Q&A: How to shoot in a photo pit? | Montreal Photographer

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Hello.  I have been invited to shoot in a photo pit for the first time at a concert.  I have only photographed bands in smaller bars and the like, never in a bigger place.  Do you have any tips to help me out?

Answer:

Hmm.  Photo pits.  They are really fun to shoot in as you are right up front, but they can be some of the most chaotic places in the venue.  On a good night, you have 5-6 photographers sharing the pit, along with a couple of security people.  On an amazing night, you have the full pit to yourself!  And on those not so great nights, you have 18 photographers and 6 security people all sharing the same space.  While there are ways to ensure the best possible images in a photo pit, they always change depending on the band and on their stage setup.  So I’ll focus more on how to behave in a photo pit.  And one word sums it all up……. courtesy.

There are different people in and around the pit.  From the artist on stage, to the photographers and videographers, the bouncers to the fans right behind you.  Everyone there doing their own thing.  When people aren’t courteous with the people around, things can get bad for everyone… from getting the ire of other photographers, pissing off the fans in back and them pushing you while you are working, to being kicked out of the pit by security or worse, having the artist stop a show because of you (haven’t seen this happen, but have read about it).  Let’s break down the interactions with different people.

 

1. The Fans

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These people are paying to be there.  These people have often waited hours upon hours outside to get right in front for their favorite artist.  Many are annoyed seeing a bunch of camera totting people walking right in front of them.  So when you are shooting, try not to block their view for too long.  Yes, you need your shot.  Yes, you will step in front of them.  Don’t stand there for a minute holding your camera in the air blocking everyone’s view.

Take photos of them during the show.  It will make their night and sometimes give you some pretty cool shots that tell the story of the show

 

2. The Security

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Yes, Phil always puts on his best smile 😉

Yes they put on a rough exterior.  Yes they are big and imposing (for the most part).  But keep in mind that these people are here to make sure that the fans, the artist and yes, the photographers are safe.  So listen to them.  If you miss a shot because they tell you to move, there is a reason.  In the header photo, that’s my head looking back as the crowd surfer came over.  I received a quick tap from the security guy warning me of an incoming person.

They own the pit.  They can decide to kick you out after a minute or even everyone after 40 seconds if they judge things are too crazy.  Their call.  Live with it 🙂

And really, the vast majority of regular venue security are pretty cool and nice people.

 

3. The Photographers

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Last and not least, the other photographers.  You can lump videographers in here to.  Saving it for last and there is a lot to say.

– We are all there doing a job.  We all want the shot.  If someone is in a prime location before you, too bad.  Learn to anticipate what will happen better.  Try your best to get a shot, but don’t push anyone.

– On the flip side of the above, if you are in a prime location, get your shot, and make room for someone else.  I don’t think you NEED to be there the whole time there is a 5 minute guitar solo in your face.

– Take your damn bag off your back.  You can put it under the steps of the barricade, behind a speaker, at the coat check, befriend a barman and ask them to put it behind the bar, leave it in your car.  Anywhere but on your back!  If you are changing lenses and need your bag with you… ok.  But move it to your front so it’s not shoving people while you are moving around.  We are in a tight enough space already.

– The old hail mary camera move.  Holding that camera in the air to get a shot.  Most say never ever do it.  I think it can be done if you do it once and a while, quickly, while looking to see you aren’t blocking anyone.  Going to the front of the stage and doing it?  Sorry, you are asking to be pushed into the stage… you are blocking the other photogs and the fans.  If you really must hold your camera up, check behind you to make sure you aren’t blocking anyone.  Set your exposure before.  You can also pre-focus.  Lift, snap, bring down.  Don’t hold it up there for 20 seconds riffling off shots.  And take note that doing it every 10 seconds can start to be a pain to the fans in the back.  If you are feeling the need to do this all the time because you are too short… wear heels 😉

– Wearing appropriate clothing.  This is a weird one, but should be mentioned.  What comes to mind are people wearing annoying hats in a pit.  If it’s a small hat, sure.  If it’s a wide brim sunhat?  Uhhh… may look great with your wardrobe, but it’s a pain for other photogs and fans to deal with.  Oh, and if someone asks you to remove it, don’t put it on the stage. 😉  Some also take note to wear not too flashing clothes in the photo pit.  Don’t call attention to yourself, be nondescript.  You are going out to party with friends after the show?  I’m sure you can find something lower key in your closet than that bright pink stripped shirt.

 

The entire post sounds like a laundry list of what annoys me, and I guess it kind of is.  Not sure about your city, but here in Montreal, the show photography world is pretty small and if you plan on shooting many more shows, always best to be nice and have a good time.  Well, that’s how I see things 🙂

Hope this helps!

If you have a question, feel free to send it my way on my Facebook page!

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2 Comments

  1. Marc on March 10, 2014 at 15:38

    good job Pierre!



  2. Pierre on March 10, 2014 at 15:01

    Answer:
    Hmm. Photo pits. They are really fun to shoot in as you are right up front, but they can be some of the most chaotic places in the venue. On a good night, you have 5-6 photographers sharing the pit,