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Final Group Shot Tips & Tricks

Musician Photography Tips | Photographing an Album Cover

By Ashwin Arumugam on December 5th 2013

A couple of months ago I was approached by a band called Fourtunate, who was on the X-Factor Australia in 2012. You may not have heard of them (partially because they came in 7th place), but I had. You can only imagine how ecstatic I was when I got that email.

I replied their email immediately, sent them my terms & conditions as well as a cost estimate. It helps to have a mood board where you can put up inspiration, color schemes and images with the same look or feel that you are trying to achieve. I used Pinterest for this, so that my clients could view the mood board online as well. As a photographer, you’ll save a lot of time if you get pre-production like this out of the way as early as possible. It gives you more time to think about what you want from your images.

[REWIND: Create Personalized Lifestyle Portraits by Creating a Moodboard]

A few weeks down the road, I found myself in a studio with Fourtunate. It felt surreal, all this while I’d been communicating with them via email (as they do not have a manager). We had the studio for 4 hours, so there was no time to lose. They wanted images for the cover of their new single, as well as images for promotional purposes. This would mean a minimum of 5 images (1 single cover and 4 individual shots).

Promo Shot

This image is a composite of the 4 band members (From left: Jaye, Izayah, Jakiel & Joseph)

Although I did take many shots of the band together, it was very difficult to expose the image correctly as each member had very different skin tones. The guys had brought along a couple of their friends to do the makeup, so I started to do the individual shots first. This saved a whole lot of time and meant that I’d have more time with the group shot.

The individual shots were pretty much standard, a single Elinchrom head with a standard reflector to light the background and make it completely white, and one beauty dish to camera right at a 45° angle. For weeks I’d been thinking about this shoot, especially the group shot. I was looking at other photos at bands for inspiration, but at the same time I wanted my image to be different.

We started off with the basic group shots after they’d changed into their second set of clothes.

Group Shot 1

It’s nothing too fancy, just a basic, fun and relatively playful group shot. Throughout the whole shoot, I kept repeating this one line by Gregory Heisler to myself:

Take the biggest risks on the biggest shoots.

With 15 minutes left until we had to pack up and leave, I decided to take that risk. If my image was going to be different from anyone else’s, I’d have to do something that no one else would do. I noticed a bright red sofa that was on the other side of the studio, near the makeup station. I’m not very bulky, so I asked the guys to help me carry it over to where they were standing. Instinctively, they sat on it. We tried a few shots in that position, and then I switched it up a bit.

“Do you reckon you could put the sofa on its side?”

They did it, and this is what happened:

Final Group Shot

It was magical. This was the very last photo I took that day, and I’m glad I took that risk. You’ve seen photos of bands sitting on couches, but I bet you’ve never seen a band jumping off of one!

Working with X-Factor Contestants Taught Me a Few Things.

1. Take risks, not just on the big shoots but on every shoot. Photographers aren’t just creatives, we’re visual engineers. We solve problems by utilizing creative solutions. There may be limitations, but work around those limitations and you will get the money shot.

2. Even though they’re famous, they’re still people. Just like me. It’s pretty easy to get caught up with the fact that you’re in the same room as someone famous. Once you get a conversation going, you realize that they’re people too. And that’s where you, as a photographer can capitalize. They’re human beings, and they have emotions too. Try and get that across in your images.

3. Don’t be afraid to crack a joke or two. It helps lighten the mood, and makes for a better experience overall. Also, make sure you’ve got a playlist for the shoot, music that they like but will also get them pumped.

4. With shoots like this, it’s imperative that you get your settings and lighting setup right from the beginning. The lighting you use should also be very flexible, as your clients are going to be moving around a bit. For this shoot I rented a Canon 5D Mark III, and the studio I rented out was running 4 Elinchrom BRX 500 Monolights .The group shots were shot at 1/160th of a second, f/20 and ISO 250. The individual shots that I later composited were shot at /160th of a second, between f/11 to f/14 (depending on skin color) and ISO 100. The lighting diagram is below.

Lighting Diagram

It was a pretty basic lighting setup, but it was really flexible because it meant my clients had heaps of room to move.

Fourtunate’s new single, “Sing It Out” is now out on iTunes, Google Play and a bunch of other places. It’s currently #4 on the Australian RnB charts and #3 on the New Zealand RnB charts. Go like them on Facebook, and check out their incredible videos on YouTube.

If you’d like to see more of my work, please do check out my website.

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Ashwin is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia. He takes photos at Sydney’s best nightclubs and loves the nightlife scene. Ashwin hopes to set up his own studio in Sydney in the next 3 years. You can view his work here.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Lukas

    I dont want to sounds like a jerk I just also sometimes strougle with creativnes and whole concept of shooting something and I think you too, these imageses dont tell anything to people who see these images except thet can do some stupid faces. I would expect something that tottaly shows who they are, or some creative backround, or dropground. Or atleast the colors or lighting (except the individual ones, those are good :) ). But on the other hand it’s easy from my point saying this, when I never did any cover photo, and there has to be reason why they choose you and not enyone else just you. And I know how great is working with other great people so thumbs up and thanks for sharing :)

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  2. Hanssie

    Taking risks is always a good idea. And I definitely agree with treating stars as normal people. They have too many people swooning over them and being treated like a normal person is probably a breath of fresh air.

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