So, I can honestly say now that I've looked at hundreds (many hundreds, probably) of promotional pictures for groups and individuals in the last few years--usually with an eye to analyzing why they do or don't work.
And I can tell you now how to look exactly like every other band out there:
Make sure one or more of the guys in the picture has on a black blazer.
At least one person in the picture must have at least one hand in their pocket.
Line up on roughly the same plane as everyone else in the picture (at least make sure there are 2 rows). Better, stand in a line.
Someone in the picture must be wearing black. Preferably several someones, but not everyone.
ONE person should wear either a loud pattern or a bright color to contrast with the black.
Look serious. Seriously. Stare right into the camera and make sure to do your best impression of botox-face.
Tilt the camera at a just slightly odd angle--to one side, just a little low or a little high.
If you only have one girl (or one guy) put them in the center and ring everyone else around and behind them.
If you are a classical performer, hold your instrument sorta casually but not too casually, even if you're in the ocean or mountains.
Someone in the picture should be leaning against something.
Make sure there is an urban-chic wall or a window behind you (but only a window made up of a lot of small square panes).
If your band members are over 40, someone should wear sunglasses.
Keep your arms and hands inside the frame at all times.
Make sure there is a dark, dingy, or greyish cast to everything. And use some dramatic lighting.
Now you look just like everyone else!
And that's not a good thing. Why? Because often, entertainment buyers collect promo materials from dozens of groups at once and lay them all out to decide who to hire. And if you look just like everyone else, you might as well be invisible and inaudible, even if your music really is better.
I understand there are reasons for some of these conventions. There are only so many ways you can arrange 5 people. Hands tend to be awkward in pictures. The press pics, at least, have to be able to be printed in color or black and white and look equally good (thus the limited color palette and dramatic lighting).
You can see why we were excited to find Angie Wilson. She is a local photographer who has the touch. Even her senior portraits look like band photos SHOULD look, not like they do. You can look at her stuff here:
and see a sample of what she did for Tim here: http://angiewilsonphotography.com/blog/.
See? She really is THAT good. If you scroll down on the blog, you'll eventually get to pics of Angie and her husband Jim.
They work as a team on shoots. Mostly she's the photographer and he's the assistant, but he's armed with a camera, too, and he swoops in snapping when he sees something great--and he has a good eye. Tim said it was a fun shoot--and I'd say 99% of the shots are usable, which is extraordinary.