Music Photography Blog

by Adam Elmakias

Zombie EP Press Images

As I mentioned in the first blog, we shot the album art and press images for The Devil Wears Prada‘s Zombie EP on separate occasions. My flight was scheduled to leave from San Diego, California on June 19th at about 10:00 PM-this meant, I was taking a red eye, my favorite. I prefer taking red eyes because it doesn’t waste a whole day just to travel somewhere, but at the same time this meant I need to do some planning ahead. My flight landed at 8:00 AM on June 20th in Dayton, Ohio. The shoot was scheduled to start at 11:00 AM , so this left me with three hours to get my luggage, do some last minute preparation for the shoot and get to the location- not much time!

Zac Fisher helped me out in Ohio on my The Devil Wears Prada shoot about a year and a half ago for HM Magazine. He was great last time so I decided to give him a call and ask him if he was willing to assist for me again. He said yes and in preparation for the shoot I had to pick up a few items that we would need and I could not travel/fly with.

Shopping list:
• baseball bat
• nails
• corn syrup
• red food coloring
• dirt
• chocolate syrup

I rocked a good nap on the airplane, about a few hours of fake sitting up sleep, but enough to keep me ticking’ for a day. I always pack Emergen-C in my bag for trips like this, to avoid getting sick and messing up other workdays I might have in the near future. I’m not really sure how well it really works, but I’ve only caught a heavy cold once or so in the past year, so I can’t say it doesn’t work.

For on location shoots I borrow/ rent my gear, and for studio shoots I usually rent from a studio. I seldom check bags with any airline, because I don’t really trust them and I’m not about to pay somebody to lose my gear. That is usually the case, but this time I made an exception. I also made a mistake -I shouldn’t have checked my bag. I wait at the baggage claim for about 30 minutes and after that I decided I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. I headed over to the United Airlines counter and asked “Where my bags at?”

Everyone else from my flight was there as well wondering where their bags were at. They told me not to worry that it should be there in a few hours- in a few hours I had to do the photo shoot so that won’t do. Long story short I did everything United Airlines told me to do that day, and followed through with their directions the following week- and in the end they were one of the worst companies I’ve ever had to deal with and I highly suggest never flying with them. I’ve never been treated so poorly, yelled at, and hung up on many times in my life. Again, I stress, avoid United Airlines. It’s one thing to make a mistake, its another to treat someone poorly just because you can.

I forgot about the United Airlines deal because I had other things to focus on. Zac eventually swooped me from the airport and we took a ride to a local donut shop. I told him I needed a few more nutrients than doughnuts could offer for breakfast. He offered to make me an egg sandwich at his house- totally down for some home cookin’! Next we headed to a local CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid.. I’m not sure what it was, one of htose -and grabbed some lotion for the guys tattoos. Once we got to his house and met his wonderful wife, and she showed me to my room. This was awesome I had my own bed, Zac and his wife get the award for being some of the nicest people ever. After I was all settled in I headed downstairs and Zac had my egg, cheese, and bagel sandwich ready for me to eat. It was delicious, I am not sure what his secret was but my best guess was mass amounts of pepper. I’ve been meaning to ask him for his recipe so I could have the Zac Fisher experience in the comfort of my home, but for some reason I haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll keep you updated, that is, if he reveals his secrets. I brought a few of my 50mm bracelets with me, and I gave Zac a few for him and his friends. He liked them. I was stoked.

Time to prepare some props. First we mixed the blood- corn syrup, red food coloring, dirt and some chocolate syrup. That was quick, easy, and boring all at once, now for the fun stuff! Luckily, Zac had a workshop in his garage, handy guy to have around. We sanded the bat down to get rid of its glossy look and rubbed mud into the wood grain. We hammered nails into the top of the bat, and wrapped tape and a ripped up a shirt around the handlebar. Then we doused it in gasoline and lit the fucker a flame! Fire is always fun. Grunge look completed.

I also mentioned to Zac we would be using weapons for the shoot, so he brought along a few of his that he had laying around. I think they were plastic, but I can’t recall-either way they were bad ass. We loaded everything up in the car, my gear, his gear, and the props.

