Step-by-Step Guide to Rock & Roll Photography

Rock & Roll isn’t almost music, it’s about attitude. It’s four-lettered and raw, maybe unhinged, definitely primal, and, frankly, it do...



Rock & Roll isn’t almost music, it’s about attitude. It’s four-lettered and raw, maybe unhinged, definitely primal, and, frankly, it doesn’t offer a damn how you feel. Capturing that sort of spontaneous, devil-may-care spirit takes a lot of create, though. In this video, photographer Eric Levin shares the secrets to one of his favorite successes-a shot from the band Ice Nine Kills featuring frontman Spencer Charnas flashing the existing Johnny Cash two-fingered salute:

As with all of things photography, getting the right equipment to do the job is key. To get that grungy hard rock feel, Levin pulls out some pretty fancy equipment. He begins with his four foot wide HalfDome strobe, up on a boom and outfitted having a grid to limit the sunshine it pumps out. For greater lighting control, a black muslin is set up to eliminate any ambient light that won’t be from the inside the frame in the shot. Finally, there’s a smoke machine, because whatever, man. That stuff just looks cool.

Before he goes ahead using the official shoot, Levin takes several test shots to make certain he’s got the proper exposure settings. In addition to exercising the aperture to shutter speed relationship, he’s also ensured to sync the strobe with all the beginning of the exposure, prior to the quick zoom in he makes with all the lens. There’s way too much light if your flash pops at the end, when he’s fully zoomed in as well as the lit background window takes up a larger portion in the frame.

rock and roll band photography

Having worked out the flash sync timing, Levin sets the exposure for his Nikon D3S like so:


  • Aperture: 8.0

  • Shutter Speed: 1/8

  • ISO: 400


At this aspect he’s ready to do it are the real deal. Because each of the technical kinks have been worked out in advance, receiving a final product goes pretty quickly. It’s just a matter of taking a few shots until he gets the proper looks from his subjects. And since he’s tethered his camera to the Mac, his shot is quickly available for him to generate some quick corrections in Lightroom for clarity and exposure. This lets him see whether he’s working having a good enough “negative” for post-processing (that is done later, naturally, long after the band has left the photo shoot and resumed rocking various socks and the like).

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