Process 036 ☼ How To Create An Album Cover
Giveaway: Negative Supply's new LM1 Light Meter in black brass.
Today’s letter is about a recent album cover shoot and what we did behind the scenes to get it just right. Also, an exciting video update about my photo book NOTICE.
This week’s giveaway is super special. My pals at Negative Supply are crowdfunding their small but mighty LM1 light meter and we’re giving away a limited edition black brass one as this week’s prize. It’s gorgeous, and you need it.
A few months ago I got an email filled to the brim with passion and enthusiasm. Musical artist Timothy wrote to inquire about commissioning me to shoot the cover for his upcoming album “Goodbye For Now”.
Before I became a photographer I worked in the music industry for many years in various roles. I ran record labels, produced and art directed albums, and wrote songs. These days I love being able to contribute as a photographer to music projects.
I was impressed with Timothy’s poise and eagerness to embrace creative risks. He was well-researched and familiar with my work, which always helps. I was particularly excited about this part of his note:
“I would like to take on the challenge of doing something new and unique. The most important thing for me to mention here is that the photos can be raw and experimental. Not because we have to necessarily end up with that as the look, but because I think that introducing freedom into our creativity will result in us creating the most pure and playful moments.”
My favorite type of client to work with is someone who takes this approach.
Yes, it’s key to have creative meetings beforehand to discuss the look, references, and how the photography will fit into a larger project. Yes, I always meticulously prepare all technical and creative elements before the shoot. Yes, we always have a strong pre-production meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of goals, deliverables, and must-have shots.
But it’s all that much better if in addition we also allow for some serendipity and chance. Just enough space to experiment within our set boundaries. This way we can keep it creative and exciting, rather than purely executing a committee-determined shot list. As I wrote in issue 027, give the client what they want, but also show them what they don’t know they need.
Editorial Promo Shots
In addition to the album cover, Tim needed editorial promotional shots and that’s where we started, at Studio 13 and with the help of stylist Gina Christiaens and some excellent outfits and spontaneous accessories.
For these shots our goal was to create a GQ or Esquire kind of vibe so that Timothy and his team could use them for any press they get.
In our pre-production meetings we discussed the color theories around Timothy’s album and landed on red as a perfect accent color to relate our visuals to the music. Once we got our clean promotional shots we started experimenting. With the help of lighting and gels introduced our perfectly matched reds into the frame.
Timothy’s album is a diverse collection of music with various moods so for these images we undulated between clean, bright, happy portraits (see GQ-esque shots) and moody images in which darkness almost envelopes him.
Creating an Album Cover
Studio 13 consists of four different environments to shoot in. Once we were done with the editorial side of things in their wet studio, we moved to the upstairs loft which is painted white in its entirety and has a glass roof to create a super bright playground.
We continued with our red accent color and started experimenting with the idea of obscuring Timothy’s face to add a layer of mystery. All of this was done with the help of continuous light and gels to emphasize the bright and empty environment in which Timothy was centered as a strong and mysterious creative force. Below are a few variations of the shot we meditated on for most of our shoot.
Styling wise everything revolved around ambiguity and the power of Timothy being himself, regardless of societal expectations of what this should look like. The vest and bow are colorful and delicate while the atmosphere emphasized a calm sense of power.
Post-Production and the Editing Process
During our editing process we landed on an image in which Timothy struck a considered and confident pose and the semi-obscured red element focused tightly around his head. You can see his face, but it’s as if he is veiled and kept private.
Throughout the day I had been shooting through clothing racks and other metal objects in the studio, as you see in the original image below. The image to right is the same image after I edited out the metal frame and cleaned up the shadows a bit.
Once we had our image it was time to turn it into album cover art and place it in an appropriately square format. I expanded the space around Timothy to transform the studio into an even larger and more vacuous space. This way we created a calm and almost eerie environment for Timothy to sit inside of, staring straight at the listener as they download his music into their brain.
Leading up to the album release on August 6th, Timothy has been releasing singles onto the streaming platforms and each has a Roman numeral added as an additional graphic element, see below. It’s always exciting to see my work in use, whether its in a digital setting like this or in print or large scale when the music is released on vinyl.
This shoot re-kindled my love for working with musicians. I can’t wait to do more album cover shoots. If you’re musician looking to commission new promotional photos and/or album art, email me. I have some availability in August and October.
Today NOTICE will be bound into our gorgeous linen hardcover and on Monday I will sit down to sign every single pre-ordered copy by hand. After that they are off to our fulfillment partner who will carefully package each copy by hand and mail it off to you!
I cannot wait for you to finally hold it in your hands. Without you this book would not exist in the world. We will be forever grateful for the support and passion with which you’ve followed along with this project.
From the earliest mention when NOTICE was just a daily photo walk habit, to the moment I realized it would become a book, and every subsequent step after that until the book is printed, bound, signed and sent from my hands to yours.
What a wonderful group you are, spread across more than 50 countries all over the globe. Dan and I cannot wait to see pictures of you holding the book wherever in the world you may be. If you tag us (@wesley, @danrubin) on Instagram and show us where you are enjoying the book, it would mean the world to us.
Next week my NOTICE update should be that all preordered books were sent out but I have learned throughout this process that celebrating before you pass the finish line is not a good idea so lets cross our fingers that everything goes smoothly! <3
If you haven’t put in your order, this is a great time to still get in on the first print. Visit our New Style shop and grab one of the last remaining copies here.
Below is a short video shot my the talented Luc Satter who joined me a few weeks ago to monitor and document the printing of NOTICE. Check it out!
Alright that’s it for this week!
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
The good folks at Negative Supply are crowdfunding a pocket-sized digital incident meter called the LM1. It measures ambient light for accurate exposures, has flash support, a shutter speed tester, filter factor compensation mode, and even measures color temperature. For more details and to pledge check out the LM1 Kickstarter page.
There are various colors and price points for the LM1 and one Process subscriber will be the lucky winner of the limited edition brass gloss black version of the LM1, which will retail for $749 after the crowd funding campaign. Look at this beauty.
To enter email send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Process 036 Giveaway” before 11pm EST on August 3rd and answer the following question:
Your favorite musical artist requests that you send a pitch to shoot new art work for the re-release of your favorite album by them. Who is the artist, what is the album title, and what is your pitch in three sentences?
The winner will be randomly drawn and notified. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only. Subscribe by clicking the button below:
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Process is a weekly letter from me, Wesley Verhoeve. If you’d like to support what I do here click the button below to order my new book NOTICE.
Follow along at @wesley.