10 Awesome Bands for Your Concert Photography Portfolio - 2014 Edition

Lizzy's picture
Monday, December 29, 2014 - 1pm

I recently had a question come through tumblr asking what my favorite bands to take pictures of were in terms of best lighting, outfits, stages, etc., so I figured I'd take the opportunity to create a list of rock/metal bands that made for the best photo ops in 2014. Note, I tried to put them in some sort of ranking hierarchy, but I couldn't pick, so this list is in no specific order.

Motionless In White

Devin Ghost Sola of Motionless in White performing at Louder Than Life Festival 2014.

Why? These guys are fun to shoot because they all have dramatic appearances. Chris Motionless (vocals) wears a suit, which is pretty baller and a complete contrast to the some of the other members who dressed in tattered robes. Devin "Ghost" Sola wore amazingly eye catching green contacts when I shot them, while Josh Balz (keyboard) had utterly creepy large black contacts in. All of them play up the stage, and I think one of my best full galleries ever came from their set at Louder Than Life festival.

Caution: No idea what their indoor venue lighting is like!

Butcher Babies

Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies performing at Louder Than Life Festival 2014

Why? Not one, but two absolutely gorgeous vocalists. Both of them are expressive, energetic, interactive, and definitely not shy of your camera.

Caution: Remember that there is also a guitarist, bassist and drummer. The struggle is (or will be) real.

Avenged Sevenfold

Zacky Vengeance & Synyster Gates making funny expressions at Rock on the Range 2014

Why? Part of me feels pretty cliche adding them to this list, but it's pretty much unavoidable after they headlined just about every big festival this year. Besides, by the 6th time I shot them, I had figured out exactly when to expect the wonderful flames and pyro, the overwhelming lights that allowed for an f11 aperture, and the moments Zacky and Synyster paired up at center stage and made funny faces.

Caution: Each of the first three songs have drastically different lighting. The first one is dominated by reds, though they are not too bad to work with because of the overwhelming amount of fire. The third song had the best lighting every time.

Avatar

Johannes Eckerstrom of Avatar performing in the rain at Rock on the Range 2014

Why? They are a traveling Swedish metal carnival, and I mean that in the best way possible. Their circus-like attire is complimented by lusciously long hair (trust me, it makes girls jealous) and Johannes Eckerstrom (vocals) wears wild face paint.

Caution: Challenging indoor lighting. After talking to the light master at one of my local venues, I learned that Avatar specifically requests lots of red, lots of blue, and white strobes. You often end up with a collection of blue wash outs, red wash outs, unusable dark photos and a lucky hit on the strobe. Definitely recommend shooting them during the day, outdoors... (in the rain is an added bonus).

In This Moment

Maria Brink of In This Moment performing on the Hellpop II tour at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem, NC

Why? The theatrical aspect. It's elegant, it's diverse, it's dark, it's moody, there's a fog gun, dancers, creepy stage props and Maria Brink (vocals) even does some small clothing changes. Think Lady Gaga as a bad ass metalhead. Also, I think they approve just about any photographer that requests - and once let photographers shoot the full set of an entire tour run.

Caution: The lighting isn't entirely the best. It's riddled with reds and oranges and wash out blues at parts, and occasionally there is too much fog to see through, but there are definitely moments when it's great and all elements come together and make for some beautifully epic shots.

Korn

Jonathan Davis of Korn performing at Louder Than Life 2014

Why? Part of it is simply because I was completely surprised at how fun of a shoot they made for. I've listened to Korn for years, and judging by their older songs and music videos, I expected them to have a poorly lit stage and not be overly camera friendly. And boy, I couldn't have judged more wrong. Their lighting is amazing - deep blues and purples balanced with whites - and they are camera friendly, even offering occasional moments of eye contact. Jonathan Davis photographs amazingly well, and his infamous mic stand does, too. Also, despite having an insanely large drum kit, it's positioned in a way that makes it easier to capture great shots of Ray Luzier's animated expressions.

Caution: It's a little challenging to get photos of James "Munky" Shaffer and Brian "Head" Welch because they stay mostly behind mic stands.

Super bob

Matt Santoro of Super bob performing at Operation Rock Fest 2014

Why? They're still a pretty small band that seems to go under the radar and they don't have any frilly props onstage (with the exception of a small Buddha statue), BUT, their stage presence completely makes up for it. Matt Santoro (vocals) and Adam Smith (guitar) have wonderfully long dreads that look excellent when they headbang. Adam and Drew Recny (bass) jump around constantly. Chris Faircloth (drums) puts on an entertaining show himself, throwing drumsticks around, seeing how long he can balance them on one hand and also spitting water into the air and on his drums (I'm telling ya, water + drums is a great combination!).

Caution: Matt has a glittery mic and microphone stand that he can get pretty vigorous with. Once, his mic stand fell off the stage and narrowly missed a photographer in the pit. He apologized and made sure she was alright before continuing on, though.

Five Finger Death Punch

Chris Kael of Five Finger Death Punch performing on tour in Knoxville, TN

Why? Well, I set a personal record with most eye contact/finger points received in one show photographing them on a tour stop in Knoxville, TN back in October, so that definitely gives 5FDP some bias. The second time I ever shot them is still one of my fondest memories in my concert photography journey, where Chris Kael (bass) and Jason Hook (guitar) spent the whole first three songs playfully tossing picks at me every time I went to shoot them. I gave plenty of the picks I was covered in out, but still found them in my hair and pulled them out of my shirt when I got home. Safe to say, they have a good time, you have a good time, your camera has a good time.

Caution: Sometimes Ivan Moody (vocals) gets water bottles involved. I've seen it range from a simple fountain in the air, to spraying it everywhere and even dumping it on someone's head. I think his use of them depends on his mood.

Mushroomhead

Roberto Diablo and his water drums performing with Mushroomhead on Rockstar Mayhem Fest 2014

Why? The water drums alone put them on this list. They have tons of people on stage all wearing crazy masks and moving around, but the whole time I shot them I kept having to remind myself that they were other members aside from the ones playing water drums. I have only shot them in the day so far, but I will revise/advise on indoor/night lighting after I shoot them again in January.

Caution: There is a lot of water. I'm either brave or stupid and got right in front of the drums without any water protection... my camera survived, but if you're paranoid, bring rain gear.

Sabaton

Joakim Broden of Sabaton performing at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC

Why? So. Many. Reasons. During the first three songs, I'm almost certain they are performing solely for the photographers. I seriously had never seen a band play up the camera so much in one show until seeing these guys. There is no question about whether or not that "eye contact" was actually at you or just them looking over your head into the crowd. It was at you. Bonus: the best lighting ever for an indoor venue show.

Caution: If you turn your head away for even a second, you'll probably miss a good shot.

Agree, disagree, or got one you'd add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

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