Music Photography Blog

by Adam Elmakias

Zombie EP Concept Art

I have been working with the The Devil Wears Prada guys since I first met them back at Bamboozle in 2008. I was on one of my first assignments photographing them for Alternative Press magazine. I forgot my camera on their bus and was cameraless for a few hours until they could come unlock it for me. I actually did it on purpose so they would remember me…well whatever happened, it worked- because they let me work with them again. The guys in The Devil Wears Prada are extremely nice people, I am always stoked to work with them.

The Devil Wears Prada recently released a concept EP- about killing zombies. When Mike (vocalist of said band) hit me up and told me their EP layout was going to be photo based, I teared up a little I was so stoked. A few phone calls and some tens of e-mails later, we came to the conclusion that we would have to do this in two shoots- one for the concept art, and one shoot for the band press. The deadline for EP was a few days after they got back from tour- so…. plan was shoot all the concept art a few weeks before, get them edited and laid out…Then shoot the press images right when the guys returned from tour and place them in the already completed layout, simple enough? Well here was how it was done…

Mike basically sent me a list of the songs on the EP, and all of their lyrics along with them. For each song, we needed an image to lay behind the lyrics in the lyric booklet. So next to each song he wrote out all the ideas he had brainstormed for each song’s image. I looked over his list and sent him back my opinion on all of his ideas and some of my own. I love working with Mike, because he works best the same exact way I work best, bouncing ideas off of each other until we find something that works for the both of us. I think of it more as me working with him, rather than me working for him.

In order to get these images shot I decided to fly back home to Madison, Wisconsin for a week to shoot it. Wisconsin works out well because my family and friends live there, so that helps keep living and transportation costs down. I also wanted to have enough time to shoot the images, run them by the band, and then shoot again and again until we agreed on the image.

Shots needed
• desolate dated cityscapes
• zombie close up
• pills/ syringes on a drug table
• cornfields/ field shots
• foggy landscape images
• abounded buildings
• zombies swarming a forest

I decided it would be best to shoot during dawn everyday for a few reasons:

• desolate, everyone would be asleep
• foggy areas would be abundant
• farmers wouldn’t see me jumping their fences
• lighting would be soft, even if it was going to be a sunny day

Soft lighting was important, as the images were not supposed to be very edgy or full of contrast. We wanted a flat, gloomy, and erie feeling for each shot. Pretty much the exact opposite of what I usually shoot.

First day I was in town I shot some zombie lighting test shots, I figured while I was at it I would try some make up on and see if I could pull it off myself. Long story short, started searching for a make-up artist the next day. I couldn’t pull it off alone. Here is a test shot I took in my garage with my friend Evan. Lit with a lamp I stole from my moms living room. My best friend Ian also helped me out as a second hand, he’s a good dude and just loves to hang out.



I’ll spare you the images of me because I resemble a confused raccoon.

Next I shot some images of some pills and syringes. I decided to shoot these in my room about 5 feet from a window. All of the light that crept into my room was pretty soft due to the fact that my room was located in the basement and the sunlight didn’t have a direct through the window. I couldn’t have asked for better shooting conditions. Alright now to construct a drug users table. I went in my closer and pulled out my drug table from when I was twelve. Kidding! I went to Walgreens and asked them is they had syringes. I was nervous I would somehow come off as a drug addict and sirens would start going off and I would be shot. I honestly had no idea what to even ask for. They suggested insulin needles, they were really cheap, something like a few bucks for ten. Snagged a few of those and I was off. I gathered some pills, a few I found lying around the house and some of my own (prescription) as well. I went for a clean erie look at first. I shot the images with my 70-200 4.0 and my 85 1.8 to help create a good DOF and to keep the distortion minimal. My drug table itself was a long wooden white board.

Added my mom’s lamp and some pill bottles
I separated window and pills with my body to get some shadow variations

I ran these by Mike and he said they weren’t quite there yet- different table and more drugs. I decided to resume shooting the drug table a different day.

My high school was having their fine arts week, which is basically a week where everyone makes art and hangs out in the courtyard- best week ever. My high school had put a gallery up for a few months that revolved around my photography with bands, both press and touring. I found my old art teachers and thanked them for everything, I was stoked to see them.

The particular art teacher who put on the art show was newer to the school, so I had never met her prior, but she was really rad. I ran into a few students who recognized me from the gallery “about me” photo and talked shop with them. How they recognized me, I am not quite sure, because this picture doesn’t look much like me.


photo by Jesse Deflorio


I also took a picture with a lunch lady on her cell phone, she insisted that her daughter had told her about me, I laughed at the situation and took a picture with her. She was really kind to me, we talked for a few minutes and I continued on-she was a nice human. There was art from the students all over the courtyard, pottery, glass, metal, and paintings- among other random indescribable pieces. They eventually started having a pottery auction which is when I decided to head out. Man, I miss high school, the lat two years of it were a lot of fun.

