Benjamin Burnley and Aaron Fink of the band Breaking Benjamin. Photographed for Guitar Edge magazine. (photos by Chris Owyoung)

What better way to kick off 2010 than shooting a feature with Benjamin Burnley and Aaron Fink of the multi-platinum selling rock outfit Breaking Benjamin. I caught up with Ben and Aaron on-location in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for the January cover of Guitar Edge magazine.

More photos from the article and all of the the how-to goodies are just a click away.

About the Assignment

Breaking Benjamin
The job was very straight forward; drive to Wilkes-Barre, scout locations and shoot enough to yield a good selection of cover shots and a few shots for the interior of the mag.

My editor requested that the lighting be contrasty and rock’n’roll while leaving a lot of headroom for final toning and atmospheric adjustments in photoshop. (In the end, the photos did receive a lot of toning in post, though almost no retouching in the corrective sense).

Scouting the Location

My assistant and I spent roughly 45 minutes location scouting prior to the shoot. The search yielded four locations that I documented with my iphone along the way. The photo shows one of the best features of the final location of the shoot:


Obligatory List of Gear

  • Nikon D3
  • Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
  • Nikon 24-70mm f2.8
  • 5 X Nikon SB-900
  • 12′ Manfrotto Light Stands
  • Lastolite 24″ EzBox Hot Shoe Softbox
  • 3 Section Calumet Monopod
  • Pelican Case (doubles as on-the-fly posing stool)

Breaking Benjamin
Since the 12mp files of the Nikon D3 have more than enough resolution for a double page magazine spread, choice of camera body wasn’t an issue. The main decision was what system to use for lighting.

Even though I had a Dynalite pack and head system in tow, the lack of a constant power source demanded the portability of the AA battery powered Nikon CLS system. Luckily, overcast skies meant that the SB900s had more than enough juice to overpower the ambient light.

(As can be seen in my post on band portraits at Warped Tour, the CLS system is just powerful enough to be used in full sunlight if you don’t need to kill ambient too much).

The Lighting Setup

A total of four Nikon SB900 speedlights were used for the cover shot. A single SB900 was clipped to train car behind Ben and Aaron with twin rim lights and softbox completing the picture.


The Cover Shot

I arguably could have shot this assignment with ambient light only were it not for the need to highlight Ben and Aaron’s guitars for the feature. As you can see in the cover shot below, the position of the softbox and the camera-left rim light did a really nice job of showing off Ben’s custom hollow body PRS.

Breaking Benjamin

End Notes

Enormous thanks go out to Ben and Aaron for being all around great samples of humanity and such easy subjects to work with. Additional thanks go out to my assistant Sara, Heather from Hollywood and, of course to, Laurie Baldwin whose skill with both hair and makeup were essential.

Got Questions?

Leave ‘em in a comment below?

  1. Nice work! Now I know why you were in Wilkes-Barre when you tweeted that. Kind of shady area huh? hahaha.

    • Honestly, I liked Wilkes-Barre. The drive in had some beautiful fall color and the town had a nice waterfront. =)

      • Hey Chris, I’ve got a question. You were using one of the SB900s on the camera as a commander but you were not using it as a flashlight were you? Sorry if I sounded like a noob but I don’t know much about lightning and portrait photography ;)

        • That’s actually a good question. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t using the SB-900 on camera to actually light the guys. It was just used to control the other speedlights.

  2. My cover shoot for the January issue of Guitar Edge magazine. —

  3. RT @chrisowyoung: My cover shoot for the January issue of Guitar Edge magazine. —

  4. Nice job Chris! RT @chrisowyoung: My cover shoot for the January issue of Guitar Edge magazine. —

  5. Nice work Chris RT @chrisowyoung: My cover shoot for the January issue of Guitar Edge magazine. —

  6. Rock N Roll , nice !! RT @chrisowyoung: My cover shoot for the January issue of Guitar Edge magazine. —

  7. RT @GRTaylor2: Nice work Chris RT @chrisowyoung: My cover shoot for the January issue of Guitar Edge magazine. —

  8. There’s a cool small venue there that has small punk and ska shows there called Cafe Metropolis that I have been to a few times. I just know from friends that live in Scranton area that WB isn’t the nicest of towns (plus went to college outside of Scranton).

    The drive from where I live is only hour or so, nice in Fall time because of the leaves. Driving there in the winter, that’s another story hahaha.

  9. Very cool! RT @chrisowyoung: My cover shoot for the January issue of Guitar Edge magazine. —

  10. Dude, Really digging the added light placement info. Its awesome to see your perspective on issues you come across during your shoot.

    I used to visit your site to just check out the pretty pictures and get some inspiration but what makes me keep coming back is that fact that I started to realize I’m learning a hell of a lot just reading your posts. You’re a killer teacher, man!

    Bad ass profile shots!

    • Hi Raul,

      Thanks. I’m glad there’s some learning going on. You’ll be happy to know that I’m going to increase the amount of info I post on the site across all topics this year.

      Is there anything specific you’d like to see on the site?

  11. NYC Music Photographer @ChrisOwyung chronicles his cover shoot of the band 'Breaking Benjamin' for Guitar Edge Magazine

  12. Chris congrats on your cover shot. I got to do some of my first real portraits the other day and finally got some edited. Check this one out:

    Thanks for all the tutorials and help with the portraits. Let the practice begin!


  13. Briana

    Loving the pics. My Dad is from Wilkes-Barre, and some of the shots you took I know exactly where you took them. Just love it. I don’t see why people keep saying Wilkes-Barre doesn’t have a good rep. I love it there. Great work!

  14. RT @chrisowyoung Breaking Benjamin