Music Photography and Industry Tips by Los Angeles Musician Photographer Mark Maryanovich 

“Great stuff Mark. I am always telling artists how important their images are. Today a great photo may be the only reason your music gets heard.”

Barry Coffing
Founder/CEO WeGet Artists

“Good photography and artwork is an important aspect of a music artist's online look. Since logos and photos are the first things people see when viewing an artist's sites, it's that first impression that could be the difference between looking further at the artist and moving on to the next one.”

Kevin Dunham
Band Manager/Promoter

Mark’s number one tip for anyone who wants to sustainably succeed as either a photographer or musician is to take a business course. All the info you need to build your empire is only a Google away. In the meantime, we’ve compiled some tips, info and stats on the impact visuals can have, we hope you might find them helpful.

TriCity Villains
Photographed in
Halifax, Nova Scotia

“We thought of you tonight and took your advice … This isn’t the first time we’ve taken your advice and it’s worked out for us. So glad we met you and had a chance to work with you. Hope to do it again someday. You’re the man.”

Steve Cole

Regional Musician magazine published some tips for a successful photo shoot Mark compiled over his career as a music photographer:

• When prepping for an upcoming shoot, sometimes a good place to start is by looking at other photos and album covers to see what you like. Having verbal discussions with band members, your team and the photographer to make sure everyone’s on the same page and after the same outcome is key. Having a cohesive style and image that all involved are happy with presenting is important

• Try to avoid getting a haircut or doing anything that radically changes your appearance just before the shoot in case you’re not happy with it

• Always bring lots of options when it comes to clothing and accessories to the shoot, more is always better than less; if it’s a band shoot, each member should bring as many options as possible, and be open to the possibility of lending a piece of clothing to a band mate for the session

• In terms of clothing, generally solid colors work best, no patterns or logos. I usually try to stay away from purple, as I find it tends to cause unflattering skin tones. Black is always great and really highlights the face, which should be the first thing someone sees in the photos

• When photographing bands, it’s nice when things coordinate in terms of color and style, so lots of different colors can also work great, as long as they don’t clash

• Keep in mind that fit is the most important thing. How clothes hang is more important than the actual garment itself

 • Also, bring stuff you’re comfortable wearing, and what you wear on stage. The photos want to accurately represent who your fans will be seeing when they come to your shows

• When wearing makeup and planning on makeup changes, it’s best to start with a light application. It’s always easier and more time efficient to apply more, than to take away or start over if the makeup is looking too heavy in the photos

• Bring your instrument if you play one and it’s possible, along with a cool case (worn, weathered, with stickers, etc.) if you have

• Being on time really helps the photographer do the best job possible: having all band members present and ready when the light is perfect is a great way to start the shoot

• Coming to the shoot with good energy and an open mind can make for incredible photos, because you never know what’s going to work

“Hi Mark, The pics are unbelievable. They capture an energy. You are so talented, it’s unbelievable. So glad you found me! These pictures are really going to get my music career a huge boost. The next level. Makes me look like a Rock Star. People absolutely love my pictures! They have really helped me in the last year, Thank you so much.”

Kevin Estrella
Photographed in
Scarborough, Ontario

• When playing, buy the sound person a drink and make sure he or she is well taken care of. These people should be your new best friends, they sometimes have a thankless job, so make sure you genuinely appreciate how much they can do to help you

• I love providing my clients with tons of ammunition to promote themselves. Make sure you hold back a few of your favorite photos for exclusive use for magazines and press. Journalists and publications are much more attracted to stories they can run with photos that no one has ever seen before. Knowing this, I make sure to compose photos that are suitable for magazine covers and features, leaving room for text in a creative negative space

• Maximize your single/album release by putting a long term strategy into play that builds momentum. Post different links and pictures with different Calls To Action across your social media Platforms

• Be creative in your posts, e.g., create a series of images that encapsulate song titles, lyrics or themes. Over time, release them across your social media platforms to keep you in your fans’ feeds while capturing their attention in new ways  

