How to take a great band photo and headshot

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In this excerpt from our new Press Kit Guide for Musicians, we address some key elements to getting a great band photo and headshot.

band press kit guide
Of course, to be successful in music, you need exceptional material. Work hard to write good songs and put on compelling performances and music lovers and critics might take notice. If your music is good enough – mixed with the right amount of exposure and luck – you can carve out a successful career.

Beyond songwriting, the fact is visuals really matter, so press photos and all your visual material shouldn’t be an afterthought. Enticing photos, videos, album art, and graphic design will go a long way toward getting attention and will help to establish your brand and get people to pay attention and listen to your music.

Consider the fact that your headshot or promo picture might be the first impression potential fans and the press will get of you. If the headshot: a) is a cliché (e.g. in front of a brick wall, along a train track, on a rooftop), b) looks unprofessional, or c) doesn’t successfully convey your brand, you might lose out on so many opportunities right off the bat. And when you’re trying to make your way in the music industry, you can’t afford to miss out on opportunities.

On the other hand, when your music photos support your lyrical message; music style; the content of your website, tweets, and emails; and help convey your message as an artist and your artist brand, then they are doing their job!

Find a photographer

how to take a great band photoOne key element to a great photograph is finding a photographer you can trust. That usually starts with finding a professional who is experienced in photographing music artists. That is not the same thing as having an acquaintance who purchased expensive camera equipment and has some time on her hands.

Hire a pro if you can afford it, someone who knows how to use the camera and lighting, and who can coach you to take your best shot. Do everything you can to help the photographer succeed.

Have a vision

Have a vision for what you’re trying to accomplish and communicate that to the photographer. If he or she is not already familiar with your music, send them a few tracks so they get a better idea of what your music sounds like and what you’re all about.

Some of the biggest prep work for a photo shoot is helping the photographer pre-visualize, which starts with you sharing what you think are good band/artist photos. Find 5-10 photos that you really love, even if you can’t articulate exactly why you love them, and get them to the photographer. The creative visualization process should also include scouting and determining locations and finding the right props and wardrobe ahead of the shoot.


Another key to taking good photographs is to learn to relax, and not put a lot of pressure on yourself to be a good subject. That is a large part of the photographer’s job, and a big reason why having someone with experience and with whom you are comfortable is of major importance. Keeping your mind and heart open to the photographer’s suggestions will help both of you get the most of the experience, and sometimes the best shots are the spontaneous moments in between the planned shots, and a good photographer will be ready for that.

But, as a general rule, plan out the shoot. Don’t leave it up to the heavens to have a great day of shooting. You have to brainstorm and conceptualize how you want to come across and how that translates to your background, clothing details, hair, makeup, and location.

A musician, writer, and marketer, Andre Calilhanna manages and edits the Disc Makers and BookBaby Blogs. Follow Andre on Twitter @dre_cal. Email him at

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About Andre Calilhanna

Andre Calilhanna is a drummer, vocalist, writer, editor, and all around music fan. He's also a golf "enthusiast," pianist-in-progress, and a below-average guitarist (thanks for asking). Contact him at

4 thoughts on “How to take a great band photo and headshot

  1. Pingback: A Musician's Guide to Instagram | Disc Makers Blog
  2. These are all excellent suggestions. But I will add that once you’ve planned out the shoot and on site or in the studio. Ham it up for the camera. Be who you are when you perform. Act like you are giving your best performance ever, even when you are simply posing and doing head shots. I amazed at home many great performers get in front of a camera and just freeze up! I’m always taking shots while people are prepping, between posed shots, when they don’t always know I’m taking shots. I often end up with the best photos of people acting natural and not being so self aware that they are in view of the camera.

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