is it time to end the 3 song only rule for live photographyThe great live shot is so much part of music culture that we take it for granted.

The tragedy is that it could be a dying art.

The restrictions being placed on working photographers are a joke.

For a good few years they have been forced to snap the band for the first three songs only and then shepherded out of the photo pit like naughty school children. This week my band, Goldblade, have been out playing shows in big venues with the Misfits and it really underlined this strange situation.

On stage you don’t really notice the photographers until you see them all leaving en masse after three songs. Speaking to the snappers afterwards you just get the world weary answers about trying to get the shot in a tight amount of time.

Who decided this bullshit? The venues blame the bands and whilst it’s certainly true that some tawdry pop star egos like to control everyone in the room with their bullshit it seems most bands are not really that bothered. And still not bothered when the next excuse is brought up that the flash of the camera gets in their eyes- which is an odd excuse when you got that light show popping off around you…

Another excuse is that the photographers get in the eye line of the audience and whilst this could be slightly feasible I have never met anyone who has complained about this…

It all seems a matter of control in an increasingly controlled music business. The photographers are treated like cattle when they are doing a crucial job of documenting the event.

I’m not sure where this all started- probably a big pop band trying to control their image and then the promoters and venues got onto it.

Of course it has got worse recently with photographers telling me that sometimes they get one song or even 30 seconds to get the shot and with added photo approval restrictions where the artist in question has to approve of the shots before they can be published with one person demanding a double chin being removed from their shot!

Live photography is like war photography, it should be warts and all, that’s why it’s live, a great live shot defines a band, it can make a band so lets get rid of these stupid restrictions, especially now with the odd thing that now with the great power of digital cameras the audience snaps away till the end of the set, getting pictures that break all the new codes impinged on the professionals..

Do photographers spoil the audience eye line?
Is three songs enough?
Who makes up these silly rules?

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I really can’t believe you haven’t had anyone complain to you about photographers at gigs. Whilst there are some very good ones who are on the circuit, there are some that are rude and completely inconsiderate to anyone around them who’s paid and want to listen to the music rather than the constant click of their lens or them shoving past or pushing you against a wall or barrier in venues where there’s no pit just so they can get their shot. Like I said not all of them, but a small majority in my gig going experience.

  2. It’s okay for the photographers to run free at will when there’s a pit but when they’re in the front row it can be a pain in the arse if you’re just trying to watch the gig…there are some who seem to think they have more rights to stand where they want (even if there’s someone else already standing there) than someone who’s paid £10 or whatever to see their favourite band…I guess it depends on the photographer really…

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments above – a lot of photographers think the whole show revolves around them and they are more than happy to get in the way and be a total pest to the paying customers. Quite frankly 3 songs to put everyone else out is enough.

  4. IMO It should be entirely up to the band. For most up and coming bands there is no such thing as bad publicity – If it is up to me then I am quite happy for entire gigs to be photographed and videod by anyone in the audience, after all that will spread my band all over social networks within hours (or sometimes minutes). For bigger bands it is usually their management / accountants / agents who writes these controls into their gig contracts – Once a band gets to that point then they are beyond anything I am interested in anyway. I have promoted gigs on and off for 25 years without ever having a written contract and have never been ripped off because I only deal with bands directly that I know share my ideals.

  5. I agree with some of the comments above, I pay to see a band, not a photographer who is in the way, and when asked to move can be quite rude. I think the 3 song rule is way too long!

  6. Not a problem if they have a separate pit, but can be annoying in smaller venues where some photographers push fans out of their way whilst getting a shot. At least if they’re limited to 3 songs you know you won’t have to endure them for the whole gig & so are a bit more forgiving.

  7. Most music photographers work anonymously and operate within unspoken rules of keeping out of the way of the public and each other’s way but there are a few who get in the way of the publics eyeline holding aloft cameras and pissing off the paying public thes snappers give us a bad name….three songs is generally enough to get the required shots although most of the best opportunities come late in the set when the band are in full swing….Rights grabbing by bands and PR companies is piss poor and snappers should avoid them but as in any walk of life there are always some willing to sell-out even if it means not being able to publish the shots they have prostituted their skills and time for….

  8. Half the time the band is still warming up three songs in.
    I saw skindred in leeds and the photographer in the cheep seats was a right cunt, at one stage he actually pushed my legs out the way to get his “great shot”. On the other hand I had a photographer riding my shoulders at a pure love gig, actually enjoying the music rather than blocking it out.

