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26 Tips for Shooting Musician and Band Photos with Jeremy Saffer

26 Tips for Shooting Musician and Band Photos with Jeremy Saffer

Posted by Sam Mallery on Jan 17th 2024

If you want to shoot portraits of a musician or a band, or if this is something you already do and you want to improve your skills, you're in the right place. Jeremy Saffer is a highly experienced music photographer, shooting heavy metal giants Alice Cooper, Metallica, Slayer, and Slipknot. He's also an amazing teacher. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of his workshops, we strongly recommend it. Not only will you learn a lot, Jeremy will likely train you to get specific shots with extremely limited time (which is often how it goes when shooting celebrities and musicians).

Jeremy recently put together a video that was titled "5 Tips on Music Photography with Jeremy Saffer," but when I watched it I quickly realized that almost every sentence out of his mouth was another super insightful and helpful tip. So I decided it would be fun to count all of his tips with this blog post. :)

Bucket of Tips #1: Preparation

1) Research the band you're going to shoot

2) Have an idea what they're going to look like 

3) Have an idea what you want to do with your lighting

4) Know the location where you're going to shoot

5) Figure out what other locations may be available for you to shoot in

6) If shooting in a venue, know when doors open and what areas you have access to

7) Ask someone who works at the venue what areas you can use for shooting

8) Prepare ahead of time and get fully set up

9) Be ready the moment the band arrives to take the most important shot

10) Make sure your most important shot is done before you move on to other things

Bucket of Tips #2: Direct the Band

11) Always tell the band what to do (chin up, turn this way, etc.) — they will appreciate it

12) Always show the band the "back of camera" so they can see the shots as you're working

13) Use their feedback from seeing the shots, if they're psyched, great, if not, adjust to their liking

14) Showing them the photos can potentially get the band to hire you for more jobs

15) Don't shy away from symmetrical poses (V shape, W shape, etc.), they're used often because they look great

Bucket of Tips #3: Camera Settings

16) Don't shoot with wide open aperture: for groups of 3 or more use f/4 or higher, for larger groups use f/8 or higher

17) At f/4 with larger groups, not everyone will be in focus

18) You can change up the look while you're shooting by adjusting the color temperature of your camera and lights

19) Try having your key lights and camera settings at 3000K and your back lights at 5600K

20) You can quickly switch your camera and lighting settings back to where they were to shoot more using either the NANLINK app or the WS-RC-C2 remote control

Bucket of Tips #4: Lighting

16) Rim lighting and backlighting can be very important, especially if the band is dressed in black clothing

17) Use continuous lighting as opposed to strobes, no test shots are needed so it's more efficient

18) Control the environment with your lighting, you may not be able to control your shooting area, but you can control your lights

19) Directional lighting with egg-crate grids and lighting from above your subjects gives you more control

Bucket of Tips #5: Composition

20) Sometimes you only get 30 seconds to 1 minute to shoot the band, even with this time constraint, spend some of your ultra-limited time posing the band so you get a good shot

21) If you're shooting for editorial (like a magazine), shoot a bit wider so the layout designer has room to move the photo around and space for text

22) When you shoot you want to get as much variety as possible in as short amount of time as possible

23) Never take the same shot twice, mix it up, move lights around, move the camera, etc.

24) Take a knee to get a shot looking up at the band so they look more epic

25) If possible, get solo shots of each band member

26) Have fun with it, you're probably a fan of photography and music fan, so enjoy the process

We're not done yet. If you want many more of these helpful buckets of tips on this subject, Jeremy also recently did a 1 hour and 18 minute live-stream about about shooting portraits of musicians:

Thanks for checking out this post! If you have any questions about the lighting gear Jeremy used in these videos, like the PavoTubes, please contact us and we will respond to you as quickly as possible.

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