How to Hire a Photographer and Get Great Press/Live Photos
How important are good photos? Think about it:
1) On your press kit or website, your photos will be the first thing that a promoter, media, fans, etc. will see.
2) Your press photos help define who you are as an artist. Poor quality, generic, or uninteresting photos generally get the same type of preconceptions with the music (quality, marketability, etc.)
3) Local media love featuring artists but won’t include photographs unless they are captivating or creates interest.
I go through at least 30 artist submissions per day (200+ per week) for my booking/management agency. Many promoters, sponsors, venues, magazines, and radio stations go through more. It would be nice to say that it’s all about the music but the first impression drawn is almost always from the photos (they come up on any website and I end up staring at the photos until the music starts up). Like anything else you do with your career, you want something that stand out. You want it to reflect yourself. You want good quality. So why are so many artists settling for less?
Rather than hiring someone of quality and talent, they just rely on their friend’s point and shoot. There’s a mentality out there that anyone with a decent camera can get you pretty good press shots. Why do people settle for less on such an important part of the press kit? Why are people willing to pay for high-priced, overproduced music studios but not on the photos? I believe it’s for one of two reasons: musicians are cheap or they just don’t know better. Let’s deal with the two and talk about how you can get the most for your money.
Are Good Photos Expensive?
Think about it like this. If your crappy photos are costing you gigs and opportunities, you’d probably be better off spending that few hundred dollars and hiring someone who can get you a better first impression. The cost of having a poor business plan or cheap demo is always more expensive than the investment of time, money, and finances to make sure that you have the best possible product. Most musicians understand this when it comes to their own art (such as buying better quality gear even though most in the crowd can’t tell a huge difference) but few invest in other arts (such as in photos where many people can tell a difference right away).
How many bands are sick of making only a few bucks after a long night of hard work (loading in gear, playing, selling for a few hours, driving, etc.)? Yet why are they satisfied with paying another artist hardly anything for their time? A photographer has to scout locations, position, shoot, edit (which takes A LOT of time), process, etc. Besides, working with high-profile artists can lead to better opportunities just by association (like hiring a good video director or producer).
How to Find a Good Band Photographer
Try some of these tips:
- Find someone who specializes in working with artists. Not weddings, not corporate portraits. You want someone with an “eye” that understands how to make artists look good and stand out. They should have a large portfolio of other artists they’ve shot. Those photos should look good.
- Someone who will scout for a good location, something that is unique and stands out. If I see one more band in front of a brick wall, I think I’ll puke.
- Hire someone who understands your image, something appropriate to your genre of music and target audience. Last time I checked, Metallica press photos never screamed “country” and people generally don’t think of Taylor Swift as punk rock.
- Check out artists you admire or friends who have good press photos and find out who they are working with.
- Look in your local publications. Even live shots of national acts are usually shot by a local photographer. Check out the photo credits and look them up.
- Have an agreed timeline for payment, delivery, and follow up.
How to Make Money with Your Photos*:
- Merchandise: You can sell 8×10 B&W styled press photos that you are already using for your press kit.
- Print posters. Go through a local printing company and see if they’ll sponsor you even. They might just do so because your new press kit looks so snazzy.
- In addition to your press kit/website, you can use the pictures for other merchandise like t-shirts, stickers, or album artwork to get more gigs or sell more merchandise
* Even though you are hiring the photographer, they still own 100% of the rights to those photos (just like a local promoter who hires you to perform doesn’t own your music) so be sure that you have a clear agreement with them on what you have permission to use the photos for. Also, anytime the pictures are used in press, be sure that they get appropriate photo credit and send them a copy. It’s the right thing to do.