Address: 4514 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

New Work: John “Papa” Gros album cover photography
New Orleans musician John "Papa" Gros portrait
New Orleans musician John "Papa" Gros portrait

I had worked with New Orleans musician John “Papa” Gros a few years ago to create some new portraits for his press needs. We rented out Luke Winslow King’s house (another notable NOLA talent) for some rustic and royal portraits in his century old creole mansion in Arabi, Louisiana. For this recent album artwork job, John was very specific in creating images that fit with the theme and title of the new, soon to be, New Orleans staple “Central City”. We were going to create a mix of studio photography and natural light outdoors photography.

For a few weeks I scouted all over New Orleans’ historic Central City neighborhood looking for unique backgrounds that lent a similar color tone all across the board. I didn’t want each location to be different from each other, nor did I wan’t them to distract from the portrait of John. We did some studio photography at my headshot studio on Magazine Street to create some stylish yet clean images to be used in various press releases for the album and live shows.

John "Papa" Gros New Orleans musician portrait at Zack Smith Photography studios on Magazine Street.
John “Papa” Gros photographed at Zack Smith Photography Studios in New Orleans.

For my studio shots I had to remember to keep it simple…with a guy like John, photographing him is so relaxing and easy, almost like you are hanging out with a friend taking pictures when it feels right. A few things I remembered from our first shoot helped me in this most recent one:

My Tips on How to Photograph Studio Portraits of a Musician

  1. Keep the Conversation Going

    Being able to use casual conversation in an often hectic studio environment will put you both at ease resulting in the best version of that person.

  2. Make Camera Adjustments With Little Effort

    Make sure you don’t stop to just concentrate on the camera and lose touch with your subject. While you find a button you need, keep the conversation light and ask questions so that they have to talk.

  3. Do Your Research On Their Music

    Being able to quote and reference their music, songs, lyrics, and influences can give you so many things to talk about you can almost forget you are working!

New Orleans musician portraits at Zack Smith Photography Studio in New Orleans, LA.
John “Papa” Gros photographed at Zack Smith Photography Studio in New Orleans, LA

After our studio portrait session, John was ready to look at the locations I made him. I created a location scout gallery and uploaded the best ones to my private HIGHTAIL account so he could look through and decide what fit best with his album concept. We agreed on a few locations in the Central City area of New Orleans and my next step was to make sure we shot at exactly the right time when the light was perfect. I used my favorite photography light apps to gauge those times when the sun was just right, and we scheduled the shoot around those times.

More New Orleans Musician Portraits

If you like this blog on my recent album artwork photo shoot with John “Papa” Gros I think you will love this October post of more New Orleans musician portraits http://zacksmit.wwwmi3-tr1.supercp.com/why-new-orleans-musician-portraits-matter-right-now/

Explore Zack's Jazz Museum Exhibit


New Orleans photographer Zack Smith’s portraits of Louisiana musicians, artists, and fans are currently on display at the New Orleans Jazz Museum.

Discover the captivating world of jazz through Zack’s lens. 

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