Before / After – Twenty One Pilots




ver the last eleven years, I have had the chance to photograph Twenty One Pilots five times. From a daytime set at a fledgling music festival, to a 1,500 capacity room, to a sold out arena, it's been incredible to watch them evolve as showmen and to see their stage show change with them.

Photographing them can often be a challenge with lots of fog and fully saturated colored lights, but some of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken are from their sets. Tonight’s show at Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati was no different. The stage was tall and there was a lot of production items lining the edge of it (smoke canons, lights, etc. that further complicated things. But I weaved in and out of the other photographers in the pit to find sight lines and interesting angles that I felt I could make work.


The above photo started out as kind of a washed out image consisting mostly of shadows with some yellowish highlights and a blue background from the LED screen at the back of the stage.

Typically, I use one of my custom presets as a starting point for an image and then tweak the parameters to suit the image. For this one however, none of the presets were anywhere near what I wanted for the image, so I started from scratch. 

First, I needed to bring some contrast into the image by ramping up the contrast slider, but that wasn’t nearly enough. With as much fog that was on the stage and the additional smoke from the mask, it needed some further attention. Next, I lowered the black levels to darken up the darkest parts of the image. We’re getting there.

With a combination of the Dehaze, Clarity, and Texture sliders, I was able to finally get the level of detail I wanted in the image. But, that made the background a bit brighter than I wanted, so with a tweak of the shadows slider, I was able to get more foreground separation. 

When I white balance, my goal is usually to achieve natural skin tone. In this image, there really isn’t any skin visible, so I was able to lean into the interesting lighting. With some split toning, I added some blue to the shadows, and reddish magenta to the midtones to achieve the desired look.

Through a good understanding of the editing tools and how to counteract the limitations of the situation, I was able to create an image that I’m really happy with and that I think really harnesses the vibe of the moment that was captured.


LOCATION – Cincinnati, OH
VENUE – Heritage Bank Center
DATE – August 22, 2022

PHOTOGRAPHER – Brian Bruemmer, Rubatophoto.com

CAMERA – Canon 6D
LENS – Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II

APERTURE – f/4.0
ISO – 2500

SOFTWARE – Adobe Lightroom Classic

Musician, concert photographer, writer, podcast host and founder of The Hot Mic Music Magazine.