Artist Press Shots – The good, the bad and the ugly
Updated: Jun 24
Artist press shots are a vital component in the branding of emerging artists, communicating an important first impression of your artist identity to audiences and contacts within the industry. We take a look at why it’s worth investing your time and energy into getting the best possible photos for your EPK.
Authenticity & Identity
Press shots provide a unique snapshot into your identity as a producer or DJ, as such they can pack a real punch when it comes to delivering an authentic message about what you stand for as an artist. It’s established that having a compelling narrative is one of the most effective ways of generating engagement and your press pictures should therefore be carefully considered. Begin by assessing your core values as an artist? What aesthetic are you trying to communicate through your music and how do you think this would translate visually? if you have a press kit revisit this or consider what your visual identity is by looking at any branding you already have. Avoid following photographic trends for the sake of it. We have seen enough moody techno portraits next to decaying warehouses to last us a lifetime. If you want to stand out, think differently. If frowning, dressing in black and staring menacingly into the camera doesn’t reflect you, then avoid these well-worn cliches. Instead have fun and express your personality. Remember you are stepping into a version of yourself, don’t be afraid to experiment and let yourself go. Too much contrivance can be easy to spot but authenticity and self-expression shine through.
What’s Your Vision?
Having a clear vision before you go to a shoot whether it be a professional or amateur one is critical. In the case of a professional, time is money and setting out a plan in advance can help things run smoothly. Do your research on the types of shot you like, curate photographs from artists you feel may have similarities to yourself and like the feel of. Creating mood boards and sharing them with the photographer in a collaborative approach can help you build an understanding of what is achievable and yield better results. Once you are ready…. get going and get creative.
Consistency & Coherency
When taking a series of photographs aim for consistency across the shots. This can be achieved by restricting the colour palette to certain key colours or having visual motifs that reappear in all the shots. Alternatively consider a particular filter or lighting option that ties the shots together. This helps build brand coherency and will give the shots a more professional unified feel.
Clothes, Props & Location
Branded clothes can go out of fashion and date quickly, so to stop a fashion faux-pas, you may wish to avoid these. Similarly, props can be fun and visually engaging but need to be relevant and on point. If you thrive using modular gear and analog equipment then perhaps playfully include a piece in some pictures. However, just sticking a 303 in shot for the sake of it serves no purpose and will have no relevance to your narrative. The locations should match the vibe of your music or a concept. Delving into organic house, then experiment with natural textures and scenes. Is futuristic electro your trademark? Then modern urban setting may be more appropriate. Nowadays, high quality artists shots are less uniform with locations so consider a variety of options that are connected to your sound.
Variety & Usability
A quick tip passed on to me by a professional photographer was to always bring a range of clothes and use several locations for a shoot. This makes your shots go further and gives them longevity. We are aiming to achieve the impression that they were not all taken in one shoot. Additionally, get some shots done against a plain background to allow for cropping easily by labels and designers. A professional photographer will have a background but you may have to improvise to find somewhere that provides this ‘blank canvas’. Consistency is key so select your most effective portrait shot and stick to it across all platforms. Once you have a bank of portraits move on to some wider angle shots for use on banners and experiment with close ups, low angles and high angles to meet all your promotional needs. You can check out the link at the bottom of this article for a social media image sizes guide cheat sheet and remember keep some full quality DPI versions for use in printed media.
Consider Going Pro
My final tip is to consider hiring a professional. Whilst this may seem like an unnecessary expense you should consider it an investment for the future. A professional will know how to maximise the shots you take and achieve many of the looks that appeal to you. If you can’t afford this, then seek out a friend who has a decent camera or use a high quality phone camera. Finally, experiment with lots of shots then whittle your portfolio down to just five to ten key shots to be slotted into to your EPK. Less is more in the end and these key shots (if done right) should be a powerful asset in your branding as a professional artist.