Against Promotional Band Photographs


Bands want an audience. For better or worse, in the 21st century it’s more likely that potential fans will see an image of a band before they hear their music, and make a preconceived judgment of if they will like them or not accordingly. Therefore, it’s important for bands to have quality photographs to lure in new listeners. The problem is that a lot of band photographs are boring and predictable. At some point, certain categories were established and now most musical groups follow suit like a heard of cattle. It doesn’t matter if the band is well-established or just scheduling their first practice — all bands are susceptible to producing these cliched images.

Since we don’t expect musicians to be virtuosos in every medium, we thought we’d take a critical look at 5 categories of band photography so that other up and coming acts can break out of the formula. Take a look after the jump.

1. The Disinterested Photograph (aka. “The Just-take-the-picture-already-because-we’re-way-above-this”)

This genre of promotional band photographs is the most common. Since it looks bad to be eager about your own music, it’s better to feign humility. The members hope their lack of care and cool persona will stir up interest in the viewer. This strategy is often referred to as “reverse psychology.”

2. The Tough-Guy Photograph (aka. “The Listen-to-us-only-if-you-think-you-can-handle-it”)

If the first details you notice are sunglasses, crossed arms, tilted heads, and stoic facial expressions, you’re looking at a Tough-Guy Photograph. The intention is to slightly intimidate the viewer, but not enough to scare him away. The members hope to gain respect by projecting the message that whatever horrible thing you’ve seen, they’ve seen worse.

3. The Quirky Photograph (aka. “The Everyone-look-into-the-camera-except-for-one”) Another staple in the land of promotional photography. Although it doesn’t look like it, these images are the result of group effort. As the title implies, every member gazes into the camera save one. The remaining member is either looking at another member or at something out of frame. The desired effect is that the viewer believes this band has mystery, soul, and just something more to offer than a plain, ordinary band whose members all look at the camera.

4. The Leader Photograph (aka. “The Main-guy-in-front-band-in-the-back”)

Not everyone is equal. This is true in both life and the music industry. Rocking out is about creative freedom and letting the most talented rise to the top. It’s free of any communist agenda. These photographs simply reflect how it is.

5. The Field Photograph (aka. “The It-beats-standing-in-front-of-a-brick-wall)

These photographs work mainly as a metaphor for the band’s sound: free spirited and in-tune with nature. Music is a primitive art, isn’t it? The spacious landscape also carries connotations of the band being open to try new things in their music — just perhaps not in their press photography.