Album cover art can be anything, especially when the name of the record is something amorphous like “How It Feels to Be Lost.” It’s a creative’s dream to have the kind of blank canvas this type of art begins with and let the mind run wild.
But here’s the rub: when you’re making cover art for a band, you have to work around what they’ve approved. So, if you’ve designed and pitched artwork featuring a fishbowl, flowers, a teddy bear, an hour glass, and a candle, you’d better be able to find that stuff.
There was a lot of hunting through thrift stores, eBay, and local florists to get all the stuff we needed. Doug [Dean] had mocked up all the album art, and the band/label had approved it all, so we had to stay super close to what they had given the thumbs up to, making the prop search that much more difficult.
Pittsburgh-based photographer Rob Larson is a longtime friend of Doug Dean and has collaborated with the producer on a number of projects. Doug, who does a lot of work with bands, connected with Sleeping with Sirens (SwS) to create the artwork for their new album “How It Feels to Be Lost.”
I always love working with Doug because the projects have a very creative direction and allow room to figure out how we are going to actualize things in the studio. Fun shoots.
The pair started with the simplest item to shoot, the fishbowl, and moved forward from there. While no actual animals were harmed in the making of the next shot, an old teddy bear did get the business before its close-up.
We beat the crap out of a nice, vintage teddy bear. It just got beat up and thrown in a dirt bath.
Felt kind of bad about that.
Next up was a bouquet of flowers, which Rob and Doug let dry and wilt, photographing the botanical demise across the week-long shoot.
The flowers were just cool still life shots made over the course of a week to get just the right wilt in the petals and whatnot. I think we had four or five flower arrangements that we let dry over the course of a week and photographed them each step of the way.
The two toughest shots to get were of the hourglass — a surprisingly recalcitrant prop — and the candle, with the latter becoming the album cover.
Challenge-wise, I think that the hourglass was the roughest to photograph. Glass with red sand that wants to stick all over the interior. Ugh. Everything else was pretty fun.
As for the candle shot, it was always going to be the centerpiece of the project and, as we discussed earlier, came with a very specific vision for the final image attached to it. Thus, Rob and Doug had to be meticulous in their work, accounting for a number of factors that a lit candle brings to the table.
Getting the candle to melt just the right way as well as getting all those drips just right took a lot of time, patience, and candles.
This is also my favorite shot from the album. Just comes off as pretty iconic.
This project featured quite a bit of post-production, with Rob and Doug wading through shots for the sake of compositing. Pretty much the only thing that the images have in common is the backdrop. Everything else had to be composited to get the finals that would satisfy the band.
We shot a lot of photos to try and make the composite as seamless as possible. Used one uniform background for all the images, shot multiple angles, and clothing without the people. From there, Doug stitched the pieces together and worked his magic on the finals.
The key to making a complex assignment like this work is simple: studio lighting. Though Rob had to venture a little out of his comfort zone to get the look SwS wanted, he had the aid of studio lighting throughout.
Don’t ever shy away from studio lighting. Get comfortable with working with people in that situation. We were approached with very specific looks that didn’t necessarily fit the style that I use, so I had to be pretty flexible and able to pivot a bit to fit the needs of a client.
Happily, SwS loved the final batch of imagery and has been using it in a number of different ways. Though Rob wasn’t terribly familiar with the band before getting involved with this project, he takes pride in the fact that the group displays his work during big concerts.
[The work] has already appeared as their backdrop on stage and is all over social media. Band and label have loved the work, from what I understand. They even used it as inspiration for some of their most recent videos. I had only heard the band briefly and didn’t actually realize how big they were when I was getting involved. Now we are seeing the work we did as the stage backdrop for massive shows. Pretty cool stuff.
Art Direction/Retouching: Doug Dean
Check out more of Rob’s work at roblarsonphoto.com.
Explore our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page!