Messing with The Pros In the Pit Might Have Negative Repercussions



The Professional Concert Photographer is a different cat and highly misunderstood. Their visible world consists of 15 minutes or the first three songs of a band’s performance. Then they are ushered off and out of sight. Then they are sometimes actually treated as criminals, with concert security making sure they aren’t trying to steal extra shots after the allotted time has expired once they leave the photo pit. The Professional Concert Photographer knows the rules, and in many cases has signed an agreement, or an actual contract stating the rules in black and white. Three songs, no flash, and no video is the common agreement, or the risk of being blacklisted in the industry being the unwritten part.

Why does The Professional Concert Photographer do what they do? For the love of music and creating frozen moments in time that are historically documented in the images. The Professional Concert Photographer is an artist and historian of the arts driven by the past of such greats as Annie Leibovitz, Neal Preston, and Jim Marshall. There are other great photographers, but these are the three that come to mind at this time. They were (are) photojournalists and yes they are (were) historians. Then there is the rush of adrenaline being situated between the stage and the fans being a part of the energy is also a large part, it’s not about money, I can’t deny it.

The Professional Concert Photographer is humble and unassuming as it’s understood that being in the photo pit is a privilege and having been selected to be there is not taken lightly as many that have applied are on the other side of the barrier. The Professional Concert Photographer understands the code of being in the photopit. The Professional Concert Photographer dresses in black to not be distracting to the performing artists.  The Professional Concert Photographer does not use flash photography as that causes a distraction to the performing artists on stage. Lastly, The Professional Concert Photographer is aware of the other Professional Concert Photographers around them trying to do the same job of capturing the historical moments on stage. They are constantly moving to get the angles that the others in the photo pit may miss only stopping at a vantage point holding their lens steady. They are yielding as a courtesy to fellow Professional Concert Photographers as it’s understood we all have the same job and very little time to get it done. The Professional Concert Photographer looks before they move so as to not block another photographer’s shot by getting in their image. Then there is the fact that The Professional Concert Photographer is also blocking the sightlines of the Paid Concert Goer that is positioned behind them on the paid side of the barrier and it is imperative to not stand in one place for more than a few seconds. The Professional Concert Photographer understands they are working for those 15 minutes or 3 songs and they are not there to dance and enjoy the show as The Paid Concert Goers just a few feet behind them on the other side of the barrier. They are there to have fun. The Professional Concert Photographer is not.

The Professional Concert Photographer spends tens of thousands of dollars on equipment to create the best historical documentation of their images. They spend countless hours after the show editing and selecting images that represent the artist in the most flattering and unique positions that tell the story of their performance. I recently shot an 11-hour festival and followed with eight hours afterward culling out bad and/or unflattering images, to get the top 10% or 5% that is worthy of sharing to the world. The Professional Concert Photographer has a job to do and most of it is in the modern-day darkroom, in front of their computer. As you can see, it’s not all that glamorous and it’s hard work. Staying humble and keeping your head on a swivel always being aware of security doing their job in the photo pit, and crowd surfers that might be flying over the barrier and kicking you in the back of the head while your attention is on stage looking through your viewfinder. There are of course other photographers, and what is happening on stage in front of you. There is a lot going on in the first three songs. The Professional Concert Photographer is also wearing hearing protection so your eyes are all you have. The Professional Concert Photographer will tap another Professional Concert Photographer notifying them of their position as they pass or before setting up in a spot as the other photographer is looking through their camera’s viewfinder. Unspoken glances, taps, and gestures are The Professional Concert Photographers is the form of photo pit communication. Then add to that chaos, The Professional Concert Photographers must protect their investment in their gear.




With all of that being said, and here’s the editorial part, why does festival security or venue security scrutinize who is in the photo pit better? After all the pre-approval selection, contracts, and releases are signed, why do they allow The Non-Professional Concert Photographers access to the photo pit? I understand their number one job is to protect the festival and venue from liability if a fan or crowd surfer gets hurt making poor decisions by taking matters into their own hands. But they do nothing when it comes to checking the proper credentials into the photo pit. At least do it for the first three songs until The Professional Concert Photographer has vacated the area. Have some respect and allow them to do the job you approved them to perform.

Since the Pandemic, festival security allows almost anyone in the photo pit, fans with cell phones, fans dancing, fans with selfie sticks, fans standing against the stage taking selfies with the band performing as their backdrop, and the iPhone user recording the live show which is totally prohibited in the photo pit. I know this as it’s on the photo releases The Professional Concert Photographer has to sign before credentials are issued that states NO VIDEO! These “fans” are huge obstacles as they don’t move, and they have no idea what the mission or job of  The Professional Concert Photographer is by blocking them and not getting out of the way. They don’t care, they feel like they are getting away with something by being in the photo pit and want all of their friends to know they beat the system. Can you imagine being at work and having people crowding around your desk taking selfies, dancing, and blocking you from moving about within your workday at the office while you are trying to get your work done?

Now look at it from the band’s perspective. They also have liability while they perform. Many contracts The Professional Concert Photographers sign have very specific language about their limited liability in case of injury during their shows. As well as, where and when the images obtained can be posted and legally used. These fans are unknown to everyone and have not signed anything that pertains to the governing rules. Bands don’t want this chaos in front of them while they perform. Remember, The Professional Concert Photographer doesn’t use a flash and is clad in black so as to not distract the performers on stage, or the audience. A photo pit full of extra exuberant fans does not follow those guidelines in the least. Unless you are KISS who sold photo pit access to cocktail-carrying VIP fans to squeeze out a few extra bucks on their final farewell tour. (True Story) So more and more, band management has shown their dissatisfaction with festival security in how they manage the photo pit, and their only recourse is to close the photo pit during their performance. This happened at a recent festival I attended, after shooting 13 bands over 10 hours, the access to shoot the headliner (The Final Band), was denied to The Professional Concert Photographer and covering the complete festival for their approved publication because of relaxed security that manifested as the day went on. It almost happened at another festival two years ago, but the festival decided to limit access to The Professional Concert Photographers and not allow the amateur concert photographers access, by only allowing photographers with professional equipment to enter the photo pit.

You reading this may think it’s a petty argument. But, by doing so, the group in the pit that was growing with every band performing was at around 25 to 30 iPhone dancing maniacs in the photo pit to just the seven approved Professional Concert Photographers. The work was easier and less physical and it was a pleasure to end the festival on that note after coverage being harder and harder as the crowd in the pit grew with each band. The Professional Concert Photographer grows tired as the day goes on walking from stage to stage in the unprotected sun and the heat of the day. It was nice that the band interjected and the festival stood up for The Professional Concert Photographers to complete their assignments in that instance.


Something is going to give, or the great iconic images that we all know and love will cease to exist and be

replaced by amateur iPhone pictures that will create a whole new history from unknown artists.





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