Concert Photography: 10 Tips for Good Photo Pit Etiquette

January 12, 2014  •  1 Comment

On the Music Photographers' facebook page photographers will often post "complaint photos" - photos of something that the photographer didn't like while photographing a show. Usually these photos show something like a monopod raised up high or someone holding their camera high above their head, blocking other photographers' views (aka "lifting").

There are two simple rules to follow while in the photo pit photographing a show: Be considerate and practice safe photography.

Here's a breakdown on how to do so.

1. Don't push. We're not in elementary school anymore. Be nice and gentle about trying to get past other photographers. Apologize if you bump into someone or get caught on their backpack (although a backpack isn't a great thing to wear in the pit).

2. If you crouch down for a shot or two, stand up slowly and look behind you so you don't stand up right into someone's lens and gouge their eye out.

3. Move around. Get different angles. Give others a chance at getting shots from your position. Don't be "that guy" that stands in front of the stationary singer the entire time and upsets everybody else, especially if you spend any time reviewing shots or changing lenses. 

If you have a small step stool (usually something that's only needed at festivals or fairs), set yourself up toward the back of the pit. That should go without saying but I said it anyway.

4. Know the crowd and watch out for crowd surfers. Be aware of your surroundings. Use your peripheral vision. Being kicked in the head and shoved up against the stage is no fun.

Most of the time members of the security staff will warn you of an approaching crowd surfer, which sometimes involves pushing you out of the way. Don't get angry with them; they're doing you a favor.

5. First and foremost, you're there to take photos. You're not there to act like you're on the rail. Save the crazy dancing, singing, headbanging, and/or fangirling for after the first three songs. 

[Side note: when I'm photographing a band I really like I stand still and get a few shots; but when I'm traveling to another spot I quietly sing along, bob my head a bit, and usually have a big dumb grin on my face. Some people say concert photography loses its excitement after a while but I disagree completely.]

6. It's okay to lift. (Some will disagree with me here). BUT only do it when you must, and most importantly do it VERY QUICKLY and make sure there are NO OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS behind you. And remember that you're also blocking the views of the fans who paid for their tickets and probably waited for hours outside the venue before the doors opened to get their spots. 

One of the best times to lift is when you're far enough stage left or right and facing the other side of the venue. When the crowd is lit enough and the singer walks up to the front of the stage you can get a pretty good wide shot of both the crowd and singer.

twenty one pilots

When NOT to lift:

[There's someone behind you, buddy.]

7. Be courteous to the fans. You're not better or cooler than them (and I'm not sure why you would think that); sure, sometimes their behavior can be a bit ridiculous but they are there purely to have a great f***ing time. Don't ruin it for them. 

Fans are everything. Without them there would be no concert. 

Paul McCartney

[Side note: at a festival last year there were giant beach balls being thrown around. Someone on the rail caught one and decided to hold it in front of her (she could barely fit her arms around half of it); the pit was packed and the beach ball was shoved up against my back so hard that I could barely keep my balance. In that case this fan was not being courteous to me, therefore I had to tell her to get rid of the ball. She did not. I almost screamed at her.]

8. Don't be arrogant. This means a couple things: you're never "too good" to chat with another photographer that might not be as experienced as you; and don't bother other photographers during a song (or even in between) by showing them one of your photos for the sole purpose of telling them how awesome the shot is.

9. Be aware of your feet. This is so, so important. Especially in smaller, tighter pits. The feet (or whatever they're called) of the barricade are really difficult to see in the dark and I think I stub my toe on one at about 75% of the shows I cover (which is why I almost always wear close-toed shoes). Don't move too fast, because there's the potential that you might fall and even worse, damage your gear.

10. Don't step in front of someone else's shot. I almost forgot about this one because it seems like such common logic, but it still needs to be mentioned. Whether you're up against the stage or further back in the pit, LOOK AROUND YOU before and while moving to a new spot. If you're impatient like me, duck under people's cameras while they're shooting. 

Of course if the pit is very full you'll almost always be in front of someone else, in which case just be as courteous as you can.

A lot of times it's easy to tell what the other photographers are thinking by reading their body language, so overall just be aware, be courteous, and be professional. 

Got any more? Please share in the comments!


Comments

justin(non-registered)
awesome advice. I'd like to do more of this kind of work at some point!
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