Featured / Kylie Nicholson

How To: Musician & Artist Branding Portraits

Hey everyone!

Today I’m going to be talking about how I approach a collaboration with another artist. I photograph a lot of musicians and other artists for their own personal work, for album releases, and for other public facing branded content. I get a lot of questions about how I approach this process and how I guide these sessions, so today I’m going to be talking about all of these things. Pull up a chair and come along with me!

The Consultation

I always ALWAYS meet up with my clients ahead of time. I’m a people person, and I like to get to know the heart, the soul and the mission of person I will be photographing. The best way to relate to someone is to understand them, and the best way to create authentic images is to fully understand a client and the types of imagery they are trying to create.

Meeting up ahead of time also helps to develop a rapport and a relationship, so when we meet again to shoot we are both already comfortable with each other. My clients often become friends, and I believe that this is because I take the time to get to know them and their stories, and to share mine as well.

Artists often have an idea of the image or brand they would like their photos to convey, so it’s important to sit down ahead of time to get a full understanding of what this is. Sometimes they have a distinct idea, and sometimes they don’t. In cases of the latter, I have specific questions I like to ask to get to the heart of the brand they are trying to create.

These questions may include “How do you want people to feel when they see your images?” “What do you want your images to communicate/ say?”

Questions like this help to empower the artist to guide the direction of the shoot, which in turn empowers you to do the same. Of course, the shoot itself can contain some experimentation and exploration, and the direction can change during the shoot. However, it’s nice to enter a shoot with a shared vision and then go from there.

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

The Shoot

Now, for the main event! I would say “now, for the fun part!”, but I genuinely enjoy the consultation as much as I enjoy the shoot, so they’re both fun for me. But for those of you who prefer shooting, “Now, for the fun part!”

Tips for Photographing Artists

Set the Mood

I love to play music while I shoot. I’d never considered doing this until I attended a workshop where they recommending doing this. It’s a complete game changer! I let my clients choose what kind of music they want to listen to. It’s a great way to get into the “zone” if you will. It relaxes the client, makes them feel more comfortable, and who doesn’t love to get some candid shots of people jamming out?! It also gives you some common ground to bond over. I find it gives me more energy and creativity as well. Win, win win!

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Location, location, location

Location matters for a few reasons. First, it obviously influences the look of the photos. Shooting outside on the street is going to yield a very different feeling in an image than shooting in a field of flowers. It’s important during the consultation to discuss what “look”, “feel” or “vibe” the artists is going for, and together decide on a location.

Second, location can influence how an artist feels on a shoot. I’ve had clients who are more shy and don’t want to shoot in a super public place where people will be walking by. If you want to photograph a musician playing music, it might be nice to find a secluded area where they can be themselves. Alternatively, maybe they thrive in front of people and you want to photograph them on a busy street corner playing to passers by. It all depends!

Third, location determines other locations. For example, if you decide to shoot in a field up in the mountains, it will be harder to then go down to the city center for more urban shots. If you want a variety of locations, it can be good to either budget for travel time, or to plan for multiple days. Alternatively, some locations are a wealth of variety. I’ve had shoots where we’ve had a garden, a mirrored wall, a brick wall and a garage in a one-block radius. We were able to shoot for two hours while barely moving!

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

Have fun!

Photographically yours,


About Author

Kylie Nicholson is a travel and destination wedding photographer based in Los Angeles, California. When in LA, she photographs concerts, musicians, weddings, and portraits. People are her passion, and she seeks to capture personalities through crisp, vibrant images. Her work has been featured in BMI, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and most recently Cosmopolitan Magazine. She will travel (and does) worldwide. Kylie loves answering questions and working with other creatives- so feel free to get in touch! Connect with her on Instagram @kylienicphoto and Twitter @kylienic13. View her work at

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