Article author, Becky Yee, is the founder and principal of Around Digital Media. She is an award winning photographer and was part of PDN’s Photo Annual.
When it comes to booking a band or entertainer, looks matter. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t have professional photos that accurately represent your talent. Photos are the first thing an event host, booker, or agent see before they hire you for a gig or even click to listen to your music. Great photos can get you booked at the right venues and attract more fans and followers.
Want better promo photos? Here are some tips to help you promote yourself and get more gigs!
For starters, you have to be comfortable on camera. I think it’s really important to be authentic. If you know yourself, you’ll be confident and relaxed in front of the lense. Practice makes perfect so pose in front of your mirror, and really look at yourself. Get to know your facial features. If you can, set up three mirrors—one mirror directly in front of you and two at 45 degree angles on either side. Then you can see how your face will look from different camera angles. Note which angles and perspectives you like on your face. Be familiar with your own looks.
Speaking of looks, it’s very important that you don’t set yourself up for failure. How many times do you hear someone say “I hate photos of myself.” I always have to stop them. Words have power and by saying that to the universe, you are already creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically you’re saying “No photo of me will ever be any good because, at the deep core, I don’t like the way I look.” Stop beating yourself up. Be kind to yourself. Everyone has their own unique beauty and gifts that they can share with the world. You just have to be authentic, see yourself for who you truly are, and be comfortable in your own skin. Don’t try to be something or someone else.
One thing I like to do when I shoot promotional photos for people who are a little nervous and not familiar being on set is to get them to move around. Some people can take amazing photos just standing there, but not all of us are made from the same mold. Adding movement to the shoot helps to loosen you up on camera. You’re less self conscious, and you create an opportunity for a little playful personality to come out. So instead of giving the camera “blue steel” on your next shoot, try walking, jumping, spinning around, even a slight hand gesture or headnod can add some soul and character to a seemingly static shot.
Play with perspective.
Another thing you can do for better photos is to play with perspective. Don’t think you always have to shoot at eye level. Ask your photographer to try different angles and perspectives. Try getting them to shoot from a high vantage point. They can also shoot from an extremely low angle to give you a dramatic perspective and make everyone look taller.
Don’t be too conscious of the camera.
You don’t have to look directly at the camera all the time. Look away, or give a profile. Turn your body so it’s not always squared straight to the camera. Let your guard down and have a little fun. The more you can show your inner self, the more of a heart-to-heart connection you can have with your audience.
Props can be something you put in your hands or even a piece of furniture. It helps if you have something to work with. For example, in the studio, I often employ the use of studio blocks. You can sit on them, lean on them, lay on them, put your foot up on them. If you’re a performer and you use props in your act, have them in your photos. Are you a magician? Throw cards up in the air! Make sure you have a super high shutter to stop motion and no cards are blocking your face. Are you a 17-piece Big Band? How about using a staircase to get everyone on different levels to capture everyone’s face?
Location, location, location
Choose a cool location to shoot in. Keep your eyes open for interesting walls, graffiti, textures, etc. These are all elements that can help capture the vibe and feeling you want to convey. Want a more organic feeling? Find a barn with wood floors and walls. Are you the heavy metal type? Abandoned buildings and old factories can be great locations to shoot. Be safe, and of course, don’t trespass. But always be aware and think about what is in your immediate environment that would be a great place to shoot.
Timing is everything.
Choose different times of the day to shoot. Early morning on a mountainside with mist coming off the ground can be an epic shot. But keep in mind you might have to be up before dawn in order to be dressed, with hair and makeup ready—in place and on time to make it happen. Not a morning person? How about shooting at night? The city looks different at nighttime, and even if the shot is lit only by street lights, the colors can be amazing and it can give you a moody, mysterious look.
Most importantly, have fun on your promo photoshoot. If you’re having a good time, the photos will convey your happiness and joy. So don’t be so serious all the time! Laugh and do something silly during the shoots. This will help you relax and be yourself in front of the camera.
Need more help with your photoshoot? I am available to shoot nationwide, and I also offer 1-hour consultations and advice on anything related to photos—from editing to retouching to art direction, and of course, actual photoshoots.
Visit Around Digital Media to view more photos and contact Becky Yee for your promotional photos.