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Photo Pit Etiquette

I know, it’s been a month.  I really should update this more, at the very least blog weekly.

There are three things I get really REALLY passionate about nowadays.  The first is Football (specifically my beloved Liverpool), the second and third are two things that have been a part of me for the last 10 years: Music and Photography. I’ve been shooting concerts both local and international for the better part of the last 9 years and I remember back when I first started it was literally me and maybe one or two kids taking pictures at the various concerts all over the city.  The widespread availability of DSLRs and the improving quality of cellphone cameras have pretty much opened the floodgates for every aspiring photographer out there, which is awesome and has produced some amazing photographers (Oh hello Nina, I know you’re reading this :D); but there is a certain etiquette that people really SHOULD follow. I hate to sound like a crusty old fart, but seriously, there is some shit that goes on in photo pits that really pisses me off. I’m not talking about the kids with their cellphones high in the air recording everything their favorite singer does, because that’s just fans being fans; I’m talking about YOU.  Yes YOU.  That asshole in the photo pit with his brand new 28-70 bursting a goddamn speedlite in the singers face every 6 seconds.  Yes.  YOU. This is for you.

FIVE Rules Of The Photo Pit

1) GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SHOT

Nobody likes the pushy asshole in the photo pit that stands in everyones line of sight and blocks their shots. Just because you have a lanyard around your neck that says “PRESS” or “PHOTOGRAPHER” this does not mean you have a right to stand up straight and tall in the very front of the pit with no regard to the shots of the other photographers around you and most importantly: TO THE FANS behind you. Those fans paid good money to watch their favorite performer and they’re going to be fucking livid if they’ve got your big ass head leaning on the monitors waving your goddamn 85 Prime in the singers faces.  Crouch down.  Get out of their way.  Or pop up real fast, snap of a few shots then crouch down again while you review.  DON’T FUCKING REVIEW YOUR SHOTS WHILE STANDING UP IN THE VERY FRONT.  It makes you look like an even bigger douchebag.  If the pit is crowded, shoot and move so other photographers can get a good angle too. If someone asks if you can step to the side for a bit, don’t sneer and throw a hissy fit, it makes you look like a bitch.

In fact, as a concert photographer why the hell would you stand still anyway?  If you’re going to stand in a pit for 2 hours and take 500 pictures from exactly the same angle then you should just sell your camera because obviously you’re an idiot.

2) RESPECT THE EQUIPMENT

Repeat after me: THE MONITORS ARE NOT YOUR TRIPOD.  Foreign acts in particular can be pretty anal about their sound on stage (and with good reason) so if you start leaning on the monitors and tripping over wires screwing up the sounds then they’re going to get fucking pissed.  Also, you’re fat and you might break that shit.  As much as possible DON’T lean on the gear.  If you have to lean on a monitor, do it gently and do it fast then move again (see point 1)  DON’T grab a mic stand and push it out of the way of your shot while the band is singing you massive tit.  AND DONT STAND ON THE FUCKING AMPS.

3) IF YOU DONT HAVE TO BE IN THE PIT THEN GET THE FUCK OUT

Look, I hate to sound like a bit of a snob here but some of you people have no right being in a photo pit.  I’m talking about the girl that sneaks in with her DSLR.  I’m talking about the idiots who stand in there just to watch.  It’s a photo pit.  Not the front fucking row of a Beiber concert.  I don’t care if your pass says “JOURNALIST”, if you aren’t taking pictures then clear the area.  You’re taking up space and blocking peoples view.  Just last week I saw a writer in the photo pit doing nothing except standing there singing. Sorry what? If you just want to watch, get in the crowd like everyone else.  You don’t need to be in the freaking front blocking the view of the paying crowd.  What are you going to do? Set your laptop up on a monitor and start writing in the middle of the show? GET OUT. It’s already crowded in here because of the douchebags standing in everyones shot and you’re just making it worse.

4) FOR THE LOVE OF GOD FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY IS BAD

Now I’m not knocking the idea of using an external flash, I use it all the time in small events; but please god be mindful of who you’re blinding.  DON’T aim that shit straight at the band.  How do you expect the singer dancing around stage to keep balance when he’s got a 580EX going off in his face every 10 seconds? It’s disrespectful.  Actually, as much as possible don’t use a flash in the first place if you’re standing that close.  I know I know, some venues allow it, but let me tell you its not fun to be performing then all of a sudden go half blind.  Generally larger events will ban flash photography, but you’re always going to get that douchebag who disregards the rules.  Because people are fucking stupid.

5) A PRESS PASS IS NOT A TICKET TO ACT LIKE A DICKHEAD

Just because that pass around your neck says PRESS, it doesn’t mean you get to act like you own the place. Drill one thing into your head: it is a PRIVILEGE for you to be in this pit.  You are here for FREE.  You may even be getting PAID to be in there.  This does not make you better than everyone else.  I’ve seen photographers get mad at bouncers, stage hands, roadies etc all because someone told them to get out of the area.  YOU are not contributing to the show, they are.  Listen to them and do what they say.  Remember this: THE BAND IS THERE FOR THE FANS, NOT FOR YOU OR YOUR GODDAMN PORTFOLIO.

On a side note (and I realize what I’m about to say is hilarious coming from me), I kinda wish more people would stop taking pictures of gigs and just sit and enjoy the music.  I know, everyone loves to take pictures of their favorite bands, or videos of their favorite songs.  It’s a part of us and I completely understand it; that’s how I started shooting in the first place.  I just wish some people realize that they don’t HAVE to be shooting the whole time.  There’s nothing wrong with putting your camera away and just simply LISTENING once in a while.  I realized early on that if I focused more on shooting, I felt like I would miss out on half of the emotions that made me love the music in the first place.

I read a story about Adam Lazzarra of Taking Back Sunday while we were preparing for their show here back in April.  Apparently he walked into the crowd in Orlando and told them “Let’s the cut the middleman out, put the cameras down. Why have a screen between you and me? I am right here. I am right here.”

It’s something to consider the next time you watch a show.

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