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Headshots/Photographs for Musicians

Headshots for musicians are an important promotional tool.  They create an instant impression of you as a working musician.  A headshot should communicate that the artist is pleasant, fun and professional. However, just as a photo can say good things about you, it can also create a negative image portraying you as distant, amateur and boring.  Having a successful headshot will make a good strong impression and connect with the audience, employer, or auditioner on an individual level.

Who Should Have a Photo?

If you care about getting press coverage you should care about having a photo. A well-written bio or press release with a headshot is more likely to get published than without.

The standard headshot is an 8X10 glossy or matte, black and white or color picture. Don’t forget, although it is called a headshot, instrumentalists need to include more than their head (Instrument!) For vocalists headshots are a necessity for most auditions and competitions. For instrumentalists, they will be the most important when doing a lot of solo work. Concert presenters absolutely expect you to have your headshot on hand.

Choosing a Photographer

Ask others who they have used including friends, teachers, and advisors. Ask to see their headshots and when you find one you like get the photographer's name and information. 

Questions to Ask a Photographer

  • Ask to see their portfolio
  • Find out who they regularly photograph
    • Find someone who photographs musicians in your genre
  • Basic fee
    • Ask what is included in the basic fee
    • Hidden costs can add up so be sure to ask to avoid misunderstanding and confusion
      • How many shots (film charges)
      • Amount of finished 8X10’s
      • Charge for extra 8X10’s
      • Length of shoot
      • Retouching included?
      • Who keeps negatives?
      • Hair/make-up recommendations
      • What if I don’t like my shots?
  • How a session is run - Good photographers should ask you what image you want to portray, the repertoire you perform, and how you are planning to use the photos.
  • Number of pictures per session - Should be a minimum of 100, but 150 or more is best. The more they take the better your chances of finding the best shots on the contact sheets. 

The Day of the Shoot

Once you have decided the type of shots you need and have chosen a photographer, it is now time to make choices about jewelry, clothes, hair and make-up for the shoot. Have ideas about mood and style, and lighting considerations.

  • If you are doing a single-photo shoot, it is always safest to choose a light background.
  • Many prefer to look directly into the lens, as your eyes are your most crucial feature!
  • Consider having both a formal and informal photo. Everyone needs the basic black and white 8X10 glossy or matte finish concert dress headshot, but if you have some less formal photographs they can be helpful for other PR purposes.
  • Your photo should represent you now, and be as recent as possible.

Other Appearance Considerations

Remember you are trying to make an impact on someone and a headshot is a part of your overall marketing strategy. Do you want your look to be commercial, casual, formal? 

Choose three different types of outfits, two formal and one semi-casual. Solid colors are best. Bright colors in black and white will be seen as grays. Don’t overdo the make-up. The person in the photo should match the “you” presented on stage. Wear a minimum amount of jewelry and don’t wear a watch.

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