The next morning I woke up around 3:00am and Ian picked me up from my house. Ian has been my best friend since the 4th grade, which is where we met through Pokémon and Digimon trading cards. I actually have Ian tattooed on the back of leg. He is the one on the right. And contrary to the popular belief- the other guy is my friend Crague, not Ronald McDonald.

Chris Rubey of
The Devil Wears Prada tattooed him on me a few years back. It looks sketch as he was just starting out, but I love the tattoo regardless. Anyway, Ian picked me up and we drove to McDonalds. I had to get some hash browns and my secret weapon, coffee. I don’t like coffee at all, but it wakes me up in a matter of seconds and allows me to concentrate. I am all for abusing coffee in the AM, but it tastes disgusting
We drove to Picnic Point, an area right off of Lake Mendota that was also low point behind the hospital. The area itself was pretty marshy and wet, perfect for fog. When we arrived we could probably see fifty feet in front of us due to fog. It wasn’t too thick, but it worked. I grabbed a few shots there and we hopped back in the car. There was so much moisture on the ground my feet were soaking wet, ack.

Variation of above shot with a flash

Next we drove our about 20 miles into the country and pulled over on some side road. We got pretty lucky and within in two minutes of exiting stumbled upon what seemed to be an abandoned farm/ home/ work area or something. Time to check it out.
Ian stayed in the car to listen to music and I hopped out, hopped a few fences, and snapped roughly 100 images.

I heard this noise that sounded like a baby or an old man yelling, it scared the shit out of me. It got louder as I got closure and eventually sounded like someone was getting tortured in one of the houses around me. Eventually the noise got really loud and I was right up next to this barn when I looked in and there was a cow staring at me.

I literally jumped and screamed a loud not so masculine scream. Goddamn cows, time to leave.

Later that day I met up with my friend Allie and we drove around to some corn fields/ farms shooting until the sun had set. She basically just parked next to farms, I hopped out, grabbed the images in a matter of seconds and scurried my ass back into her SUV. I got a bunch of close up pictures of dead stalks of corn and some field shots during this run.

Allie and I headed back to her place and made some spaghetti from scratch, it was a lot of work but worth. Best noodles ever! She also has a dog that weights more than me named “Butler”. He’s massive. Had to add in some fun facts! moving on…

That night I went out to some parties with Ian and our friend Bill. I went to high school with Bill and he is a real talented artist. After we got done partying, we headed back to Bill’s place and hung out in his backyard for a few hours. His backyard was a large garden, fully equipped with a hammock, a man made stream through the middle, and different kinds of fruits/vegetable plants scattered around that we could pick and eat. I hadn’t really seen Bill or Ian in over five-ish months, so it was refreshing to spend time with them again. We sat around and talked about what we had all been up to. Bill recently started going to college in Minneapolis, and Ian had just got back from a trip to Chile- in which he experienced that gnarly earthquake. College and Earthquakes- some of the best stories i have ever heard. Good hangs for a few hours. This was perfect, I miss my friends I grew up with.

If you continued walking past Bill’s backyard, there was a train track about twenty-five feet away from where his property ended. At about 3:00am we crossed the track and walked down to some sheds that weren’t really in use at night. We climbed up on top of them and hung out on the roof for a bit. We talked about things we could do up here, but the only thing we could do, other than think of things to do, was to get back down. And eventually, we did. We went back to his place and grabbed some snacks before heading out. It was almost 4:00am so we headed to McDonald’s to grab some coffee and other fun breakfast junk that will kill me quickly. Thrice reference.

We drove to Lake Wingra because it was surrounded by an arboretum, which was a perfect setting for some foggy/dense forest images. But when we arrived, there was no fog. Well, it was a good effort. Bill mentioned an area right by a giant radio tower that was usually pretty foggy. By the time we arrived at the locations, the sun had started to rise and I was skeptical of their being any fog. We hopped out of the car and walked along a path through some dense wooded area. The path eventually opened up into giant secluded pond/ marsh like area with a dock that led to cell tower in the middle. Butttt, no fog…. another swing and a miss, oh well it was fun. We made the best of the situation and hung out on the wooden dock. Ian and Bill laid on their backs and I joined them. The area was chilly and silent, almost surreal. I don’t really remember what was going my head, but my mind eventually landed on my camera and I started shooting away.

