Kings of Leon

01.29.09 – If the top ten album and three Grammy nominations aren’t proof enough that Kings of Leon have hit the big time, just ask one of the thousands of screaming fans at their sold-out show in Madison Square Garden. Performing in support of their Only By The Night release, the Followills brought a huge performance of Tennessee rock to Yankee country.

Update: Additional photos added to the post and the gallery!

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Photographer’s Notes

Photographing a big show like Kings of Leon at a big venue like Madison Square Garden is an exercise in both in discipline and patience.

Essentially, you’re packed single-file into a photo pit that’s only two shoe boxes wide with 15 other professional photographers competing for shots in the same three songs.  Add to this congenial sardine can a band whose live performance consists of large expanses of calm musicianship punctuated by fleeting moments of visceral rock and you’ve got yourself an assignment with zero room for frustration or laziness.

Though keen observation and position always matter, the absolute key to shooting a Kings of Leon show is to be in the right place at the right time with the right lens on your camera when one of the Followills breaks from the pack and starts rocking out.

Since my nose was pressed up against the lip of the 5 foot stage, I shot this set entirely with the 70-200mm on the D3. Though ISO 800 and even 400 came into play at the very beginning, my exposure fell in the range of ISO1600 at 1/350 and f/3.5 for the majority of the shoot. The lighting was abundant and simple. White light with red and green accents.

Notably absent from this set is a solo shot of drummer Nathan Followill who was obscured on my left by Matthew’s mic rig and on my right by a motion control video camera. Next time Nathan, next time.

End Notes

I’d like to give a huge shout out to all of the awesome Kings of Leon fans at the front of the barrier and very special thank-yous to Chris at Big Hassle and Melissa at The Garden.

  1. Sharp photos! So did you actually get to move around or just sit in the same spot the entire time? I hate when that happens.

  2. Some of the cleanest concert shots I’ve seen. Tight compositions – almost like you posed them! Hey — at least you were in the pit. At Madonna, we were over 100 yards out, at the sound mixer’s stage.

  3. these pictures are fantastic.
    im the girly in the grey in the crowd shot.
    that first picture is amazing.
    they all looked posed

  4. That top shot is ace, honestly, one of the best KOL shots ive seen, a real pity the fan is at the bottom of the frame.

    Great set Chris.

  5. New Blog Post: Who says southern rock is boring? The photos don’t lie. Kings of Leon at MSG –

  6. I’ve been waiting for this set! Love them – the first and third are my favorite (one of the best crowd shots, ever!), but the whole set is great.

    On a side note, I always wonder what people are thinking when they set up pits that are too narrow to move in. Does that really help anyone?

  7. Casey

    Ha! You were that crazy Asian photographer that was screaming to get the crowd pumped for that third shot. If you would have turned your camera to the right a little you would have gotten us!! So good!

    I love the second to last one. Jared constantly looks to his brother for confidence and his facial expressions always looks like he is a little confused.

  8. Lisa


  9. Thanks Lisa! I’ll be adding a few more shots to this set tonight. I edited this set on little sleep and found some more good stuff on the second look.

  10. Killer set, Chris. Hard to tell you were constrained by looking at the shots.

  11. Phil

    Great Shots! I am the touring video director for KOL. Just came across your pictures while surfing the net and wanted to let you know how impressed I am with your work!

    It is a pleasure to work with these guys and I think your shots really captured their vibe!

    That was a great night at MSG!!!


    Phil N

  12. Some of the cleanest concert shots I've seen. Tight compositions – almost like you posed them! Hey — at least you were in the pit. At Madonna, we were over 100 yards out, at the sound mixer's stage.

  13. Madonna is one of the best celebs in history. I really wish she keeps on singing.

  14. I completely accept as true with what you have explained. In fact, I browsed throughout your various other articles and I do believe you are totally correct. Great job with this particular site.

  15. Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for the comment. The pit was so narrow that we slotted in single file. I was able to scoot by for a few shots from the other side at the end of the third song. It sucked.

  16. Hi Dave,

    You’re too kind. Sound board shoots suck. I try to avoid them at all costs!

  17. Hi Angela,

    Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you like the photos. I’ll send you your photos when I return to NYC on Sunday.

  18. Hi Ramsey,

    Thanks very much. Sorry about the fan, I’m actually to short to have shot over it. The venue security actually yelled at me twice when I tired to stand in the riser in the barrier. The nice thing about the fan in the shot is that it’s honest in a way. Best, Chris

  19. Thanks man!
    Really, these are all amazing pictures. I was looking at pictures you took at other shows and they are all equally fantastic. Awesome job on everything. :]

  20. Thanks a ton Tasha. I’m fairly sure that they are thinking about the 100+ extra tickets they sold to make the pit that small!

    By the time a band plays MSG, they have been photographed up the wazoo anyways. The lighting at arena shows is bright, but they’re seldom the best place to shoot. Unless you’re shooting Metallica.

  21. Angela, I love you! Really, thanks for your kind kind words.

  22. Hi Casey,

    I took a several shots of the crowd that caught a few different people. What did you look like that night? Maybe you’re in one of the others. I’d be happy to send it to you.

    Thanks so much for commenting on Jared’s expression. That’s only the kind of thing a true fan would know. I love little bits of info like that!

  23. Thanks Jason. Although there is some good stuff here, I did miss quite a lot of on account of being less than 6 feet tall and not being able to move. For instance, there was no way of getting a shot of the entire band.

  24. Casey

    Well thank you! Anyways, I am not sure if you ventured my way but I was the girl wearing a red and green flannel shirt with a brown shirt underneath. I was with my friends, the two boys, one was standing right next to the older man with the glasses on his forehead.

  25. I’ll look for you Casey!

  26. Phil

    P.S. Do you mind if I post some of them on my Facebook page?

  27. Thanks a ton Phil. The praise means a lot coming from you. Facebook? Sure. Just link back to my site!