Children as Musicians
The Garage Band
Hands at Play
The Faces of Music
Playing with Light
Music in Nature
- Portrait Photographer's Handbook
- 500 Poses for Photographing Women
- 500 Poses for Photographing Men
- Posing for Portrait Photography: A Head-to-Toe Guide for Digital Photographers
- Doug Box's Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers
- Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers
- Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image
The performance and personalities of musicians can be very compelling subject matter for your camera. Musicians often enter a trance-like state when they are focused on playing their instruments and expressing the emotions of a piece of music. Losing themselves in their music means they become unaware of what activities are occurring around them, which provides you with an extraordinary opportunity to capture their raw creativity and unique style of musicianship.
While photographing famous musicians for publicity or marketing purposes are reserved for a very few professional photographers, there are accomplished amateur and professional musicians in your community that would welcome the opportunity to be a subject for your camera. It’s a form of portrait photography that is likely to result in some very interesting images for you, especially if you think beyond popular music. Here are some ideas of musical subject matter that will help you advance your portrait skills and experiment with lighting and composition.
Photographing children is often a challenge, simply because they don’t have the attention span to remain still or take your direction during an extended photo session. Capture them as they practice their piano or violin lessons, however, and you become less obtrusive and are able to record their struggles and triumphs during the learning process without any direction from you. This may be an easier method to preserve memories of your child’s musicianship than their school performance, where they are nervous and could easily be distracted by your desire to photograph him or her. During a practice session, you’ll be able to use a wide-angle lens and move in closer, while a school performance will require you to use a telephoto lens.
Add even more interest to photos of children’s music lessons by including the teacher. The interaction between them will afford many special moments, revealing the special rapport between teacher and pupil.
You may also be able to develop a moneymaking opportunity for you and a music teacher by offering parents a keepsake photo book of their children’s lessons. The teacher could use it as an incentive to generate more students.
You may not have the opportunity to photograph the wild performance of a famous rock musician, but it’s likely that a group of teenagers are doing their best to emulate one or two of their heroes in a garage in your neighborhood. Teens love to have their pictures taken, if for no other reason than to share those photos with their friends. They may not be great musicians, yet, but they are driven to use some of their seemingly unlimited energy to express their musical passion, physically and emotionally, that will result in some terrific images from your camera.
The hands are integral to the use of all musical instruments, which provides you with a compositional element to show musicianship and passion with close-ups of the hands at play. Photograph a guitarist’s hand strumming the strings at a slow shutter speed to create blur and imply motion. Show the dexterity of the hands and fingers that are necessary to play the piano or a flute. Drummers and percussionists use their hands in interesting ways to play drums as well as cymbals, vibraphones, etc.
The eyes are always the most compelling feature of a portrait, and they and the entire faces of musicians are often filled with passion and enthusiasm as they play. Consider compositions that only show the face or just enough of the instrument to help describe the action. Instruments, such as horns and woodwinds that require the use of the mouth, allow you to move in close to capture both facial expressions and the instrument.
Many of the suggested musical images in this article are enhanced when you use light creatively. Shooting against a black background that absorbs all the light puts all the emphasis on the musician. Try “spotlight” locations for your light sources to re-create the stage look in the photo studio. Focus a light source on just the mouth and flute opening, leaving the rest of the flutist in shadow. Use the natural light from a large window to set the appropriate mood for an older musician at the piano or a folksinger.
Music is global, so think beyond Western forms and instruments. An Indian sitar player seen through the subtle haze of incense smoke will evoke the exotic nature of the music from that instrument. African musical tradition includes the use of many kinds and sizes of drums. Many contemporary South American musicians have added centuries-old instruments from the native populations to their repertoire.
Your photos of musicians can be even more compelling when you take them from the stage or the studio and place them in natural settings. The string quartet under a tree exploding with fall color is one example. The flutist in the park attracting the attention of children could be reminiscent of the Piped Piper. Street musicians may be performing on a sidewalk, but they have taken their music to where the people are and that interaction is sure to create some interesting compositions.
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Stefano Schembri
People who read this PhotographyTalk.com article also liked:
Your feedback is important to thousands of PhotographyTalk.com fans and us. If this article is helpful, then please click the Like and Re-Tweet buttons at the top left of this article.