I love working with musicians. They make my life easier. This is a piece from a shoot I recently did with Villanova Junction, a Florida-based band that formed in 2007 and draws influences from some other musicians I love - Iggy Pop, the Doors and the Misfits.
Musicians (and performers in general) are outstanding subjects because they are usually eager to get new photos for promotional purposes, they aren't afraid of performing for the camera and they're used to looking good. That's great for me as a shooter because it allows me to create a scenario in my head and then not have to worry about shoehorning my talent into the concept at game time. They're usually thrilled to play along and the energy is always good.
GETTING YOUR SH*T TOGETHER
When I'm working with bands or individual musicians I like to begin by having a creative meeting with them a few days in advance, either over the phone, Skype or in person. This lets me get a sense of they're style and acts as a sort of informal brainstorming session to get the idea juices flowing. I usually jot down some notes during these meetings to keep track of concepts, locations or wardrobe ideas that might work well.
FINDING COOL LOCATIONS
There's no easy way to track down amazing locations, usually you just have to do the legwork.
I keep a catalog of locations in my head but I also routinely use my iPhone to grab quick snapshots of locations that I see throughout my travels. The geo-tagging function comes in really handy here. If I'm on the road and I spot a location I'd like to check out later and possibly use for a shoot, a quick snap from my iPhone logs it's address for me. I have a special album just for locations.
I often get asked, "How do you start a shoot?" My answer is "By taking a picture." Try not to let yourself be intimidated by the pressure of delivering for your client. Just pick a spot, put your talent there, place your light(s) and pop off a few shots. If that doesn't work, move, adjust your lights or reposition your talent - just keep trying stuff. I know it sounds simple but the pressures of being on location can sometimes make you forget the simple things. Trust your instincts and begin with whatever feels right. If the location comes out weird, move to another location. Just keep working it. I usually find that the first 30 minutes of a shoot is just a warm up period. Usually I throw out every shot that comes out of the first half-hour. After that, everyone is comfortable and the edge has come off. From there I tend to get much better results.
The dirty secret of photography (or video for that matter) is to shoot a lot. I will typically shoot 200-300 photos in a session which will yield about four or five really solid 'keepers.' Of those, possibly two will make it to my portfolio. The ratio is different for everyone but the shoot is never over until 'it's in there.' So keep shooting until you feel that you've nailed it. The world only sees the photos that you put out there. So what if you had to ditch 95% of what you shot because it didn't work? Photography is an art, not a science. There's a fair amount of creative room to play and not everything will work 100% of the time. Accept that reality, embrace the chaos and enjoy the thrill of nailing a great photograph when something you try really pops.