Concert Photography Etiquette
July 19, 2014
Don't be the guy holding the camera in the upper right.
Concert photography is a ton of fun, and a unique experience. You get to create images from a perspective that few can get, and help share the experience with anyone.
Getting pit access isn't a right, it's a privilege, and one that is granted to a photographer so they can do a job. Most of the time, you are not going to be the only person in the pit, and sometimes it'll be very crowded. The key to remember in all this, is that you are not the only person in attendance, and nothing revolves around you. Get in there, do your job without pissing everyone off, and get out.
This photo is a great example of what not to do. Here, you can see Posdnuos of De La Soul has stepped down from the stage to a position right on the barricade. It's a great moment for the crowd who waited outside for hours to get a prime position at the front of the venue. Away from the cameras, people were screaming, dancing, and having a fantastic time. Down in the pit, there were about 8 photographers, including myself. There were also some friends and family of the group present, so that makes for a pretty tight space. You have to choose your position and shots wisely, as to not get in anyone's way or be a nuisance. The owner of the 5D Mark III that appears in this photo does not seem to understand that.
You are allowed in the pit for three songs, usually. It's not a lot of time, I know. You've got to come away from the pit with something useable, so I understand that there is some pressure involved, but that is no excuse for being inconsiderate. Use your camera correctly; frame your shot, pick an appropriate time, and shoot. Holding the camera over your head this way is really ineffective for making sure you nail the focus and composition. It is extremely effective at photobombing the pictures of your fellow photographers in the pit. This is not the way to behave. The pit is a cramped space, and it's loud. There really isn't much of an opportunity to communicate, particularly when a song is blasting and you should be focusing on getting the shot. Don't just waste shutter actuations and hope that you get something useable. Wait and make a shot that works. In this case, I waited for quite a while until I could get a photo that I thought would be great, and this camera appeared just as I pressed the shutter. The ill-mannered photographer then proceeded to do this several more times, wriggling between the rest of the people in the pit without as much as a tap on the shoulder, and getting on the barricade several times as well.
Standing on the barricade is another deal-breaker. This is what separates the crowd from the performers, and as a photographer in the pit between the barricade and the stage, it affords you some maneuverability that you wouldn't be able to get otherwise. Don't get in the way of paying fans by standing on the barricade, please. It doesn't matter that "it's just for a moment", and it certainly doesn't matter that you "need your shot". What you need, is to consider that the people behind you are paying customers, and you are not. You need to understand that in the moment, they are concerned with connecting to a live performance, and the performer is concerned with connecting to their audience. Neither party is concerned with you, the photographer, getting a cool shot. You should be working around them, not making them work around you. That kind of behavior can get you thrown out, and I'm honestly surprised that no one spoke to this individual, but I'm hoping that this image is a good illustration of what not to do.
When you go to a concert as a photographer, by all means, enjoy the music, be a part of the experience, and of course, take photos. Just don't be a jerk. Don't block the fans, don't get in the way of the performer, and don't impede the work of the other photographers. You are not the main attraction.
Photographers, have you ever had to deal with anyone like this? Have you been this person? Concertgoers, have you ever had to deal with an inconsiderate photographer at a show?