Music has a very strong connection to studio photography. I’d wager that the vast majority of people imagine studios with music driving the shoot. Think Blow-Up or more recently, Austin Powers. Music can help to energize your set. But, what happens when you’re just not as in touch with the poppiest of pop culture anymore?
The Client’s Choice
On commercial shoots, I’ll just let the client pick the music. After all, they’re paying; their happiness and mood are central to getting the next commission.
Music as a Representation of Brand
If the client isn’t on set, as the director on set, the choice of music often falls to me. I have my own tastes, but music tastes are as diverse as any other preference. How can I possibly satisfy everyone? Taking it a step further, as I get older, my tastes drift a bit further from those of my cast and crew. If the entire shoot day is a representation of your brand and I don’t want my brand to feel out of touch, what do I do?
The Crew’s Choice
If the client isn’t on set, I will often defer to the PR or AD agencies that are on set. These agencies are usually staffed by creatives that are a few years younger than me. I’m happy to let them pick the music as long as it doesn’t veer too far from my tastes. I have a very broad taste in music, but, as the director on set, I need to be energized and comfortable as well. The music can’t turn me off. Although I’d be happy with a bit of Taylor Swift or Drake, I’m not interested in a few hours of Cardi B or Post Malone. I’d likely rather some Stones, Simone, or Public Enemy. Truthfully, working with a younger crew also gives me a chance to hear something new.
The Talent’s Choice
On editorial or longer creative shoots, the models often get to pick the music, as their mood can drive or crater a shoot. Again, if the music drifts too far into one particular genre or era for too long, I can always bring it back to a different playlist during a break.
Too Many Chefs
Lately, I’ve found myself shooting a lot of what the modeling industry calls new faces, essentially test shoots for the modeling agencies. In any given day, the agency will send me up to a dozen aspiring models, and I will run them through a series of poses to help the agency determine if these models have it or not. In this case, working with more than 10 different models means that the playlist would be changing every 30 minutes or so. That kind of herky-jerky soundscape can exhaust both me and the makeup artists. In this case, either I pick the music, or I let the MUA pick the music.
What Do You Do?
I am very curious, though. How do you select the music on your set? Does music help drive the mood of the set, or is it strictly background? What sort of approach do you take if whoever is playing DJ takes the mood in the wrong direction?