    You win some you lose some.

  9. Couldn’t agree more with some of the above comments. Most photographers these days seem to think the gig is being staged for their benefit. I’m tired of being down the front watching them bump into one another like Daleks & being a distraction. If they want pics then shoot from the soundboard area.

  10. I only shoot the bigger gigs now, but I completely get the comments from the audiences’ perspective at the smaller gigs. Surely though, paying gig goers would be equally irritated by the wall of smartphones held high for the entire show? The irony is some management/PR companies that take a huge chunk of their artists’ profits will use these same iPhone pics to promote their acts rather than pay a pro. Now who’s taking the piss? Don’t make very good billboard posters do they? It’s a shame that a few pig mannered music photographers have got the good guys a bad name and given the suits excuses to flex their muscles. As a career, music photography alone is a non starter. Iconic images of artists will dwindle as more restrictions are put in place. There’s an argument for maybe an official photographer being given AAA access all night, but not a wall of photographers, so yes limit to three songs and let everyone get on with enjoying the show.

  11. The situation is getting worse & worse. LED lights are not helping, stupid release forms are not helping, the newer photographers in the fold don’t seem to have done the small club circuit enough to appreciate the privilidge of shooting larger bands in larger venues, the list goes on but I’ll stop there for now. Good “Togs” understand the point of view of almost everyone at a gig & act accordingly – with professionalism. My circle of fellow Togs in Scotlands central belt are among the best there are (you know who you are chaps!) but there is a steady stream of “tourists” that turn up, go against the pit ettiquette, hog one spot, barge others & generally are a pain in the arse to everyone – the crowd, other Togs, security etc. Three songs under reasonable lighting conditions is more than enough to be honest (it’s only my opinion, don’t worry) and if a Tog can’t get those desperately wanted shots in that time they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Control is the keyword here. Somebody wants to control those beyond their jurisdiction and usually get their way. Each time they are successful means another nail in the coffin of live music photography. One last thing, just because someone owns a digital DSLR it doesn’t make them a photographer, it just makes them a DSLR owner. The top guys with hard earned skills know the difference whereas the punters may not know the difference so therefore ALL photgrapher are measured (in the punters eyes) by the lowest common denominator. Like I said, the situation is getting worse & worse.

  12. I heard the 3 song rule was first used by Madonna who didn’t want photos of her looking sweaty in the press, and was imediatly picked up and a standard.

  13. I’m not really a music photographer but I have photographed a lot of gigs over twenty yrs from the biggest bands in the world to some guys in my local pub. A couple of years ago I worked on a documentary about Ron Sexsmith where I spent a time just following him around photographing everything he did . He played shepherd bush empire he said to me “are you coming on stage with me” I said will that be ok , “of course man how can people get to know me if they don’t see what I see from the stage” .so I walked on with him and the band he introduce me to the audience and I actually got a round of applause . I got sent to photograph a famous ageing pop star at wembley arena on arrival we were told that we had to shoot from the back of the arena about a 800mm lens (a lens costing about ten thousand pounds and not owned but anyone except cricket photographers ) away . So all the photographers said well if we can’t go in the Pitt were leaving , the very very rude PR’S said up to you ! So we all left .before we got out of the building they caught up with us a said we could shoot from the Pit but only the first song instead of the first two . Some left some didn’t I was working for a news agency and felt I had to stay. We went to the pit where we were not in anyone’s view to greeted by some of the most rude and aggressive fans I’ve ever come across ,50 year women saying get in my way and ill fucking kill you! I’m not joking . We did our one song started to leave to which the star! stops playing and says”ill wait to the scum have gone then carrying on “.
    My point is that all gigs are different and you have to make a call at each one .I have never met a photographer who thinks there more important than the gig ,sometimes your part of it sometimes your an outsider but what would real music be without the photography ? No clash album cover , the Beatles wouldn’t even have happen without astrid . I could go on and on . I understand when you pay 60 quid for a ticket and get someone in your way that could be annoying but we rarely stay in the same spot long we move around .big bands are big Business and there loads of money being made but I can assure you not by the photographers maybe they are there because they love the music aswell and are trying to take those moments to share with others who can’t be there ,just a thought. And I won’t even go into copyrights grabs and picture approval .

