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Concert Photography from the Pit

Feb 19, 2009
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Hello everyone!

My name is Matt Becker and I'm a college student and concert enthusiast. I've been shooting concerts as a spectator for about a year now but just recently I have gained the opportunity to bring my SLR into the photo pit for a "big arena" show featuring Fleetwood Mac.

I've never been able to shoot from the pit at an arena show before, and I have a few basic questions for those who have experience shooting at their local (insert corporate sponsor here) Amphitheater.

First, this may sound like a strange question, but how do I actually make my way into the pit? Do I just enter through the gates with my camera and notify someone on the staff that I have permission to shoot from the pit, or is there a special entrance? If I've been put on the guest list, will I be able to gain admission smoothly (do the ticket scanners know who's in and who's out?) Also, is there a physical "pass", like a permission slip of some sort, that I will be sent that will grant me access?

My other question is after the 3 songs are over, I have my own ticket in the 8th row on the floor, so will I even be able to take my seat with the SLR still on me? Or would I have to leave it with security and reclaim it after the show?

My last question, I promise, is when you are put on the guest list, do you get an actual ticket to sit down? Or does this just mean that you can gain admission shoot the show, and take off?

Thanks so much for any insight or advice! I'm completely new to the big-time arena show photo pass stuff so I appreciate it.


My website - Melodic Rock Concerts
I think he said he already has access to the show as he is shooting from the well. A couple things to keep in mind melodic. First, it's impossible to answer your questions because each venue and band are different. In fact, you can shoot at the same venue three different times with three different bands and have three different experiences. So, to keep it simple, I will say this:

When you show up go to will call or the box office and ask where the press entrance is. The person manning the press entrance will either have you on a list or won't. If they do, they will give you all the credentials and instructions you need. It appears you already know it, but you will only get to shoot the first three songs. Whether you get to stick around afterward (with or without your camera) is up to the band. To be honest, most working professionals are not trying to score a free show out of the shoot and don't ask to do as much. Others will have filing deadlines or other assignments (newspaper shooters primarily) to get to. What I wouldn't do is give your ticket away to a friend with the expectation that you will be able to use your photo pass instead.

Also, just a thought, but I don't know if I would want to bring my cameras into the seating area afterward anyway. Let's face it. You're not going to get as good of pics from your ticketed seats as you will from the well. And, you risk the gear being stolen or broken (beer spills, etc.) in the seats. Smart plan might be to go back to your car, drop the gear off and then use your ticket to gain late entry.

Concerts can be fun to shoot, especially if you like the band. Bring a fast lens.
Thanks for all the info in2dablue, I appreciate it!

I'm not thrilled about having to run out to the car so maybe I will try and see if I can store it somewhere.

Is there any chance that I would be able to meet the band, or is backstage access another story altogether? I'm guessing the average newspaper photographer doesn't even care to meet the given band, so maybe I should keep dreaming...
I would be careful about stashing my gear somewhere. Let's get real, a trip to the car is not that bad and certainly worth the time when you look at the risk of stolen gear. It's not like the promoters or band have a special, secured place for press gear... especially since most professionals are leaving after 3 songs and not trying to get a free ticket to the show.

As for meeting the band, it all depends on the band and the promoter. Most likely with a big band like Fleetwood Mac you will not be able to gain access to the band before hand or after unless you have a special arrangement set up the manager or press flak. I would imagine you will not get that unless you are working for a major magazine or metro daily newspaper. Even then, it usually takes weeks of advance work to set up time with the band back stage.

Now, smaller, lesser known bands, those restrictions are often tamed down.

I guess what I would remind you of is to not blur the line between working photojournalist and dedicated fan. The working photojournalist is not trying to "meet the band" or get into the show after the first three songs. They are there to take photos and leave. Not to say there is anything wrong with enjoying the moment but don't try and take advantage of your press access in order to get extras that dedicated fan would want.

Most of the famous bands, athletes, and celebrities (except for politicians) I have shot really appreciate photogs who respect that line of professionalism.

Whatever you do, if you do get back stage, don't ask for autographs or personal pics with the band.
Good point about the gear...might not be worth the risk.

It's definitely an interesting transition from fan to professional, and although I would love the opportunity to meet the band, I do see how it could be unprofessional to ask for a photograph.

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