Photo Pit Etiquette

Photo Pit Etiquette

Let’s talk about the coolest spot in a venue – the photo pit. The photo pit is the special area in front of the stage that separates the audience from the artist on-stage. This is our working area and safety zone as concert photographers.

The photo pit experience will be different at every concert you shoot. You might have this space all to yourself or you might have to share it with 40 other colleagues.

As you can tell, shooting from the photo pit can be an awesome experience, but it can also be very challenging. Therefore, I want to give you some advice on how to survive in the photo pit and make it enjoyable for everyone.

Yes, we’re all trying to get that perfect shot. However, does that mean you have to bully your way through the shot? Absolutely not.

Here are 5 tips to refresh what etiquette should be followed in that narrow pit we all adore.

  • Don’t use flash! Not only will it blind the artist, it will probably get you kicked out of the pit (or show). This is always a big no when it comes to photographing in the pit. So leave your flash at home or make sure you disable it on your DSLR. Read more about my essential camera settings here.
  • 3 Song Rule. In general, you’re only allowed to shoot from the photo pit for the first three songs. It’s now normal that the “3 Songs” rule has been established on a global scale from small clubs to big stadium concerts. The time you have to get your shots is therefore often no more than 10 minutes depending on the band. Leave the pit after the security guys have told you to go and don’t try to continue shooting. Even from outside the photo pit.
    Who do we have to thank for these restrictions? I have heard several stories that Mr. Bruce Springsteen started this back in the 80`s because he was pissed off with all the photographers in the pit taking photos all the time. Despite these restrictions, I always prefer the photo pit as my main shooting area at concerts. Read my article about the “3 Songs Rule” here.
  • Be nice! Yes, that shot might be a killer one but don’t take it at the expense of you blocking someone else or completely derailing someone from their spot. It does get tight at times in some pits especially if there’s a lot of photographers, so you’re not going to be the only one trying to get an amazing shot. A suggestion is to maybe talk to some of the photographers before the show starts and get a little signal going, like a light tap on the shoulder – that way there’s less tension as well.
  • Respect the security guys. Security guards are your friends but they can also be your worst enemy in the photo pit. They have a tough job and have to ensure the safety of the artist on-stage. At some shows there will be crowd surfers who will try to climb onto the stage and do everything and anything in order to reach their idols. In this sense, the security guards are also protecting you and making sure nobody kicks you in your back, or worse, destroys your camera equipment when flying into the photo pit. Be polite and obey their rules, as they can make or break your shoot.
  • Along with the above tip, be nice to the fans at the front of the pit. They paid good money to be at the very front of the stage only to be blocked by photographers. So just try not to block them as much.
  • BONUS: Always wear earplugs! Safety first! Do you want to know which earplugs work best for concert photography? Read my earplugs review here.

Even if the pit is crazy crowded (like the photo above provided by my friend Steve Brazill at the Ozzfest meets Knotfest), just do what you can with what you have. But last of all, have a good time – not a lot of people get the opportunity to shoot from the pit, so embrace it.

Listen to my Podcast episode with Steve Brazill about Photo Pit Etiquette here.

Let me know your photo pit experiences in the comments below.

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