  14. As a frequent gig goer for almost 20 years and aspiring photographer, I’ve yet to have my view impeded by a photographer in the pit between front row & stage, these days there are often ‘security’ guys in the same space – they don’t block my view either and I’m only 5’5. More often than not by view is ruined by other gig goers who seem to have a serious lack of spacial awareness (note to gig goers, standing behind or in front of someone close enough to be brushing against their back/chest is quite frankly, creepy). Also I can’t remember the last time I saw a gig photographer using a flash? so I don’t really get the whole issue with that – however you do get plenty of audience members using the flash on their smart phones thinking it will make a difference.

  15. Personally me and my other half who both do gigs think three songs is generally enough unless we’re told otherwise (it helps if we’re allowed a song for the support so we can check settings etc). At a local festival we were vitually allowed constant access but there were only a few photographers there – mainly as it was chucking it down. I felt sorry for the fans at one gig when we were the only photographers there so obviously there was a barrier that wasn’t normally there but nobody really seemed to mind. What I do object to though is being ripped off by having shots used without reference and my personal favourite we were once asked if we had public liability insurance of a million! I mean, come on, we do this in our spare time as our “hobby” and although we’ve got some high profile gigs we’re not going to have that. It’s also annoying from a photography point of view when the pass is only granted a maximum of two days in advance so you can’t really plan events especially if they clash (which has happened with me). I think it should be up to the band themselves. If they’re happy with say two or three all through the set fine, otherwise stick to three songs limit. As for photographers getting in the way well really there is no excuse for that as you can crouch down or move places – although I know of a few photographers who just stand there like a block of concrete and shove you out of the way if they think you’re encroaching……..

  16. I shot Goldblades gig in Glasgow on Friday night. John and the guys, with the security staffs OK on the matter, gave me the run of the pit for the full set. Having shot them on numerous occasions, I knew full well the best shots would be later in the gig once JR warms up and gets in amongst the audience. This happens with a lot of acts. As does the lighting often get better, and more visual as the gig progresses. 3 songs may be enough for some acts, others may not give much away at the start.

    I notice plenty of anti photographer sentiment above, but ask yourselves this. How would you even know what bands looked like without us? Who the hell do you think supplies the pictures for the posters adorning your walls?

    I have been in the pit with people who are dressed for a night out, and have managed to wangle a pass from somewhere, and these are the people who cause problems. No decorum, or understanding of how to behave in the pit. We do appreciate we are in a privileged position being allowed such close access to the bands, but regular, whether amateur or working, photographers have an unspoken understanding of each others place.

    I would like to add this………….. This isn’t a new thing for John. Myself and Fish (above) photographed Goldblade about 4 years ago supporting Ian Brown at the O2 Academy in Glasgow. We got 3 songs! This was because Ian Browns, production just put a 3 song limit on the whole gig. After Goldblades performance, John came up to us and asked where we had disappeared to, and thought it terrible that we were turfed out after 3.

    There are very few bands who would object to allowing a free run in the pit. They after all want to look good too!!!!!!!!


  18. As a music photographer I always try to be considerate towards people who are there to watch the gig and I can say the same applies to most of my colleagues.
    Lately I would say what’s more distracting than anything else is people in the audience holding their phones up to record the gig. Surely that’s a lot more annoying than a few togs in the pit who disappear after first three songs.
    I don’t have a problem with first three songs only rule, you can still get good shots if you know what you’re doing (not that I would say no to being able to shoot an entire gig). What I have a problem with is photographer being banned to the back of the venue so you have to shoot from miles away and also unreasonable rights grabbing forms.

  19. End the 3 song rule? Please NO NO NO! I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been at the front row of a gig & had photo-journos being inconsiderate & barging paying fans out of the way! The only pit they should be in is a lime pit! Saying “How would you even know what bands looked like without us?” is a laughably weak argument, especially when set against the terrible behaviour of photo-journos!!

  20. Firstly I have to agree with ‘Fish’ @Jaylcookie – Music Photographers and Photo-Journos are two completely different breeds.

    Firstly the Music Photographer usually has a primary job and goes out at night to photograph bands as a second income and some of us are even doing this this ‘UNPAID’.

    All the Music Photographers I have had the pleasure to meet are great friendly, considerate people. we respect each other in the pit, help each other out and, more importantly, respect the band, the bouncers, and the paying punters behind us.

    On more than one occasion my colleagues and I have had ‘usually females’ dancing erratically next to us with the sole intention of preventing us from doing our work. One tog actually had her camera knocked out of her hands, I myself have had a camera pushed into my face. The punters ‘assume’ we’re big headed journo’s, but we’re not. We’re there to document a show that people who either can’t attend can read about later, or people who were there – can reminisce.

