We caught up with music photographer Deneka Peniston who gave us some insight into the world of music photography. This is the second part of the Q&A, if you missed part one (shame on you), check it out here!
Sonicbids: What are a few dos and don’ts for photo shoots (both live and staged)?
Deneka Peniston: Something that most musicians may or may not know is that certain venues only allow photographers to shoot the first three songs of a set from the photo pit. So if you want those amazing shots, rock out on your first three songs. DO sing into the lenses of the photographers when you can. We love that and it can produce epic results. And if you are playing a really important show and want great photos, be kind to your lighting guy. For promo shoots, make sure that you have done a little prep work. I generally like to send a list of words or phrases that I may say during the shoot in order to illicit a certain look. There is definitely an art to posing or emoting in a photograph without being self-conscience.
SB: What’s the best shooting experience you’ve had? Why was it so good?
DP: On the live end of things, the best experience was the first time I’d ever shot a large act. It was a Japanese rock band called Dir En Grey. Being in between a crowd whose fans were literally crying and a band whose stage performance is insane, threw me into a tailspin. It was like psychically being in the middle of a washing machine. For promo shots, I won’t mention names but the best shooting experience would have to be shoot that I did with a musician on the street. I had scouted out some places and had notes prepared but we literally went off the cuff and just played. I felt comfortable enough to push him to try new things and he was comfortable enough to really show his personality.
SB: What inspires you when you are shooting a band?
DP: There’s really nothing better than shooting a band that truly and honestly loves every note that they play. The joy is infectious and spreads throughout the whole room.
SB: Anything else you think a band/manager would need to know about working with photographers?
DP: An important thing to note when hiring a photographer to take promo shots is that timing is key. If you want a really well thought out photo, make sure the photographer has ample time to prepare. There can be a tremendous amount of preparation, location scouting, etc. We don’t just show up without a clue as to how we are going to compose the shot, where we are going to take the shot and with what props, if any, are required for the shoot. It’s time intensive so give the photographer as much advance notice as possible.
SB: How does payment work? Any tips on how to negotiate pricing on photos for emerging artists?
DP: This is a very complicated issue because there is no standard for pricing live music photography. If a photographer is willing to shoot you for free, it’s most likely because they are trying to build a portfolio. Just like a musician, we spend a substantial amount of money on equipment and time practicing in order to produce the best photos possible.
That being said, I am acutely aware that in most instances musicians will lose money instead of make money at the end of the night. If you are a band that has not quite received the attention from the necessary blogs or media outlets and you want a quality photographer at your event, you will undoubtedly have to pay that person.
As far as negotiating, if you dig a photographer’s work and want them to shoot you, have a budget in mind and we’ll work with you. Unfortunately, presenting us with the opportunity of exposing our work to your fans or colleagues in similar financial predicaments won’t necessarily make that more appealing to us. In the past, I’ve decreased my price for bands that would introduce my work to a different genre of music and thus a different clientele.
Pricing for promo shoots are different and more costly. There’s much more time and preparation that takes place in producing them and so be willing to have a budget. Generally, if you are unsigned the price will be less than if you have a label backing you. You get what you pay for.