Photographing Green Day or How to Shoot a Band Portrait in Less Than 30 Seconds

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I got the word early last week that I would be shooting Green Day as they celebrated the release of their new album, Revolution Radio, at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles. This was a big one for me. Like a lot of people, Green Day is one of those bands that take me back to high school. Albums like 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk were staples and when Dookie came out, it was all over. They catapulted to the stratosphere and haven’t come down since. 

Shooting bands for iHeartRadio is one of my favorite gigs, it combines all of my favorite forms of music photography. I get to do BTS, artist portraits, and the live performance, all with pretty much unlimited access. When shooting the performance, I shoot the entire show from anywhere in the theater AND there is usually one other photographer from Getty.

This shoot with Green Day was one of my biggest shoots I’ve had, so of course I was a bit nervous going into it. I knew that I could handle the BTS and performance but it’s the portrait that I really wanted to make special. Green Day has been shot by EVERYBODY, including some of my all-time favorite photographers, Danny Clinch, Mark Seliger, and Bob Gruen. The biggest challenges of doing portraits at iHeart are the ever-changing scheduling and the location of where to set up. If there is one thing I’ve learned is that I have to prepare for ANYTHING and be ready to change directions at the drop of the hat. I’ve had shoots where I’ve had 15-20 minutes to do portraits and then I’ve had literally 30 seconds as the artist is walking to the stage. You NEVER know what you’re gonna get, so you have to be on your toes at all times.

This shoot was no different. Since I wanted to come correct on this, I had brought a full lighting kit, backdrop, the works. It’s always a bit of a gamble so I had my fingers crossed. I had my main setup which was going to be my money shot and then I had a smaller, looser idea / location which I was going to use as a backup. According to the schedule, I was going to have 10 minutes with the band, which was going to be more than I could ask for. The last few shoots at iHeart have been a couple of minutes max, so I was pretty confident that things were gonna go my way on this one. After soundcheck, I was told that the band was getting ready and would be available shortly. This was a good hour before doors opened, so I stood by and did some final tweaks on the lighting. After 20 minutes, I got word that they were going to be ready in 15 minutes. It was cutting it close, so I would have to knock out the shots and break down my setup and get it backstage before they opened doors. No problem, I’m used to it. 5 minutes later, I was told that it would be 10 minutes before doors and I would have to hurry. That’s fine, I would stick to my main setup and ditch my secondary shot. As it the 10 minute mark, I was told that I would have to break it down and quickly shoot the band backstage after they opened doors. DAMNIT! I knew this was a possibility but you have to be flexible and prepared for anything when dealing with these things. With a bit of help, I broke everything down and rushed it all backstage. I wasn’t going to get the big shot, so I went to my secondary location and popped off a couple test shots which I wasn’t too happy with. The band was just a minute away from walking down the hall to me, so I used the old advice of turning around and shooting the scene behind me. There was a cool textured wall with a bit of moody light coming from a fixture across the way, so I went with it. As the band came out, Mike Dirnt immediately popped up on a little ledge and hung off a pipe but quickly got down as I started to place them. I took a couple shots with them all on the floor, which was ok, but I had Mike get back up on the ledge. I fired off a couple more shots before my time was up and that was it. As the guys were leaving, Mike came up to see what I had shot, which I’ve NEVER had happen at iHeart, and complimented me on how good they turned out for how quick and dirty the shoot was. While the conditions weren’t ideal, the band was happy, their management was happy, and overall, I was happy.

After getting home and editing the photos, I was curious to see how long exactly I spent with the boys. Based off the EXIF data from the first frame to the last, and in true punk rock fashion, the shoot lasted 28 seconds. 

CLICK HERE to see the full set of photos from the show.