The creative process behind making Album art

Having worked as a music photographer now for over 10 years, I have been involved in many a project where my images have been used for both promotional use and as Album art. I also teach 'Visual Media & Design skills' at the Australian Institute of Music, where we cover the topic of 'creating a brief and mood board for artist logo and album art design'. In most cases, the promo photo shoot is considered a seperate entity to the album art design. The use of a promo shot for an album cover, is usually an after thought. However, with some careful planning you can get the most out of a promo shoot, by creating images that will be used not only for promo, but also for album cover, poster art, and web. Ultimately, this will ensure a 'continuity of aesthetic' across all the visual promotional materials, which is essential when building brand identity. 

 Below is a step by step breakdown of the creative process behind my shoot with artist Kim Girdlestone. The shoot and design project was in collaboration with one of the music industries best designers/videographers Jefferton James of Jefferton James  Designs

After my first phone conversation with Kim, I set up a drop folder for her to drop image references into for the purpose of setting an 'artistic direction'. I asked her to add images that set the tone for colour palette, styling, location, props, and overall mood. I also asked her to send through mp3s of the tracks, song lyrics and any other info that would help to set the tone. Here is a moodboard of the images below....

Moodboard for kim Gidlestone shoot

Moodboard for kim Gidlestone shoot

I digested the mood board and info Kim sent through, and after a second phone conversation, me and Kim came up with a few words to set the tone for the shoot - 'black and white, sexy, understated, soul, classic, and cool'.  

Like most independent artists Kim is operating on a small budget, so we took this into consideration when planning the shoot. We decided that to get the most value out of the shoot, we would attempt to create images that would be used for both promo, poster art, and album cover. Furthermore, we also decided to shoot on location, as opposed to the studio, to help cut back on expenses. We then decided on a basic shot list that would take in 2-3 set ups in Kim's apartment, and then a final outdoor location where we would have access to the blue mustang on the moodboard!!! Going by the exclamation marks you can say I was already a bit excited!!!! From here Kim went away to source the styling and I went away to have a think about lighting. 

My personal taste with lighting is to create a cinematic feel. 'Tight and bright' images have their place, but I prefer to blend available light with flash to give the images a more documentary, candid feel. Looking at the images, and taking into consideration the catch words, I decided I would take the same approach to lighting for this shoot. 

The shoot day went well, and we created a variety of striking images with different looks. I even got to fulfil one of my dreams, by driving the mustang! A big thanks to Mr Tom Bradley for making my dreams come true.

After the shoot we looked over the shoot and decided to first choose an image to run with for promo and poster art.  Even though the original brief had been to make black and white images, we decided to go with a colour image for 'high impact'. I have a soft spot for black and white, but in the interest of creating an 'eye catching', 'high impact' image for promo, we decided to go with the colour version of the image below. 

This was then handed over to Jefferton James designs to work his design magic. Jefferton first created a logo for Kim and then set about creating the poster art. The finished poster art is below. 

Kim had her heart set on black and white for the album cover, to help create that classic feel. To create 'continuity of aesthetic' we decided to use the promo image, also for the album cover, but of course converted to black and white. Together with the album cover image, we need 2 more images for the back cover and the inlay. We chose the images with a similar mood, and the images that work best as a set. Here are our choices below...

These choices were then passed onto Jefferton, who used his design skills to create a variety of versions of the album cover with different tints, and effects. The final album cover and back cover designs are below...

The last image was used to sit under the cd case, and next door to the credits. See below...

Finally one more promo image was chose to be used in the banner head of her facebook page. Jefferton James are also currently working on creating a wesbite for Kim. See banner image below...

All in all, a very productive shoot, that generated imagery for promo, album art, poster art and web. It's amazing what you can achieve with a bit of careful planning! The end result is a polished looking package with all the necessary visual marketing tools.  Most importantly, the package demonstrates 'consistency of aesthetic' which is essential when building a brand. 

For quotes on Promo shoots contact Angelo on: ak@akfotography.net

For quotes on logo design and album art packages contact Jefferton on: guymorrow@gmail.com