When you’re constantly marketing yourself and your music across your social media channels and online platforms, running out of available (and interesting) content can happen in a blink of an eye.
And nowadays, when leaving your house is a bit of a no-go, learning how to create photo content yourself can be an enormous asset for your social calendar, and merch creation. In fact, it’s a blessing for your fans too; because at-home photos show a personal side to your artistry that audiences love to see.
So let’s dig in! Here are the nine essential things to think about in order to plan and create photo content in your own home.
1. The purpose
The first essential question you should ask yourself is why you’re taking these photos in the first place. Do you want some good new pictures for your social media profiles, or professional-looking shots for your website? Are you looking to create some personalized merch to sell in your online store?
Knowing why you need these photos will help make some aesthetic choices for you right off the bat. And it’ll save you time and trouble later. Besides, no matter what your goal is, you can always use the leftover photos from the shoot for other content later on down the road.
Another thing to consider when deciding to do a home shoot is what equipment you have at your disposal, and what, if anything, you might need to rent or borrow.
Do you already have a tripod? If not, you can precariously balance whatever device you’re shooting with on a stack of books or something else. Is it the best or safest option? Not really, but it’ll probably work depending on where you’re shooting.
Another thing to consider is who will be available to take the photo. Got a trusty roommate or family member? Great. If not, there is always the self-timer, which involves a lot of moving around between pictures. If that’s the case, it might be worth investing in a Bluetooth clicker that you can sync with your smartphone and hide in the palm of your hand as you shoot.
What about the lighting in your apartment? We’ll talk more about this below, but overhead lights can be tough in terms of shadows. It might make sense to pick up a ring light, or at least a few funky lamps.
3. Your fanbase
Try to picture the demographics of your current (and future) fanbase.
What do your fans like, more than anything else, on your Instagram page? What gets the most engagement, or comments? Is there a pattern? Knowing these analytics can help you better decide what kind of photos might pique their interest, and keep them coming back for more.
In general, when creating merch, you have to think about your fans’ interests—because when you invest in products to sell, you want to be sure someone’s out there to buy them. One thing to do is check out some of your most hardcore fans’ Instagram pages to see how they dress. Do they wear t-shirts, hats, or rep other bands’ stuff?
If that sounds creepy, you can always just ask them what they want! When you’re planning a stay-at-home photo-shoot and coming up with content ideas, this is a huge factor to think about.
You might be thinking: Home. Duh!
But you need to find a location in your home to shoot the same way you would scope out a location if you hired a photographer. You need to consider things like lighting and background (which we will go more into below), as well as aesthetics. Do you want a milky tub photo? A clean headshot? Something out of a 90’s horror movie?
Believe it or not, your home can probably at least get you close to the shots you’re looking to create. You just need to search for it first. Rooftops, driveways, pools, yards, stairwells, are all great options for locations too (depending on the type of photo, of course).
You’re excited about this one, aren’t you? I know I am!
Your wardrobe probably doesn’t seem like it’s the most important thing ever, but as soon as you start getting some shots, you’ll notice immediately what does and does not work. This isn’t a runway, it’s your house. The clothes have to work with the scenery.
Don’t wear something that blends in with the background or you’ll get lost in the photo. Don’t wear something too patterned either. Too much makeup will be too obvious. And a brand name might not be the best idea if you’re planning to sell those photos on merchandise (and not get sued).
Instead, try something that fits your body correctly, stands out from the background, and keeps the makeup and patterns to a happy medium, and you will be golden.
When taking photos, “cold” lighting (or luminescence) and ambient sunlight are your best friends. Although warm lighting might be optimal for a more cozy, fireside aesthetic, for a picture that functions like a portrait, cold lighting will better depict the subject of the photograph and what’s going on in the frame.
For those of you without access to cold light, sunlight will do just as well. But, you need to actually have it; so, make sure you get your shoot finished before sundown.
If you’re looking to use natural light, you’ll probably need to scout out a place in your home in front of an open window.
Basic, blank backgrounds are a must when taking photos you might want to edit later for merchandise. That empty space will make it a little easier to play with if you want to put words or your own edited background behind you for example.
For something like that, a white or neutral colored wall works fine.
That said, decorative backgrounds can also be a plus. If you’ve got any walls you want to show off in your home, just make sure you still pop and aren’t swallowed by the background in your pictures (unless that is what you’re trying to achieve). That’s a move—it’s your content!
Pro Tip when scouting backgrounds: Stay away from windows! The last thing you want to do is have backlight creating shadows in the foreground of your photo, so your face isn’t visible.
8. Photo sets
Whether you’re taking these photos for your website, social media pages, or a cohesive merch line, you may want to take them in sets. That means duplicating a couple photos you really love picked out in the same outfit, location, and look; and then with slight differences.
Don’t take a chance on the one-and-done shot, in case it’s out of focus or you’re blinking, etc.
But when you’ve got a lot of photos that all have the same feel, the more the merrier in terms of being able to use the shots for a variety of applications. The more sets you choose to have with various props, styles, and locations, the more photos you should probably take to give you multiple choices to select for the final project.
9. Having fun doing it
The beauty of doing something like this at home is that it lets you stay in your comfort zone, but also try out new things.
Creating content should be fun—and when you’ve worked so hard to make the best music you can make, it feels great to let it all hang down and show yourself off with a bunch of nice-looking photos.
All of these items are just tips to help you do it. Try everything, go wild, and most of all, have fun doing it.
Sammy Hakim is an up and coming young songwriter based in Los Angeles. In May 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.
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