube channel. Music videos are fun. You know what goes GREAT with music videos and new single releases? Cover art.
Cover art for singles, albums, videos & promo
So, you might have noticed, photoshop and graphic design is one of the coolest, most unique things about our photography business. I don’t have to send anything out to a graphic artist to create logos or album art because it’s all done in-house. This is where I really have fun creating cool branding graphics for bands. One of the things I personally love to do for my OWN original music is design cover art for each release that teases the story the song tells, in a single photo or graphic image. Lots of Easter Eggs and integrated meaning. Good cover art should mean something and say something. If you are taking the time to record and release a song or even do a music video for it, professional cover art is a fantastic way to catch attention visually.
Here are some of ours and other related recent design work.
celebrity meet & greets, events
Meet and greet events are a lot of fun to shoot, and we’ve worked dozens with various casino venues. One of my bands is a well known KISS tribute band and I play Gene Simmons in it. We are anything but famous ourselves, but the shows are often a big deal and we’ve had the opportunity to be in a lot of meet and greet lines in front of and behind the camera over the years. Behind the camera, we’ve shot the Oak Ridge Boys, Rick Nielsen, Brett Michaels, Shaq, Snoop Dog, Tanya Tucker and many more artists, actors and athletes.
Coordinating these kind of events and keeping the lines moving while delivering the photos in real time to fans via a downloadable file they can access via a scan on their smartphone. It’s a natural service to add to event photography when you are expecting a big crowd and want to engage with the people who came to see you. We can work with tour managers or venue management to coordinate services as needed. Here are some selfies we’ve shot with some of our favorite celebs.
We are musicians
Final thought… my day job is photography and visual art. But I am also a gigging musician and so is my studio partner Jen, who also happens to be my wife. I’ve played guitar and bass in cover bands and tribute bands for 30 years, and now play originals in a band with Jen – writing, recording and playing our own music.
I’ve played for big crowds and small crowds. I’ve fought with venue owners, booking agents and promoters and I’ve felt that magic that you only get on stage in front of a powerful air-moving backline, giving and receiving energy from a crowd and embracing push-pull of the feel, playing tight in the pocket live with my bandmates. All of my closest friends are musicians, as was my dad and my uncles. We could trade gig stories all day, but my point is, I’ve been there and so has Jen.
We get the brotherhood of being in a band. We understand the aesthetics of band photography, stage presence and branding images. I think a photographer who is a musician has a unique perspective when it comes to helping other musicians craft their images and promote their music with visual content. It is a personal passion and I am an absolute sucker for helping out bands and musicians that I believe in.
So get in touch with us and lets talk about your band photography & branding project. if you are cool and fun to work with, you will get a good deal. Simple as that. I want to help musicians build their brand, because I know it is a grind. I have the absolute utmost respect for anyone who tries to take their love of music and their passion to tell a story to the next level.
SHIPMAN PHOTOGRAPHY LLC