Jan Hudson’s Photography Tip #4

Jan Hudson’s Photography Tips is a weekly feature here for anyone interested but especially for musicians who need or want to do their own photography work. This week, Jan discusses how to get the best look for those formal shots – the ones you want when you really want to impress someone like a promoter or for your press kit.

Welcome back! Jan Hudson w Banjo

Today we are going to learn the best ways to take the "formal" shots of your band. A formal shot is one that you would send to a promoter, use for your cd cover, or use for advertising. We want this to be a really nice photo, so there are some things that you can do to make better looking images.

First things first. . . .

. . .Use the largest megapixel setting that your camera allows. This will give you huge, high quality files. If you have this choice on your camera it is usually shown as the "L" icon.

Put the camera in the automatic mode.

To re-iterate last week's suggestions....either find a shady spot outdoors or wait until early evening for the most wonderful even lighting that makes everyone look their best.

Why do I suggest shooting outdoors? Because the lighting and quality is the best for the equipment that most amateurs are using. You don't have a studio and studio lighting or big powerful flash units, so your best bet is to shoot outdoors. The pop up flash on your camera is great for a touch of fill flash, but when it is used indoors, it causes awful shadows and flat and overexposed lighting. We don't want that.

Suggestions for a great band photo:

1. Make sure that your band members wear more subdued clothing. Solids truly are the best. Try jeans or khakis or similar colored dress pants as the bottoms, and put solids or muted designs as your top. Why? Again, it's because simplicity is the best way to go. Imagine someone in a Hawaiian shirt...what's the first thing that you see? The Hawaiian shirt...not the guitar player, not even the other band members. The shirt overpowers the entire photo.

2. Scope out places in your area that will make a great scene or background for your photo: a grain mill, an old weed and feed store, a park that has a creek running through it, an old church that has nice ambient light, or maybe an old barn or log cabin. Something that gives you the feeling that you want for your photo. If you are a progressive bluegrass band, then find an old alley or abandoned building in the downtown area and shoot your photos there because that would be more suitable for your band. Find something that conveys your band's image. Do this ahead of time and find the best time of day for your lighting. You may have to go there at different times of day to figure out what time gives you the best lighting. If it faces west and it's in the evening, you're band members will have squinted eyes. Image634958311563175429Do your homework, that way the day of the photo shoot, you are ready to get down to some serious photography. 

3. Bluegrass groups are notoriously difficult to photograph because of the instruments. The best way to do this is to separate your members and stagger them.

If you try to do a straight line shot, you will have instrument headstocks in everyone's faces and that's not a good thing.

See the image of my band on the steps of the weed and feed See how we are sitting and standing and leaning? We aren't all on the same level and that's a good thing. Image634958312685109600

Now look at the one where we are leaning against the wall ...we are in one line,  but the instruments are mostly down and we are all turned in different directions so that we look more interesting.

(I know, you're asking yourself how I took these shots. Well, of course, I didn't, but I did...lol. I put the camera on a tripod, set everything up, and got into my position while a friend took the actual photos. You can also put the camera on a timer and accomplish the same thing, but it's a lot more work running back and forth before the shutter fires. 

Image634958313877837820Now, look at the third photo of the band on the railroad tracks.

This would have looked a lot better had we put the fiddle player, who is shorter, in front of the taller bass player.

When you have an upright bass, it's really important that you keep it behind the other group members, otherwise it takes up the bulk of the photo.

If you will look at a couple more "on site" group shots taken of my group when we played at the Bob EvansImage634958317403949503 Farm Festival last October.

It was an all out sunny day...no shade to be seen. In the one where we are standing in front of the Bob Evans barn , you can see squinting and hot spots and shadows, which is okay for a candid shot, but not good for a cd cover.

By walking up the lane and shooting on the shaded side of the old log cabinImage634958320055591168, we were in the shade and look at how much better the lighting and expressions were. The sun is not a friend when it comes to people photos.

4. Variations: When you have your group together, get them positioned and move in as close as you can to get the best light reading, fill the frame with your image, and shoot. Try shooting without flash and then take some with flash. When you are outdoors, the flash will simply kick up the exposure and add some contrast to the photo.

Take many shots so that you are guaranteed to have at least one where everyone has their eyes open and looks great. Move them to another spot or change the members around in the photo...then shoot more shots.

Try some close up shots of the group, too, with and without instruments. If you can, take individual photos of each member and take at least 8-10 photos of each person, again to be sure you have a keeper. It's difficult to get bands together for photos, so take advantage of this time that you have with them and remember, people usually don't relax until after the eighth or ninth shot. (photo, that is...lol)

5. Always remember to keep things fun and have a good time.

I've always been a person that looks at the cd's at the store. You can get so many ideas from what other professional photographers have done with bands and make them work for you. Take the time to get online or go to a music store and check out bluegrass, gospel, and country bands for great posing and background ideas and tweek them to work with your band.

Last but not least...invest in a good tripod.

Next week we will discuss candid shots of the band as they are playing for use on your website.

Enjoy your week and start scoping out ideas and locations!!!


Previous Tips:

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Feb 01, 2013

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