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Portrait Photography Tips For Musicians (and Other Creatives)

Now more than ever it is important to have as much control of your image as ever. For musicians and other creatives, this means taking an active role in how your image is produced. How your image is perceived by fans and potential clients can have a far-reaching effect. Realizing that you are selling not just the product of your talents but also yourself means that at some point you will need to pay attention to the image you are putting out on social media and other promotional material. At that point, engaging the services of a professional photographer to get the best image possible needs to be given serious consideration. With this in mind, there are ways that you can get the most out of any portrait session. So let’s look at a few photography tips for musicians and other creatives.

Pick the Right Photographer – Like any craft, there will always be people with varying levels of skill. When choosing a photographer for your portraits you have to approach it with the same care as you would when selecting instruments and sound gear. In the same way, you wouldn’t purchase a cut-rate amp that was “good enough”, you should choose a photographer who is more than “good enough” too. Take the time to view examples of the photographer’s work. Do they have experience photographing musicians? Is their work natural looking and professional or awkward? Trusting a photographer with your image and brand means trusting their ability to do present you professionally.

Pick the Right Location – Consider your photography session a collaboration between you and the photographer. Know what you want from the session including the environment you want to shoot in. Studio spaces can be great for portraits and a good photographer will light accordingly. Shooting outside makes excellent use of natural light. Urban environments can be either gritty and edgy or hip and modern. The location should reflect the style of music you produce. If you produce hard-edged rock, a session with barns and fields of tall grass may not be the best choice.

Have a Basic Knowledge of the Principles – You may have no interest in photography but understanding a few of the basic principles of composition and posing can help you choose the right photographer (see above) and put you more at ease during your photography session, making the process easier for you and the photographer.

  • Rule-of-thirds – the rule-of-thirds is simply a way to balance all the elements in a photograph. Think of the photograph as being divided into a 3x3 grid. As the subject, it creates a more engaging portrait if the photographer places you on one of the intersecting vertical lines of that grid, leaving space to the side in a landscape portrait. In a vertical or headshot portrait, the general rule is to place the eyes on the upper horizontal line.

  • Natural vs Artificial Light – First off, there is no “best” light. A good photographer can make compelling portraits using either. However, different types of light can give a photograph of different moods. Natural light photography might be more suitable for folksy, or acoustic musicians, for example.

Posing – It is important that your images look natural and genuine. Again, this is something you should consider when choosing your photographer, but also know that your input is valuable. There are several ways that your unique viewpoint as a musician can come into play. Unless the photographer you are working with is also a musician, they may not have a good idea of how musicians interact with their instruments. If a pose seems awkward or you would never hold your instrument in a way suggested by the photographer, speak up! After all, this is you that’s being represented, and the image has to feel true to you.

Using flattering angles will produce the best photographs. While it may be dramatic shooting from a low angle up, it is rarely flattering. Shooting from a higher angle down produces a more flattering effect.

Be Prepared – Just like you would prepare for a performance, you should prepare for your photo session. Plan to bring wardrobe changes if you want to have more variety in your final images. If shooting in natural light your photographer may have a specific time to shoot. Be on time and make sure you leave yourself time enough to not be rushed during your session.


Finally, the best advice that can be given; relax. If you take a little time and make good decisions about the photographer you choose, the locations you select, and your wardrobe the hardest part will just be showing up. Once you have your new images in hand, images that reflect who you are as a person, and as a musician you can be confident you’re building your brand the right way.

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