WUK, Vienna, Austria
Time / Date:
20:00, April 30, 2012
Camera Body: Hasselbald 503CX
Lens: Carl Zeiss Planar T 150mm f/4
Lighting: Elinchrom Quadra with Rotalux Deep Octa
Support: Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Support: Manfrotto 468MGRC4 Hydrostatic Ball Head
Light Meter: Sekonic L358
Kodak Portra 160 film
Shutter Speed: 1/250s
Focal Length: 150mm
I am a self taught music and portrait photographer and have a Ph.D. in molecular biology. During my studies I realized that I wanted to combine my two passions, music and photography, instead. I shoot concerts for bands including Iggy Pop, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Prodigy, Foo Fighters, Rammstein and Leonard Cohen, to name a few. My portrait work of celebrities including The Prodigy, Atari Teenage Riot, Fatboy Slim, Fink, Portugal. The Man, and the Darkness have been featured on album covers, tour posters and magazine publications.
When it comes to my personal projects I am rather old fashioned and love to shoot film. The look of analog pictures is still unrivaled. Film shooters will tell you how much they love the special look of film. This is similar to music lovers who tell you that vinyl sounds more organic than a CD (and I definitely agree with this statement too). Therefore, I shoot with my Hasselblad 503CX as often as possible and I am always blown away when I see the prints that this camera can produce.
I had the great opportunity to do a portrait shoot for the German digital hardcore/noise/electro/punk band Atari Teenage Riot. Alec Empire, Nic Endo and CX KiDTRONiK are referred to as “… the only group that iTunes have censored on the grounds that their music could create riots!” (Artrocker Magazine) and their music video for “Black Flags” was nominated for the MTV O Music Awards 2012 in the category “Best Protest Song Of The Year”.
I met them at the WUK in Vienna before their show and explained briefly my idea for the shoot. They agreed, and I got the final picture as I saw it in my head. I love to take on-location portraits and show people interacting with the space they are in. However, in this case I challenged myself to go for another look. I wanted to create a photo where all three artists have space to interact and decided to go after a clean headshots picture on a black background.
For this portrait of Atari Teenage Riot I used my beloved medium format Hasselblad 503CX with a Kodak Portra 160 film. This camera will give you 12 exposures (6×6 on a 120 film roll) and definitely slows you down. Manual focus and manual aperture and shutter speed settings on the lens will give you the feeling that your photography is a real handcraft (again). I used a Sekonic L358 light meter to adjust the flash power on my Elinchrome Quadras holding a Rotalux Deep Octa on the flash head. I used a Hasselblad Polaroid back to do some test shots before. A tripod like the Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 is a must with this beast of a camera to nail the focus. With the old analog Hasselblads you have two options to choose from: waist level finder or prism finder. The waist level finder will show you a mirror inverted image and it has always driven me nuts. Therefore I use the 90° prism finder instead.
Making the Shot:
When it comes down to celebrity music portraits you are not only limited by time but also by location. Often, you get an appointment close to the beginning of the show and you can not do your photoshoot in the venue where all the fans are already waiting. Therefore, you have to be creative and translate some inspirations in your head into an idea that works for both you and the artist. These are high-pressure situations and the best way is to have an idea already in mind before the artists stand in front of you.
In this shot I decided not to do the shoot in the backstage area but rather in an unusual spot, a tight staircase with white walls (the backstage area was so crowed that it was not possible to do the shoot there). Since I had already an idea how I wanted the portrait to look like, I set up a chair in front of a black curtain, that I brought with me. I placed Alec Empire, Nic Endo and CX KiDTRONiK on the chair and told them to look to the right, to the left and to the middle. I think they felt like they had just had their school pictures taken. I ended up with 9 pictures (3 of each musician) and the portrait session was done in 5 minutes.
Editing & Processing:
The editing process when using analog film is reduced to a minimum. I sent the film to my photolab where they developed the film and scanned the pictures. They sent me my files via wetransfer.com the next day and I imported them into Ligthroom 5. When using a good photolab you have almost nothing to adjust in the settings. I opened the 3 pictures in Photoshop CS5 and created the final picture as seen above.
This shoot, in my mind, turned out really great. I arrived an hour before the actual shot with my photo assistant and we set up and tested everything. As the band members of ATR appeared in our tight staircase studio, the nervousness was already gone. Alec, Nico and CX KiDTRONiK were relaxed and it seemed they had fun during the shoot. Even tough I had the idea of the shot in mind I was lucky that the clothing really fit well with the mood of the picture. Alex and CX KiDTRONiK both wore black T-Shirts, which let them fade away into the black backdrop. Nic, however, the key person in the picture, was looking straight into the camera and wearing a grey shirt with her black Japanese signs drawn on her face. One point I would do better is to get the missing keylights in Alec’s (on the left) eyes right.
Starting your photographic career with music celebrity portraits might not be the easiest way to begin. Honestly saying, I think this is one of the toughest fields in photography. And the reason is the following:
Put yourselve in the position of a music celebrity. As you can imagine, these people can not move freely in public and always have their management people as a first front of security. Musicians like Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers or The Prodigy (I waited for them 6 hours) often arrive at the venue an hour before the concert is taking place. So they are not interested in a 30 minute photo shoot with you. In fact, in 90% of my portrait sessions, I had to get the shot in less than five minutes. And as a beginner it is almost impossible to reach out to them.
The only advice I can give is the way that I took myself. I started to shoot concerts of bands in small clubs. After I had built my portfolio I applied at magazines and got the opportunity to shoot more famous bands in bigger venues and festivals. I also then began to shoot portraits of some local bands and asked at every concert if they are interested in taking their portraits too.
Fast forward, I have build my network and I am able to shoot music celebrities that I could only dream of a couple of years ago. Being a music photographer (and I think also other colleagues with this profession will agree) has to do a lot with being passionate and love the things that you do. Sure, it’s sometimes tedious and it´s hard work, but being a music photographer is still the best job in the world. When you see the kick-ass pictures you got from the last session it will catapult you into another sphere.
I also started a new project: How to Become a Rockstar Photographer
In this step-by-step guide, I’ll teach you how to start your career as music photographer. If you are interested, check it out and sign in for free updates.
I get my inspiration for my portrait work from photographers like Martin Schoeller, Dan Winters, Zack Arias, JoeyL and Jonathan Canlas. I also listen to a lot of music and read different kinds of books, so I think my style of photography is a mixture of all of these elements.
About the Photographer
Matthias Hombauer is a professional music photographer with a Ph.D. in molecular biology. Currently he is based in Vienna/Austria and works for national and international music magazines as well as record labels and bands in order to capture the amazing moments during a stage performance and portraits of artists. Furthermore Matthias is also an author, passionate teacher and public speaker
Submit Your Images
The Image Story is all about inspiring images. We want to share and showcase your very best images—the ones that you’re most excited to share and the ones that tell us who you are as a photographer. Submit your images to be featured on the Image Story