    Sometimes the first 3 songs isn’t enough. I recently shoot at the Apollo. It was a seated gig so we had to shoot from the side aisle. On the 3rd song the artist decided to switch pianos and for the third song had their back to me. So, in essence, that night I had only 8 minutes to get my job done. How would the punters around you feel if they had 8 -15 minutes to get their jobs done or they wouldn’t get paid?

    And on top of that we have our camera’s knocked from our hands, larger (or worse still) landing on you and your gear and the odd surf-crowders foot land on your head. But still you stand there and try to get that shot or else you don’t get paid!

    What I find worse is; on my night off, when I go to a gig and I can’t see a thing, because every other punter is filming the concert on their phones in readiness to upload their pixelated, blurry images onto You Tube.

    We’re there to do our jobs. We’re not bolshy Journo’s (that’s a different breed as mentioned earlier).

    MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHERS are decent, courteous, hard working people who take photographs of live music for the bands, their PR Companies, and the FANS to enjoy later…

  21. Sorry guys, but photo-journalists can’t all be tarred with the same brush. I got into doing that through my music work, and most of the guys I meet who shoot gigs because they are ‘on shift’ are no different than anyone else in the pit. There is one exception based in Glasgow, and I’m sure the Glasgow boys here probably know who I’m talking about. At the end of the day, we are in and out with minimum fuss and trying to get the pic that will pay the nights wages. We use the best (and expensive) eqpt we can afford, yet just get on with it when we get a beer shower from the crowd. I’ve been spat on, had people putting things infront of the lens when I have been trying to keep low at smaller venues. And NOW we have to put up with being called the lowest of the low. At Fridays gig, the crowd were great, eager to be included in the pics when able, and made room, without me barging anyone, to get up and shoot when JR went hanging over the crowd barrier. It’s good and bad in the pit.

    Let me put this question and see if you’d all be on your self righteous high horses………….. Would you be happy if you had to leave your compact cameras and camera phones at the door? I think not!!!!

  22. It’s hard to take complaints about photographers being in the way of audience members seriously when I shoot in small venues (without a photo pit) and find that if I don’t “barge” my way to the front of the crowd, I’m struggling to keep a sea of cameraphones out of my shots.

  23. I totally agree with Mandi above me. Music Photographers are usually helpful and considerate. Unlike those who just happen to be on shift, I do it all for free because I love music and photography. Also, I always try to not get in the way of any audience member or colleague and still get my shots. It’s not as easy as pointing and clicking we need to focus on the job, read the lights and the band. Get out of everyone’s way and shoot in three musics’ time. While one time I had all my shots by the end of the second tune, I usually end up regretting not having more time. While I can agree with audience members’ complaints in concerts where there’s no pit, pit concerts should not have any limitations. No one wins with these rules. Not the Musicians, not the photographers and yes, not the fans.

  24. As an aspiring music photographer I know that a venue with a pit will not block fans view. Last I looked, you had to look up to see the stage. Pro photogs do not use flash because it ruins the stage lights/colors. So that’s not an issue. If your view is blocked, it is most likely by security who are trying to keep regular paying fans off the stage, or by the sea of iPhones and yes, full size iPads being held up to capture the event. This, of course, just proves that there is a large market for images and videos of the show. I would bet if most fans had their phones and iPads confiscated at the door to enforce the old “no photography” rule of years gone by, there would be a riot and people would stop going to concerts. So obviously, there is a market for the images…. so how about not blasting the photographers- put down your crappy phone, ENJOY THE CONCERT, and let the pros take quality pictures. The band will be happy because their image will be a quality one, the fans will get their money’s worth, and you can see plenty of pictures later.

  25. While I can agree with some of the complaints listed above, there is only a very small percentage of mostly inexperienced photographers that ever cause any sort of issue with both audience members and other photogs.
    What many forget is that many of these photographers are unpaid and are documenting the concert experience for the true love and passion for both music and photography not to ruin anyone’s experience. I have had quite a few experiences where audience members have been down right rude to photographers who are only trying to do their job for a very very short amount of time hence the 3 song limit. Maybe the audience members could enjoy the show more if they put down their phones and iPads and tried to actually watch the actual show for once, rather than through their screens!

  26. Maybe photographers are so pushy because of the time limit. Not sure but maybe. Remember, some people are just pushy assholes for no reason too.