We GPS’ed the shoot address and started driving. We were doing the whole shoot at Andy Trick of The Devil Wears Prada parent’s house. Once we arrived to the general area we couldn’t locate the correct home. We were in the middle of the country, cornfields everywhere, house every thousand feet or so, and scattered groups of trees hanging out here and there. I called Andy to ask him for his address again, and for some reason we had the wrong one(I blame Hranica, he’s always wasting my time, I kid…but really). Either way we pulled into his driveway at around 11:00AM and began scoping the area out

The band mentioned that they might be running a few hours late, as they were driving in from the last date on tour and we’re not exactly sure when they would arrive. Zac and I walked around back and eventually found Andy’s mom sitting by the pool- we introduced ourselves and she was really nice. She gave us food, some towels, swimsuits, and told us we could grab whatever we wanted to drink. She said Andy’s dad was going to be home soon to show us all the weapons, but for now to just hang out and relax. So we did. Andy’s dad arrived about 15 minutes later and showed us around his house, they had the biggest selection of weapons I had ever seen.

In his living room he had a a composite bow, a bundle arrows, and battle axes mounted across his walls. They were accompanied by framed Trick family photos and portraits of Andy in his prime teenage years- always funny to look back on your friend’s childhood photographs. He had a double barrel shotgun, two automatic rifles, one with a scope (I don’t know what kind, feel free to educate me), another shotgun, a revolver and a few swords – all laid out nicely in the middle of the carpeted floor. Man, when I was younger I was lucky to get a Nerf gun or sling shot. Andy must have had one hell of a childhood. Next he took us into the garage and showed us the chainsaw and a few more axes. Then we headed down to the basement where he unsuccessfully tried to open his safe for about thirty minutes. We sat around and talked about random fun things. Eventually Mr. Trick opened up his safe and pulled out his knife collection of over 50 different knifes. He had some older ones, some newer, but regardless of age, they were all sharp enough to filet some meat. After we were done in the basement we followed him out back to his shed which housed, among the other random junk, four more axes. Mr. Trick gets deadly dad award of the year. After it was done showing us around, Zac and I scouted his yard and decided where to shoot. We laid out all the weapons, all of our gear, and assembled as much of it as we could. This way when the guys arrived we would be ready to go. Around 12:30pm Mike called me and told me that they probably wouldn’t be ready to go until about three. Swim time!

It had to of been at least 95° out that day and on top of that it was very very humid. Can’t stand humid. Zac and I both threw on some very retro-looking swimsuits and hopped in the pool. They had some of those floaty bed blow up things which were perfect because we could lay on top of the water and get cooled off, but at the same time have a sun on us and not be too cold. We ate so many Sun chips. For the next few hours we just hung out in the pool ate food, occasionally set up some more stuff as random things I forgot first time around came to mind, but mostly just waited around for the guys to get there.

The guys bus got in to Dayton around one or two. The guys slowly trickled in after two, Andy arrived first. He came into his backyard to find us sitting at a table eating some chips in our swimming suits. Well technically they were his swimming suits, which made it all the funnier. We had successfully invaded the Trick residence.

Once all the guys were all there we geared everyone up with their guns and outfits For the most part the guys provided everything that they were wearing on their body, but the guns and accessories were all provided Mr. Trick or brought by Zac and I. The moment the guys saw the guns laying across the table there eyes literally lit up, like a six-year-old on the first day of Hanukkah.

To start it all off, we shot out in the field. The goal of the first shot was to get a close up, tight image where you could see everyone’s face and weapon. I chose to use one softbox and keep the lighting really simple. This allowed us to move around and switch it up frequently and quickly. They wanted the images to have a “dark” feel to them, but at the same time, not too dark. I think we had a good balance.

This is me giving the guys a little speech. Basically I prepare the band for what we are going to do and make sure everyone is on the same page before we do it.


photo by Zac Fisher

This isn’t word for word, but you get what I am going for..

“Alright guys, I know its hot and sweaty and we are going for dark and cold looking images. For this first shot everyone is going to need to stand really close together and have their weapons positioned in different places. Ill place you in one by one and pose you roughly, from there its up to you to make that stance your own and keep it personal. Keeps your backs to the sun and for the most part look at the camera. You can let your eyes wander once in awhile, but nothing too emo or exaggerated. If you have questions or need more direction, just ask and I’ll make it happen. If you need sweat wiped, just give Zac a yell, he’s quick one.”

I have shot the guys multiple times before, so I kept it pretty simple as they already know the drill. I usually go into more depth about the dos and don’ts of posing. Which includes, but is not limited to – posture, phantom dicks (cell phones), how to cross your arms, keeping it natural, know what everyone else is doing etc. etc.

Mike: “whats that thing we always tell Adam….is this real, is this real Adam?”
Me: “everything is real”

We have this inside joke that goes back to our HM cover shoot about a year and a half ago, they tried giving me a hard time and I responded with “everything is real”. For some reason, unknown to me- it stuck.

