Shooting musician portraits is an awesome challenge. While much different than concert photography, it is a natural extension for the music photographer. And with the right technique you can capture some truly epic band and musician pictures.
With an eye on location, wardrobe, pose, color palette, and lighting you can bring out your subjects specific vibe. Read on for how to shoot band portraits the right way.
Tip For Taking Band Portraits
1. Get Your Location
The site you choose to photograph a band should fit it’s musical style. When shooting a rock band I will often pick a warehouse or abandoned factory (get permission first of course). It’s an automatic plus to the street cred of your images and these types of locations offer interesting natural lighting with their large and high windows.
You can create some real visual power by incorporating existing objects from your location in your scene. Play with how the light hits background objects. Keep objects partially in shadow, crop items out by shifting your camera. And keep the background monochrome to really shift the focus to your musicians.
2. Make A Detailed Plan
Before you get on location you should already know the vibe you are going for. Know the poses you will put each band member in. You’re goal is to make the band look good and you won’t have time to plan your poses on the spot until you have a lot of experience under your belt.
Your subjects will lose confidence in you if you aren’t ready to go too. And that lack of confidence will translate to your pictures. Speak with authority when directing musicians and know what you want before you get on set. And always have backup composition options just in case your first choice just isn’t working.
3. Know Your Poses
Subtle pose changes can totally change the look of an image. When posing your band it should represent the genre of music they play. A hard rock band will likely take a more aggressive pose than a jazz band.
I shoot a lot of rock bands and a solid pose it to square each members shoulders and feet and each standing at a slight angle from the camera. Keep space between each member and create individual presence for each musician.
Keep them all facing slightly different directions and it creates a classic rock band pose.
You should also take a couple quick test shots after posing then quickly study the shot and make any necessary adjustment.
4. Get The Wardrobe On Point
Your musicians will likely already have their own look set but it’s important that no individual stand out from the rest (unless the group has a big personality you want to emphasize). Talk with the group before hand so you have an idea of what they intend to wear and guide them when necessary.
If they are not planning to wear makeup have them put some baby oil on their exposed skin to add a little glow.
5. Get A Low Perspective
Most bands want to look big and the best way to do this is to get low. Get your camera setup at waist level and keep a parallel plane with the floor and it will make your band look huge.
6. Get That Backlighting
Using backlighting will allow the band to standout from the darker background. This lighting technique will create shadows in your foreground which will create a living statue like effect.
Use grids or even bare bulbs and have a light in the back right and another back left about five or six feet off the ground. Tilt your lights slightly down. Make sure you check how your shadows are falling and make adjustment where necessary.
With the right prep work you can have your session done in no time and get some epic band shots. Do the work ahead of time to find your location, plan wardrobe, and get the right poses and then just get your lighting adjusted on set and you have all the tools you need to capture awesome band portraits.