After that we dropped Bill of at home and Ian dropped me at my place, time to get some sleep. The next morning I drove 30 miles into the country by myself. I found some lone houses, and cornfields. I got pretty close to the first house, but I decided to keep my distance as I didn’t want a bullet in my left lung or something. I headed across the street to a cornfield that looked a lot smaller than it actually was. I sprinted through the dirt and eventually got tired and had to walk the rest of the way. None of my shots were really turning out, but I managed to grab a few maybes.

Back home for a quick nap.

Later that day I called a make-up artist that both my Madison photographer friend and my mom had recommended. She must be pretty good if a twenty-five year old man and a fifty-two year old woman both knew of her talent. She said she had a really busy schedule but could squeeze me in tomorrow afternoon. Tomorrow afternoon it is.

I couldn’t really think of anyone else that would be willing to get made-up like a zombie and then keep the make-up on for a few hours. So, I used myself. Ian and I drove over to her house and she applied make-up to my face. I got some deep purple eyes,new skin, rotting flesh, and some blood oozing them. Then, I had to drive home while I was all zombied out. It was really humid and hot that day, so we had to shoot quick.

I was covered in make-up and I had to model for the images, this made shootin’ these shots myself nearly impossible. Even with a remote shutter- focusing, lighting and framing the image were still quite the task. Luckily, Ian had picked up a few skills over the years of helping me and lent a hand. In addition I had a young photographer named Will Hughes who currently attended my old high school come and assist.

I tried to make my eyes blood shot by putting lemon juice in em, but this meant having to deal with a lot of pain for a few minutes first, and it sucked. Eventually some of the fake blood fell into my eye which was pretty painful as well. I teared a bit, yelled some, took some photos, and then cringed as more blood would fall into my eye. The blood also really tickled as it dripped down my skin. These are two very polar feelings, I imagine I was pretty entertaining to observed at the time, but for the most part, I was in pain. In addition the more I laughed the more my fake flesh would come off of my skin. So I tried my best to keep a straight face.

All the while I was also chewing Oreos to give my teeth a grimy and busted appearance. After about the 5th cookie I started having to spit them out after I munched em down to bits because it was just too much cookie for one human. Dirt spitting zombie, yea, that’s met.

I shot with my 580ex through an umbrella to my right , and a lamp to left for my first set up. It was looking good, but I decided to switch it up a bit, get a different look.

Will stepped in and let me light him first, then he stepped out and helped Ian as he photographed me.

I hung my 580ex/umbrella set up from my garage ceiling so that it hit my back and outlined the back side of my body. Then I put the lamp a few feet farther away so I could use it as a soft main/slight fill/warm light. For a different effect I had Will shine a flashlight on my face from various angles.

By this time the humidity had taken the best of my make-up and it was time to call it a night. I was stoked to get this gunk off my face, make-up isn’t really my thing

Here is a sample edit I sent the band along with the client gallery, this way they would understand how much could be done in post production.

Mike liked the zombie shots, check that off my list.

I shot the pills and syringes again on another table.

Ran them by Mike, still a no go. Try again later.

I had received a call from AP a few days earlier asking me to shoot As I Lay Dying on the 25th in San Diego, however I told them I couldn’t, because I was on assignment in Madison, WI. They told me that The Deftones were playing in Milwaukee (about 90 minute drive from Madison) on the 26th, and I had to turn that down as well- because that was the day I was scheduled to return to San Diego. I went online and looked at The Deftones schedule, Madison WI on the 25th…that’s where I am, perfect. I let AP know about the Madison date and we were good to go.

I was assigned to shoot two images that consisted of two looks/styles, one vertical and one horizontal. After talking to their publicist, he made it clear we had to stay within two blocks of the venue and the shoot was to take no more than an hour. Easy enough, and plenty of time. The venue was downtown, and my plan was to get there an hour early and scout some locations. Will was assisting me again so we cruised together, by the time we got to the venue it had started raining. Change of plans, time to shoot inside. My friend Eric actually worked at The Majestic (venue) and I had hit him up prior because I scoped the weather earlier and it said it might rain. He introduced me to the promoter and the promoter showed me some possible places to shoot around the venue. I forget his name, but he was really nice. He gave us access to a back room with a bar, any of the theater seats, and anywhere on the venue floor itself. I felt spoiled, usually my venue shoots are crammed into a corner, this was awesome!

I had my 580ex and an umbrella with me, so wherever I chose to shoot had to have a natural light source of some sort available as well. At first I decided on the back bar area, but it was hot, and the location wasn’t anything special.


test shot of Will

So we went out to the theater area and did some test shots on the seats (cliche, i know) but for this band, it doesn’t matter.

They are a no bullshit, mature band, that has been together for about 22 years, and that is longer than I have been alive. Much respect to them. Again, the promoter being the awesome guy he was, flicked on some lights for me. At first he switched on a blue light in the back end of the theater. Perfect, this would work as a rim light for them while they sat in the theater seats.