  27. I think it depends. The band, the venue, the fans, everything. The problem becomes the more restrictions the more problems. I did a country festive last summer with about 16 other photographers. East set we got 2nd and 3rd song no flash. So of course as soon as the 2nd song started, you had 16 photographers all scrumming up front and center to get the lead singer, thus fans getting pissed and bitching starts. You take us same 16 photographers on bands that said we could do the full set, we took our time, working around the stage and the fans.

    I personally do a lot of metal and death metal shows, and for this I am fine with first 3 from the pits. Not because of the bands, the fans nor the photographers but for security. Security work their asses off at this show and have a lot of crap to worry about the way it is. Photographers just make it worse.

    As a photographer, general speaking I think first 3 is fine, no flash – still mixed on that part, a few darker shows I would really like my flash. I would just like 4 and 5 to get some crowd/full stage photos.

  28. The most iconic images shot of bands have never been in the first 3 songs. They are very last songs of the show or the behind the scene shots where photographers today are rarely allowed.

    If the photographer in the pit is getting in the way of the concert experience what is 1/2 the crowd holding up there cell phones in front of you over their heads do!!!? If there is something to ban it is cell phones and point and shoot cameras! The no flash ban for concert photographers has been in place for a long time but point and shoot cameras can not shoot in low light like pro camera lens so they use a flash.

    Concerts have some of the most challenging environment to photograph in around, which 3 songs is not enough. Many could not believe the super bowl 1/2 time show shots of Beyonce which surfaced but that happens all the time, but true photographers immediately throw those photos into the trash. Most bands use red lights a lot which look horrible on photos so you have to time you shots to the color lighting you want. Many smaller and even larger ones fail to have proper front lighting. The first thing a music photographer asks about a show was how was the lighting which first and foremost means “FRONT LIGHTING” ( front white spot lighting).

    From what I read many people at small venues have problems with photographers who are rude. Remember most those guys are not pros and fans just like you. Or untrained people trying to start out in the biz who piss the pro photographers off just the same. How many @$$ holes at any event do you deal with?

    BAN Cellphone filming!!! Your there to enjoy the show not block the people behind you by putting it over your head and taking videos or flash photography of the ENTIRE show. Besides photographing events I also go strictly to watch a show sometimes which is almost impossible these days with the cell phones. One show the only way to actually see it was on the wall of lit up cellphone screens.

  29. I’ve only been doing music photography for about two years and have only met one rude ‘tog who stood up the whole show (with no pit, and he was very tall) Other than that, others I have met or shot with are like me. Trying to be as invisible as possible, regularly checking over their shoulders to make sure they’re not obstructing a punter.

    I’m the resident tog at a music venue in Australia and I’m very lucky that I generally get to meet the acts before hand, take a few back stage shots and shoot in a relaxed environment. Nine times out of ten I can shoot the whole show but usually limit shots from close up to the first three or four songs. I can then shoot from the sound desk or above the bar.

    The worst one I had was G3. Three acts and then all three acts together for a fourth act. One song per act so lots of down time. Good show though with lots of photo ops in a short time. Best was the Wonder Stuff. Through a bit of luck I got to shoot the whole set and had the pit to myself after the third song when everyone else had to go. Felt a little guilty but I wasn’t about to let that ruin my night. :) Great gig too.

  30. What a bunch of whiners. If you can’t get your shit in three songs your not a photographer your a chancer.

    With the current wave of high ISO performing cameras flash isn’t needed.

    Everyone talks about that pennie smith shot being towards the end if the show, she was also on stage too, yet we hardly hear an argument for being on stage all set.

    Finally to the tog who doesn’t have liability insurance. You know this is a business right and pro shooters are only allowed in the pits? That means you pay tax and insurance on your profits so of course you should have public liability insurance. Maybe the venue stipulated that rule to keep out the unprofessionals like you….

