How to Recognize the Thin Line Between Funny and Foolish Band Photos

Our friends at SonicBids recently ran this blog and we could not resist the urge to share it with all of you. Enjoy.

For years now, the internet has been littered with lists and websites devoted to horrible album covers and band press shots. Sure, these lists and articles are good, harmless fun and indirectly keep alive the names of certain leather- and spandex-clad metal and hard rock headliners of yesteryear (like Manowar above), as well as well-intentioned gospel artists. But who really wants their lasting legacy to be a meme? Read on to find out how bands in the digital age can have fun with press shots without setting themselves up as an eternal internet punchline.

Out-of-this-world imagery

Bands of all sorts, specifically metal and psychedelic acts, have music that would suit press shots set in another place, time, or dimension. But just because the music paints a picture of the band in such a scenario doesn’t mean a literal image of band members in a fictitious situation is a good idea. Revisiting Manowar (above), one of the better bands to make this list, the image above takes numerous shameful ‘80s metal tropes and applies them to a horde of barbarians, which in 2015 looks more like a legit-looking metal musician (far right) paired with three failed professional wrestling wannabes.

Sleep (Image via weedian.com)

How to pull it off: Stoner metal act Sleep (above) has as good a live show as you’ll find, and this won’t be overshadowed years later by a questionable press shot. Though their music is seriously good, the trio is lighthearted enough to cast themselves here as alternate-reality Carl Sagan. Not only is this funny and eye-catching, it should also age well. After all, while no one today copies the aesthetics of early ’80s barbarian metal, the future is likely to be filled with college professor wardrobes that date back to the halcyon days of horrid metal press shots. So by all means, play characters in your press shot, but avoid cliches and outfits with little to no shelf life.

Tender, shared moments

Nothing tugs at the ole heartstrings more than images of musical collaborators enjoying each others’ company. This type of press shot can be fun and effective, a permanent public display of affection that gives fans an idea of the groups’ personalities. But like any other type of staged photograph, there’s hardly a thin line between an absurd, self-grandiose shot and something charming and endearing.

Milli Vanilli (Image via music.yahoo.com)

With all due respect to the deceased, Milli Vanilli (above) would likely be a punchline in the 21st century even without the lip-synching scandal that destroyed their careers. Based on this shameless display of beefcake, there was at least one telltale sign that the duo was nothing more than glorified underwear models before they were shamed into forfeiting the 1990 Grammy for Best New Artist.

Chastity Belt (Photo by Angel Ceballos)

How to pull it off: This image of Seattle’s Chastity Belt (above) captures how a lighthearted photo shoot should be done. If school picture day circa 1991 was run by the kids, perhaps it would have led to group shots like this one. This image gives the impression that the band likes spending time with each other to the point that, if they were still teenagers, they’d each want to attend the others’ high schools. This is a top-notch example of how to draw fans in based on a band’s personality, something that’s more endearing than the pretty faces that fronted the studio creations of yesteryear.

Group shots

Compared to the other options above, the typical group shot is mostly serious and professional, making the band seem more like a grown-up venture. That’s not to say this type of shot cannot be sabotaged by members taking themselves too seriously. On the flip side, a group shot can delve into the realm of parody without painting the artists as jokes.

Nickelback (Image via nickelback.com)

At risk of piling on internet whipping boys Nickelback (above), there’s something uptight about this image meant to represent a confident, stadium-filling rock act. Perhaps it’s the crossed-arm stance often associated with boredom? Even if a serious photo shoot suits your band, try to look loose with posture that demonstrates confidence.

Ganges Phalanges (Image via facebook.com)

How to pull it off: Atlanta punks Ganges Phalanges (above) recently shared a good laugh with their supporters by turning the traditional family portrait on its head. It comes as no surprise that the group presents itself in such a cornball manner, as its crowd-pleasing live number is this. In addition to being hilarious, such unguarded lightheartedness shows as much, if not more, confidence as any surly rock star pose.

When it’s time for your band to pose for the camera, keep these newer examples in mind, as they offer a stark contrast to established groups from over the years that, whether intentionally or not, appear to take themselves way too seriously.

Bobby Moore is a freelance writer and historian with an M.A. in public history (University of West Georgia, 2011). He’s got a Dead Milkmen tattoo on his chest, and his three-year-old calico is named after the band Tacocat, so he’s pretty shameless about his music fandom.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.