(…or 5 tips to improve your album cover photo)
On Monday, I made fun of the boys. Now it’s time for the ladies. In the interests of equality, I picked seven. There are no dwarfs among them, but they do seem a bit more “Evil Queen” than “Snow White”. Several of these are from quite well-established labels. What were they thinking?
A few things to consider:
1) Hire a proper photographer
You practiced the piano every day for twenty years to create a sound that lingers in the air for a fraction of a second after it has been played. Your album cover will outlive you. Spend at least one recital fee on the photographer. Shop around. Find somebody that does this for a living. Look at their work. This is an investment in your image, not in the record. You can use the pictures for other things.
2) Think about what you’re trying to say
There’s a lot to think about when you’re making a record and it’s easy to forget the cover, but this is your primary means of communicating with your potential purchasers. Make a list of values you’d like to communicate. Find examples of things you like. Talk to the designer and the photographer about this. If you want to look authoritative, then say so. If you’re aiming for energetic or dramatic, tell them that. If you want to look like a clueless amateur, don’t tell them anything at all and it’ll just happen. If you want to exude sex appeal then triple the design budget.
3) Fashion fades
Think “stylish” and not “fashionable”. A beautiful image will be timeless. If you aim for contemporary by dressing up in something fashionable or using a trendy location, you’ll end up with an image that looks dated before the ink is dry.
4) Beware of hair and makeup
Costume dramas from the 1970s look unmistakably 1970s – not because of the clothes, but because of the hair. Think “simple”. Think “timeless”.
5) Stand out
You’re looking for a strong image – something striking, something that jumps off the shelf at you. It should invite online shoppers to click on the thumbnail, and real live shoppers to pick up the CD. On a scale of “unnoticeably mundane” to “unavoidably captivating”, very few artist portraits make it past “slightly awkward but otherwise unremarkable”. If a portrait won’t do a great job of selling you, perhaps that isn’t the picture you want on your album cover. After all, your face isn’t the bit of you that plays the instrument…