• Marketing and branding are extremely important these days. You have the potential to directly reach your fans and audience, and creating a themed visual campaign can be a great way to garner a lot of attention. A series of posters, cards, flyers and online visuals that feature compelling and mysterious imagery can draw attention when posted online and around town. Post a second series with more info about your band/release after a few weeks, which visually ties into your first campaign. Whether you decide to tie in a mystery to solve or not, creating a themed ad campaign that’s compelling to potential fans can ignite curiosity and interest   

• Promote your promotion rather than relying solely on one Album/Single Release Party. Consider throwing an event to promote the fact that you are beginning to promote your release. By hosting a (maybe) small party for bloggers, tastemakers and fans prior to the actual release, you are maximizing your chances of success once your album drops. It’s all about hyping the release, you only get to release a project once   

• In today’s marketplace, captivating images are more important than ever, not only for when projects are launched, even more importantly between releases to keep your fans and audience engaged. Consider planning promotional ideas between releases, such as a series of visuals that present a new aspect of your brand, or are centered around an interesting theme such as what you like to do between making albums

• Consider the fact that most modern computer, tablet, smart phone and even car owners don’t have the capabilities to listen to your CD, their devices/automobiles don’t play Compact Discs. Once accepted, this is an incredibly freeing and exciting opportunity to exercise your creativity while saving money by not manufacturing plastic circles that no one can listen to anymore. Download codes are today’s method of distribution, think creatively as to how you can package yours, the options are almost endless. Compelling visuals containing the code can be designed to attract consumers. I’ll always be a fan of the album and album art, and many true music fans still have and add to their vinyl collections

“BTW Turkwaz was nominated for a Juno in the World Music category this year… our press photos were the best :-) travel well!”

Brenna MacCrimmon
Photographed in
Toronto, Ontario

Studies show how visuals drive impulse purchases

• Only 10% of people are likely to remember info they see three days later; When paired with an image, recall climbs to 65%

• An illustrated text is 9% more effective than text alone when testing immediate comprehension

• 90% of info transmitted to the brain is visual • Our eyes can register 36,000 visual messages per hour

• Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text

• Consumers are drawn to exceptional visual merchandising built around well crafted visual elements that engage and speak to the shopper in a fraction of a second of eye contact: What is new? What is cool?

The New Electric
Photographed in
Los Angeles, California

“Hey Mark! Kyle, from The New Electric writing you ;) I just wanted to send you a personal thank you. Your photos are unbelievably sick brother and have touched a lot of people already. Thank you for sharing your talent with us. Hope to see you soon.”

Kyle McKearney
Lead Singer

A study by researchers at Indiana University provides an in depth dissertation on the science behind capturing shoppers’ attention:

 • When considering shoppers’ goals around visual merchandising, special allocation and other environmental conditions, it is the detailed adjustments in a product’s presentation and message that have a powerful impact on engagement and purchasing

• Smart, easy to translate visual identifiers capture and hold the retention of shoppers, while more confusing visuals that are harder to process are translated and involuntarily dismissed by the brain as distractors, or visual “noise”

• When a shopper clearly receives a message within a visual, it triggers a level of confidence that overrides processing an evaluation of what is actually being communicated: Clarity provides a comfort level of certainty that translates to the brand relationship

• This level of confidence and comfort crosses all visual solutions, whether captivating window graphics, traditional store signage and fixtures, lightboxes, digital signage or motion graphics

• The addition of just one on premise sign at a fast food restaurant resulted in a 4.75% increase in annual sales; consider a sign for your merch table

• Visuals are not only impactful, but also cost effective: Online photos at Mark’s current rates have the lowest cost per 1000 consumer exposures at just $0.01 compared to $1.56 per 1000 exposures via newspaper ads, and $6.60 per 1000 exposures via TV ads.Communicating visually with your audience and customers pays off

“Hey Mark, Just wanted to reach out and thank you again for the photos you took of me. Everyone that sees them loves them, and I think back to how comfortable you made the entire day. I really appreciate what you do. Looking forward to working together again, Michael”

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald
Photographed at
El Mirage, California

