Mike Coustic Albumcover Memories (Photo: F. Pratzner)
An album needs careful preliminary considerations for several reasons, which the artist and the photographer should meet together before the shooting:
The big question of which photos the artist would like to take should be asked before the preliminary talk, examples are best suited. Which 2 other albums look like the artist imagined. What kind of music he plays, and which songs are coming on the album and already has a name for it.
In our example, it's acoustic artist Mike Coustic with his album "Memories". His ideas were welcome, so for us as creative photographers, he wanted a classic acoustic cover and relied on us to decide what works. Some artists have an exact idea of their cover and see it before their very eyes. It is important to find out what the artist wants and what freedom he gives you. Every detail helps. Everything more detailed can be clarified in a personal preliminary discussion, which can last up to 2 hours. Depending on the type and extent of the shooting and the artist's previous knowledge.
Many photographers take the time to talk to their model, clarify any ambiguities and discuss sources of error before the shooting. Find out what the artist wants for photos. Then take the pictures. The most beautiful example for a shooting without preliminary talk is the famous propaganda photo of Winston Churchill. A man, a cigar. His photographer Yousuf Karsh, whose best photos were taken when he decided to go to Winston Churchill and take the cigar out of his mouth, one of the most powerful men in the world. Churchill's pure hatred for his photographer created Karsh's best photo and it was printed on millions of propaganda posters against the Nazis. Usually, horrible photos are taken if you disregard the model and his/her wishes, which is why the preliminary talk is so important.
A preliminary talk should include four points:
The common goals are the most important thing they want to achieve together, should it only be photos for the cover or is an offset print photo (on the music CD), flyer or poster required? This determines the extent, the work and duration of the shooting and what is essential is whether they might need an assistant for the lighting. It determines the complete plan for the shooting, when and where to meet each other to take pictures, what is needed and who will drive it there. I prefer controlled lighting environments for such shoots and like to work with blue or green Chroma-Key panels. If you want it cheaper you can also use a white wall. In the shooting with Mike Coustic I used a similarly warm background color, which brought the grain of his guitar to the effect. Do you know what it is?
A brown wooden door, similar to the other brown wooden doors in my workrooms.
Important are always the questions it works, and does it support the image statement? Think about it with your artist, which antics we take and how do they work and which ones he likes for his album. Encourage him and himself to think. Play with antics and objects such as doors. Get together communicatively and develop a common vision with sketch and farce to have a common goal. Feel free to use your hands and feet and exercise the antics you can imagine. I find a wooden mannequin especially useful, an anatomically correct, flexible and simple model of a human being, with which you can brainstorm wonderful poses for later shooting.
The next big step is to discuss the sources of error. It's the simple things, but worth mentioning for each model, wear whatever you want to wear on the album/photo, be well rested and fit and avoid flashy or conspicuous clothes or clothing features that attract attention. If you want to put a nude recording on the album, don't wear a bra, because otherwise you would have to wait until the clothing traces have disappeared from the skin. There are often no tragic mistakes, but everyone costs time in the image editing program or is visible afterwards and this has to be avoided by a short conversation. In this example with Mike Coustic I have hidden 3 of these errors, for help you can find the album cover next to it:
The flaws are the blue pants and the gigantic brown button under the chin. The trousers were removed by selecting the section on the cover while the button needed some image editing. The third mistake with the overlapping wooden doors also requires image processing, but this is the small price of some good ideas. Small mistakes, but a few minutes of work.
Finally, there is still to be clarified how everyone gets paid and how everyone can use the photos? Does the photographer always have to be named, is there a one-time payment or is a TimeForPrints/ Time4Pictures contract used? In any case, it should be signed in writing in duplicate. Then only the preparations for the shooting are missing.
Important are always the questions does it work and does it support the image statement? Think about it with your artist, which antics we take and how do they work and which ones he likes for his album. Encourage him and himself to think. Play with antics and objects such as doors. Get together communicatively and develop a common vision with sketch and farce to have a common goal. Feel free to use your hands and feet and exercise the antics you can imagine. I find a wooden mannequin especially useful, an anatomically correct, flexible and simple model of a human being, with which you can brainstorm wonderful poses for later shooting.
Afterwards, some final preparations are needed.
Prepare for the shooting!
Look at familiar similar albums, especially famous ones of the same musical genre, think about antics and possibly clothes and have a look at our chapter on portrait photography to recall the last nuances. Then they build everything up and test it as far as possible. There are two flashes with the appropriate colours. Then there are six essential things that you shouldn't forget, because a shooting lasts several hours.
Now it can start!
After a good chat with tea, coffee or something else, you can start talking about the newly conceived antics and let your artist start. With one of the antics he thought they started slowly. He just arrived by train/bus/car - let him arrive. After a long day, not everyone is immediately photogenic. A good conversation with a few jokes loosens the mood and that gives your artist a positive charisma and that's what we want especially for the cover.
Fun Fact: Being able to make good jokes is usually not in a photographer's job description or in courses on photography as a tip.
The technique should take a back seat during the shooting.
Laughing can look like making music, imagine that he had moved his hand to make it blurred and look like a movement in the photo. Then the photo would tell a little story. And couldn't they buy an album that gives the artist so much pleasure while playing himself?
Many good pictures were taken during this shooting. Thanks for the excellent cooperation to Mike Coustic. Soon I will extend this page with a page about the artwork of the album "Memories" and photos of the event down from 02.03.2018 will be the crowning finale of this photography series.
Author: Felix Pratzner
Translator: Felix Pratzner