A varied range of visually appealing and intriguing photos can give you a huge advantage in the world of classical music marketing and public relations. Whether it’s press coverage success, social media impact or eye-popping advertisements, the old adage “a picture says a thousand words” rings true across the board. The importance of quality artwork was drilled into me from my early training and it remains, to this day, one of the first items on the agenda with all my clients.
Consider the musical repertoire in your own personal collection. You undoubtedly own diverse works of contrasting styles and mood to suit every event, be it weddings, recitals, church services or educational outreach concerts. Your photo options should be no different.
If you can build a solid photo library, I guarantee that you will stand out from the crowd for one very simple reason:
There are just too few classical musicians and arts organizations that have REALLY great artwork.
Gain leverage over the rest by following the following four simple but crucial elements.
1. Relegate your headshots
There is still a place for the traditional headshot but it should no longer be your primary objective in a photo shoot, nor your go-to option. Although a headshot may capture the finer aspects of your charming, smiling face, it expresses little else. No story. No emotion. No personality.
Furthermore, the industry is completely saturated with headshots. You need to be the exception.
The same concept applies to performance. You might play flawlessly in the final of a solo competition but if every other candidate displays the same indistinguishable technical fluency, which person will the panel favor? The winner will undoubtedly be the one that is more daring, expressive and unique.
2. Reflect yourself accurately
This might seem obvious but your photos need to look like…well…you.
Photoshop can be useful in post-production when you spot that disastrous chocolate stain on your bright white shirt or you developed a bright red pimple on your nose the morning of your shoot. But too often, its power is used a little too liberally.
Be honest with your audience and show authenticity. The hot industry topic these days centers around the breaking down of barriers between musicians and their audiences. Your photos and visual materials are one of many examples of this idea. You will form a stronger bond by appearing as a regular, honest and accessible human being.
On a somewhat similar note, unless you’re Dorian Gray, it might also be time to relegate those photos from well over a decade ago…
3. Be compelling and unique
Action shots are one of the most successful photo types for press coverage and increase the likelihood of your event running in curated calendar listings and event highlights. These types of photos are visually appealing because they evoke the concert experience while conveying emotion and passion.
Candid action shots taken during a performances or rehearsal often yield the most natural results but these can also be staged. A savvy photographer can capture these moments.
Try staging all sorts of wild and wonderful poses even if it seems silly or unnatural. My most successful photo (credit the wonderful and talented Kristen Loken) was taken on top of a San Francisco hill, overlooking the stunning city skyline, wearing non-traditional concert attire and playing the clarinet like an over-eager Benny Goodman. The process felt ridiculous but the resulting photo was invaluable and ended up earning lots of press coverage, despite the fact that I was essentially a nobody.
Let loose during your photo shoot with the aid of a fun and friendly photographer and you will likely gain a few unique and compelling options.
Besides the creative aspects of your artwork, there are a few important fundamentals to cover. This will make life much easier for those requesting and using your materials, whether its members of the media, publicists and marketers (hello!) or any organizations that you work with.
Caption and Credit – Within the file name of your photo, include your full name, and additional caption (location/event, ensemble name, additional musicians, if required.), along with a credit to the photographer (their name or business name). It’s not enough to just list this information on the website next to your photos.
High Resolution – If your artwork will be printed on hard copy materials (brochures, posters, newspapers, magazines) then you will need high resolution photos. Truthfully, it’s a confusing matter when it comes to DPI (dots per inch) requirements and you can learn more about the mathematics behind it here. I err on the side of caution by aiming for a photo that is in the region of 1mb and 300 dpi. It has never failed me yet. If your photos don’t meet this requirement, check with your photographer for the original file.
Resize Images - This is both practical and a general courtesy to others. As mentioned above, 1mb is a good-sized image to send by email that doesn’t clog inboxes. You can share larger images using Dropbox or Google Drive but it’s nice to make the process as simple as possible for the recipient with as a fewer clicks as possible (especially for press, who have limited time as it is). If you make their life easy, they will surely remember you as a great, professional person to work with.