It was so hot and humid, everyone was sweating so much it was hard to think. I could barely see my LCD screen and the guys had to wipe sweat off their body every few shots. We got the shots we needed and moved on.


photo by Zac Fisher
photo by Zac Fisher
photo by Zac Fisher
photo by Zac Fisher
photo by Zac Fisher

Next location, the shed. The goal of this shot was to get an image that look like the guys were hanging out, reloading/cleaning their guns and just taking a breather before going out and slaughtering more zombies.. Zac and I headed into the shed and made a set up ourselves first and tested the light.

The lighting for this shot was also relatively simple. A softbox to the top right, shot down at the guys, and my 580ex into a small softbox shot at Dan (guy on left of image holding the revolver).


test shot

Once we were ready we summoned the guys. I put the dudes in a bunch of set up shots and decided which look I liked the most. It was really hard to fit everyone in with their gun. I am not used to people having a 5th four foot limb sprouting in a random direction from their body. This ain’t no Ron Jeremy shoot. We shot a little over one hundred images in about twenty-five minutes until I felt we got enough different looks to choose from.


photo by Zac Fisher
photo by Zac Fisher
photo by Zac Fisher

We took a break and review the images, had some drinks and some food. By this point the sun was going down and we had one more set up to do. We were getting pretty tight on time and it had been a long day. Zac and I quickly set up two softboxes in the front of Andy’s house and did one last shot in the driveway. Man, I was covered in sweat. Props to Zac for doing most of the physical work and grabbing behind the scenes images while I set up my camera and figured out the shot.


photo by Zac Fisher
photo by Zac Fisher

Set up for this was one softbox up to the top left and another one down to the right. Again, pretty simple, but time was an issue and we had to get these shot. You can find the final image at the bottom of the page. I had to do a little bit of compositing along the horizon to hide some unwanted background items. But other than that the editing process was pretty similar to what I usually do.

After the shoot was over Zac and I wrapped everything up, hung out with the guys for a bit and cooked out with the Tricks. Food tastes so good at the end of the day. We headed back to base and took a quick breather. Zac gave me a lift over to Dan’s place a few miles away. Unfortunately his wife was sick and he had to stay in, but he was still nice enough to give me a ride. I took the elevator to level five and walked to level six, or maybe it was to level four and walk to level five?… Who knows, either way I had to walk a flight and Dan’s place was on the top floor. His place had a very lighting and clean feel to it. I liked it mostly because the ceilings were at least fourteen feet up, so photo shoots were a possibility. I have no idea why we would ever do one in his apartment, but if we did, it would rule.

The last time I hung out with Chris and Dan in Ohio we ordered pizza from Cousin Vinny’s. On top of the pizza being some of the best that has ran across my taste buds, it came fully equipped with three dipping sauces : Nacho Cheese, Ranch, and Garlic. Heaven for my tongue, hell for my stomach, my mind is atheist and that leaves me with the unbiased decision of gladly stuffing my mouth with melted cheese. I suggested we get some pizza from there again, so we did.

He had an incredibly empty living room, and after while I figured out what he was missing, a television. I questioned his lack of telly and he responded with a remote control *click* – his whole wall was transformed into a giant projected movie screen. Movie theater like sized screen, blu-ray, projector, in his living room. I gotta get me one of these, right after I get a living room. Nothing was playing, but I could see the size of the project. They put on their recently mastered Zombie EP and after the first listen I was blown away. So heavy, stoked to see them stepping it up once again. We watched Fight Club for a bit and eventually I had to call a cab.

I waited outside for what seemed like an hour- which was long enough for some dude at the club downstairs to give me a hard time. I was five days away from being twenty-one, so close, yet so far away. I avoided the club and paced up and down the length of the block anxiously waiting for my cab to arrive. About thirty-five minutes and few “reminder” phone calls later the cab swooped me.

The cab driver was kind. I was half unconscious due to exhaustion, but we talked about life, travels, and how Ohio was an alright place. He was a rad dude. I tipped him a few bucks and dug for Zac‘s garage code somewhere in my pocket. Garage, Door, stairs, bed, pass the heck out.

I passed out on a plane and woke up in my bed.

I can’t take 100% of the credit for all these images we used. I take the photographs and I edit them, but the initial image picking is done by Mike- and he has a good eye. I just felt like credit was due somewhere for all the sorting and decision making he made throughout both the concept art and press shoots.

Here are some of the final images from the shoot:


So I send the client the images, then what do they do with them? Well here is one example for ya!

….A girl requested a hi-res picture from me to make a pillow case with, but she went all out and made a blanket. I figured everyone would enjoy this, at least for a laugh, so sick.