Promotional photographs are produced and published by order of record companies or the performers themselves. The pictures are often distributed free of copyright in the hopes that the media will use them as illustration material. By managing the production of the photographs, the band or record company has complete control over the contents of these pictures. This makes promotional photography an important tool for advertising and enhancing a performer's public image.
In the early years of pop music, portrait photography was most common: performers would be dressed up nicely and would always sport bright smiles, either dutiful or not. But pop music changed and developed. Several genres came into being, offering new possibilities for small record companies and those who produced their own music independently. This changed the nature of pop photography, and especially of publicity photographs.
Within the various genres and subcultures like punk, metal and hip-hop, communicating the right atmosphere and emphasising a certain public image became of key importance. Clothes, poses, the performers' surroundings: everything would be employed to communicate the performer's image and attitude. Besides this, there was an increasing amount of experimentation with photography, especially by performers with ties to the art world. The digital revolution has also had an obvious influence on pop music photography.