Written by Rachel Clarke
I love photography and I’ve always wondered why concerts and other music events frequently have bans on cameras. There are many photography lovers that are also music lovers, myself included. So I decided to do a little research and find out why I can’t always combine the two.
Why are cameras not allowed in concerts? Rules against cameras are created to prevent fans from selling unauthorized or unsightly photos of the band members, and to reduce flashes that would distract the musicians. However, most reasons why photography is banned from concerts were made before we all had a camera on our phone.
In a nutshell, concert photographers are trusted to not distribute incriminating photos of the band. Restricting who has approval to photograph a concert gives these trusted photographers an opportunity to make a living off the photos they take.
But what about smartphones? And if these rules were made for a bygone era, what do photography bans mean for us concert-goers today? Keep reading to find out!
Why Are There Still Bans On Cameras When Most People Have Smartphones?
Although there isn’t one hard-and-fast reason why people are still discouraged from bringing cameras into concerts, there are multiple explanations that provide some context to the situation.
Although most people already have phones with semi-sophisticated cameras, eventually the technology will improve to the point where the quality is the same as DSLR and removable lens cameras.
Until then, one of the main reasons for a camera ban is the visible quality difference between smartphones and DSLR cameras.
High-quality cameras can take much better pictures of an artist or band in higher resolution than a smartphone can.
These photos are taken by people who are involved in the music community — paid photographers, trusted by the band or venue.
If a fan wanted to illegally sell a picture taken from their phone, it most likely wouldn’t sell well and therefore doesn’t threaten the job security of the career photographers.
Also, people in charge of concerts and large scale events know they can’t keep people from bringing in their cell phones. However, by banning higher-quality DSLR and removable lens cameras, they can limit the quality of content produced from the show
Of course, fans are still allowed to take videos and pictures with their phones, however, the artist can rest assured that high-quality pictures of them in weird or compromising positions won’t be posted online for many people to see.
If everyone was allowed to have a high-quality camera at a concert, it could take away jobs from the amazing photographers that worked hard to do what they love.
These photographers know what they are doing and have contracts with the people they work for. In today’s world, it makes sense to regulate content in order to support photographers that can show their skill.
How To Get Permission To Bring A Camera Into A Music Venue
As a photographer, there are many ways to get around the camera ban in order to take some amazing photos.
Even though an audience member typically wouldn’t be allowed to bring in a separate camera, there are still exceptions that would allow someone to take photos of the show.
The main way photographers gain photo access is with a press pass. However, these passes aren’t handed out to just anyone.
Unless you’re a licensed photographer through a regional magazine or newspaper, you’ll need to get creative.
One of the most common ways to get press access is to reach out to smaller, niche magazines and media platforms. These could be YouTube channels, blogs, or websites that like to cover music news (like Ennui Magazine *cough *cough).
The best way to reach out to these platforms is by emailing them and asking for permission to take photos of a show. If you’ve shot concerts before, you can include a small portfolio to show them your work. Then, if they like your work, they may give you a press pass to take photos of the show.
Usually, there are restrictions on press passes that will limit you to just the first three songs, or only from a designated area called a “photo pit”.
Photo pits are typically the area between the front row barricade and the stage. After the designated number songs, venue security will either ask you to leave the event, or you’ll be given permission take pictures of the rest of the concert outside of the designated press area.
Either way, if you want to take amazing pictures of a concert and build a portfolio of your photography skills, using the proper channels to obtain a press pass is the way to go.
How To Take Great Concert Photos With Your Phone (When Other Cameras Are Banned)
Although there are other ways for people to bring in high-quality DSLR cameras, only a few people per show will be given a press or photo pass.
However, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to take pictures.
Just because you can’t take a bulky, removable lens camera into a concert doesn’t mean that you can’t take amazing pictures (or video) with just your phone.
With new phones coming out each year, there are plenty of options when it comes to mobile cameras. And it seems as if every year the cameras on our phones get better and better.
These days, there are features on our phones that are helpful when you want to take pictures in low-light settings (like most concerts are).
If you bought a phone within the last few years, you may have a camera that has the capability to lock the exposure settings.
Usually, when someone takes a photo at a concert on their phone, the stage is too overexposed to really see anything.
With the ability to manually adjust and lock your exposure settings, your camera’s sensitivity to light will change, making it much easier to see small details, like the faces of the band members on stage.
Not only can the cameras on your phone take better, higher resolution pictures than ever before, but there are also countless options for editing the photos you take.
There are so many free photo editing apps, anyone can take pictures that are worth posting on social media.
Although they may not be the best quality pictures, they would absolutely be good enough to prove you were there.
How To Capture The Moment, Even When Cameras Are Banned
In my opinion, in this technological age, there is a trend for concert goers to take pictures and videotape most or all of the artist’s performance.
This is something that I think could be detrimental to the concert experience.
I understand that people want to remember the moment of going to see their favorite band or artist, however, is it necessary to watch the whole thing through a screen?
Do you feel that recording the whole performance ruins the way you remember it and even cheapens the experience of physically going to a concert?
I believe that a concert will always be better if you are fully present in the moment.
I think it is an amazing thing to be able to capture an artist with a mind-blowing photograph. But, I believe that there is a reason that even people with press passes are sometimes limited to photographing only the first few songs.
As an artist, it must feel like your music is being underappreciated if all people care about is taking a photo of their face.
It is important to take the pictures that you feel are crucial in order to remember the memories of that day.
However, there would be nothing to remember if you didn’t put your phone down and live in the moment.
I have been to many concerts in my lifetime. The moments that I remember the most were the ones where I felt the energy in the room around me and took the moment to feel connected to everyone in the room through music.
I’m sure that most of you have had that moment in a concert where you just feel connected to everything around you.
Everyone in the room is singing along to your favorite songs and thanking the artists for creating it. Those moments can be cheapened by a phone, or a camera held directly in front of your face the whole time.
Even though it may be legal, or creative reasons that cameras are banned from concerts, another reason that I completely agree with is that maybe they are banned to encouraged to be more present in the moment and enjoy music for what it is.
Bring A Camera When You Can, But Remember To Enjoy The Moment
In the end, there will usually be a ban on bringing a camera to a concert. However, I think there are good reasons for this ban.
There are also logical ways for you to still take pictures when you go through the right channels.
Next time you go to a concert and complain that you can’t take in your DSLR, remember, you are there to support the band. You can take great pictures with your phone if you’d like. Other than that, take a breath, and enjoy the moment.
Are Polaroid cameras allowed at concerts?
It really depends on the concert. Smaller shows at clubs and local venues probably won’t complain if the camera is small enough to fit in a fanny-pack or small purse. But instant cameras don’t typically capture low-light scenarios very well, especially ones like the Instax Mini cameras that are popular today.
Is recording concerts illegal?
Yes and no. Depending on where you live just recording another person in a public setting can be considered an invasion of privacy. But the larger restriction is usually referring to copyright infringement, and really only becomes an issue if you’re trying to sell the recordings. At most concerts, recording a few songs just for personal use or documentation isn’t going to get you thrown out or put in jail.
For more industry tips and music marketing hacks, check out Ennui Magazine.