Oct 222013


We’ve discussed the importance of a band’s LOOK. There are the Winners. And there are the Losers:


Granted, we can’t all be fetching, but we can choose our art director carefully. Let those photos serve as cautionary images for The Bearded Set, The Wee Precious Ones, Those With Suspenders, or Anyone Playing a Mandolin.

While it’s easy to scoff at many of these photos (and laugh at the captions), is it easier to determine what makes a GOOD band photo?


  15 Responses to “Your Face”

  1. ladymisskirroyale

    Ha, Mod and I had the same idea – some of you have already reviewed Indie Musician Photos.

    While we can agree that many of these photos are preposterous, I think their main issue is earnestness. But aren’t most young musicians (and some old ones?) super invested in getting a certain feeling/mood across and that earnestness bleeds through.

    Are black and white photos better? What if the band members smile?

    I’m interested in your thoughts…

  2. I’ve finally got a minute to share my thoughts.

    For starters, it helps if the band members are presented with some kind of group identity, but it usually needs to be natural, or else very artfully composed through some device, like costumes or props. I don’t know if there’s some magic formula for bands composed of people who look like they belong together or if they really do belong together and look that way as a result.

    Too often bands try to force that group identity or, as is seen in so many band photos we laugh at, adopt the group identity of another group. I recall a day in 1987, when our band went out to the woods with a camera-wielding friends and tried like hell to adopt some joint group identity of The Band, on their sepia-toned second album, and Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, on that fish-eye lens shot on Safe as Milk. We tried to mix in a little fish-eye image from the inside sleeve of some Steely Dan album to boot. The photos sucked. I ended up hating getting my picture taken more than usual. There were 2 benefits to this disaster of a day: 1) we ended up painting “rustic” paintings on instruments for the cover art instead of using a band photo and 2) I had such a lousy day during that photo shoot, for which a bandmate and I polished off a bottle of vodka, that it would be my last day drinking alcohol. (The failed photo shoot isn’t really the reason I stopped drinking, but it couldn’t have hurt!)

    The photographer makes a tremendous difference in any photo shoot, be it a band or a family portrait. The best pictures I’ve ever had taken of me and my music friends were at the hands of photographers who let us feel comfortable and be ourselves. To me that was all the difference in us looking like we belonged together in a photo. I wonder how many of those laughable indie rock band photos are the result of obtrusive photographers.

  3. This is as excellent topic — the default for a lot of bands seems to be lets “put ’em in front of a brick wall.” That actually can work, but it’s way easier to take bad photos than good ones.

    Speaking for my teenage self, LOOK was way more important to me then than now — some of my favorites of the era Pretenders, Clash, Replacements, even Petty & the Heartbreakers on “You’re Gonna Get It” could take good band pix. Springsteen always did good tough guy covers. Mellencamp tried. I always liked Linda Rondstadt photo covers in the 70s.

    I am sure it’s because I’m old, but there seem to be fewer iconic photo covers and band photos now — when you’re looking at a little square on iTunes or Amazon it’s hard to have that emotional connection. For most bands now, it seems like it’s old fashioned to put yourself on an album cover. Am I wrong?

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    “I wonder how many of those laughable indie rock band photos are the result of obtrusive photographers” – very good point. Or, in the case of larger, more successful bands, the A and R department. Have any big name artists ‘fessed up on this issue?

  5. ladymisskirroyale

    Touche, funoka!

    I like some of the current album art; some of it includes animated group/artist photos and for some reason, those can seem a little less pretentious.

    Or you could go the way of Gorrilaz and just create avatars for yourself as a way to change up your look!

  6. 2000 Man

    I think The Stones are pretty photogenic. The cover of No. 2 is really great – http://www.popsike.com/pix/20051229/4813273301.jpg and the UK Out of Our Heads/US December’s Children cover is a really good one, too – http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_wdDVA97bI_E/THADQ5n9qeI/AAAAAAAAAmk/mdZIUKlJkoU/s1600/the_rolling_stones_decembers_children_2006_retail_cd-front.jpg

    I THOUGHT tHE fLAMIN’ gROOVIES TOOK GOOD PICTURES, TOO – http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-gPLfSqz76HU/UVENZk3fx6I/AAAAAAAAGSc/cJ0Pkx9EYqc/s1600/shake+group+pic.jpg

  7. Right — artists as art! Kings of Leon kind of did that on their first album.

    Drawings/art of the band can be cool — “Revolver” or kind of stupid like the first Foreigner album.

    And then there’s this:

  8. BigSteve

    No brick was has felt safe since this iconic photo was turned into the first Ramones Lp cover:


  9. misterioso

    You are not wrong. Especially about those Linda Ronstadt covers.

  10. Sparks have good covers, I think.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    Ha, I’d forgotten about that; another album from my collection.

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Yes, but what makes those good? Is it the attitude? The black and white photography? The fashion?

  13. ladymisskirroyale

    Yup, that certainly captured their essence (eau du dirty denim?)

  14. ladymisskirroyale

    Silly yet evocative. Sort of like Devo’s covers.

  15. 2000 Man

    I think it’s all of those. Both of those bands play the same kind of music, for the most part, and that’s loud, riffing guitars. The Stones were working on creating that initial look and attitude, and The Flamin’ Groovies by the time of the picture I chose were a little more Beatle-y, but that picture definitely implies their roots. I can just look at those pictures, and I know I probably like those bands. So I think it’s the attitude and the fashion. I’ll toss in the fashion because I know very little about that, but I’m sure it works on me like it does everyone else, I just don’t know or care why.

    Then I look at these guys – http://www.thescrib.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/nickelback1.jpg

    And I wouldn’t know they were Nickleback without someone telling me, but Where I’d buy that Stones No. 2 album on the cover (with no writing on it) alone, I’d never do that with these guys. I would absolutely have to listen to them first, because they look like what my son calls “Bro’s.”

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