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Insights Blog: Ten tips on press photos

By | Published on Wednesday 1 March 2017

Originally published to accompany the CMU Insights music media and PR seminar. 

There has always been a visual element to being in a band, but that is more true than ever before, given how much better photos and videos tend to perform on the social networks. Meanwhile, media continue to demand great pictures to accompany any coverage and, again, magazines and websites are increasingly looking for more photos than before.

Some media still commission their own photography, though only usually for key features, and many magazines and websites are now entirely reliant on photos provided by the band themselves, or their label and PR reps. Therefore, for new artists, it probably is worth spending a little money on a proper photo shoot, and then working with your photographer to get the best possible shots.

Remember that when you engage a photographer – even if you are paying them – you need to have a conversation about copyright. By default the copyright will belong to the photographer, but you need to be able to use the photos for marketing at least, on a worldwide basis, and possibly for merch too. You can secure these rights either by taking ownership of the copyright through assignment or by having the photographer grant you a wide-ranging licence.

But enough intellectual property, back to the photos themselves. Here are ten top tips for better press photos.

1. Make a number of different photos available
Long gone are the days when a photo shoot might result in a single ever-present band photo. For starters, you need a steady stream of pictures to share on the social networks. Plus online media increasingly include multiple photos alongside stories, or like to use different photos each time they report on you.

2. Think about what you stand in front of
An interesting backdrop can really make your photo stand out and add some colour. Though it might be worth considering also having a photo with a white backdrop – some print publications might want to ‘wrap’ their text around your bodies and having a photo where it’s easy to Photoshop out the backdrop is useful.

3. If possible, provide a landscape, portrait and square photo
Some website designs require photos to be a certain shape, and if they need it portrait or square and you’ve provided landscape, whoever’s on the peripheries of the photo (it’s probably going to be the drummer and bassist, isn’t it?) will likely get cut off.

4. Get closer
It’s good to have a couple of photos which are close up on your faces and a couple which show your full bodies, giving the media more flexibility in how they use your pictures.

5. Keep it simple
Putting arty effects on photos – or having composite pictures made up of a number of photos – may look great on your website and social networks, but media will generally prefer straight band shots. So make sure you get some more conventional pictures out of your photo shoot.

6. Colour photos please
The web is full colour, in case you hadn’t noticed, and most print mags are rather colourful too. Black and white photos might look more arty, and are fine for your own web presence, but make sure you have colour photos available for everyone else to use.

7. Once you have your great photos, make them available in as many places as possible
Have a section on your website for press photos and make them available in the photos tab on your Facebook profile too. Make your press photos really easy to find, and don’t put them behind a password.

8. Clearly label press photos as PRESS PHOTOS
Make sure media know they can use your press photos without any copyright issues. It’s also useful to state the month and year they were taken, perhaps in the file name, so journalists can see which are the most recent.

9. Make high resolution photos available 
It used to be that only print media needed high res photos (300dpi) while online titles were happy with low res (72dpi). But technological developments mean online publications increasingly need higher quality photos too – so make them available that way. Media can always reduce resolution, but they can’t increase it.

10. Provide links to photos rather than emailing them
This is especially important as media increasingly need higher res photos – don’t attach an assortment of big files to emails. Provide links to where people can download them – whether that’s from your website or a Dropbox folder or similar. Though don’t use a WeTransfer type service where files disappear after a time – media have a habit of ignoring everything you send them for months, and then suddenly needing them RIGHT NOW.

For more details on the CMU Insights seminars and masterclasses click here. For more information on our in-house training services click here.