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Pit Etiquette – Hints & Tips from Photographers

Posted on 4 m read

Written by Lexi Shannon

If you’re sitting here reading this, I’ll assume you’re in the same boat I was in a few months ago. You have a camera and know how to work it, have shot a few local shows, have a publication to contribute to, and the best part? Just scored a photo pass to your favorite band’s show.

For me, it was Davey Suicide. Not my favorite band by any means, but still, a show with a photo pit that I had the right to be in front of the crowd for. This show was in April of 2016. Since then, I’ve shot over 20 shows including 5 Seconds of Summer, SAINT MOTEL, Good Charlotte, Hands Like Houses, Q102’s Jingle Ball in Philly, and Dashboard Confessional. I’ve contributed to and worked for over five different publications in the past year, so if you have a publication, you’re set. If not? Find one or start your own.

With all of this being said, I wanted to share my top five tips to keep in mind when you’re in the photo pit.

1. You’re not the only photographer there

One thing to remember is you’re not the only photographer in the pit. There’s a few of you there and you’re all there for the same reason. With that being said, be respectful of the artist(s), other photogs and also the fans. Don’t run around screaming about the fact you’re in front of all of them.

Remember not to stand in one spot for the entirety of the first three songs. Don’t hold your camera above your head for more than one or two quick shots (this really only applies if you’re like me, the size of a ten year old). Make sure not to push. Avoid having your autofocus light on. Don’t get all up in the artist(s) face.

Basically, just be a decent person. If you do that, you’ll get respect from the other photographers.

2. Don’t let the “big dogs” get in your head

My first “big” show was Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, and Tesla. Not a show you’d typically see someone who was 17 (as I was at the time) at, whether watching or shooting. The other smaller shows I had covered prior had only a few people in the pit, so nothing phased me. Most of the photographers were there on assignment from small online blogs like I was.

When I showed up to the Def Leppard show, I stood out like a fish out of water. There were five of us in the pit. I was the only girl, the only one under 6 feet tall, and the only one under 40. Everyone else shooting was on assignment for big local publications, such as the local newspapers and news stations. They all were friends, and there I was. I could’ve been their daughter based on the age difference. This was the most intimidating thing for me. As someone with confidence issues, I wanted nothing more than to leave because I felt I wouldn’t be treated fairly in the pit by other photogs.

I was afraid they’d look at me and laugh at the fact I looked like a lost puppy wandering around. I quickly learned that this fear was all in my head. After shooting a few shows at Hershey, I slowly started to befriend the “terrifying guys” I had ran into back in June. By December, I was one of them.

3. Earplugs and Advil

Trust me on this one. Your ears and head will thank you later. If not for the earplugs saving your hearing, the advil will come in handy. No matter how good they are, earplugs aren’t going to cut out the piercing shrills and screams of 40,000 teens and tweens behind you.

4. Research the Venue

This is the one tip I had to learn for myself. Before you shoot a show at a new venue, look it up. Look at the inside. Figure out a few things, like is there a photo pit? How high the stage is, etc. Look at videos of previous shows there. What’s the lighting? Is it house lighting, or does the artist bring their own?

All of these little factors play a huge role in how easy or difficult your job is. I can’t tell you how many times I showed up to a new venue expecting a photo pit, only to learn I had to push my way to the front just to get a decent photo.

5. Relax

Remember why you’re there; for fun! You’re there to do what you love- take pictures of live music. Don’t stress. Once you start stressing, whatever it is is no longer fun. Always keep music photography fun.

Are you a photographer? What tips would you add to the list?

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