  31. I’ve been snapping mostly local stuff for about 4-5 years now, and really the 3 song things only bothers me once in a while. I’d prefer it to be the last 3 songs instead of the first 3, because face it, the band are way more into their music then… Also I try to be considerate of the audience when there isn’t a pit, and if 3 songs is enough to get my shot, I move off then myself. However in the venues i work the 3 song rule ONLY applies to the photo pit, they can;t herd you off if there isn’t a pit.
    I also know some photographers who move out of the pit and just shoot from the audience after the 3 songs are up, which is impossible to stop when they don;t use flash. I always struck me as a little odd. I can imagine having photographers in your face all the time is a little annoying, however they’re also there to support your favorite band in their way.
    The three song rule has warped me though; It’s very rarely I can even enjoy a gig for more then 15 minutes, before wandering… my attention span has gone very very short indeed. :\

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  33. Most proper professional photographers I’ve seen don’t even need the full 3 songs most of the time. I go to a few shows per week and I’m always front row so that means I know quite a lot of them and what magazines they work for. And the ones working for the big publications (big being a flexible term) are usually really respectful, get their stuff done in a couple of tracks and I can see they’re basically killing time for the 3rd just waiting in case there’s a worthy shot. I think everybody would be happy if all photographers were like that.

    On the other hand, as I said on Facebook, I completely agree with the first comment up there. Nobody from the front row actually likes having the photographers around for 1, 2 or 3 songs and the cheers when they leave are not rare. I think it’s more because of the fact they’re cramming 25 of them into the pit rather than because they’re blatantly rude (although almost every time you get the random one, usually newbies, that put their elbow in your face while they’re shooting or decide to stand on the barrier step literally putting their ass on your face or they stand still for ages literally in front of you while they’re checking their shots). So, yeah, we’re quite happy that now more and more artists are restricting the area photographers can use as Sigur Ros did for their shows in London and Swans always do. It is distracting no matter how many you have and for how long and also the noise of the shutters gets ridiculous sometimes.

    And, you know, in some cases we’ve been waiting for a couple of hours to be there. And we’ve paid. We should be able to enjoy the show without having somebody getting in the way unless it’s another punter. And regarding the barging to get to the front in venues without pits: if you’re that keen then you should have got there earlier and taken your spot. I have a few friends who do both smaller and bigger venues and that’s what they do and, you know, we’ve been there side by side no problem whatsoever. You might be a keen music fan but there are people out there who are way more keen (and I’m definitely not talking about the ‘beliebers’) and that effort to be there at the perfect spot on top of the ticket money is what you should keep in mind.

    And about the complaints regarding punters taking photos and videos, get there early and you won’t care. That’s why we who get there early complain more about photographers. Because after getting rid of the hundreds of chavs with iPads and talking couples behind us we get 10-15min of shuffling photographers in front of us and we can’t do anything about it.

    And about the flash we all know why it’s not allowed so asking it as if it was rhetorical is just out of the question. If I was an artist and I got a dozen people trying to blind me for 15min I wouldn’t be happy. And we all know punters are not allowed to use flash either and security always try and stop it whenever it’s possible. I film lots of gigs and I agree, lots of venues not only they don’t have proper front lighting but they have an absolutely pointless back lighting that is worse than just having a couple of lightbulbs on the sides would be. And in London I think there are only like a couple of proper in-house light engineers who know what they’re doing. Lighting a stage properly is actually cheaper and easier than most venues make it but, well, you either suck it up or start pulling strings so somebody does something about it. Write an article about it. I’m sure you’d get a lot of support and maybe somebody would actually listen.

  34. As the Editor in Chief of a music magazine, I consistently shake my head at the stupidity of this rule (First 3 songs/no flash). The no flash is not that big of a deal because all concert photogs don’t need to use flash anyway. It is however ridiculous to send the pros packing w/ their 10k cameras that must be “put in their car” 99% of the time – and the audience is a sea of flash for the entire show. Oh and don’t even get me started on the venues that put photogs outside the backstage door in between songs if they aren’t provided with a press ticket.

    I think that it’s a control thing, ridiculous and rude. Like being invited to someone’s home for dinner, you show up with a bottle of good wine & appetizer and they take it and say, “Thanks. You can stay in here for 30 minutes, but have to you go sit in the garage and eat.” I won’t send a photog on assignment anymore unless they are given a press ticket and can stay in the venue, on the principle of what is right and safety concerns as well. Yeah…GREAT idea: send a photog into a deserted parking area (because everyone is in the show) with a ridiculously expensive camera & lenses. BRILLIANT! Let anyone with a phone snap away, video, flash the entire show – but those professional photographers MUST get their gear off premises! So stupid.

    First three songs – shouldn’t be that big of a problem if you know what you’re doing BUT the bands need to plan on the correct lighting during those first 3 songs during the pre-production planning stages of a tour. We have that problem going on right now now with a huge band that uses no front lighting – all red/green/blue backlights – for first three songs – then it’s lit up like a friggin’ Christmas tree! Have tried to shoot three different dates with GREAT photogs all for shit. Sometimes it’s the venue, but a lot of bands add to the already shit lighting situation. Don’t get me started on using STROBES during first three songs either – lol!