Humans are visual. Nothing hits us the way visuals do: in the long term, reading and listening to sounds is more powerful than just visuals, but nothing can instantly captivate more powerfully than visuals

A great piece of art takes a few seconds for our brain to realize how amazing it is: a good book or piece of music will take some time for us to come to appreciate it. If we want consumers to be interested in what we are selling, we need to have captivating visuals

Three ways visuals can help us out:

1. Visuals catch the eye: Professionally designed marketing materials and branding will immediately catch the eye. We can’t convince anyone to try products if they never consider using the products: if we catch their eye using captivating visuals, they’ll be interested in finding out more about what is behind the visuals. This is why companies focus so much on packaging and branding: they know that without it their products will not sell

2. Visuals are memorable: It is remarkably easy for us to remember the things we see. A good visual motif allows people to remember us and recognize our brand anywhere they see it. Big organizations spend millions of dollars on creating their logos and color schemes because they know that captivating visuals are the easiest way to create long lasting impressions that the consumer will remember when they have a need for the product

 3. Visuals give our brand character: If we want to pique the consumer’s interest, we need to give our brand some character.  With the right visuals people will be able to associate emotions and personality with our brand and to our products as well.  Captivating visuals easily change the way our customers perceive us. People will actually begin to identify with our brand and start thinking that our brand defines them in some way

The Matinee
Photographed in
Vancouver, British Columbia

“Hey Mark! You were awesome, we had so much fun and it was great just getting to hang out for a few days, couldn't have gone any better. The backdrops...the looks... the outfits...the moments... we're really stoked on all of it so far. As you might know, our new album is soon to be released. We've worked our asses off this year in preparation for it, but we wouldn't be where we are without you and all your amazing imagery. Thanks once again for being amazing to us.”

Matt Layzell
Lead Singer

People love pictures and there’s no better place to see that than online. The internet has truly become an image centric medium Images hold a lot of power for online marketers. They have the potential to dramatically increase conversions rates due to a few reasons:

• First, the internet has evolved from a text centric medium to an image centric one in recent years, and people now expect an image rich experience that is constantly changing

• Second, most people prefer to consume images as opposed to text. Images are quick to absorb, unlike prose or video

• Third, images can be a subtle, though powerful tool to guide people’s behavior As such, the importance of images should be at the forefront of marketing considerations

Here are a few ways to use images to help increase conversion rates:

• Use high quality images
The reason is simple: high quality images create the perception in the mind of the customer that the product being offered is high quality. That in turn leads to higher conversion rates

• Tie images to the product or service
Different companies market and sell different products. Marketers should tie images to the product or service that they’re offering. For example, e-commerce companies should display product images using a catalog design metaphor. A slightly more complex example might be a for-profit educational institution. In this case, the company could show a successful, happy person that supports the product because that’s really what the school is selling

• Tailor images that target your audience
Tailoring images to your target audience is another marketing technique. Gender and age are among the demographic traits that determine how someone will react to a particular image. When shown an image of a man in a swimsuit, women pay more attention to the left hand of the man than men do. Researchers suggest that women are looking for a wedding band. And a recent eye tracking study focused on online dating profiles found that men examine a woman’s profile picture first and foremost, while women spend the most time on text-based profile details

• Make images emotionally evocative
Many products are designed to evoke an emotional response from the target buyer. That’s because the emotion that someone feels at the point of conversion is often the driving force as to whether that person will convert or not. Marketers should use images that bolster the emotion that the product is designed to evoke

• Humanize web pages with faces
Displaying faces next to key calls-to-action improves conversion rates. Adding a headshot of a customer service representative to the “contact support” button or 1-800 number on a web page can increase conversion rates by up to 20%. Social media sites have long used “face piles” in an effort to drive additional activity and page views on their sites Marketers should use pictures of people and headshots in particular to humanize their calls to action and conversions. People are drawn to images of the human face, and the most impactful album and single covers feature closeups of the artists’ faces

