When it comes to band photos, some images really stick out. It’s those really interesting, creative ones and the ones that are so simple that your full attention is drawn to the main subject - the band. Unfortunately it’s easy for any band to fall into the cliché trap. What I mean by that is that there are certain types of band photos that seem to show up time and time again and have done so over the past five decades, regardless of musical genre or fashion style. If you really want to stand out then you need to come up with something vibrant and new or simply remember that it’s not about where you are but who you are as an artist or band. To help you out I’ve identified 10 band photo clichés to avoid like the medieval plaque.
1. Train Tracks
Unless you’re into some serious south-of-the-border bluegrass and have your banjos primed, avoid the stereotypical train track photo at all costs. And even then…don’t do it. It’s probably the number one band photo cliché and if you want to set yourself apart from the rest, well, I’m sure you can come up with something more interesting than standing on a railroad, guitar in hand, looking into the distance…you get the picture.
2. Brick Walls
I’m not sure if magnetism is involved but bands seem to be attracted to having their photo taken in front of them. You’ve all seen those shots - band members leisurely leaning against the brick wall, one foot propped up against it, looking into the distance…there it is again, the ‘looking into the distance’ bit. I guess we’ll be talking about that later. For now, avoid brick walls. AVOID, AVOID, AVOID
3. The Woods
Here’s the problem with bands posing in the woods; busy backgrounds. Do you really want the focus to be taken away from the most important thing in the picture (you) and distract the viewer with a super-busy background? If so go ahead and sit on a tree in the middle of the woods surrounded by foliage, ferns and foraging animals. Speaking of busy backgrounds, this leads us on to the next cliché.
4. Derelict Buildings
Derelict buildings, demolished walls, old factories. I was going to say, ‘unless you’re a hardcore metal band from the 80s’, but you know what? Even then, avoid derelict buildings like the black death itself. Again, busy backgrounds don’t do anything but distract the viewer. Keep it simple but interesting and the derelict chic thing has been overdone a billion times since Zoolander.
5. Looking into the Distance
Another thing you see a lot in band photos is the ‘looking into the distance’ or off-camera glance. That’s a great way to look totally disinterested in what’s happening and disconnect with the viewer (possibly your next agent, manager or producer). It’s not arty and it’s definitely not cool so try and look at the lens if you want to connect with your audience.
6. Holding random items
What is up with that? Holding random items that don’t relate to who you are or what you do is not creative, arty or in any way interesting. It distracts when what you really want to do is channel the viewers attention towards you, the band. Oh, and please don’t let the drummer hold a snare drum - I know it should make sense but it is really lame. REALLY LAME!
7. The Zebra Crossing
There are only two bands that have made walking across zebra crossings work - The Beatles and the other one wore socks. It’s an iconic image and therein lies the problem: you’ll be compared to them every time. Avoid recreating other iconic band photos (Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody comes to mind) - it’ll always make you look like a cheap knock off and shows you can’t come up with anything interesting yourself. Boring.
8. The Fish Eye
Doing fish eye shots was the BIG thing to do in the 90s and granted, there are some famous band photos using this technique. However, just like everything that’s overdone, try and come up with something that makes you stand out as a band. You’re probably working really hard to make your music unique - don’t skimp on your band photos.
9. Standing in a V
Yep, standing in a V shape with the lead singer in front seems to be the default position for 5-piece bands. Just like the Fish Eye it’s been done, done and done again. If I had a penny for every time I’ve seen one of those I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now - I’d be sipping Bacardi in the Caribbean or possibly somewhere else with a poolside bar, sun loungers and complimentary drinks vouchers. Don’t go there, stay away from the V.
10. LSS - Lead Singer Syndrome
Remember the lead singer in front and all the other band members blurry, out of focus or partially blocked in the background? When that’s happening you know that the solo album is just around the corner. I’m fully aware that just about every lead singer thinks they are at the centre of the known universe but trust me, unless you really want to set off your singer’s solo career, don’t do it - and yes, it’s called a band photo!
Did I miss any clichés? If you can think of any that I didn’t mention then let me know in the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you.