I told him my next location was going to be in the center of the pit area right in front of the stage. He flipped on some stage lights. So sick, again perfect for rim lights.


more test shots


Before the band came, one of their day-to-day managers walked up and hung out with Will and I for a little bit. He was a cool dude, had toured with The Rolling Stones and other artists that had been around for longer than I had been alive. He also mentioned that when he was with one of the bands, they had Annie Leibowitz out with ’em, way back when. Pretty wild if you ask me. He asked me how long we had for the shoot, I told him an hour. He responded “can we make it shorter than that”, I told him it would probably take fifteen minutes tops. We did it in twelve! Here are the shots that were sent to AP, however I don’t have an actual copy of the magazine article just yet….


Back to the zombie stuff…

I drove out to Cambridge, an older area of Wisconsin that was not too far from Madison. I left at about 4:00am or so and on my way out stopped at some foggy corn fields, try to do some shots with my headlights, but nothing useable came of them.

I continued on to the town and shot around on their “Main St” for a good hour and a half, until the paper boy started driving around in his pick-up truck to every business on the street.

He was soon followed by an increasing trickle of people driving to work. I wrapped up and on my way home I ran in to some of the thickest fog I had seen in the past week, I couldn’t pass this up! I pulled over a few times and grabbed some very foggy images. These eventually turned out being the cover of the album. Go figure, the one thing I didn’t really plan on shooting, ends up being what is used. I swear, it always works out that way.

That night I took another shot at the drug table again, well a few shots. My sister had a friend over who just so happen to be very familiar with a lot of drugs. This couldn’t have worked out better. He looked at drug table attempt and laughed out loud at me- I didn’t take any offense. He half drunkenly spit/half laughed the words out of mouth- “You have got this all wrong, what are you doing, big pills, uncovered syringes? This is not how it is done!” According to him here is what I needed:

• foil
• small pills
• lighter
• tin foil
• CD case
• crushed up pills
• syringes with caps on
• tin cap
• zip up bags
• hollowed out pen
• lighter
• spoon

Luckily drug users are lazy and everything I needed was found around my house in a matter of minutes. I learned a lot about drugs in a short amount of time, probably things I would never ever learn in life as I don’t have plans of doing heroin etc. Anyway, crushed up some pills on the CD case, put some in zip lock bags. He said big pills have a lot of other crap in them that people don’t do, so the smaller the pill, the more believable. Scrapped the big pills. Syringes, I had them uncovered, he said people never do that, leave the covers on them. Then tally them with a marker, this shows how many times you have used them- apparently the needles get dull, who woulda thought? Foil was used to free base a pill and a hollowed out pen to inhale the fumes. The tin cap was used to put the spoon on top of and the spoon was for cooking whatever goes into the syringe. Maybe I got the tin cap part wrong, I forget. Anyway, my drug tabled looked legit, never imagined being stoked on a drug table, but I was.

I lit it with that stolen lamp once again and because there was no natural light available this late at night. The images had much more of dark feel to them.

I shot a bunch of variations, with the syringes, with out them, with the pills, with out them, etc etc- I had to get as many options as possible as I wasn’t going to try this again.
Ran the shots by Mike, done deal.

Seven days and 1,700 RAW images later, I was done shooting in Wisconsin. I created a final client gallery for Mike and the band to run through. I still had to get the shot of all the zombies coming at the camera, which I would take care of in a wooded area of San Diego.

Once I got back to San Diego, I met up with my city tour guide and light test extraordinaire- Matt Lingo. We went to a few different locations and shot some test images. One of them came out solid and when I presented it to Mike he said good…. but we need about 10 more zombies in there.

A few days later we crammed all of our favorite Friday night party friends into my Pilot SUV and returned to the forest. The hardest part was finding the exact location we shot in before, and once we did, lighting it in a similar way. It turned out looking almost identical, and that was that. Done with the concept art.

The blog post regarding the press images for The Devil Wears Prada‘s new album will be up in a few weeks.

Here is the finished product as well some examples of where else the images have been used
(I apologize for the terrible product shots, my camera is in the shop, so I used a point and shoot)


EP / Vinyl exterior
EP interior
Lyric booklet
Lyric booklet

Lyric booklet page by page

Vinyl interior

Here is their MySpace sporting the EP for sale. On a side note, they used some of my old live images for their current tour flier (MySpace background).


viral marketing page

Kyle Crawford designed this t-shirt from one of the images, and you can find it at your local Hot Topic store.

James Baney, keyboardist for The Devil Wears Prada made this video as promo for their new album. It was shot with a 5d/7d combo, looks so sick.