    So…overall, I think venues should allow photographers to keep their cameras inside and shoot from their seats after being in the pit. If there’s no pit, then there should be a “no cross zone” for pros within the crowd so that you would be able to continue shooting without pissing off the fans (that’s what those giant lenses are for). What the fans in these comments need to realize is we are ASKED to come photograph your favorite bands. They need us as much as we need them. It all comes down to the music and I love live concert photos. Being a journalist myself, I will sometimes look at that “money shot” and think, “No matter how many words I wrote; no matter how eloquently – nothing could compare to the story told in that one picture.” That is art in motion.

  35. Check out what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had posted at their concert last night – it’s gone viral


  36. Have photographed shows for a daily newspaper for 30 years and want to offer this:
    The three-song rule is about performers controlling how they look – fresh, energetic and un-sweaty early in their shows. but Metallica once took the opposite tack; allowing photos only during the encore when they’d been playing for two hours and they looked like they’d been playing in a car-wash. They wanted photos to show how hard they worked. Barring flashes is about safety: A flash-blinded artist may step off the stage, with bad results. At best, it’s distracting to performers and can damage the performance. Most big-time shows feature high-enough light levels in the production that adding flash is unnecessary. And most small-time shows feature artists happy to have any images of their performance published and don’t care about flash.

  37. I realise what photographers are there for, Val. That doesn’t make it less annoying for the punters at the front. And using the words “need” and “ask” in capital letters, even if it’s true, doesn’t particularly make the case for the humility of particular togs.

    Apart from that I agree with everything else. I won’t give names but a couple of friends vowed not to work again in a particularly well-known big venue in London because they either had to leave or leave their gear abandoned in some corner of the cloakroom. And my constant complain more than sound quality, more than the feel of the venue is the lighting. So deliberately bad in some cases. I’ve seen bands doing what you said of having lights on for the first 3 songs and even obviously performing for the cameras but I perfectly understand other artists not doing it. It’s management or label in some cases the ultimate responsibles for getting the press, not the artists themselves. For them, in a lot of cases, it’s just something they have to put up with and they’re not necessarily thrilled about it and/or going to change their performance or their stage set up or lighting just for them to get the picture.

  38. I just want to add my perspective. I have shot over 50 shows. I feel this makes me somewhat experienced on the subject. I am very thankful for the opportunity to be in front of that barricade. I do keep in mind many people have paid to see their favorite band and not my big head. I fully agree with the “3 song’s no flash” rule. I have seen many shows where so-called pro photographer’s make themselves part of the show. They have been rude to security and paying fans as well. That is not what a photographer is there for. Its a give and take situation where everyone has to work together. I also would like to shed a light on the “3 song’s no flash rule”. Does it suck to miss your quality shots because that band comes out in low light, YES!! But that’s just the way it goes. It is not your right to be there. You have been lucky enough to be allowed to shoot that event. You are there to create media and content in support of that band or artist. Not because you are their #1 fan or because you want to call yourself a concert photographer because you shot your favorite band. Be thankful for whatever you get, and if it’s 3 songs then make it work. That is what being a pro is all about. As far as flash is concerned, it would be great to use flash at all the shows I shoot. But at the same time what about the guy that is on stage doing his thing and has 10 flash bulbs going off in his face every second for 15 minutes? Remember give and take. He is at work and his work is organic. A flash in the face ruins his flow the same way security who cannot count songs ruins yours as a photographer. Be respectful, earn respect by following the rules and create great images that make people want to go see a band or artist. I am not the worlds greatest photographer, but I do know how a professional acts. For all those who cant figure it out here’s one word of advice: Act like you’ve been there before!! oh, and by the way… there is 0 dollars in concert photography, do it because you love it and f*ck rights grabs!

  39. I have been photographing mostly blues bands it seems like forever. I have shot in all sizes of venues, small to huge shows. I have had passes most of the time. WHen I don’t have a psss, I always ask if I can take photos. If I do wear a pass, then I am extra nice to all around me including the patrons who are there to see the show (often times with a drink in their hand).

    What I don’t understand is why some of these paying customers “with a drink in their hand” tell ME to just put the camera away and “enjoy the show!” I see them with a drink in their hand, enjoying their drink and given that I myself do not consume alcohol, I prefer to take photos! IT is not about the show anymore with these kind of people, it is all about being a dysfunctional and rude drunk. I am here usually to shoot photos, as that is what I do. I have a life long passion for this, although often times I am not paid but my reward comes when the Artists’ use the photos for their websites, cd covers, etc and include my name in the credits. Even then, sometimes my left is cropped off and I have to remind the artists to photo credit me.

    As it is with the three song rule. This is to maintain a stage free of chaos. With that many photographers, all so very eager and many travelled many miles to a show to shoot photos, they are told to vacate that can seem ruthless to me. Given each photographers’ situation, it hardely seems fair, but then again, it is not OUR STAGE, or our show. The artsits’ are there to entertain the audience. We are there to capture that. The audience is there to listen to music and get drunk, in most cases they do and get in the way of photographers trying to work and do a good job. This is very frustrating to me. Ive had 2 cameras broken because of drunk and inconsiderate yahoos…enjoying the show at the expense of me having to repair a broken camera.

    Yes, it is true that the artists’ best shots come later in the show and that is exactly why they don’t want us shooting. They want to be able to Perform and do their thang and not be distracted with us photographing them. They might have planned to do certain things they don’t want photographed, you know the old saying ” what happens at __________________stays at blank???”

    I think that photography is its own art. It is important to document live events too. The people in the crowd might be so drunk they don’t remember bashing the photographer, I have seen this happen. A photographer getting shoved with gear..NOT COOL. hey people! be nice! We all work hard trying to make the ARTIST look good, if you have respect for the ARTIST then you would be a little more accomodating and helpful to us. And especially since you probably download our images off of FACEBOOK for free??right? do you do this? Steal our work without asking but then complain because we are the show and blocking your view? You have blocked my view by standing on chairs, too and/or your boyfriends shoulders, or holding up you I Phone and recording VIDEO that is usually crappy and not done with PERMISSION….

    Give this 3 song rule a friggin break. It should be like this, only so many photographers at a time.
    So if there are 25 photographers, maybe 5 at a time or 10 at a time until they feel they got what they needed. Take turns and be respectrful of each other, the time it takes to do this, etc. Most stage managers are nice to the photographers if the photographers listen and abide by the rules…if the rule is 3 songs, then so be it. But you better not compalin, artists, if we don’t get that shot later in the set when you flamed your guitar!!!

  40. To be honest this was a wonderful advanced write-up however as with most excellent writers there are a few factors that could be worked upon. Yet in no way the much less it absolutely was stimulating. business httpss://

  41. I’m a music photographer. My priority is getting a shot that would sell, not be unflattering to the artist, and importantly, remembering that the audience have paid to see the artist perform – not me taking pictures.
    I usually always dress in black so that I can move around relatively unnoticed by both audience and performers (and very important if you’re planning on any stage access)… and if I’m shooting in a venue where there is no pit, such as a small intimate venue like the Glee Club, or a small/medium venue like Symphony Hall, I’ll always make a point of talking to the people I’m in front of, apologising in advance should I accidentally get in their way, and ensure them I’m there for only 3 songs – but won’t be in there way for anywhere near that long…. I’m always conscious of who is around me – be it other photographers or ticket-holders. Most of the time, everyone is fine. I’ve had TWO occasions I can recall where the crowd have been downright offensive – before the show even started… one person actually manhandling me and telling me to “fuck off” because he’d driven 100 miles to be at a Runrig concert… and I was crouched down on my knees in an aisle – completely out of his line of sight for the band…..
    You do get some idiots in the pit.. recently one guy was having a go at the pit supervisor because he was only allowed to shoot 3 songs of the support act (and he wasn’t allowed to shoot the main act at all, but that wasn’t his problem.. he was only upset because of the 3 song rule…), then when the support started, he was darting around a really busy pit, bumping into everyone, leaving his bag on the floor for people to trip over… going over the camera dolly track and propping up against the stage – then when the band finished their 1st song, he shouted up “How are you doing lads?”. Utter prick. Photographers are there to document. Not to participate. A good photographer shouldn’t be seen, and while yes, do everything you can to get the ‘money shot’ – don’t do it at the expense of the ticket holder or the band…. and rights grabs? Walk way. Don’t sign them. Worried about having a wasted journey? Spending your petrol and not having a shot to show for it? Sign a rights grabbing release form and you’ve wasted your journey anyway.


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