Photo workshop: shooting music CD artwork

Temple statue in Kuhombutsu, Tokyo, by Ron Inman

It’s great fun to go out, discover new places and shoot. It’s a lot more interesting to do this if you also have some sort of theme or project to focus on whilst you are shooting. It shapes the experience and I think it makes you more inquisitive, more visual curious.

On the photowalks and workshops I organise here in Tokyo, we always try to have a theme or a selection of themes for people to choose from. Some are loose, some tight and some – like this one – based on the idea of producing pictures to a fictional but realistic brief.

I was in the music business for more than ten years, in public relations and then as general manager of a label. In my second job, as manager, I had a design team to organise and manage. Choosing good photography for the CDs was part of my job and taking photos to a creative conclusion as product artwork and commercial concept was happening for up to six new CDs a month.

So, matching pictures to music or at least making a complimentary package of the music and artwork: that was my bread and butter for a while, and it was fun.

Such was the concept when we took to the streets of Setagaya-ku a couple of days ago: to take the world around us, match it to either some real music we liked or a fictional band or concept and shoot pics to form the CD packaging layout.

I gave people the CD layouts so they could see the sorts of constraints there would be. Square format for the box, obviously. We chose the 4-panel-digipak as our template, a format I had worked with a lot in the music business. We’d be finding front and back cover, inside and ‘under the CD tray’ pictures.

Here is the route we took, on a Google map.

You can download the templates yourself if you want to give this project a go and there is also some research material here too:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14214582/album-cover-pdfs/black_box.pdf
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14214582/album-cover-pdfs/ecm.pdf
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14214582/album-cover-pdfs/layout_sample%20copy.jpg
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14214582/album-cover-pdfs/layout_sample.psd
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14214582/album-cover-pdfs/layout.pdf
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14214582/album-cover-pdfs/project_resourcematerials.pdf
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14214582/album-cover-pdfs/the_disc.pdf

It was a great day, superb weather and I had a great crowd of people to shoot with. People are getting their shots in to me now and I will post the layouts I have made as I get people’s photos.

The directive was, at the end of the shoot, to send me six favourite shots that hung together well as a set. I would then take them, edit them if necessary, and put them into the CD packaging layout. This takes the photo ‘ownership’ away from the photographer and is an essential part of getting into a good method of working professionally: at some point you as a photographer have to ‘give away’ your shots to someone else. A designer, me in this case, who will take them, edit them, mess them around maybe… and finally make something else with them. Sometimes the photographer has some input, some control. Often they don’t.

Here’s the first result… from Ron Inman. There are two galleries below: Ron’s originals and my edits. The finished product is also below.

…and the finished article: ‘Tokyo Dreams’.  Whilst he was shooting, Ron was listening to my suggested tracks by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Photos for CD cover project by Ron Inman

 Joanne Yu has been out on a few workshops now and she has a really keen eye, great perception of colour and concept. Here are the eight shots she sent me, some edits I made and then the final CD artwork I put together.

Joanne’s eight favourites:

The edits I made of several of them:

And her final layout: ‘Against The Grain’ a fictional album of music by David Dylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

CD artwork project by Joanne Yu

I met Miwako during the Eric Kim street photography workshop at the beginning of December but she’s interested in a lot more than street, shooting some great nature studies on this workshop. Here are her galleries and layout, which capture the end of autumn nicely….

Miwako’s original favourite shots:

The edits I did on Miwako’s shots [she sent them through a bit small so I had to upsize them all too, using Genuine Fractals]:

And Miwako’s final layout. I really like this. Great complimentary images.

CD design layout by Miwako Tamura

Anna-Marie sent in her shots a while ago but she was concerned they all looked the same:  the shots of the trees, which she shot with my 50mm f/1.2 lens – her first experience of such a big aperture lens or manual-focus. She had a lot of fun!

But, after she sent in a few more shots it made me realise even more that the first set was the winning collection and that’s what I made her layout from. Lovely soft shapes, colours. I did just a tiny bit of editing on each, they were all so beautiful to begin with.

Here are her original shots, the favourites she sent in to me:

And these are the ones I edited and used:

And the final layout I made from her shots:

Music CD artwork photography project by Anna Marie

Dennis Ong has been out on a bunch of workshops now. I think this was the first where we had a sort of ‘product’ to shoot for. I liked the way his selected shots focused on water and reflections. Made making a layout easier for me as the whole theme was nicely contained in just three shots.

Here are his originals and edits, with the layout below. Black and white really worked for these shots. It’s made, I think, a really sweet layout.

Paul Church is, I know, more happy shooting with just a 50mm and in monochrome but we had him on the 80-200mm a little for this workshop and despite him submitting pics in colour, I ended up using them mono as I thought the drama really worked better that way. Paul’s outside of his comfort zone with nature and landscape…

About Japanorama

Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

We also welcome submissions of photos and articles for this site, so please get in touch via our contact page. Thanks.

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