five Tips for Musician Portraits (So You Can Hit All the Correct Notes)

5 Tips for Musician Portraits (So You are able to Hit All the Right Notes)

5 tips for beautiful musician portraits

If you’re looking to capture beautiful, flattering musician portraits – the kind that every musician will appreciate – you’ve come to the right place.

As an experienced portrait photographer, I’ve performed quite a few musician photoshoots. Plus over time, I’ve picked up some tips that will make a huge difference to your photography.

Specifically, I am going to explain:

  • How to ensure you make natural, practical portraits of musicians
  • A few unorthodox image ideas that musicians will really appreciate
  • Quick research you should do before the session to ensure you’re prepared
  • Much, much more!

Let’s get started.

musician with a guitar

1 ) Trust the musician (and ask lots of questions)

As a musician myself, I love photographs with gorgeous instruments in them – yet I am especially bothered by photos that don’t capture those instruments naturally.   Sometimes I’ll come across a photo that makes me cry away, “Why? Nobody would ever hold their instrument like that! ”

Because here’s the thing: You are able to still be creative with your photos without making them awkward. There are plenty of easy ways to capture spectacular musician portraits, and you do not need to rely on ridiculous posing gimmicks (like a flute on top of the head, cellos held under the chin, etc . ).

And it almost all starts with trusting the musician, specifically if you’re not familiar with the instrument you’re taking photos of.

So start your session by wondering your subject how they hold their instrument. You might request how they hold their device while playing, and how they hold it when they are relaxing between songs. When it’s a big instrument, like a piano, ask them how they stand next to it before they will perform, or how they sit by it when they’re thinking about what to practice or whilst waiting to play. If it’s a small instrument, like a violin, ask them to demonstrate how they make it from one place to another.

These might seem like silly questions, you could really get a sense of what positions and holds are natural. Then you can construct from there.

musician with a violin

As an example, a violinist might tell you she holds the girl violin under her correct arm when resting. So you could ask her in order to sit on a chair in the formal pose, position the particular violin under her supply,   and get a beautiful portrait of a girl and her violin.

The key is to remember that the particular musician knows how to naturally pose with their instrument, and that you are much less familiar. Of course , if you do happen to know the device well, feel free to use your knowledge to get beautiful natural positions, too.

second . Do your homework

Whilst I definitely recommend wondering the musician how they hold their instrument (it can differ slightly from musician to musician, after all), you can create steps ahead of time to become proficient (that way, you can start considering posing ideas before the program even starts).

For instance, you could watch a few videos on YouTube of a musician playing the instrument you’ll be photographing. Pay careful attention to how the musician sits/stands, and also how they position their mind and hands relative to the instrument.

You could also find a professional musician which plays the same instrument, after that look at their website to see what sort of photos they feature.

You may have a client that is very shy  and requirements more guidance posing , so it is helpful to have a few tips in mind ahead of time.

Also, as part of your analysis process, look at photos of the instrument (and do a little bit of reading on instrument treatment, as well). Consider difficulties that it might bring, such as unwanted reflections in metal, the immobility of harps or pianos, sensitivity in order to temperature or weather, and so on. Then make a plan to counteract these issues; that way, neither you nor the musician really feel uncomfortable or uncertain throughout the session.

musician with a banjo

3. Ask the musician to play for you

Posed musician photography is definitely nice…

…but if you can get your subject to give you a little performance during the photo session, you’ll get some stunning action shots. It generally helps loosen your issue up a little bit too, and can bring out natural smiles.

Some musicians are self-conscious, especially when playing without having preparation. So remind them that it doesn’t matter when they make mistakes; your camera will not catch any audio. Emphasize that you’ll only capture the perfect physical movements of the playing. And remind your subject that you aren’t right now there to judge their skill. You want to capture the relationship they have with their instrument.

As they begin to play, move around the scene, catching the wonderful moment from every possible position. Get down low, try to find a higher vantage point, get involved close, move back significantly – all of it can make just for outstanding images!

portrait of a musician with a violin playing

4. Get close-ups of the action

For most musicians, hands really are a big deal. After all, the hands generally play the device, so they’ll offer a screen into the musician’s engagement with all the music.

Therefore focus on the hands. Catch some close-ups, where you move in close on the fingers as they play. Shoot the particular hands from every position: above, from the side, from down low, from at the rear of. Try focusing on the hands as you shoot down the throat of a guitar, highlight the particular fingers on a flute, or even shoot hands that are frozen  in midair during a drum solo. Getting in close on these details can create beautiful actions photos that really tell the story .

In fact , hand pictures often end up being some of my very favorites (and the particular musicians love them, too).

Pro suggestion: If your subject’s hands are usually moving too quickly for you to focus, ask them to freeze while you have the shot, then instruct them to continue playing.

hands playing the piano

5. Make the instrument the star

With musician portraits, you are expected to photograph the person – but I highly recommend you also capture a few photos of the instrument on its own.

Why? Well, musicians love their instruments, and they will love photos that display their beauty. (These photos often make for great site and social media cover photos, as well. )

violin in the grass

Of course , if you need to alter or move an instrument while shooting, be sure to ask permission. You can even ask the owner to undertake all of the touching and relocating, while you walk around the device to get the photos that you’re after. Instruments can be extremely expensive, and even more importantly, they can possess sentimental value that can never be compensated.

Keep this in mind throughout the program, whether your subject is in the photo with the instrument or not. And never request the musician to do something which could harm or damage the instrument; it’s a very easy way to lose the musician’s trust, make them feel unpleasant, and cause the program to go up in flames.

So when you’re ready to take some instrument photos, simply tell the artist what you have in mind, and they will almost certainly be happy to help you get a few amazing instrument photos. In case they’re not – or if they seem uncomfortable – don’t push it. A good photo isn’t worth upsetting your subject.

top of a violin

Musician portrait ideas: conclusion

portrait of a musician in the grass playing guitar

Every time I’ve been asked to do musician photography to get album covers, headshots designed for websites, art to printing and frame, or just to capture someone’s favorite hobby, my goal is to create a photo that this musician will love. One that will stay true to what they would normally do with their instruments.

And by following the guidelines I’ve shared, you can do exactly the same!

Now to you:

Which of these tips do you resonate with the most? Do you have any kind of musician portrait tips of your own? Share your thoughts (and photos! ) in the comments below.

musician standing with a violin







  • GEAR







Reading more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Melinda Smith

Melinda Smith

was born to be a teacher. The lady teaches violin lessons plus fitness classes, as well as digital photography classes and mentoring. The lady lives on a mini farm in Eastern Utah along with her camera, husband, kids, chickens, horses, bunnies, dogs, and cats. Visit her at Melinda Smith Photography .

I need help with…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *