Concert photography is a community within itself, where you often end up seeing some of the same photographers at many events. Though most photographers may often work solo, you can create an environment of mutual respect that benefits everyone.
Why Do I Have to Follow Etiquette?
At a concert, the crowd can get pretty rowdy, but the photo pit should not. Remember, although you may enjoy the show, your primary reason to be there is to get the best shots you can. And, that’s what all the other photographers want to do, as well. The golden rule definitely applies here: treat others as you expect to be treated.
All of the following tips apply regardless of the kind of venue where you shoot. It could be a show at a local bar, an outdoor festival, or a big concert venue. Show your respect even at shows with less rigid rules, and you’ll open more opportunities for yourself to get the big gigs. The hard truth is that you won’t get shows that require a photo pass until you’ve successfully built a portfolio at smaller gigs. So, build your reputation first.
Now, let’s be clear that most of these advice bits are not hard rules. You don’t have to follow them. But, they are the unspoken guidelines that can make a difference in your ability to network within your field, and make no mistake that networking is the key to growing your photography business—even if you freelance. Perhaps especially if you freelance.
How to Be Seen as a Professional
Having good concert photography etiquette is not just about positive karma. Every action you take while donning the role of photographer speaks about you as a business professional. The advice here will help you retain your dignity regardless of concert venue. Also, remember that many venues (indoor and outdoor) often limit photo pit sessions to the first three songs of each act—plan your strategy ahead of time.
Respect Your Fellow Photographers
Concerts are crowded by their nature. That’s just as true in the photo pit as it is in the rest of the venue. You’ll be close to your fellow photographers, so you’ll need to be extra aware of how you fill your personal space. Don’t stand on objects to get a better shot. Don’t set up your equipment where it will block others in the pit. Share the space. Basically, give others the same courtesy you want for yourself. Certainly, go after the shots you want, but once you get them, step back and allow someone else to take advantage of that great angle. Also its important to be careful we’re you’re going and to move through the area slowly.
Respect the Crowd
If you’re shooting at a venue without the convenience of a photo pit, you are solely responsible for making your shoot successful. That means you show up early to get a good spot up front. Don’t wait until the last minute to arrive and then try to barge through the crowd or bully people into giving up their space by waving your photo pass. The pass gets you in; you are responsible for the rest. Most concert goers want to make the event enjoyable for everyone and are happy to respect your space while you take photos. Return the courtesy. An easy way to make taking photos from the crowd more productive is to get to know the people around you. Talk friendly. Show them your good intentions. They may just make a little room for the nice person trying to get a good angle.
Respect Security Personnel
Starting to see a pattern here? It’s all about respect. Be friendly with security personnel and you’ll be able to count on them if things get out of hand in the pit. That simply means that you treat them like people and say hi when you walk past them.
Don’t Assume Everyone Knows What You Want
The photo pit has limited space. No matter what venue you shoot in, you’re going to come across a situation where another photographer is simply in your way. They’re not doing it to annoy you or limit your shots! Politely tap their shoulder. The concert is loud. They can’t hear you. But, if you give them a tap, they’ll understand that you need to get through.
Don’t Cause Unnecessary Accidents—And Apologize If You Do
Everyone in the pit is going to have lots of gear with them—big cameras, bags for cameras and lenses, and other photography necessities. Navigating that chaos is a pain for everyone, but each professional can make the situation easier by stowing large bags under a barricade or as out of the way as possible. You don’t want to trip over a bag and send your lenses flying, and no one else does either. Again, limited space is inevitable, so if someone trips or knocks into your gear despite your best attempts, apologize!
Practice Mindful Photography at Festivals
Festivals can be the hardest place to keep your cool and maintain etiquette. It seems like everyone is in the way and pushing into each other. Your equipment keeps getting trampled. You’re doing all you can to keep your temper in check, let alone remember to actively be polite and respectful.
That’s why it’s even more important to be mindful of others at a festival. It’s the easiest place for tempers to get out of hand.
You really only need two pieces of advice to make the most of your summer festival shoot:
1. Let it go. Some things you just don’t have control over. It could rain. An act may get on stage later than expected. You may get to a stage at what you think is an early time only to find the area already crowded. Take a breath; go in there; and get your shots. Instead of fretting over what you can’t control, embrace it and you may just get some unexpectedly wonderful photos. This also means accepting the fact that a crowded festival pit may require you to stick to one spot while photographing.
2. Don’t be passive. Being friendly and positive is not the same as letting people impede your progress in fear of causing a conflict. Go ahead and ask someone if they could move over for a moment. Let them know if you need to get by. And, do it with a smile. Respect is about interacting in a courteous way, not avoiding interaction.
What goes around comes around. Respect your fellow photographers and others at the show. Use courteous language and gestures. Be conscious of the space you’re in and your movements.
Most of all, remember that everyone—you, the crowd, other photographers—are there to have a great time and get a good view of the stage.
About The Author
Billy Bones is a concert promoter with over 10 years of experience working directly with photographers. He’s currently the marketing director at Bookingagentinfo.com, a celebrity contact info database that provides photographers and businesses with the contact information for the official agents, managers, and publicists of celebrities. You can add him on Twitter @billybonestx. This article was also published here and shared with permission