People Hear with their eyes – Planning Photos for your Website and Promo Materials

Susan Hoeppner, flute

The internet is primarily a visual medium, which means the first impression people will get when they visit your site is what they SEE. Your clips sound great, I’m sure, but people LOOK first. Like it or not, they will intuitively judge your professional status based on your photos and the professional look of your website.

Planning photos for performers’ websites:

1. PAY

Beverley Johnston

Beverley Johnston looking gorgeous and polished, with the help of Ivy Lam, hair and makeup, Bo Huang, photographer, and Liz Parker (LIZPR) photo shoot stylist.

Much as it pains you, INVEST in photos, and better yet, invest in a stylist as well to give you candid advice on what to wear, where to be, how to stand and sit for your shoot. And, spend a few more bucks for a pro to do your hair and makeup, just this once. It doesn’t have to look fake, just polished and bring out your natural good looks.

2. PREPARE & RESEARCH

Be prepared with an idea of the type and style of photos you want, the colour scheme you’d like to see on your site, and what sort of backdrop might help forward those ideas.  Do your research, figure out what you like and why. Show your photographer, your stylist and your web designer other photos and websites that you like, and try to explain why. If you have a specific image you want to portray – be it fun and funky, serious and professional, modern and sophisticated, natural and youthful – plan your photos in a setting that compliments those ideas.

3. ASK FOR ADVICE

Even if you don’t get a stylist, get a friend who KNOWS and will be honest to tell you which clothes look best and show your “assets” to the best advantage. Bring someone along to your shoot (ask your photographer first) as a third (or rather, fifth and sixth) eye to straighten your collar, get that stray hair out of your face, powder your nose, tell you that your fist doesn’t look good butted up against your chin like that… you get the idea. Your photographer might be focused on light and getting you with your eyes open, not necessarily on those little staging details.

4. PLAN YOUR BACKGROUND

Sinéad Sugrue, soprano - SineadSugrue.com

Sinéad Sugrue’s photos were beautifully atmospheric and very inspiring for website design. Click for photo credits.

If you are planning a photo for your banner, a big background area really helps, because your designer can superimpose text (your name and instrument, for example) over top.  Remember the banner image will (in general) be horizontal (landscape orientation) –  portrait shaped photos don’t work so well here, as then your designer might have to recreate/photoshop more background, do a fade out, or copy it from another image – which will cost you more money for their time.

Remember also that the background image and your clothing colours might well be the inspiration for the colour scheme for your site. Choose colours that you like and that look great with your skin tone! Natural textures like rock, wood, a garden, or brick, will usually make a far more interesting background than a flat white wall. On the other hand, if you and your designer have in mind a full page photo with text superimposed – a white or light grey background might work really well! Plan for the site and image you have in mind, or ask your web designer for suggestions.

5. STUDIO SHOOTS

This could be just me, but I personally think most people look better in studio shoots than outdoors, once they’re past a certain age (45 or 50?) – the lighting can be more controlled to downplay uneven skin tone and wrinkles.  Nothing wrong with wrinkles, but it’s nice to have them DOWN-played rather than highlighted, no? Consider having both a studio and a setting shoot, so you can pick and choose which you prefer for both your promo headshots and website images.

Susan Hoeppner, flute

This gorgeous studio shot of flutist Susan Hoeppner, with it’s rich purple velvet background, was the colour inspiration for her site SusanHoeppner.com. Click for photo credits.

6. STUDIO BACKGROUND COLOURS

Again, your background will most likely feature in some way on your website and/or promo materials. Try to stay away from mid-range greys or mid-range colours as it’s hard to superimpose text and make it clear and legible (neither white nor black, or coloured text will contrast well on a mid-range grey). Better to go with a shade on the darker or lighter end. If you’re not sure, imagine overlaying text over the image – would white or black be easy to read?

7. FEATURE YOUR INSTRUMENT

A website should make it’s subject clear on first glance, without your having to read the text body. So, if you are a pianist or a flutist, there should be a piano or flute in at least some of your promo shots. If you are a musician, the website is not just about you, it’s about you, your music and your instrument.

8. ORDERING

You don’t need your photographer to crop your image if you’re getting a digital copy.  For web, you want as much background as you can get, to start with. And, you don’t necessarily need 20 different shots to display on your site. If you are an instrumentalist your website is, fundamentally, about your music – too many photos can look a bit superficial. One shot on each page of your site should be more than enough.  Singers can do more because they are featured in staged productions and their bodies and facial expressions are intrinsic to their art. But even with singers, I would limit to one or two photos per page, a gallery of performance shots and a few promotional downloadables.

Finally, here are some local (Toronto) photographers  I can recommend :

And, consider Liz Parker (www.lizpr.com) to style your shoot – she does amazing work!

This is my first blog post about tips for website planning – If you have other suggestions about topics for discussion, questions or need advice about website planning, comment below to let me know!

3 thoughts on “People Hear with their eyes – Planning Photos for your Website and Promo Materials”

  1. Hi Mary! Thanks so much for this info! Was going to ask you about just this for the summer! Want to update my photos and get some new ideas. I’ve only ever had studio shots done….looking for something newer, fresher!

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