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If you dream of having unbridled creative freedom, shooting musicians can be the best gig you’ll ever get. If a musical artist has poor publicity photos, it makes them look second-rate. Images that convey an artist’s style and personality have the ability to engage fans beyond their music.

Why Choose a Professional Photographer?

Artists are typically on a tight budget. To persuade you clients that your fee is worth the investment, here are some good selling points:

  • Every photographer has their own unique style and finding an artist who compliments yours is a golden opportunity. Since you are a professional, instill in clients that you’ll be able to consistently be able to execute your style.
  • Tell them you understand their artistic vision for the shoot. Ask them to give you tear sheets of images where they like the lighting, angles, and poses. 
  • Be sure to have a clear understanding of where they will be using the images.

Have a Clear Vision of Their Artistic Style

If your clients aren’t clear about who they are as an artist, have them craft a biography. This will help to generate ideas for the shoot. Encourage them to hire a publicist to assist with this.

Lighting Set-ups


Musician portraiture will allow you to get a little more radical with your lighting. Try gels on your studio lights, a warming gold reflector board  or a gold lined umbrella. You can also diffuse the lights for some interesting affects with honeycomb softboxes and grid spots.

Another concept is to keep it simple and low-cost with seamless paper. Try some hi-key shots using a bright white such as Pure White and have the artist dress in all light colors. Alternatively you can use some vivid seamless colors like Tangelo and Primary Red to really make the image pop. 

Available Light

Many clients will request to go on location for the shoot. Lighting can change drastically throughout the day. It’s best to work in the early mornings or late afternoons to achieve a soft natural light that can be mixed with studio lights if needed. 

One of my favorite looks is to take a classic hand-painted muslin background outdoors to add rich visual texture to photos that need that something little extra.

Post Production Enhancement

Utilizing Photoshop tools can help convey a mood and further enhance your images with the artist’s personality. Try adding textured layers and bump up color saturation or contrast.

Shooting Promotional Photography for Musicians

Choosing Wardrobe

Outfits need to translate well on camera. When choosing what to wear for the shoot, remember that details matter. Don’t let them wear uncomfortable or distracting clothing.

Working with a Stylist

If you have the budget or are looking to create some quality images to add to your portfolio, you may want to think about hiring a professional stylist. This will take one more task off your plate and ease your mind so that you are not leaving the fate of the wardrobe in the hands of the artists. (They are musicians after all first and foremost.)

Tips for Copyrighting Images

Copyright is extremely important with this type of photography. After all, you’ll never know if the artist will hit it big and then your photos will be much sought after as portraits from “the early years.

  • Purchase copyright outright. This will allow the artist to use any and all images without your permission. This could end up being a huge income loss down the road. This is like a “work-for-hire” and benefits the artist the most.
  • Per-use license for each image. Each time an image is needed, the artist must contact you. This allows you to adjust the rate according to the scope of where the image will be used and is highly recommended.

Preparing Images for the Press

Remember you’ll want to have versions of all images that look good in both print and online.


You should always send high images for print publications. For example, a 600-pixel by 600-pixel image at 300dpi will print at 2 inches by 2 inches. Be prepared with uncompressed TIFF files for print.


JPEGs are best for the web. The best practice is to send images that print to 4”x6”, which are at least 1200×1800 pixels.

Remember – every press opportunity is a chance for your clients to reach new fans, so make the most of the shoots for your client. Set aside an entire day for your shoot so you don’t stress out about being on time and have fun!

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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