• Show detailed images
Images are great way to display a lot of detailed information in an easy to consume way. When a conversion depends on a customer understanding the details of a product or service, images can play a critical role. Marketers should provide customers with multiple views of the product. Even information products such as books and white papers are well served by detailed images. In this case, providing a detailed table of contents and excerpt can improve conversion rates substantially In the album case, providing a detailed image of the liner notes, song titles and bonus items included can also drive conversions

• Use images to guide the customer
Marketers can use a carefully placed image to improve conversions by literally guiding the prospect’s eyes to the point of conversion whether that be a product placement, button, form, or navigation option This is often accomplished by using a photo of a person (the “hero shot”) and having that person look at the part of the web page that marketing wants the target audience to pay attention to. In eye tracking studies, marketers have determined that this technique greatly increases the number of people who look at the desired part of the page

• Consider the context of consumption
Most marketers think of images in the context of a web page, such as a landing page that they control. Increasingly, images are being used on third party sites to drive traffic to the brand’s site Facebook Ads are a prime example of this. Facebook is a place where people expect to have a social, fun experience. Remembering this context when choosing images for Facebook Ads has a dramatic impact on click through rates.   

• Data shows that photos of things like human faces, cats, and beer result in improved conversion rates
In fact, Marketo displays beer in their Facebook Ads in spite of the fact that they sell marketing automation software

• Image placement is critical
Marketers should also pay attention to image placement on web pages. For example, if a product has a temporal component, people prefer to view the “before” image on the left and the “after” image on the right. It’s just how people are accustomed to consuming this type of information. Moreover, marketers shouldn’t put too much space between these images, as pictures that are closer together create the perception that the product is more effective. The key point to remember is to place images in a manner that supports how people are accustomed to consuming information

• Avoid Confusing images
Confusing, hard-to-understand images tend to confuse customers and actually create the perception that a product or service may be difficult to use. For example, subjects who read an exercise routine in a hard-to-read font estimated that the workout would take almost twice as long as those subjects who read the instructions in the Arial font. Given that we prefer products that are simple and easy to understand, marketers should remember that clear, simple images will drive higher conversions

• Larger images work
Bigger images increase conversion rates in many cases, particularly when it comes to “hero shots,” a landing page’s central image, and call-to-action buttons. A large image provides many benefits that contribute to higher conversion rates. They tend to be higher quality, easier to understand, and evoke a stronger response. Dell recently tested a landing page using a large hero shot as the page background. The number of leads generated increased 36% over the control page

• Use image priming
Priming involves using subtle cues, often in the form of images, to influence a person’s future behavior. Although it’s the subject of some controversy in academic circles, there have been numerous studies that show image priming can impact conversion rates. A study showed that extreme sports photos caused men to take greater financial risks than subjects who were shown images of office supplies or spiders

• Keep in mind color psychology
The primary color of an image can have a material impact on conversion rates. Certain colors evoke particular reactions from people. For example, green and red are two popular colors for buttons on landing pages. Both evoke strong reactions from site visitors and provide marketers with two great options to test for effectiveness. Hubspot recently tested two nearly identical landing pages where the only difference between the pages was the color of the “Submit” button. The red button outperformed the green button by 21%

• Fresh Imagery
The days are long gone of one image representing a band and its latest album for years until the next one. Now, people have come to expect new visuals each time they check their Instagram feed. While an iconic album cover is still important, it’s even more important to be posting fresh imagery between project cycles, in order to keep the interest of your fans and audience People’s attention spans have radically shortened and they’re easily distracted by the next new thing. Having a constant stream of new and fresh imagery can ensure that you stay top of mind

The Celebration Army
Photographed in
Toronto, Ontario

“Hey Mark! Thank you! We LOVED working with you, it was a wonderful experience! We are slowly releasing the pics and cannot wait for the opportunity to work with you again in the future! You are a pleasure to work with and your pics are top notch!” 

Nelson Sobrai
Band Leader

We’re huge fans of the folks at ReverbNation. Their excellent blog is a tremendous resource for musicians

Kelsi Mayne
Photographed in
Toronto, Ontario

“Hi Mark! Thanks for making my artists look so good... You did such a great job we will definitely be using you next round !” 

Jordyn Elliott
Owner J Management

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