Assignment Thirty One: Portrait of a Musician


This is an example of what we call a “press junket” shoot. A musician is ready to release an album in a few months, so they need some PR photographs to start to prime the marketing pumps and get the info out to the world. These are usually multi-day shoots, and can require as many as 20 – 30 different shots from the photographer. We are only asking for two.

TWO (and the setup shot)

The two images we want are what is described below and a second shot to compliment it.

The ‘portrait’ is to be used for commercial applications for the artist. From PR to web inserts, and there are a lot of them, this is the image he/she will be using for the next 6 months. It has to be special. It has to be interesting. And it has to be created with the knowledge of this use in mind.

Boring, ‘sitting there’ shots are not gonna work. Neither will one of them singing at a mic work… so ‘live performance’ shots are not allowed.

This is a shot that can be used to ‘sell’ the musician.

It should be something of a “personality” shot.

Questions to be answered:

  • Do they have to have an instrument with them?
  • Will they be posing with the instrument or will it be more of a ‘prop’? (if used at all)
  • Will the musician be smiling and warm or cold and aloof? (Different genres call for different approaches.)
  • Will the shot be in the studio in controlled lighting or outside with the ‘elements’ as part of the mood?
  • Does the genre of the music help determine the style of the shot?
  • Will you need any additional props to help the photograph along?
  • Will you need any special permits for a specific location?
  • What does that specific location bring to the photograph?

The photograph can be 3/4 to full, no headshots. The subject must be at least 40% of the shot, so this is not an environmental where the subject is only a tiny fraction of the shot.

The image can be vertical or horizontal. It can be in color or black and white and please, no text on the image (other than your name).

Some examples of interesting musician photographs to get you thinking out of the “headshot portrait” mode.


Additional Resources for this Assignment

Some notes and ideas for you on this assignment.

Photographers to take a look at:

Project 52 Pro and Alumni Rob Davidson. Rob specializes in classical musicians.

One of the greatest music photographers of all time, Jim Marshall. This will keep you busy.


Nick Pickles is a music photographer in London.

Jazz Drummers.

Opera Singers.

I nice collection of musician portraits.

How to Photograph Classical Musicians – an article.

Another article on photographing musicians.

Sometimes it is important to ask questions about the idea of the photograph, and then answer them with your image.

  1. What kind of instrument does the musician play? Is that important for this shot?
  2. What kind of music does the musician play? Is that important for this shot?
  3. Where does the musician normally perform? Is that important for any sort of context?
  4. Would juxtapositioning what is expected with the unexpected by an interesting visual play? (A rock drummer on the stage of the Met for instance.)
  5. Are there any specific cultural icons or memes that can help explain the musician to the audience?
  6. Who listens to this musician, and does that matter to the photograph?
  7. Is there a specific song that is important for this musician to align themselves to visually in your image?

I am sure you can think of others as well. It is the asking of these questions – to yourself and/or your subject, that can help you begin to create a visual roadmap to the image you want to create.

I am looking forward to seeing what you all come up with for this assignment. Make them KILLER!