live event photography - book of souls, an iron maiden tribute band - photo copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - book a photoshoot at adrianfeliciano.com

Live Event Photography with Book of Souls

Heavy Metal Photography: Band Practice

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by an old high-school friend of mine, Jason, about photographing his new heavy metal band, Book of Souls, an Iron Maiden tribute band during their upcoming public debut at the Strange Brew Pub in Norwich, CT. During our conversation, we discussed my coming down to photograph one of their band practice sessions, in order to get some usable promo photos with the promise that I would be as unobtrusive as possible in order to avoid disrupting their practice.

The photos that came about as a result turned out to be a complete change of pace from the usual electronic dance music event oriented photography I’ve been immersed in for the past few years. Heavy metal has always been my musical home, so to speak, and it was refreshing to hear the first power chords as they plugged in!

live event photography - book of souls, an iron maiden tribute band - photo copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - book a photoshoot at adrianfeliciano.com
Book of Souls‘ Jason Berube on bass

Event photography with the Black Foamie Thing

I wanted to share a little bit of the flash photography technique that I frequently use to light photos like the one of Jason, above. To date, it has never failed me.

For starters, before photographing any scene with additional lighting, I always underexpose the ambient a bit. I want the main subject(s) to pop within the image. To do that, the main, or key, light needs to dominate the scene. Ambient, or background lighting, can become fill-light, back-light, rim-light, or eliminated all together. The key to lighting (Haha!) a photo well is seeing and then controlling the light in a scene.

So, after a quick test exposure to get a measure of the room’s ambient light levels and setting the camera to under-expose the photo, it’s time to add my light to the scene. It’s always best to get light off the camera and from a higher angle, cuz “natural light” is always above-axis to your lens.

Flash photography 101, right?

But what if you’re in a small studio space, how are you supposed to get a speedlight raised and angled well when there is already barely enough room for you to stand?

The simplest solution is to attach the speedlight to your camera’s hotshoe, but direct flash on-camera flash can look rough unless, of course, you know how to use direct flash effectively.

headshot of blonde female model with dark red lipstick against a red wooden background - copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - visit adrianfeliciano.com
Direct flash headshot of Liz Arruda of apogeeflowtoys.com

So, bounce the flash, right? Advanced flash photography technique 101. Bounce. The. Flash.

Sure, it helps, but it also tends to throw light around haphazardly and you risk flash-punching and annoying the people around you (like people trying to practice for an upcoming heavy metal gig).

You can improve bounced-flash in a variety of ways (non-affiliate links):

  • ExpoImaging sells their Rogue Flashbenders for about $45 for use as a flag or snoot,
  • you can go completely Gary Fong chaotic and use his Lightsphere® — which throws light everywhere, uncontrollably, for around $70,
  • or pay more with the MagSphere for about $50 plus the required MagGrip for $25

Enter The Black Foamie Thing.

It’s a simple piece of black art foam cut to size and then held in place on the speedlight with a hair tie, or rubber band, or a ball-bungee cord, or a Velcro speed strap. Go as expensive as you really want with whatever you use to attach it to your flash. It’s your money to spend.

If you use hair ties, all told, you’d probably be using what amounts to maybe $2.00 to simulate a larger flash modifier like a good soft box that can easily cost around $60 to begin with.

Flash settings are crazy easy. Set your flash to eTTL, and point it to project the light onto the surface you want your “key light” to come from while dialing your ISO to higher than base settings (100-200, depending on the camera) or setting it to auto ISO.

Yes, really — you can get soft, simple, directional light with just an on-camera speedlight, a piece of cheap art foam, and a hair tie!

It’s how I lit nearly all the indoor and some outdoor images I took while at the newspaper:

portrait of an older black man wearing blue collared shirt, suspenders, and beige tie in front of a darker beige wall and city of holyoke massachusetts flag - published by the daily hampshire gazette - photo copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - see more at adrianfeliciano.com
DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE / ADRIAN FELICIANO – 2011 Portrait of Holyoke Police Chief, Anthony Scott (Ret) next to the City of Holyoke Massachusetts flag

It’s how I light a lot of the event photos I take when I am in a smaller venue:

live performance image of Black woman wearing headphones at DJ decks with multicolored red, yellow, orange, and green background lighting effect at elements, a local Boston drum and bass weekly, held at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA - Photo © Adrian Feliciano, all rights reserved | Adrianfeliciano.com
Mizeyesis performing her birthday set at elements, a weekly drum and bass night held at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA.
female bodied DJ wearing a tank top and headphones spinning music - copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - adrianfeliciano.com
Artemis on decks at New England Junglist Massive
square format image of female dj on decks with an excited smile - copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - contact adrianfeliciano.com to book your next photoshoot
Marianne / Glowworm on deck at elements, a weekly drum and bass night held at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA.

It’s how I’ve lit impromptu portraits:

black and white photo of tribal fusion performer wearing a skull and spike headpiece and thin veil - copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - visit adrianfeliciano.com to book a photoshoot
Portrait of Nicole at Wonder Bar in Allston, MA

Boudoir photography:

boudoir photography with woman wearing a corset and putting on white lace stockings copyright adrianfeliciano.com
Boudoir photography with Angil Love
Boudoir photography session with anonymous model

Nude photos:

From a nude body painting photoshoot in NH

Even some still life fine art photos:

From a nude body painting photoshoot in NH

And it’s how I lit a heavy metal band practicing in a studio space no bigger than a small bedroom:

In summary

Flash photography does not have to be a complicated or unnecessarily expensive affair. $2.00 – $3.00 and a surface to bounce light off is all it should take to vastly improve the look of your photography without resorting to trying to “fix it in post.”

Want to see more of my photography?

My photography portfolio presents the best of my headshot, portrait, boudoir, nightlife event, and fire performer and flow artist photography.

Want to schedule a photography session?

If you’re nearby and would like to schedule a photo shoot together, please visit my contact page to send me a message so we can get started!

Adrian Feliciano

View posts by Adrian Feliciano
Adrian Feliciano specializes in on-location portrait and boudoir photography, documenting events for Boston's thriving nightlife scene, and fire performer photography. He also makes one hell of a delicious Filipino adobo. Feel free to ask him for the recipe! You can reach out to Adrian here, at anytime.

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