Slayer—2013 Official Promotional Portrait

Portraits of pioneering thrash metal band Slayer photographed in 2009. Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, Dave Lombardo. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

I have some exciting news. I'm very pleased to announce that the band Slayer are licensing an image I made of them for their official 2013 promotional portrait. Excuse me while I silently scream and shake my arms in the air.

Right. With that out of the way, I have to say that for me, this is something worthy of a little geek out moment. Hit the jump for more information on the portrait and how this licensing deal came about. 

The Image

Portraits of pioneering thrash metal band Slayer photographed in 2009. Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, Dave Lombardo. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

The Shoot

This image was shot in 2009. I was shooting Mayhem Fest 2009 on assignment for Rolling Stone. I wrote a post about this shoot in 2009—here's what I said:

When you get a call about an assignment for Rolling Stone, the best possible answer is probably, ” Yes. I can absolutely do that.” Or not, but that's what I said, anyway.

The main charge for covering Mayhem Fest was the live performances of the headlining bands: Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Killswitch Engage, and Bullet For My Valentine. However, when I called the tour's on-site production coordinator before heading to out to the venue, I immediately inquired about portrait possibilities.

“Killswitch would definitely do a portrait. I'll ask Slayer's people.”

And with that, in addition to my normal concert gear, I packed up my speedlights, lightstands, and the rest. When I checked in with production, the production coordinator confirmed that the shoot with Slayer was on the table. The band had 5-minutes. Could I do that?

“Yes. I can absolutely do that.”

After talking to the tour's stage manager about possible locations and touring the backstage area, we decided on the band's gear trailer as the location with the best look.

The shoot is scheduled for just before the band goes on stage at 8:30pm, and I make the plan to setup in the trailer starting around 8:00pm. Just before 8:00pm, my assistant Allyssa showed up and we headed backstage and assembled the lights and roughly dialed in the flash power.

The band's trailer was still full of racks and crates, all of this work was roughing it before we could get into the trailer. The trailer was cleared by the stage crew about 8:15pm, so we quickly setup and fine-tuned the lighting.

At 8:20pm, the band came out, filed into the trailer, and we got to work. From the first shot to the last, the shoot lasted 3-minutes 43-seconds.

Here's the setup we used:

  • 1 SB-600 behind the guys as a backlight
  • 1 SB-900 boomed over the group into a 15″x15″ Lastolite EZYbox softbox, camera left
  • 1 SB-600 into a 45″ umbrella for fill, camera right
  • 1 SB-900 as the commander, on-camera – no visible light contribution

For this shoot, the Nikon Speedlight system really excelled. Fast and light, the strobes worked flawlessly and made setup a breeze. Controlling the flash power from the SB-900 as the commander meant no running around to set the lights, only spinning the command dial of the flash.

So that was 2009.

The Deal

Fast forward 3 years to the end of 2012 and we get to the deal. In early December, I received an email from Slayer's publicist expressing that the band really liked this portrait and wanted to know if I was open licensing it for “PR-only” rights. I'd worked this particular publicist a number of times in the past, so I was very happy to hear from her. Needless to say, the answer was yes.

I asked about the particular needs of the license, and after getting the details, I provided a rough estimate. The publicist responded by asking if I was open to negotiation, and, after I said that I was, she put me in touch with the band's manager.

Directly in touch with Slayer's manager, we honed down the licensing rights needed and the duration. All of this correspondance took place over email. There was a deal of back and forth negotiating the exact rights needed and the specific duration that the license would cover. Overall, the band had a heavy touring schedule for the summer and was looking for fresh art to represent them. The specific duration needed was eight months of promotional and marketing use in a non-exclusive license.

After a good deal of negotiation, with a good deal of downtime due to the end-of-year holidays, we reached an agreement on January 11, 2013. Contracts were signed and files were delivered. Payment was processed via bank transfer days later and the deal was done.

The Image in Use

So far, Slayer has been using the image primarily for promotion of the band's appearances at a number of European and Australian festival dates for Summer 2013.

Here are a handful of the online placement's that I've seen so far.




End Notes

Personally, this licensing deal is a thrill for me. Part of it is because it's SLAYER, one of the most influential American metal bands of the last 30 years.. The other part is because of the background of the shoot itself and the fact that such a humble shoot resulted in an image that the band loved. As a music photographer, part of my job is to create images that the bands I photograph appreciate, so it's a personal success that a band of Slayer's status would license this image for their official promotional use.

If there's a lesson to take away from this, perhaps its that opportunity can come knocking even years after you make an image. That, it's not the length of the photo shoot that counts. Thanks for reading this post and sharing in this little story.

PS: If you see this portrait being used in print, I'd love to hear about it.